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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Paris in Three Days

Paris — city of lights replete with the riches of Napoléon Bonaparte (and his tomb), wide avenues lined with stately Georges-Eugène Haussmann architecture, the astonishing scale of Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, stylish cafes, elegant women, the Eiffel Tower, Ladurée macarons, and the constant lilt of “Bonjour! Bonjour!” What I love about Paris is all of this; especially the ubiquitous greeting that lightly chimes above the sounds of the city.

I arrived at Paris Gare du Nord train station on a Sunday afternoon. I got on the right Metro line to the hotel, La Manufacture, I had secured in the 13th arrondissement. By 5 p.m., Deanna, my cousin-in-law, an international flight attendant, and I were ready to begin our tour of Paris. We left the hotel light on our feet; our pockets stuffed with Metro tickets. With a laminated map of Paris, we were ready to walk at least 15 miles each day and to keep straight which side of the River Seine we were on.

My first day in Paris was the prettiest day of the year, we heard locals say, so we walked up to Montmartre, a hill on the north side of Paris and home of the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur and the famous art district, Place du Tertre. From this stunning view, all of Paris was laid out before us.

Next, we strolled the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to see the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. We walked through the gardens of the Tuileries to the Louvre, where I stood in awe of its scale and beauty.

We finished our evening tour at Notre Dame, the French Gothic cathedral celebrating 850 years! Across the street, we dined at Brasserie de L’Isle Saint-Louis on buttery omelettes, pommes frites, and French red wine.

Out the door by 9:30 a.m., our first tour was to see the Eiffel Tower from the vantage point of the Trocadéro and the Palais de Chaillot, as well as to walk along the Champs de Mars.

In Les Invalides at the Musée de l’Armée (our Paris Museum Pass provided featured no-wait access), we saw Napoléon Bonaparte’s monumental tomb.

We approached the Louvre with ease — clearly we could not do it all. Standouts for me were: Mona Lisa, Winged Victory of Samothrace, and the Napoléon III Apartments.

After lunch of sandwiches in the Tuileries, we visited the Musée de l’Orangerie, home to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and works by many of my favorite artists: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso.

Strolling Rue du Bac, we found Deyrolle, a most unusual shop. Dating to 1831, the first floor of Deyrolle is a very nice garden shop. Upstairs, patrons find an astonishing mélange of curiosities: preserved insects, fossils, science books and posters, and a vast assortment of taxidermy animals, both large and small.

We visited grocery stories – the destination La Grand Epicerie at Le Bon Marché and the more common, Moniprix, where just 89 euro cents bought my favorite mustard, Amora. Dinner was near our hotel in the popular Latin Quarter on Rue Mouffetard at a brasserie called Mouff’tôt Mouff’tard.

We were out the door by 9:30 a.m. Our first stop was the Musée D’Orsay, designed in an historic train station and displaying art from 1848 to 1914, including Claude Monet, Renoir, Édouard Manet, Georges Seurat, Vincent Van Gogh, and Edgar Degas.

We toured Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (“Our Lady of Paris”), which today continues to serve as the cathedral for the Archdiocese of Paris. Under the flying buttresses of the ancient cathedral, we enjoyed sandwiches and free Wi-Fi in the adjacent park.

After lunch, we walked in Le Marais to Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris, where locals took their lunch breaks in the sun.

Realizing the day was waning (“We need just one more day!”), we took the Metro to Père Lachaise Cemetery to see, specifically, where The Doors’ Jim Morrison was laid to rest.  Before we could make our way to plot No. 30, stern-faced attendants shooed us from the cemetery — it was 5:45 p.m. and closing time was 6 p.m.  We would not be allowed to pay our respects to James Douglas “Jim” Morrison (Dec. 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) — at least on this visit.  (“If we only had one more day!”)

Deanna recalled a nice dinner she had enjoyed several years ago at Camille, a traditional French bistro, and we easily located it in Le Marais. We dined on the crowded sidewalk; on my right, patrons sampled escargot. To my left, a French family, with its dog under the table, dined on thick stalks of white asparagus.

The next morning we took a shuttle from our hotel to Charles de Gaulle airport. Though we had indulged the day before on Ladurée macarons (we stopped at the store on Rue Bonaparte), I was delighted to find Ladurée in the airport — and that was my last stop.

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