10th Birthday in Paris
One of the neat things about living in Europe is that on your doorstep you have a huge amount of the world to discover, bringing you into contact with the history and cultures that have shaped civilisation for 1,000’s of years and often for a very good price. As it was Jimmy’s 10th birthday recently we decided to do something special and settled on a weekend in Paris. This is one of the places Jimmy has wanted to visit since leaving home and has especially wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower and to see the Mona Lisa in person. After some searching around I found a great deal on tickets which at 150 Euros return for the both of us would probably have only got us a one way ticket from Blenheim to Wellington back home.
After booking the tickets I also discovered that Paris Games Week was on at the same time we were visiting and with Jimmy being the avid gamer he is we had to add that to our must do list as well, so we booked a day ticket for the Sunday of our weekend there.
We caught a late afternoon Norwegian flight out of Helsinki arriving at Paris Orly Airport in the early evening. Once we found our way around the airport to the transport centre getting connections into the city were relatively simple. Paris is one of those cities, which as an architect has filled my head with anticipation for many years from my earliest memories of the Pompidou Centre which fascinated me with its high tech architecture when I was a young boy through to the iconic Tower and all of the buildings that have helped shaped history, so to drive right past the Eiffel Tower and disembark at the Arc de Triomphe got us both excited for a busy weekend ahead.
We found our hotel in Nantere and settled in for the night, ready to hit the city as early as we could after a hearty French breakfast.
Soaking up The History
In the morning we set off to Nantere Station which was a leisurely stroll through a nice park, in which we got lost but managed to see some pretty cool architecture as we navigated our way back to where we should have been. From there we rode the RER through to Bastille with the plan being to work our way back towards the Eiffel Tower on foot taking in the major attractions along the way.
After a quick look around the Opera Bastille we wandered down Boulevard Henri IV towards the Seine, enjoying the classical architecture lining the streets. Across the Pont de Sully to Ile Saint-Louis where we could see the imposing structure of Notre-Dame de Paris on the nearby Ile de La Cite. It felt truly surreal to be wandering these streets after having all but given up on ever seeing this magnificent old city. At Notre Dame we admired the exterior architecture, but as the queues were so long we passed on the interior, Jimmy posing instead with a statue of his 38th Great Grandfather (if my research is correct) Charlemagne The Great.
Get your Skip the Line, guided tour of Notre Dame here
From Notre Dame we spotted the cupola of the Pantheon in the distance, so made that our next destination. This was a reasonable walk back across the Seine through the famous Latin Quarter and past the Universite Paris-Sorbonne. Just past the University down Rue Soufflot is the breathtaking sight of the Pantheon, the 18th century mausoleum housing the remains of notable French citizens. After a delicious salad at Le Comptoir du Pantheon we have a wonder around the Pantheon, again avoiding the queues to view the interior as we only had a limited timeframe this weekend. Behind the Pantheon is the charming 15th Century Saint-Etienne-du-Mont which houses the shrine of Paris’ patron saint. From here we wandered back through the Sorbonne to the nearest RER station and caught a train back across the Seine to that building I had longed to see for nearly 40 years, The Centre Pompidou. This building was as amazing in real life as it has been in books and was a thrilling moment to lay eyes on such a masterpiece of modern architecture. To bypass the queues waiting to get in we used our inside knowledge and headed to the restaurant entry where there were no queues and were able to gain immediate entry and got straight up to the top floor where we could wander around the glazed walkways and take in the views over this amazing city.
Nearby we stumble upon another 500 year old church (The Church of Saint Merry) and listen to a choral session going on in the hallowed nave. There is something about choral singing and chanting in these ancient buildings that always makes the hair on my neck stand up….
Next stop is the Louvre, where we get off at Concorde Station and approach through the Jardin des Tuileries. Today we just take in the exterior sights, as we have tour tickets booked for the next day. The place is packed with tourists all posing for photos with the famous glass pyramid and there is no shortage of touts selling all manner of souvenirs, selfie sticks and bottled water.
The Eiffel Tower
After taking in the sights around the courtyard of the Louvre we wander back through the Jardin des Tuileries towards the Concorde and beyond to our final destination for the day The Tour Eiffel. The garden is also full of tourists and locals enjoying an autumn afternoon sitting around the ponds. We follow the Left Bank of the Seine as it winds around to the base of the tower. It is by now late afternoon as we capture our first close up glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the last full rays of sunshine, Jimmy is beside himself as he realises we are right there and about to go up the tower he has so longed to see. While we have visited the Tokyo Tower while in Japan which is very similar in scale, it didn’t really compare to the feeling of seeing this. I think the fact that the Eiffel Tower has a lot of open space around it with the Seine on one side and the Champ de Mars stretching a good few blocks on the other side makes it seem like a beacon in the city and not being drowned out by high rise buildings around it. We had booked a Skip the Line tour of the tower so found our meeting point in a street nearby and set off with our guide for the evening.
As with all of the major attractions in Paris there were long queues waiting to get in so I would advise before leaving for Paris decide what you really want to see and pre-book skip the line tickets so you can get the most out of your time there.
With the sun now set the tower is lit by the 336 sodium lamps and is a real picture of beauty. We wander around underneath the tower admiring the steel work above us, before heading up an elevator to the first sightseeing platform. From here we are afforded an amazing view of the city which was lucky as unfortunately Jimmy chickened out on going to the top level.
We spend the next hour or so taking in the sights from the viewing platform and looking back up at the tower from the Champ de Mars before heading of to the nearby Cafe le Dome for some dinner and back to our hotel where we slump into our beds and quickly fall asleep.
In Part 2 we will take in Paris Game Week, The Louvre and the Seine River Cruise.
This post contains affiliate links, which will allow you to find tickets to the attractions mentioned here at no extra cost than if you booked direct through the sites. We booked our Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Seine River Cruise tickets through this sites and were very happy with the service we received.