This week I finished uploading my photos from our Valentine’s Day weekend in Paris. The full album can be found here.
We booked our trip to Paris back in December when RyanAir was having one of their crazy airfare sales, and the roundtrip tickets cost only 200 NOK (around $35) per person. Since we could fly any weekend in February, I thought it might be something fun to do for Valentine’s Day.
Since I’ve been to Paris a few times before, and I spent a few months there during university, the trip didn’t require much planning. As soon as we booked the tickets, I looked around for a decent budget hotel, and found the fantastic little Hotel Diana in the Latin Quarter (with free Wi-Fi – a huge convenience with the iPhone).
Beyond booking the hotel, I really didn’t do anything else, so by the time February rolled around, I had nearly forgotten about the trip. I knew it was coming up, but I wasn’t thinking about it, since we were in the middle of an organizational flurry for our Easter trip to South Africa and Mozambique.
Part of that was the application for Lucas’s visa to South Africa, and thanks to an unexpected delay getting his last UK visa, he was anxious about getting the application in as early as possible. When we finally gathered the documentation and appeared at the embassy, the consular agent told us it would take a week or two, and I was about to ask Lucas if there was a chance he’d need to travel for work when I realized, “We’re supposed to go to Paris next weekend!” Thankfully the South African embassy was wonderfully accommodating, and they were able to process his visa in time for the Paris trip!
We threw some clothes into our carry-on bags, bid the cats goodbye, and headed to the bus station for the long ride to the Torp airport. (In true RyanAir irony, the roundtrip bus tickets cost more than the airfare!) After an uneventful flight and another bus ride, we were in downtown Paris! Since it was already nearing midnight, we took a €12 taxi ride from the bus stop at Porte Maillot to the hotel, and along the way I pointed out to Lucas the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées, and Notre Dame cathedral.
The next morning we began our sightseeing by walking over to the Panthéon, because it was close to the hotel and I had actually never seen it (short of rushing past in a taxi). From there we walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was eerily quiet. In good summer weather, the gardens are crowded to capacity, but in the frosty February chill, the entire garden was practically deserted.
From there we walked over to Église Saint-Sulpice. This was another place I’ve never been, even though I was interested in seeing the Delacroix murals. At that point we decided that despite the temperatures, Paris in February is somehow colder than Oslo in February (I think it’s the wind chill), and we stopped back at the hotel to change into warmer socks.
Our next stop was Notre Dame cathedral. Unfortunately, due to the ice, we couldn’t climb the towers and see the chimera, but the bare trees made it easier to appreciate the Gothic architecture of the exterior, and I enjoyed seeing it in the snow.
After a walk along the Seine and enjoying the views from Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts, it was time to find some lunch. Although we planned to eat French food, the restaurant we were looking for turned out to be closed. Since we were very close to the street I used to visit for Japanese food, we ended up having yakiniku for our first meal in Paris!
After lunch, we walked past the apartment I shared with Mike and Meera and walked back through Jardin des Tuileries to the Louvre. The line wasn’t long and security was moving quickly, so we were able to use the main entrance through the I.M. Pei glass pyramids. As it was a Friday, and the museum would be open late, we had plenty of time, so when I asked Lucas what he most wanted to see, he didn’t believe me that we couldn’t see it all. In the end, we made a noble effort, and we did cover a lot of the museum!
When museum fatigue finally got to us, we walked over to the Marais and had a leisurely dinner at Vins des Pyrénées. The wait staff was friendly, and the food was quite good – especially Lucas’s duck breast! Yum!
Our second day began at the Rodin Museum – surprisingly, yet another place that I’d never visited! It was snowing lightly as we explored the grounds, and I appreciated the contrast of the dark bronze sculptures against the snow. We enjoyed the exhibits inside the museum and were amused to find a painting of Rodin’s famous The Thinker by none other than Norway’s own Edvard Munch!
After a quick stop for lunch at a cafe, we visited the Musée d’Orsay, which was quite crowded considering it was February (though it was a Saturday).
From there, we walked over to the Place de la Concorde and down the Champs-Élysées, where we bought a snack and decided to watch a film to take a break from walking. Afterward we climbed the Arc de Triomphe to admire the views and happened to time it so that we could watch the Tour Eiffel exhibit its hourly sparkling effect (a holdover from the Year 2000 celebrations of my original time in Paris).
While we had Tour Eiffel on our minds, we headed over to visit the iconic structure and waited in the queue to go up. Due to the late time and the questionable weather, we could only visit the 2nd floor, but the wind cut our visit quite short anyhow! The one time that I seriously questioned the idea of visiting Paris in February was when I was shivering in the icy wind atop Tour Eiffel!
For our last full day in Paris we took the RER out to Versailles. In a twist of luck, the weather cleared up a bit on Sunday (Valentine’s Day), so the sun was shining as we waited in line to visit the château, and the weather was much better for wandering around the gardens.
Although I’d been to Versailles a few times before, the Petit Trianon had not yet been restored, and I was happy to have the chance to explore Marie Antoinette’s little realm. I particularly enjoyed the charming Queen’s Hamlet (Hameau de la reine). I’m not sure if I just missed it on my other visits or if it’s only been restored in the past decade as well.
We returned to downtown around sunset and headed up to Montmartre, where we visited the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur and then walked back down along the winding roads and quiet stairways. Back at the bottom of the hill, we strolled by Pigalle (because nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day” like sex show ads and a massive “Sexodrome”) so Lucas could see the Moulin Rouge.
For dinner, we waited in the queue outside Chartier and then gorged ourselves on ridiculously cheap food!
On Monday morning we took the RER from Hotel Diana back to Porte Maillot to catch the bus to Beauvais Airport.
Related Post: Travel Tips – Avoiding Paris Museum Queues