At the recommendation of our guru Rick Steve’s we woke up early and arrived at Notre Dame before 9 AM. We were able to walk right into the cathedral, without waiting in a line, and explore around before the hoards of tour groups came through.
I immediately loved Notre Dame. The gothic architecture was intricate and appealing. I don’t know if it was because we arrived before the crowds, but there was a much more sacred atmosphere inside Notre Dame, as opposed to what I felt in the Vatican. There are signs everyone reminding you to keep silent, so a more respectful atmosphere is maintained.
We looked around the cathedral and were able to witness a mass that was occurring. We then went to get in line to climb the bell tower, which opened to visitors at 10 AM.
The climb up Notre Dame was much better regulated than the Vatican. They only allowed so many people up at a time, which the experience at the top more enjoyable, since you were not smashed against other people.
The views at the top were unbelievable:
Out of all the cathedrals I have visited in Europe, Notre Dame was definitely my favorite. The architecture and energy was more appealing to me and I appreciated how much more organized the visiting regulations were.
After Notre Dame, we went just right up the street to visit Shakespeare & Co. This was must-see for me, in Paris. It is a small, independent bookstore that was the gathering place for many of my favorite authors, such as Ernest Hemmingway, Ezra Pound and James Joyce.
We grabbed a quick lunch, and begin making our way to the Orsay Museum. I was pretty worn out at this point from all the walking and climbing, so we decided to split up. Our friends went to the museum and we returned to Tuliere gardens to rest and give my step-son time to play.
Sometimes, on vacation, your husband takes really unflattering pictures of you!
Once I woke up from my nap, we met back with our friends, and begin making our way to the Montmarte district.
Montmarte is situated on a hill, so we climbed and climbed and climbed. It was definitely worth it. Montmarte is such an eclectic and interesting neighborhood. There are artists everywhere, and the energy is fun and vibrant.
We started off by visiting Basilica of the Sacre Coeur. The steps outside were full of people and there was a small band playing. It was such a fun meeting place and seemed to be the place to be, on that afternoon.
We went inside the Basilica (no photos were allowed, because a service was in session) and it was amazing how separated from the noise and energy it was, from what was going on outside. The atmosphere was reserved and sacred, an interesting contrast to the bustling right outside the doors.
After the Basilica, we visited Place du Terte, a square where artists gather to paint picture or sketches of paying tourists. It was packed with tourists, but still very interesting to watch the talent unfold in front of us. In moments, amazing works of art were executed right before our eyes. We planted in a café and peopled watched for awhile and enjoyed the buzzing environment (and cheers from the current World Cup game).
Our energy was running low at this point. It had been the day of climbing and we were pretty worn out. We had a long walk back towards our apartment, and we stopped once more for Falafel at the restaurant near were we were staying. We had another early morning the next day, so we tried to get to sleep between 10-11 PM. The sun did not set till about 10:30 PM, so it was confusing sometimes, to try to get to sleep early.
The plan for the next day was to visit Versailles. This was another must-see for me, and I was incredibly excited to see this historical, decadent site.
We woke up early enough for 5 people to get ready in a small apartment, with one bathroom and we made our way to the metro station and figured out how to navigate our way to Versailles. We found it easy enough and were in line at the entrance, about 20 minutes before it opened.
We were one of the first ones in and had the opportunity to explore around, before it got too crowded.
Versailles was pretty breathtaking. It is elaborate and completely over the top, complete fit for royalty. You definitely get the sense that Louis XIV thought highly of himself, there are paintings and statues of him all over in various heroic stances.
Each room was more ornate than the next, and it was a challenge to try and see all the details of the paintings, sculptures and furnishings.
Once we had explored the Chateau, we set out to start touring the immense gardens. We walked and walked and walked and awed over the expanse around us.
After touring both Grand & Petite Trianon (other living quarters of the royal family when they wanted to escape the formality of the Chateau), we set off to find Marie Antoinette’s estate. This was my favorite part of the grounds. The hamlet village was incredibly charming and quaint. It is so far away from the Chateau, that you would not even guess you were on the same grounds. It was secluded away and easy to see why she utilized it as an escape.
The farm was still active and adorable. I could have spent the whole day just watching the animals.
After exploring the hamlet, we walked all the way back to the Chateau and made our way back to the train station. We rode back into the city and walked around the Latin Quarter. It was a fun, energetic neighborhood.
We found some delicious street food (I really could not get enough falafel) and planted in a bar to watch some of the World Cup.
Eventually, we made our way back to our neighborhood, because, as I am sure you guessed, we had to be up early, once again, to beat the crowds for our next site.