Day One in Paris

Writing about Paris will take several posts because we packed in a lot of places in a little bit of time. The trek began with a long five-hour drive from Hésingue to Vincennes, the Paris suburb where we stayed, just outside the 12th Arrondissement. (Vincennes will get a post all its own because Chuck and I absolutely loved the area and highly recommend staying there if you’re visiting Paris.)

Back in early spring when we started planning this trip, we asked all three kids (Jeremy, Jackson, and Emma) where they definitely wanted to go. All of them said Paris.

Truth be told, it wasn’t a city Chuck and I would’ve chosen. We are small town people, not big city people, and I already have kid-sized memories of visiting Paris in the late-80s. But, the teenagers wanted to go, and in the end, I’m glad we accommodated their request.

We spent our first evening in Vincennes, but first thing the next morning, we caught the Metro to the city center.

The first place on our list was Galeries Lafayette on Haussmann, the flagship store for a major shopping chain with weekly fashion shows, haute couture, an incredible art nouveau dome, and a rooftop terrace with an expansive view of the city (for free!).

Galeries Lafayette is directly across from the Palais Garnier (Opera House), which is seen below on the left hand side of the image.

Since we were already near the 18th Arrondissement, we started the long, uphill walk to Montmartre to visit Sacré-Cœur.

Climbing the hill to Montmartre is all about the view since you’re on the edge of Paris and can see the expanse of the whole city.

After taking a rest on the steps of the Basilica, we headed for the Place du Tertre in Montmartre, a small, café-lined area with cobblestone streets and a slew of artists selling their work.

It is here where I experienced my first of two regrets – I should’ve bought some street art from a local painter. I wanted to buy a particular watercolor piece I saw, but honestly I thought another opportunity would come, and buying something at this point felt impulsive. Ugh. Regret.

We found lunch at Au Petit Comptoir, where I had a delicious salad with warm goat cheese and a glass of rosé.

We couldn’t leave Montmartre without seeing the Moulin Rouge.

To save our feet, we took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe, the center point for where the 8th, 16th, and 17th arrondissements meet, culminating in one of the busiest roundabouts in the city. We opted to climb the stairs to the top because – again -we wanted the view. Totally worth the euros!

The Arc de Triomphe was built in the early 1800s to celebrate Napoleon and his victories for France.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

The roundabout has six roads feeding it, meaning there are a whopping 12 entry/exit points, including the ginormous Champs-Élysées. The observation deck allows visitors to watch the ballet of cars and buses from above.

This is the view of Sacré-Cœur from atop the Arc de Triomphe (you can see why we took the Metro instead of walking!):

We had tickets for the Eiffel Tower that evening, so we took our time meandering from the Arc de Triomphe, stopping at the Flame of Liberty along the way. The monument was built to commemorate the French-American relationship, but it’s ultimately become an unofficial Princess Diana memorial as it marks the tunnel where she died in a car crash in 1997.

Once we made it to the foot of the Eiffel Tower, we found an outdoor cafe to get ice cream and rest our feet. We sat there for more than an hour since we were so exhausted. Jackson was fine with this since it meant he could pull up Google Docs and work on his book in view of the tower.

The view of the Arc de Triomphe from atop the Eiffel Tower:

Since we still had the threat of getting stuck in Europe on account of a positive Covid test, we opted to wear masks on public transit. (The Metro was far busier than it appears in this photo. LOTS of warm, germy bodies on the Metro…)

The day was both special and exhausting, so we old people were really looking forward to sitting down on the Metro and going back to our beautiful apartment in Vincennes.

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