My wife and I recently enjoyed our first visit to Paris, a short three-day excursion that provided us just a small taste of Paris. We arrived Wednesday evening by train from Amsterdam after I had finished teaching a class there.
Through VRBO, we rented an apartment that backed up to Monceau Park, a very nice urban park.
After settling in, we explored our neighborhood and found a small grocer where we could get picnic items for dinner. As it was too dark and chilly by then to picnic in the park, we picnicked in our apartment.
Having never been to Paris before, there were several things that I especially wanted to be sure and see—the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Church. We started out Thursday morning with less than optimal weather.
As we were walking to the Louvre from our apartment it clouded over and began to sprinkle. But by the time we had reached the Tuileries gardens, it began to rain quite hard. Fortunately, it was time for lunch and so we found a café in the gardens and had an excellent lunch.
After lunch, we made our way over to the Louvre, passing to admire their “green” lawn mower.
As we approached the Louvre, we could tell there was a large crowd already there. We had read that lines could be quite long to get in. However, when we approached the entrance, we found that the museum was actually closed since it was a national holiday that day—May 1. We had no idea. We still paused for a quick photo of the iconic pyramid and headed onward.
Our next stop was Notre Dame although we didn’t know if it would be open since it was a national holiday.
When we arrived, we could tell it was definitely open but the line to get in the church was tremendous. Apparently everyone who had planned on going to the Louvre that day came here instead. It was an easy decision to skip the line and just take photographs of the exterior of the church. My main goal was to get to see the famous flying buttresses, one of the first churches to utilize this revolutionary architectural feature that allowed high ceiling walls.
Close by was the Deportation Memorial which my wife particularly wanted to visit, a memorial commemorating the French who were deported during the Nazi occupation of the city. Unfortunately, it too was closed.
Our last planned event for the day was a behind the scenes tour of the Eiffel Tower. This was the one activity that we purchased advanced tickets for having read that the lines there could be quite long also. We had about an hour and half until our scheduled time. I had checked via Google maps earlier that it was about a 50 minute walk from Notre Dame and figured we would have plenty of time to get there and take in all the sights along the way.
Was I ever wrong? First the rain came back, which made the walking much less pleasant. And after walking an hour, we could finally see the tower but it still appeared to be far off in the distance. The last part of our walk, we really had to hoof it to get there in time. Fortunately, by the time we got there the rain had cleared up and it appeared the sun might actually come out. Maybe long lines or rainy weather wouldn’t spoil our last stop of the day.
We met our tour group and after a brief introduction in front of the statue of Gustave Eiffel, visited the military bunker nearby where we heard the importance of the Tower during the First World War and how some of the first radio transmissions were made from the top, an advantageous use of its 1,000-foot height.
Our tour also included seeing the complex of mechanical equipment that raises and lowers the elevators, both the current mechanism that was installed in 1965 as well as those it replaced that was installed in 1899.
This led us up from the basement of the Tower to the elevator that would whisk us to the 2nd level of the Tower. I was really looking forward to taking lots of pictures of Paris from all four sides of the Tower. However, when we exited the elevator car, we found that it was pouring down rain. I tried to go outside to get at least one photo but quickly realized I would get drenched. After weaving our way around the crowd in the interior and realizing that the rain was not letting up, we had no choice but to descend.
As we huddled under our umbrella, I decided to take one last shot from the foot of the Tower.
Not feeling that I had gotten a completely satisfactory visit, we stopped at a nearby café with a view of the Eiffel Tower and had an outlandishly priced beer.
While sitting at the café enjoying the view protected from the rain, we found a brewpub that was near by and decided to have dinner there. After the short walk there, we were rewarded with much more reasonably priced, locally brewed beer and a special IPA to boot (my favorite kind of beer).
For me, getting a tasty American burger and a great tasting beer made up for a lot of the misfortune we had encountered in our first day.
After dinner, as we made our way back to our apartment under overcast skies, we wondered if rainy weather and long lines would mar our next two days? Upon collapsing onto the purple couch in our apartment, my wife informed me that according to her Fitbit, we had walked almost 30,000 steps our first day in Paris— 12.5 miles. Though we knew not what the weather would hold for our next two days, we did know we would definitely explore alternative means of transportation.