After celebrating Athina’s wedding in Aix-en-Provence in southern France, we took the train back up to Paris! Neither of us had been before this trip, so we spent a few days exploring the city. It wasn’t nearly enough time, but we loved it nonetheless!
When we arrived in Paris, we took the metro to our hotel, which was in the Latin Quarter. (The metro made me REALLY wish America had better public transit systems, because wowza it was so easy.) We found a bite to eat and then walked over to one of the sites I was most excited to see: Notre Dame.
Growing up, the Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of my favorite movies. I was Esmeralda for Halloween one year, and it had actually snowed that day, so I put on my red-and-purple sparkly dress over the top of a snow suit. 😂 We also had a Hunchback of Notre Dame computer game that I played all the time. So long story short, I was really excited to see it in real life.
Much of it was still covered in scaffolding after the fire in 2019, but they did a really great job of including educational information on the security fencing. It had photos and explanations in both French and English, explaining the result of the fire, and all the people who are working on restoring the cathedral.
We wandered around the area a bit more after seeing Notre Dame, then enjoyed some drinks on our balcony.
The next day was full. (Okay, the whole trip was full, let’s be honest.) We started at the Catacombes, which was so cool. It might be my favorite thing we did in Paris. It’s a massive underground network of limestone quarries (most of which isn’t available to tourists / hasn’t even been mapped) that was repurposed during a major health crisis in the 1800s that was tied to Paris’s cemeteries. They relocated the skeletons to the quarries, and later “decorated” the area with the bones to serve as a memorial to everyone whose body was relocated.
Normally I’m super squeamish, but since it was just bones, I was actually quite fascinated with the whole thing. The only part that gave me the creeps was the part where the ceiling was dripping, and a big drop went on the back of my neck and went down the back of my shirt. *shivers*
Once our tour was over (and I resisted buying most of the skull-shaped things in the gift shop), we headed to the Jardin du Luxembourg to relax before our reservation at the Louvre. Paris is hot in August, so we spent most of the time looking for shade and/or ice cream. 😂 But it was absolutely stunning!
We had tickets reserved for 3 pm at the Louvre, and even with the reservation, we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes (in the sun, surrounded by concrete) before we could get in. We unfortunately didn’t make much of a plan before we arrived (whoops…) but we knew we wanted to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Nike, so we planned our route accordingly. And then it turned into a tour of Animal Crossing in the Louvre, which was way more fun than it should have been.
We also spent the entire time walking around thinking “yeah, I get why they overthrew their monarch. This is too much.” Honestly we could have spent an entire day just at the Louvre. I guess that means we’ll have to go back!
That evening we got a table at Le Petit Chatelet, which had beautiful views of Notre Dame at night.
The next morning, we had a loose plan of what we wanted to do, but we didn’t have any pre-purchased tickets like we did for the Catacombes and the Louvre, which was a bit freeing. We started the day at the Cluny Museum, which was just a short walk from our hotel. It is situated on top of an old bath house that was likely built in the first or second century. The rest of the museum is medieval art, including some beautiful unicorn tapestries. It gave me a lot of inspiration for the vibe I want in my office!
After we were done at the Cluny Museum, we traveled over to the Pantheon. We didn’t know much about it going in, and we learned so much while we were there—it was fascinating! It was originally built by the church, but it was completed right around the time of the first French revolution, which was famously….anti-church.
There are approximately 300 tombs below the Pantheon, which was originally designed for clergy, but when the French revolutionaries took over, they decided to make it a monument to important French people. Now only the French president can allow someone to be buried there. We got to see the graves of some amazing people, including Marie and Pierre Curie and Louis Braille.
We then went back to the hotel to clean up and then headed over to the Eiffel Tower to celebrate our anniversary! We were a month early, but when in Paris, amirite?
We brought along the rosé that Athina and Guillaume gave us and drank in the grass below the Eiffel Tower until our reservation at Francette, which is in a boat in the river behind the Tower. It was a recommendation from Athina’s friends, and we’re so glad we took their advice! The food was delicious, and the views were spectacular.
The next day was our last full day in France. Once again we didn’t have any tickets pre-purchased, so we headed over to Ile de la Cite for Conciergerie and Sainte-Chappelle. The lines for both were long, so we knew we could only do one, and decided on Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was held and put on trial before she was beheaded. We once again learned so much about the French Revolution, which really makes the American Revolution look like small potatoes.
Seriously, though, we won independence from a dude across the Atlantic Ocean. They overthrew the monarch that was in the same city as them. Wild.
In the afternoon, we trekked across the city to see Sacre-Coeur. It was a long walk up in some very hot and humid weather, but inside it was absolutely beautiful! In one alcove, they had a relic of Pope John Paul II, which gave me a bit of the creeps, but otherwise it was amazing!
We had some time before our dinner reservation, so we took the metro over to the Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs-Elysees. There were still some markings on the street from the Tour de France, which was cool to see!
Our final stop was dinner at Bistro des Augustins, which has a whole menu just of gratins. 😋 I got a bacon and egg gratin, and Sean got a duck gratin. Both were delicious, and we wish we’d had room for more.
The next morning, we got up bright and early to take a taxi to the airport. (Of course there’s a direct metro train from our hotel to the airport, but it was being serviced the day we needed to go.)
The trip was very full, but we absolutely loved it! I’m looking forward to returning for a more laid-back vacation when we can spend more time with Athina and Guillaume.
This post was originally published August 10, 2023. Its timestamp has been updated to better reflect the timing of my trip.