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We have been to Paris twice before but were only there for a couple days each time and only had time to see the main highlights. Luckily we were able to return for a week long stay (without kids) on a mistake rate that I booked last summer. With a full week, we were able to really enjoy the city and see and do a lot more things.
We left Washington DC on a Sunday evening and arrived in Paris very early on a Monday morning. Here is how we spent our week:
After arriving at CDG airport early (~7am), we collected our luggage and made our way on the terminal shuttle to the train stop. We bought our weekly metro pass right at the airport train station (which is an awesome deal - read about it here). It was an hour ride by train (switching lines once) to get to our hotel.
Luckily our hotel room was ready so we were able to unpack. After a quick nap, we were off to start exploring the city.
Paris is setup into 20 different neighborhoods. Starting with #1 in the center and extending to #20 clockwise as you get farther away from the center. Our hotel was in the 8th neighborhood by the Arc de Triomphe.
For our first day, we ventured out to the Montmartre district in the 18th neighborhood. We arrived by metro to the Abbesses station on line 12. Abbesses is actually the deepest station in the Paris (118 feet below ground). There were a lot of steps to climb.
Very near the metro exit was the park that contains 'The Love Wall'. Created in 2000, it features 'I love you' in 250 different languages.
After wondering around a while, we found an amazing creperie for dinner.
After dinner we continued to wander around the hilly neighborhood and stumbled upon the Sacré-Cœur. Sacré-Cœur is an iconic, domed white church, completed in 1914. It has beautiful interior mosaics and stained-glass windows. It's located at the top of a hill with a great view of the city.
Inside of walking down the hill, we took the funiculaire down to the bottom. Surprisingly it's considered part of the city transit system and was included with our weekly metro pass so we didn't have to buy tickets.
It started to rain a little and we were tired from the flight so we headed back to the hotel.
Tuesday was our wine tour in Sancerre. To get there, we rented a car and drove south. We left during rush hour since the rental car company didn't open until 8:00am. By the time we got the car and got through the heavy rush hour traffic, we finally arrived just around noon.
My wife had arranged this highly rated wine tour from Vinitour Centre-Louire (tripadvisor). Since the tour didn't start until 2:00pm, we had a couple hours to wander around the town and have lunch. We were to meet the tour guide at the tourist office which had an amazing view of the valley.
The tour guide was local to the area living in the next town over from Sancerre. We were the only two people on the tour except for someone the tour guide brought. She was introduced to us as an apprentice - I thought she was training to be a tour guide but it turns out she was trying to get a job with a wine distributor and needed to learn.
Our guide took us to the fields first. She was very knowledgeable and taught us a lot about the growing, prepping, and harvesting process.
We next went to a goat cheesemaker. Goat cheese is famous and very popular in the Sancerre region. Finally we ended the tour at a winery.
The Domaine du Pré Semelé estate is managed by the third generation of the family Raimbault, brothers Julien and Clément. While one brother is in charge of the fields (vigneron), the other is the winemaker. The day we were there turned out to be a a bottling day at the winery so we got to see how the wine is bottled.
After tasting the different wines, we hopped in the rental car, picked up a few snacks at a local grocery store before making the long journey back to Paris.
Cost - 55€ per person for the 3 hour tour
Worth It? - I thought so, while the tour guide wasn't as polished as others, she was very knowledgeable. But it also was a long journey to get there.
We had Wednesday morning and early afternoon to explore the city. We ended up buying the a 4 day Museum Pass. It's good for free entry into over 50 museums and monuments in and around Paris. Our 4 day pass was 62€ each, but you could also buy a 2 day (48€) or 6 day (74€) pass.
With the museum passes, we headed to the Louvre first and got to see the Mona Lisa.
We next visited the Crypt and Notre Dame.
It was getting close to 3:00pm so we hoped on a metro to head over to the food tour that was starting at 3:30pm.
Paris by Mouth - Taste of the Marais
My wife also found this Paris by Mouth - Taste of the Marais food tour on trip advisor. This 3 hour walking food tour includes the following stops as described on the website.
We’ll start the day with buttery croissants and crisp baguettes from an award-winning baker, then visit a family-run fromagerie where they age their own small-production cheeses. We’ll select a range of different cheeses to taste, then add to our basket by picking up some delectable saucisson from a pig-obsessed charcutier. We’ll be stopping at a quirky cave à vins to sit and sample and taste all of these with French wine. We will the wind our way to a blow-out sweets tasting at one of our favorite chocolatier in Paris (and therefore the world).
The tour guide was very very good. He spoke really good english and was polished and professional. He was also very knowledgable about bakeries, cheeses, meats, etc. He had a background as a pastry chef in some of the top restaurants in Paris.
The group was limited to 6 total - including us was a single lady visiting her daughter who was on an exchange program and another couple with their 13 year old son - all of us were Americans.
Here were the stops:
Cost - 110€ per person and included all tastings.
Worth It? - While it was double the price of the wine tour, I really enjoyed this food walking tour and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Thursday was our Disneyland day. We took the hour long train ride using our metro pass to Disneyland. Can you guess which train to take?
We bought tickets beforehand online and save some money and avoided waiting in a line to buy tickets. We purchased 'park hopper' tickets so we could visit both parks - Walt Disney Studios Park and the Disneyland Park.
The park was very crowded, a lot of the rides were the same as in Florida - Tower of Terror, Lights Motors Action, etc. We went on one ride - Ratatouille: The Adventure. It's a 4D ride that takes you for a ride around the french kitchen through the eyes of Remy. It's similar to Spiderman or Transformers ride at Universal Studios but a lot more gentle.
The wait was 60+ minutes, but we went in the single riders line and only waited about 10 minutes and got to sit together because of some confusion with other guests not listening to the cast members.
The other attraction we saw was the Mickey and the Magician show as recommended by the family on our food tour the day before. It was a very good show, probably better than any of the shows in Disney Florida. It's partially in english and french, but easy to understand.
After walking around a bit, we headed over to Disneyland Park which is much larger.
Disneyland Park was also very crowded with long waits also. We did some more attractions here - the indiana jones coaster, the haunted mansion, it's a small world, and a few others.
Cost - $78 per person
Worth It? - I'm glad we went to see it, but overall I was disappointed with Disneyland. It was very crowded and just not as good as the Florida or California parks.
Friday morning we did a few more museums including the Musée D’Orsay which is housed in an old train station. We saw a lot of beautiful paintings.
We then climbed the stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe on our way back to the hotel in the early afternoon to change for our evening tour.
Dinner Cruise & Show
We saw Moulin Rouge show back in 1999 and remembered enjoying it. 18 years later and we're going back to see it again. I found this tour package which included dinner on a river cruise, access to the Eiffel Tower and the Moulin Rouge show.
- Enjoy a lovely dinner-cruise along the Seine River (private table) through the centre of the illuminated French capital by night
- Have a priority access ticket for the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower with fairytale views of the whole city
- Watch the incredible "Fairy" review show at the Moulin Rouge and enjoy the amazing dance numbers
- Sip a glass of Champagne during the Moulin Rouge cabaret show
After checking in to the tour company's office, we were off on a bus with 20+ other tourists to the river cruise.
We were served dinner on the cruise. The food was terrible. The first course were a sampling of appetizers - it was disgusting. The main course was a choice of beef, chicken, or fish. We both got the chicken - it was also terrible - just a small piece of dark meat. The potatoes that came with it were way over cooked and hard to even chew. The only good part was the desserts.
We then boarded the bus to head to the Eiffel tower at dusk. We received tickets that got us in a special line for the elevator ride up to the second story. It was very cold, windy, and crowded at the top. We had about 30-45 minutes to walk around. It was nice to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night.
Finally we boarded another bus for a ride over to the Moulin Rouge show. We got pretty good seat near the back but it was elevated so we had a clear view of the show. I honestly think the show was a small step above a Carnival cruiseship show.
The show started at 11:00pm and ended around 12:45am. We were split up into smaller groups (5-6 couples) for the ride back to our hotel - it was nice that they dropped each couple at their own hotel - unfortunately we were the last to be dropped off as our hotel was furthest away from the show but it was still only 25-30 minutes.
Cost - $446.01 for 2
Worth it? - No, while the tour company had everything very organized and prepared (bus stops, pickups, etc) - it was just too touristy. The food was terrible on the river cruise also.
This was our final full day in Paris. My wife's co-worker recommended going to the see the Palace of Versailles. So we took the 45 minute train ride to Versailles which was also included with our museum pass.
Chateau de Versailles is a palace south of Paris built by Kings. You can visit the palace and see the apartments of kings and queens, the palace gardens, and some other impressive rooms.
I guess I really wasn't in the mood for this visit, everything seemed to annoy me. It first started with the line to get it, it was ridiculously long. The entrance is on the left. The line went all the way to the right, all the way down to the entrance gate then snaked back up near the entrance and all the way back down to the entrance. The line actually kept moving but it still took 45-60 minutes to get in.
We saw a few amazing rooms.
But the asian tourists got on my nerves when walking through the smaller apartment sections of the palace. It was very crowded with people jammed together and pushing. All the asian tourists all had their phones, ipads, etc up in the air trying to record the rooms. I have no idea why they just couldn't look at and enjoy it. Were they really going to watch this shaky, people jammed videos later on? One guy even was recording with a full size ipad pro!
We only stayed about an hour before heading back to the train station. We did come across a McDonalds so I had to try a Pulp Fiction Royal with Cheese - "because you know they don't know what a quarter pounder is with the whole metric system".
On the way back to Paris, I finally also got to check out the Sewers Museum (also included with the Museum Pass). We got there a few minutes after they had closed but we were able to sneak in the exit and got to visit. It was pretty neat, I wish we had more time but they were closing off sections and moving people towards the exit.
Our flight home was leaving at 9:00am from CDG airport, so we took the metro and train to the airport (using our metro pass one last time) as soon as it opened at 5:30am.
I thought we had a full week of activities, tours, dinners, museums, and shopping. At the end of the week, we were exhausted! While we had some misses (river cruise, moulin rouge, Versailles), we had a lot of hits (sewers museum, walking food tour, metro pass, museum pass, Disneyland) also.
What did you think of some of the above activities? Anything I should put on the list for next time?
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