Two years ago for our 5th anniversary, my husband and I planned a backpacking trip across Europe for almost two weeks. We started in the “City of Lights” because it was the cheapest inbound flights that we found. We arrived and for the entire first day, we had to carry our luggage everywhere because we could not check into the Sacre Couer monastery that we had reserved for our first night (only $5 and it had personal bathroom and all we had to do in return was pray for 1 hour before we left!). With our trusty personal tour guide in the form of our Rick Steve’s Europe book, we decided to have lunch near the Eiffel Tower. Then, we continued our self-guided city walk around the Seine River and Notre Dame. We tried to see as much of the city via walking that we could in a few hours since our “curfew” at the monastery was 10:00pm (which was fine by us because we were exhausted by the traveling).
We got up bright and early the next day, prayed for our hour (which felt like 10 minutes in this big old beautiful church), and took lots of photos outside since the Sacre Couer is at the top of Paris and looks down over everything–we could even see the Eiffel Tower. One of my husband and I’s “things” when we travel is to go to the highest point of each city so we can look back down on everything and get tons of great pictures. This of course was a fabulous start to our day. We stopped at a little cafe for espresso and croissants, then slowly made our way back down to the heart of the city, walking through residential areas and a shopping district. Finally, after about two hours, we were at our hotel which was only a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower called Hotel du Champs de Mars. It is a cute little boutique hotel where the owner lives and works the front desk pretty much all day, every day. When we checked in, he gave us this huge old key as the hotel was set up like an old house and told us that before we left, we had to return the key back to him and retrieve it when we returned. Oh, and that we had a curfew of 10:00. What?! We had already had a curfew for our first night in Paris. We weren’t about to have ANOTHER curfew and told him so. After he cussed us in French a little under this breath, he told us to “knock really loud” until he came to the door. We didn’t like this plan either, but what could we do? We were wasting our last day arguing with our hotel guy, so we said okay and went on our way.
With our bags safely in our hotel room and no longer on our backs, we decided to head to the Louvre. Wow. No matter what you read, what you see, there truly are some places that just have to be experienced. We walked through and saw the requisite Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, the double-sided David and Goliath painting, and the indoor garden of giant 15 feet tall bronzed Greek statues. After walking through the Louvre for hours, we stepped outside to meander through The Tuileries Garden where the locals hang out, have picnics and just generally enjoy life to the fullest. We were surprised to see huge shallow fountains where everyone puts there feet in surrounding the exit of the Louvre–it’s like no one wants to completely leave the beauty of the Louvre or their connection with these intelligent, passionate, and simply unbelievable artistic minds of the past that created the truly amazing works housed inside. As we lounged around and rested our feet, we saw people of all walks of life sharing the same water; it was a melting pot of cultures and languages, but everyone was sharing a common experience and were totally in awe of what they had just seen inside. Then, we headed to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel which is just across the grounds and is sort of a mini Arc de Triomphe which we were way too tired to trek to anyway.
We headed back to our hotel, stopping first at a nearby grocery to get cheese, crackers, sausages, and of course, wine, for a picnic-like dinner in our room. The cheese just came from a little plastic container but was some of the best of my life, and every glass of wine tasted so pure and delicious. It’s like they don’t put anything in their food or wine that isn’t completely natural, and you can really taste the difference. After freshening up, we went to the Eiffel Tower, and since it was dusk, we got to see the view from the top as day changed from light to dark. We experienced the breathtaking tower light show–it just lights up in crazy patterns to music for a good ten minutes every hour on the hour. I just kept saying, “We are inside the Eiffel Tower during the light show in Paris!” over and over as I couldn’t believe I was getting to experience something so magical, and it was only the second day of our trip!
By this time, we were both tired and ready to head back to our hotel (two hours passed curfew, I might add!). The two days flew by, but we felt like we saw the highlights and were ready to get a good night’s sleep and hop on the Eurail the next day and head to Brussels, Belgium for a quick lunch and then continue on to our next overnight stop, Amsterdam. Vive la Paris!