Yes, it is easy to love Paris! I think the best part of being in a different country is letting the culture soak in slowly. Unfortunately, our trip to Paris wasn't slow or laid back. We tried to hit the highlights in two days and wore ourselves out!
Thursday morning we packed up the car with me, John, Kim, Jack, Evie and Uncle Joey and headed to Dover to catch the ferry to Calais. It is a 2 hour drive to Dover through beautiful English countryside. We arrived in Dover about 1:00 and got right onto the ferry, we were a little early so we were able to take an earlier ferry (insert song from School House Rock here). Of course the bonus of going this route was seeing the White Cliffs of Dover!
It takes about an hour to cross the English Channel at this point. There are many different areas where you can cross the channel, but this one is the cheapest! We had some lunch on the ferry and before we knew it, we were in France!
Poor John, he had to drive a right sided car on the right side of the road! He had to keep telling himself to stay on the right! Of course, all the signs were in French so I had to dust off the high school French classes and put them to use. We were able to get on the correct highway to Paris and headed south to our destination. Purchasing the software for the Garmin was also a good investment! We have maps for not only England but all of Europe! Yeah John!
It was about a 2 and a half hour drive to Paris and we arrived around dinner time. We checked into our hotel which was absolutely the best part of the whole trip. We stayed in La Defense which is actually the business district for Paris. It is a bit outside the city and away from the crowds and the hustle and bustle. We had dinner at a local Italian restaurant and then back to the hotel for a good nights sleep. John and I had our own room with the 3 kids across the hall and Joey a couple doors down. It was heaven. The concierge at the front desk, Oliver, was fantastic. He spoke very good English and constantly asked if everything was to our satisfaction. In the morning, we went downstairs to breakfast, which was included in price of the room, and ordered a cafe au lait. There were croissants and ham, bacon and eggs, cereal and yogurt, it was delicious. We parked the car in a parking deck a few blocks away and headed off on foot to the metro station to take us into Paris!
Five stops and one change of trains and we arrived at the La Tour Eiffel! (it was extremely easy to get there, don't be fooled by having to change trains, it was very easy!)
The Eiffel Tower is magnificent. We bought tickets to the top and started our assent up, up, up! You have to stop at the second floor and get on a different elevator to the top. Could not believe the view. It was a bit cloudy but not too cold and we spent about a half an hour just looking out over the city of Paris. When the top started to get really crowded, it was time for me to head back down. I make no secret of my issue with crowds, hate them with a passion! I started to feel claustrophobic and knew it was time to go!
Once back on land, we decided to take a boat cruise down the Seine. It was one where you could get off and back on again at different points. We knew we wanted to see the Louvre next and riding down the Seine was a relaxing and beautiful way to get there. The Louvre is massive! The kids get in free so that was a plus. Highlights of the Louvre; The Mona Lisa, Venus di Milo, the Coronation of Napoleon, Saint Michael Overwhelming the Demon by Raphael, and a few paintings by Carpaccio that are worth seeing while there. The best thing to do is list your must sees and go on a big scavenger hunt. One could spend the whole day there and not see what you're looking for, it is that big!
After the Louvre, we walked back across the Seine to take the boat to our next stop which was Notre Dame. Another beautiful church and we were able to take pictures this time! We were there in time for Mass, but the children were tired and cranky so we decided it best to head out.
We hopped back on the metro for La Defense and back to the hotel. Oliver, our friend and concierge recommended a nice restaurant for dinner. The meal was very good and the wine was even better. John and I had a bottle between the two of us plus a glass of champagne when we sat down. I basically ran back to the hotel to fall into bed! I was so tired!
So, that was our first day in Paris. I'll add some pictures here and stop for now. I will hopefully post our morning at Versailles and our long stroll up the Champs Elysee in my next post!