I divide travel into three parts - planning the trip, taking the trip, and recapping the trip with my blog. I really enjoy each part so I’m excited to get to relive it all while sharing it with you here! I just returned from about two weeks in Europe - Paris (again!), the Normandy area and Belgium. I traveled with my good friend Julie, and it was her first time in each of these places. We had a wonderful time in spite of less than perfect weather, and got along great. We have similar interests, energy levels and eating and sleeping habits - all super important when traveling together. We planned to be in France half the time, so ended up staying in two different Airbnb’s. That worked out really well because I picked two entirely different areas of the city which gave us a chance to get to know two areas better than if we had spent the entire time in one spot. Highly recommend this if you’re traveling for at least 6 or 7 days in one place. We stayed first in the 16th arrondissement which is right by the Arc De Triomphe and then moved to the Marais which is in the 3rd. They both turned out to be excellent - exactly what we expected, very clean and no problems at all.
Most flights arriving in Paris from the US arrive early in the morning, and if you’re staying in an Airbnb or VRBO this can present a problem with your luggage. Usually you can’t check into your accommodations until later in the day, so what do you do with your luggage? I always travel light - just a carryon and a personal item, but it’s still more than you can comfortably deal with especially in light of the world we live in now where there are security checks even entering department stores. So I started looking into our options for our arrival day - so that we wouldn’t lose a day of site seeing sitting in a cafe waiting to get into our apartment. I found a great service that worked our perfectly! It is called Eelway, and it’s kind of like Uber for luggage. We arranged for one of their staff to meet us at the airport in Paris right in the terminal, they sealed our luggage with a tamper proof cord and we were on our way into Paris. You can even have them store your luggage for multiple days, but we scheduled delivery to our Airbnb between 5 and 6PM - or rather 17 to 18😊 Their website says they are available in other major cities but everything I read referenced Paris but worth checking into as it worked out great. Their website is www.eelway.com They have a nice live chat option that I found to be very helpful and they willingly answered all my questions in real time.
Off to Paris! I’m a huge fan of the public transportation system in Paris. It’s cheap and so efficient. We bought our tickets for the RER and it dropped us off really close to the area we were starting in which was Montmartre. Since the fire at Notre Dame I thought the Sacré-Cœur which is a beautiful white basilica situated on the highest point in Paris would give Julie a similar view as from the towers of Notre Dame. But first we must stop for coffee and croissants!
Previously I hadn’t spent much time in Montmartre. It’s a bit out of the central area of Paris and known for its cabaret nightlife and bohemian artists. The crown jewel is definitely Sacré Cœur and worth the climb up all those stairs to get there. Sacré Cœur is only 130 years old so fairly new by European standards - but still very impressive.
The line to climb to the dome was pretty short so we made that our first stop. It was the first of many spiral staircases we encountered in both France and Belgium.
Next we took the metro to Place de la Concorde, the cities largest square and the start of the Champs-Elysées. The transportation system in Paris is the best I’ve ever seen. It’s so well marked and easy to navigate we easily got from one area to another quickly and cheaply. My recommendation is to buy a carnet which is 10 tickets. You can divide them up between multiple people and only costs 14.90 euros so roughly 1.50 per ride. And Google maps or Apple maps will tell you exactly how to get where you’re going. Sweet! We didn’t get lost once.
We walked down the Champs-Elysées and I pointed out the various sites to Julie. One thing I couldn’t explain was why there was a huge line of people standing outside the Louis Vuitton store and it looked like it was going to rain any minute.
The rain held off and it actually started to clear up. Yeah! The whole time we were in Paris it was unseasonably chilly and rainy, but we discovered that Paris is always beautiful- even in the rain. And it didn’t stop us from doing everything we wanted - and even eating outside! Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe. In my opinion it’s best to see the area under the Arc during the day, but come back and go to the top at night when you can see the city all lit up, so that’s what we did. Climbing to the top is included in the Museum Pass and since we weren’t ready to activate our passes we’ll save that for another day. So much history in the Arc.
Our first Airbnb was just a few blocks from the Arc so we decided to check it out. It was super cute, clean and easy to find. The owner had left us some info on recommendations for food so since we were starving we headed down the street to have our first French meal. Croque Monsieur with salad please. And a nice glass of local wine.
We made it back to the apartment right on time for our luggage delivery from Eelway. That worked out so great! What to do with our first night in Paris? Head to the Eiffel Tower! I tried to buy tickets in advance for the Eiffel Tower, but that proved to be challenging. They open up the dates randomly and even though I was stalking the website everyday when it finally opened up for the dates we would be there, between 11 PM and 7 AM all the tickets for the entire month of May were sold out. Seriously?! I suspect the tour companies get the inside track on when the site will open and they buy up all the tickets and then sell them for 4 times the cost as part of a tour. Just guessing! So since it was starting to get cloudy we decided to give it a shot since Rick Steves says if it rains the lines for same day tickets dwindle rapidly, and he’s pretty much never wrong. This worked perfectly and before we knew it we were up in the Eiffel Tower! I have been up in it twice before but it’s been awhile, and for me it’s always a thrill. I think the graceful metal curves which give it an appearance of lightness are just beautiful. And from any angle.
The Eiffel Tower was built for the World Expo in 1889 and was for decades the tallest structure in the world. While that is not still the case it is still the most visited monument and offers an incredible view of Paris. The best view is actually not from the highest point because all you can see then are the roofs. The second level is really the better view.
Who says you can’t improve on perfection? In the year 2000 for the millennium they added twinkling lights to the Eiffel Tower, and when it’s dark exactly on the hour the Tower twinkles in silver and gold for 5 minutes. It’s incredible! So our last stop was to the Peninsula Hotel for a drink on the roof to watch the Tower twinkle. It was the worst glass of wine I’ve ever had for the ungodly cost of 26 euros but worth it for the view.
A great first day. Check back for post #2 soon😊