A holiday that I waited for a lifetime, came at a time when I least expected it. Nik had begun his formal school and Lucky had just turned one. That’s when AJ realized that we haven’t travelled to any exotic destination in a while (ummm to be more precise that was 6 years back to Goa). Suddenly he had this pang to travel to a foreign destination that too on our 7th wedding anniversary (which was just 6 weeks away) I panicked, because I had no clue how we were to make the trip work with two kids, when my darling of a mom-in-law came to my rescue and asked me to travel sans the kids.
“They are too young to enjoy the trip. And I think you two need a break too.” I will always love her to the moon and back for pushing me out alone with the husband and have a 12 day long trip.
Our itinerary read like
Paris – 3 days
Nice – 2 days
Switzerland – 6 days
When proposed by a close friend who is also a travel planner, this itinerary looked perfect. But now even after a year of the trip, I regret having spent a day or two less in Paris. So here’s my account of what to do when you’re in Paris for three days (two and a half to be precise. The first half of the first day went in figuring things out with little exploration)
We reached our hotel at around 12.30 and were told that our hotel check-in will only be allowed at 2pm. So we spent some time at an adjoining mall and bought some supplies to add to our food reserves. Had lunch at one of the patisseries and then rushed to the hotel, have a bath get ready and embark on our adventure with the city of lights.
We set out to reach the starting point of our bus excursion. I was taken aback by the magnificence of the architecture of the city. In every direction where my eyes turned, I could see a masterpiece of architectural planning and execution. The panoramic view bus took us around the city as we took in the view of all the significant monuments and buildings of Paris. I was still coming to terms with the fact that I was in Paris with AJ but no kids. It had been so so long since we spent any time alone.
On the cruise boat on river Seine, we found the perfect retreat after a night long travel. We crossed over 20 bridges and I marveled the fact that each one was unique and brilliantly designed. It being a Friday, we saw the natives relaxing along the banks. The sun gleamed orange giving signals of setting sometime soon. And suddenly my eyes glanced at my wrist watch and realized it was already 9.30 p.m. We ate dinner at one of the road side cafes and retired to our hotel.
We headed to buy the Paris Pass first thing in the morning. But by the time we read through the same and figured how we could make good our investment in the Pass, it was time for us to head towards Eifel Tower. We travelled via bus, consuming the sight of beautiful streets, local markets and significant monuments in their eternal glory.
After spending a couple of hours at Eifel Tower, we headed to Monte Matre. While the church Basilica of Sacre-Coeur was marvelous in its design, I was more allured Place du Terte, where artists’ are in galore with water colors, sketch artists and caricaturists. One can observe the artists work with ardency with spot clients.
Thanks to our Paris Pass, we had another river cruise covered. Given that AJ and I both are water people, and love the serene sight of blue water, we spent another evening on the cruise.
Today we had dinner in our room, with bread and packaged bhaji that I was carrying from home. During dinner we realized that we hadn’t used much of our Paris Pass and it may eventually turn out to be a loss making transaction. It was not a very good feeling. So we got our planning cells working and chalked out a plan for ourselves that would enable us to encash the benefits of Paris Pass to match atleast its cost price.
As much as we tried to be early and get the most of our pass, the holiday mode had set in and it was only by 9 that we were able to leave the hotel post breakfast.
We headed straight to Notre Dam Cathedral and after the tour of the church, booked ourselves for an evening slot for a visit to the terrace of the church. After Notre Dam, we headed to Bastille Saint Antoine – the royal fortress and another ancient church in the vicinity.
Our next destination was Louvre. When in Paris, you’ve got to see the Monalisa. Frankly, I’ve never understood the hype about the world famous painting. And now, after having seen other coveted pieces of art at the Louvre museum, I know that it definitely is over-hyped. I was much more impressed by the ‘Last Supper’ on the opposite wall. One has to see to believe the scale of works of art of famous artists that comprise the museum. The sheer intricate detailing of the paintings donning the walls of the museum is mind-boggling.
After the Louvre it was time for a wine museum, where we went through the history, science and art of wine making and had a wine testing session. We left Louvre de’ Caves happy with two complementary bottles of wine as souvenir.
By this time we had got a hang of the metro routes and rushed to another corner of the city to the Chocolate museum. At the Choco Story Chocolate museum we found out many interesting facts about the history of cocoa and the art of chocolate making. We also had a live demo of the Chocolate making process and had a feast tasting fresh chocolates. Read my detailed post about our visit to Choco Story here.
After the amazing chocolates and the refreshing hot chocolate drink, we rushed by foot towards the wax museum, but realized that we were standing infront of Rex Cinema. Yes, Rex is the largest cinema theatre in the Europe and boasts of having maximum number of movie premiers. This coveted cinema has an amazing behind the screens experience for its visitors giving them a glimpse into the process and technicalities of movie making. It is a 45 minutes live walk in show where we learnt about the history of the Grand REX and experienced the movie making process in its different stages.
By the time we were done with the Grand Rex and reached Musee de Gravin, the wax museum, it was closing time and to our dismay we were denied entry. But there wasn’t much to do about it. We spotted the Hard Rock Café just besides the museum building and had a quick snack there.
We realized that though we had extensively used the bus service in last two days, we hadn’t used the double decked, hop-on-hop-off Paris Bus. So The Big Bus, Paris it was. We got down at the Pont des Arts Bridge, also known as the love lock bridge and spent an hour absorbing the serenity of river Seine. Unlike the last two days, today the riverside was quite and deserted. The weekend had come to an end and guess the Monday Blues had set-in already for the people.
Given that it was evening already, there was just one thing for us to visit now. Arc De Triumph at Champs de Elysee. After our visit when we prepared to leave Arc De Triumph, it began to rain heavily and we decided to get drenched in the rain while getting back to the hotel. It really was a magical night.
Paris is famous for its art and museums. Given that both of us were not too interested in the museums and were satisfied watching various monuments and buildings from the outside, we skipped visiting quite a few significant places in the inside. Instead we spent a lot of time roaming around the streets of Paris and absorbing the magical air of this city of love. A walk by the river Seine, a stroll in the Tulleries, some leisurely time in the lawns of the palace was something that gave us much more satisfaction.
A couple of suggestions from a first time traveler to a foreign city, to make your visit more fruitful –
- Chalk out a tentative itinerary for your time in the city, but be flexible enough to squeeze in some quick visits in your schedule.
- Do keep some time aside for the flea markets. I missed on that one.
- Go through the map of the city and understand the metro network beforehand. It will save you a lot of inconvenience and make your travelling calls quicker.
- We skipped the DisneyLand, because as a couple I found it to be less inviting, especially when I had left my kids back home. But keep one full day aside for Disneyland, incase you decide to visit the same.
- Until you are in the city for around a week, there will always be something that you will miss out on. But do not lose heart. In a city where architectural beauty is in abundance, find joy in breathing its air. Make choices that suit your sensibilities and enjoy the experience.
This post is a part of my Travel Diaries Series. My other posts in the series you might be interested in –