“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.”
Ahh, the downside of sleep. Those moments spent dreaming instead of experiencing, but the only effective way to actually make it through our last day in Paris. So with roughly 12 hours to go, we stored our luggage and officially checked out of our hotel. (If you missed our first day in the city of Paris, you can read about it here.)
We had an agenda, a focused plan….well sort of. We had an idea of what we still really wanted to fit in, so we grabbed some breakfast and hopped on the metro determined to jam it all in.
Construction of this incredible arch was ordered in 1806, by French Emporer, Napoleon. It was completed in 1836, and stands at the western end of Champs-Élysées, honoring those who fought and died for France in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. It stands 50 meters high, and is surrounded by what I consider to be the traffic.circle.from.hell. So how does one even tackle a circle with 12 intimidating roads radiating out like tentacles? Our driver from CDG airport out to Disney informed us that you simply “Hit the gas, head towards it, and don’t stop. Traffic seems to magically open up for you. But if you stop, you’re done.” Not quite enough encouragement to ever make me attempt it. I value my life too much.
You can view the arch from the other side of the circle, or you can pay to cross underground for an up close experience. And it is so worth it! The arch itself is massive and is architecturally impressive, with ornate carvings and historic details. Beneath the arch lies the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and up top is where the real glory lies. The view is absolutely incredible, including a view of the more modern La Grande Arche de la Défense and of course, the Eiffel Tower.
Known for it’s incredible shopping, theatres and bistros, the 1.9 km long boulevard is proudly hailed by the french as “The world’s most beautiful avenue”. This tree lined stretch runs between Place Charles de Gaulle and Place de la Concorde, and is well known to many as being the last stage of the Tour de France and for playing host to the Bastille Day Parade every year on July 14th. We strolled along as a family, passing by shops ranging from Disney to Zara to Louis Vuitton. It is a bucket list combo for any shopping guru, and the perfect place to window shop or adorn your arms with high end bags.
The grounds of the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens are absolutely picturesque, and the large open spaces allow for a less compressed moment to breathe. Located in the 6th arrondissement, the 23 hectare Luxembourg estate was created by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, in 1612. We enjoyed sandwiches at one of the many bistro tables situated around the grounds, the girls giggling over resident pigeons hoping for them to miss their mouths and share some lunch. We watched as kids drove sailboats around the large fountain in front of the palace and just enjoyed the slower paced atmosphere where we could stretch out and relax.
With just over 100 statues, fountains and monuments on the grounds, my absolute favorite was the grotto fountain, now known as the Fontaine Médicis. It is absolutely stunning, and the perfect place to reflect, write, draw or simply find peace.
Making it back to Notre Dame Cathedral
After Luxembourg, we wound our way back to Notre Dame so that we could visit the inside of the cathedral, and maybe spot a sweet little hunchback swinging from the bell tower. As is usually the case, the inside was stunning, the pillars and the stained glass complete works of art. We lit a candle as a family, honoring our loved ones both here and passed on.
And the grand finale……
I was so glad we finished our time in Paris atop the perch of Montmartre, the highest point in Paris. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, is a Roman Catholic Church that was constructed between 1875 and 1914. It is quite a trek to the summit where the church stands, we opted to climb the steps, but there is also a funicular for those less inclined to tackle the 300 stairs. The view over the city is incredible, and while we knew we were beginning to push our time limits, we sat on the steps and enjoyed it. Sam bought a cold beer from a vendor (who is only pesky when he’s selling something you don’t want…but cold beer on a hot day after the steps, yes please!!) It was like making a toast, saying “Cheers Paris, until we meet again.”
Looking at my watch, I knew it was time for Paris to become a series of fond memories, to say au revoir the beautiful city that had kicked off our amazing family adventure. I took a last look over this spectacular city, thankful for the opportunity to be in this moment with my family, knowing how many bucket list items we had checked off in Disneyland and the city of Paris, how we had learned and loved and made dreams come true. From Princesses and thrill rides, to giant towers and picnics at palaces, it was hard to believe we were only 6 days into a month long adventure.
We caught the metro back to our hotel, retrieved our luggage and made our way to Gare De Lyon to catch the night train bound for Venice (an adventure in itself). As we stored our luggage in our compartment, poured a glass of wine and enjoyed meat and cheeses and fruit, the sun set on France, the perfect Parisian send off.
Paris is absolutely a city I plan to return to. We saw what we could, enjoyed the sights and sounds of an iconic city, but I am painfully aware of just how much we were unable to fit in. We had such a small taste of France and it left us wanting more. Perhaps Audrey Hepburn says it best.
“Paris is always a good idea.”