Visiting a foreign country for the first time is always exciting. Our family had a really tough year, and we needed a vacation desperately. We decided to take a few days in Paris ahead of our planned tour, to experience some of the local culture.
First day in Paris…bonjour!
We arrived in the morning to Paris. We’d flown overnight to get to Paris, and we intended to take full advantage of our time. Our hotel was on Rue St. Germain and in a perfect location for our short time there. We were in walking distance to the Louvre, the Pont Neuf, and several other attractions. I am always awed by the sheer age of the cities in Europe. And the city just has such a different vibe. We took a walk down to the Pont Neuf (oldest bridge in Paris) and took some typical tourist shots, and enjoyed the view of the Seine for a while and then explored around for a bit. Later we ate at a quaint restaurant across the street from our hotel, and it was our introduction to the legend of French cuisine, and it was amazing.
Jazz in Paris and dinner on the Seine
Before we went over I researched some things we could do at night while in Paris. It was quite difficult to narrow down a good choice for a night out to hear Jazz. I decided that “Duc des Lombards” was the place to go, and so we bought tickets. It was a fantastic experience, for the jazz. We also elected to splurge a little and go on one of the dinner cruises that run on the Seine. This is a boat with pretty much a glass bubble over the top. We enjoyed some phenomenal wine, food, and sights as we cruised along. We got a beautiful view of the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower at night, among many other things. It was well worth the cost.
Notre Dame Cathedral, an amazing place you simply must see.
Unless you are living under a rock, pretty much everyone has heard about this cathedral. It is a spectacular building, and otherwise very hard to describe adequately. The workmanship and details that abound are a testament to the skill and focus of the artisans that built it. To be honest, I was surprised at how dark it was inside. But, it does add a certain reverence to the place. If you’re Catholic, you can do confession here, which my sister did. Should you plan to take photographs you might want to bring a monopod. The majority of the cathedral is has very low lighting so you’ll want to be prepared to take countermeasures. We spent about three hours in there looking at all the artifacts, and the building itself, and still didn’t see it all.
Maximize your short time…take a bus tour.
We decided to take a bus tour after seeing Notre Dame. This was our last day, and we knew we could leverage what time we had left to see what we could before leaving for Provence the next morning. We saw what looked like a palace, the L’Arc de Triomphe, the subway stations (which were pretty cool as they were decorated differently in each neighborhood), and finally, the Eiffel Tower.
Clearly, three days is not enough time to really visit Paris.
If you have only a short time to visit, you’d better make a plan or at least a reasonable list of things you want to do. We could have easily spent two weeks in this city and only barely tapped into what it has to offer. It is not an inexpensive place, so budget for a little more than you think you’ll need, just in case. If you don’t know French, try to learn a little before you go. I found that if I at least attempted to pull out my rusty high school French and use it, people were very accommodating and helpful. Enjoy the food. The legend of French cuisine is well earned. Your taste buds will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. As soon as I can, I’m going back to see more.