Day 35 & 36 – Aug 23 to 24, 2022
Our early morning departure from Viking Heimdal and the 2.5 hour TGV train trip back to Paris went very smoothly. This time we were on our own and had to haul all of our luggage. We arrived in plenty of time to check into our room at the K+K Hotel Cayre. Looking forward to our two days back in Paris, I had booked activities several months ago using the Get Your Guide website, choosing “Skip the Line” tickets. This is really the way to go when you want to avoid lines for major attractions than can be up to hours long.
As soon as we had checked in and admired the view from our balcony, we were off to one of the highlights of our 2-day return to Paris – an elevator ride to the summit of the Eiffel Tower!
Eiffel Tower Summit
Paris is a very walkable city, and that’s what we did for 1.7 miles one-way from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower to catch our tour group. As you can see, the lines waiting to get tickets for the tower, and then to get up the tower, are horrific – think Versailles:
Famously meant as only a temporary structure to last 20 years when it was built in 1887, and despite most locals thinking it was an eyesore, the tower is still going strong – and very profitable. We were 2 of the 7 million folks who visit it per year – no wonder there’s always a line! While waiting for the first elevator (there are two of them to get all the way to the top), these facts and figures about the tower kept us from the angst of endless waiting or thoughts of jumping off:
It took us two hours to ride both elevators to the summit to soak in these views:
After that episode Steve mentioned that you have to really want to go up there to make it worth the hassle. I know, we must be gluttons for punishment but now we can check it off the old bucket list. Whew, it was brutal going up there!
We crammed three more attractions into our visit the following day: The Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre, the Père-Lachaise cemetery and the Sainte-Chapelle Chapel. Our planning the previous night showed visiting them was going to involve a lot of walking in hot weather, and riding the Metro. We decided to try out the Metro system which had a station right across the street from our hotel. It’s the fastest way to get around Paris, with the underground system consisting of 16 interconnected lines and over 133 miles of track.
We planned and mapped our destinations so we wouldn’t get lost, and we almost made it. We found it it to be quite challenging, since of course the directions and instructions are all in French. We made a couple of minor errors, but had it figured out by the time we got back to the hotel.
Our first stop was at a place that we had been admiring from our hotel balcony since we arrived. The Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre sits high on a hill overlooking the city, and at 272′ tall the all-white building is almost blinding in its striking position atop Butte Montmartre. It was a beautiful place with many steps up to it, and many, many people to contend with as we ascended those stairs:
We got back on the Metro for a trip to a place that our friend Nina Fussing, now a resident of France, had recommended – the Père-Lachaise cemetery. It was amazing to see Paris’s most visited cemetery that is the final resting place for several famous people including Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Frédéric Chopin. It was huge at 110 acres and containing 70,000 burial plots. We could have spent many hours there had we not had a pre-arranged tour at our next destination.
We walked past Jim Morrison’s grave and likely those of many other famous folks as we viewed an abundance of beautiful, ornate tombs with inscriptions telling a different story for each family:
Our final excursion of the day required yet another Metro ride back to the city and the beautiful Sainte-Chapelle Chapel. This is the second excursion I had booked online months ago to give us priority access and prevent waiting in a long ticket line.
The Sainte-Chapelle is reputed to be a true architectural gem. Built in seven years and consecrated in 1248, it was intended as a palace chapel to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns which was acquired by Saint Louis IX. The church no longer holds any of the relics of the Passion of Christ, and all remaining relics that survived the Revolution were moved to Notre Dame Cathedral’s treasury. But that was not why we were here.
We came to see the stunning stained glass located in the upper level of the chapel, accessed by a narrow stairwell. The panels are arranged across 15 windows, each 50 ft high and depicting 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments. They recount the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris:
An ocean of color and light took our breathe away:
Some 70% of the stained glass is original. It was mesmerizing to “read” the biblical illustrations left to right and top to bottom, and our necks were aching while trying to do it.
Everyone knows there are an abundance of side walk cafes in Paris, and Parisian cafés are not coffee shops. Instead, they generally offer a restaurant menu with meals at any time of the day. They are intrinsically linked to daily life for Parisians and have been in existence since the 17th century. There is no rushing here, the whole idea is to be able to watch the world go by and that’s just what we did. Sit, order, eat, drink, talk, people watch, repeat:
Lastly, some of the sights we enjoyed during our last two days as we ambled around the city:
I love Paris. It overflows with history, elegance, sophistication, style and culture. It made our short visits memorable!
And the City of Love capped our final 2-night sojourn with an orange-hued sunset:
And that concludes our gallivanting in France. Au Revoir, Paris!
Next up: Hello, Jerusalem!