Up until this point, all the trips Tyler and I have gone on have been planned out by ourselves. I’ve spent countless hours pouring through Pinterest, TripAdvisor, and even plain old Google researching accommodations and itineraries. This trip we decided to go with a local travel company, Explore Europe, on their express trip to Paris, France. A few of our friends were going and the price was right for a Saturday in the city of love, so we booked the tickets.
Our adventure began 20 minutes away from home at 9pm on Friday where we boarded a double decker bus and luckily we were placed on the top! I will give kudos to the company for arranging two buses for this trip: one for families with young kids and one for adults. As much as I love kids, I do not love hearing them cry on a 12 hour bus ride. And yep, you read that right; it was a 12 hour bus ride to Paris. Which was only made worse by the cramped accommodations on the bus and the inability to recline our seats back without laying in someone’s lap. We attempted sleep for most of the ride, but it’s hard to sleep sitting in a half reclined position. The bus did stop several times in the night so we could use the restrooms and once more before Paris so we could freshen up for the day.
We arrived in Paris a little behind schedule, and stopped at Ibis Hotel near the airport for a buffet breakfast that was included in our ticket price. We’ve been in Europe for two years yet my husband still expects to get an all American breakfast everywhere we go. He was sadly disappointed. Paris is just like any other European city in regards to breakfast: deli meats, lots of bread and pastries, hard boiled eggs, and juice. The food was delicious, though.
After our entire party finished breakfast, it was finally time to start our included tour! We all filed back onto the bus and began our way into the city. The one downside to having the first part of the tour in the bus was that our seats were on the left side, so anything out the right windows I was unable to get a picture of. Such as, Moulin Rouge! While I didn’t get any pictures, our tour guide did tell us that back in the day some of the performers engaged in prostitution with customers. It has since classed up and is just a regular burlesque show.
L’église de la Madeleine
L’église de la Madeleine, or just La Madeleine, is a Roman Catholic church located in the 8th arrondissement. Napoleon Bonaparte had La Madeleine built as a temple to the glory of his army, but after his fall King Louis XVIII converted it into a church. Today it is still used for religious services, weddings, and funerals and is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is the Opera House in Paris, which you might know from Phantom of the Opera. Gaston Leroux used the Opera as the setting for his novel, and then later film adaptations. The Opera was built between 1861-1875 and is located in the 9th arrondissement. Since its opening, the Palais Garnier was home to the Paris Opera and Paris Opera Ballet. However, in 1989 Opéra Bastille opened and the Paris Opera found a new home. Ballet is still performed in Palais Garnier.
If you look closely in the second floor window, you can see the lights of a chandelier from inside the lobby. While it’s not as grandeur as the auditorium chandelier, it’s still very cool to see from the outside.
The Ritz Carlton
We were definitely “puttin’ on the Ritz” here! Tyler always sings that song, so it was a bit comical that we actually drove around the real Ritz Hotel while we were on our bus tour. I’m 99% sure this is as close as I’ll ever be to a Ritz Hotel in my life. I checked their website and the lowest price they offered for one night was $1,175! Oh, and guess the highest price I could find… $32,905. For one freaking night!! I better be bathing in gold for that price.
Anyway, that large green thing on the left side of the picture is the Vendôme Column, located in Place Vendôme. Since we were in the bus, I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of it so this was the best I could do. The square was constructed as a monument to the armies of King Louis XIV and the column was built almost 100 years later in 1810 as commanded by Napoleon. It was built to commemorate the Battle of Austerlitz where Napoleon brought France to victory against the Austrians, quickly ending the War of the Third Coalition and signing the Treaty of Pressburg.
Located in the center of Place de la Concorde is the Luxor Obelisk which is an Egyptian obelisk that reaches 75 feet high. Originally this monument was at the entrance to Luxor Temple in Egypt. There is a twin obelisk still residing at Luxor Temple. In 1833, Muhammad Ali Pasha gifted the monument to France and three years later it was placed in Place de la Concorde. You can see in the picture that the entire obelisk is covered in hieroglyphs.
Fun fact: The large structure you see behind the obelisk is actually stadium seating. The Tour de France bike race started July 1st in Düssledorf, Germany and finished July 23rd in France!
Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile
This is one of the iconic monuments in Paris and one that I was really excited to see. Completed in 1836, this arch was constructed to commemorate the French soldiers who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars; all along the arch are inscriptions of French victories and generals. You can get some fantastic views of Paris from on top of the Arc de Triomphe, however we passed by on the bus so we weren’t able to climb to the top.
Can I just say seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris was everything I’ve dreamed of and more?! I was seriously in awe when the tower finally came into view. The Eiffel Tower was constructed as the entrance to the 1889 World Fair, and now it is the most visited attraction in Paris. There are three levels open to the public that with restaurants and an observation deck. In the winter you can even ice skate with a view! We didn’t have the time to go up the tower, but we definitely will when we go back!
Every night the Eiffel Tower lights up and glows and it is so beautiful. After our cruise along the Seine (I’ll talk about that in a few paragraphs), the tower had finally lit up. I mean look at it! It’s gorgeous. In addition to such a glowing beauty, every hour on the hour at night the tower literally sparkles. I was almost certain we were going to miss it, but the stars aligned and our return bus was just late enough for us to see the show.
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
A smaller arch when compared to the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, this arch was also constructed to commemorate the military victories of Napoleon’s army. Both of these arches are aligned with each other; when standing with this arch at your back, the Arc de Triomphe would be exactly in front of you.
Right through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is the Louvre, the largest museum in the world. This museum contains almost 40,000 objects and artifacts from prehistory all the way up till today. The Louvre had been originally built in the twelfth century as a fortress, and was later turned into the museum we know today in 1793. Two famous works of art which can be found here are the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa. Due to time constraints we weren’t able to actually go into the museum, and I’ve heard it would take multiple days to really see all that’s inside. However, I did get the obligatory “touching the top of the pyramid” picture.
Cathédral de Notre-Dame de Paris
Quasimodo, where are you?! I got some serious Hunchback vibes while we were here and it was amazing. Growing up watching that movie made it so cool to be able to see the real life version of Notre Dame. We didn’t get a chance to see the inside; I mean, take a look at that crazy line on the left hand side of the picture. Another place we’re seeing again when we make our way back to Paris. The outside architecture was extraordinary, though. I couldn’t get enough!
Something really cool we found out about Paris? An unknown artist, who goes by Invader, plastered the city streets of Paris with popular 8-bit video game characters, namely the little aliens known as Space Invaders. Our tour guide told us he did this as an art piece and each place he stuck up a character, when found on a map and connected together, made one large Space Invader! As game nerds, we found this to be freaking cool. This was the only one we could find, but that could just be down to us not paying much attention.
After spending most of the afternoon exploring, we met up with our tour group for a three course meal at a French restaurant. I can’t recall the name, and I’m not too upset about it, honestly. The food was decent, but I just expected a little more.
Seine River Cruise
Once we finished eating, we took the metro over to the river to hop on our evening cruise. This might have been the best part of the day, if I’m being honest. I was excited to see the monuments along the river’s edge, but the time of day we took the cruise made it that much more spectacular. Enjoy the pictures that follow:
As we made our way down the river, we noticed a lot – and I mean a lot – of people hanging out along the bank. Talking, drinking, listening to music; it seemed like the perfect way to spend a Saturday evening.
This is one of my favorite pictures from our trip. And it looked 100x more beautiful in person. The sun was setting in just the right place that you can see the silhouette of the Notre Dame in the orange. So breathtaking.
We concluded our cruise and finished our night watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. Once our – late – bus finally arrived, we started our journey back to Germany and back home. It was another 12 hour ride overnight, with multiple bathroom stops and a stop for breakfast. All in all, we had a great experience with Explore Europe and wouldn’t hesitate to use them again. It was nice having everything planned out for us instead of doing the work myself. However, we weren’t fans of the bus ride so maybe we’ll stick to driving ourselves on trips.
If you’ve been to Paris, what was your favorite aspect of the city?
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