If you find yourself with a “spare” day and a half—not counting travel time—is it worth it to try to see Paris? I wondered the same thing myself when I had the opportunity to tack a quick visit onto the front-side of a trip to Ireland. It is indeed possible, but be prepared to prioritize and make some tough decisions in order to maximize your limited time.
I did as much planning ahead as possible—making the hotel reservation, booking tickets for several attractions, and mapping out a tentative touring schedule and route.
Day 1 Itinerary:
- Our flight arrived in Paris at 9:00 a.m. and we hit the ground running. For whatever reason, I am never able to sleep in-flight—a circumstance that is terribly aggravating—so I was fairly tired on top of the jet lag that first day. There was no time for rest, however, so we pushed on. I had arranged for a shuttle from Charles de Gaulle Airport to our hotel and the driver was waiting to whisk us away as soon as we grabbed our luggage. [Prior to meeting him, we withdrew money (in euros, of course) from the airport ATM machine (distributeur in French). This is the best option if you want to avoid terrible exchange rates and an astronomical commission charge at Travelex or similar exchange agencies. We also stopped by one of the airport T1 desks and purchased Paris Museum Passes.]
- We were checking into our hotel by 11:00 a.m., Paris time.
- After freshening up a bit, we headed around the corner from our hotel to eat lunch on Rue Cler. The restaurant choices are diverse and plentiful on this delightful, cobblestone thoroughfare, so we made a pass up and back before settling on Cafe’ du Marche’ for our first sampling of French cuisine. This popular cafe’ offers sidewalk seating, so we had an opportunity to people-watch while enjoying our meal. (More about Cafe’ du Marche’ in a future post.) Then we began our sightseeing in earnest…
- Sightseeing on Foot – We walked from our hotel to Les Invalides and then on to Pont Alexandre III (the Bridge of Golden Statues) in search of a tour bus stop. We didn’t follow a pre-planned route…just walked wherever our feet carried us. We saw a number of high-end stores, cute cafes with red-and-white striped awnings and umbrellas, and lots of fabulous French architecture.
- L’Open Tour – We purchased passes online in advance for this hop on-hop off, open-top double-decker bus tour. There are 50 stops along the route as well as multilingual commentary. In theory, this is a great way to see the city; in reality, there is a downside. We visited Paris in August and though it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I had feared, we had difficulty finding a tour bus with available space—especially in the upper deck for the best view—and often had to wait until the third or fourth bus, go to another stop, or settle for touring on foot. That said, the view of the Arc de Triomphe from the open-air, top deck was far better than anything we could have seen from the ground. Ditto the view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro…got some wonderful photos of both. It was a great way to see the Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde as well. All in all, worth the money…just be prepared for delays during heavy tourist times.
- Eiffel Tower – We ended our bus tour near the Eiffel Tower, then went to pick up our admission tickets. (If you wish to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower—or even visit the lower decks—you need to purchase tickets through the official web site well in advance. I did not do that so ended up booking (still in advance) through Paris Easy Pass Tours, which costs a bit more but has the benefit of an actual tour guide.) We met up with our group at the designated location and accompanied our guide to the tower, where we hopped right on the elevator and headed up to the first level. From there we went to the second level and then on to the summit. (More about the actual tour in a future post.) This is a must, in my opinion, no matter how much or how little time you have to spend in Paris.
- Back to Rue Cler for supper (at 9:00 p.m.), then on to the hotel to get some shut-eye!
This was a full day—especially on top of flying all night and dealing with the seven-hour time change! We walked back to our hotel from the Eiffel Tower—a distance of half a mile—after which we were exhausted! We maximized every minute of the day and saw a lot in twelve hours!
Check back for our Day 2 Itinerary…