Au Paris: Part 1

We’re back to share photos from the first part of our trip to Paris, but first let me just say that this was truly the trip of a lifetime.  Stephen and I don’t have a ton of expendable income (or else we’d have wood floors by now – ha!), so when his parents gave us the opportunity to vacation in Paris for a week, we felt like we’d won the lottery and lept at the chance!

At XNA before Paris Trip

Another disclaimer: I don’t speak a lick of French, so I may very well butcher some of the names of places we saw.  Don’t hold it against me!

Our hotel reservations were taken care of for us, and we stayed at the fabulous Raphael Hotel, just a few steps away from the Arc de Triomphe on Avenue Kleber.  If you click on that link, you can see a video tour of the whole hotel – from the lobby, to the suites, to the restaurant and rooftop bar.

Our Suite at Hotel Raphael

Our room was incredible.  Filled to the brim with French details and antiques.  There was a sitting room with a balcony, a separate bedroom with an enormous antique armoire, and a huge walk-in closet and light-filled bathroom.  Ha!  I sound like I’m writing up a real estate listing!

Charming Writing Desk Bedroom at Raphael

Wardrobe in Paris Bedroom

I could probably have stayed just in this closet and been happy all week!

Closet in Paris

One thing about Paris?  No air conditioning!  Needless to say, this balcony was especially nice when we wanted a little fresh air in our room.

Balcony View from Raphael

Our flight from Arkansas left around noon on Saturday (4/30), and we didn’t check into our hotel until 1pm the next day.  A slight downside to our otherwise perfect trip was that neither of us slept a moment on the 10 hour flight!  Not wanting to succumb to jetlag on our first day in France, we put on our walking shoes and headed towards the tallest monument in the city, the Eiffel Tower.

We ate our first meal in France at this cafe, and I have to tell you, bread never tasted so good! 🙂

First French Cafe

Just beyond the cafe, we were greeted with this view.  Isn’t that horse-drawn carriage quaint?

View from French Cafe

The Eiffel Tower was like a beacon throughout our stay.  Practically every day, we found ourselves walking towards it and taking photos of it.  Amazingly we didn’t even visit the top until several days into our trip, but you’d better believe one of the first photos we took that first day was of la Tour.  As we got closer, we were able to see just how humongous the monument really is!

I think these are two of Stephen’s very favorite photos.  He likes to click back and forth between them and pretend I’m turning into him or vice versa.  He cracks me up. 🙂

Stephen by Eiffel Meredith by Eiffel

And this is one of my favs.  All the blooms we saw on our trip were gorgeous!

Yellow Roses and Eiffel

We did lots of walking that first day and throughout the trip.  I couldn’t even count the number of bakeries, cafes, and florists we passed.  They were everywhere.

O'Fleurs Street-side Nursery

Paris Bakery

Fleurs at O'Fleurs

After familiarizing ourselves with the city, we decided to take the rest of the evening easy and had dinner on our walk back to Hotel Raphael and then drinks at the pub across the street.

The next day (5/2) we started out late (jetlag, remember?), but made the most of it with our first stop at Notre Dame.  This is the stuff of legends, people.  What an amazing, massive, impressive space this was!

Meredith at Notre Dame

On the outside we saw amazing intricate carvings of saints and religious figures.

Entrance Carvings at Notre Dame

Inside the cathedral it was very dark, but the stained glass windows and chandeliers were still shining bright.

Rose Window at Notre Dame Side Chapel View - Notre Dame

Side Chapel with Painted Ceiling - Notre Dame Chandelier at Notre Dame

It was easy to imagine the Hunchback and Esmeralda flying among the buttresses and gargoyles of this stunning cathedral!

Architectural Model of Notre Dame

The only rain of our visit started to fall as we left Notre Dame, but luckily we found a neat little park area just outside where we could hide under the trees while the rain passed.

Rear View of Notre Dame

This park area also happened to be where the fattest pigeon I’d ever seen almost hit Stephen as the branch it was sitting on broke and it fell out of a tree! Craziness!

The Pigeon that Almost Fell on Stephen

Just beyond Notre Dame, we came upon this bridge, the Archbishop’s Bridge, where we saw lots of pedestrians pausing to look at locks that had been attached to the railing.

Visitors on Archbishop's Bridge

Apparently it’s supposed to be good luck to place a lock on the railing of the bridge in honor of a relationship and then to toss the key in the river.  Sweet, right?

Love Locks by Notre Dame Love Locks on the Archbishop's Bridge

We continued our walk on the other side of the river and captured our view of Notre Dame from the Seine and the shops and homes on the opposite side.

Notre Dame

Seine View from Notre Dame

It never rained hard enough to slow us down, and next on our list was a visit to Musee de l’Orangerie. On the way we passed the police station (quite impressive) and my favorite billboard in Paris – an ad for The Hangover 2.  But in Paris it’s called VERY BAD TRIP 2!  Maybe the word hangover would have been lost in translation?

Police Vans at Police Headquarters Favorite Billboard in Paris - The Hangover 2

Included with our trip package were Paris Museum Passes for 6 days. Let me tell you, those passes were worth their weight in gold!  Not only did they allow us access to dozens of museums and monuments throughout Paris and the surrounding areas, but they also put us in the Reserved Access lines.  That meant that when we arrived to the Orangerie and saw a line of well over 100 people, we just flashed our passes and were among the next 10 to be admitted.  Virtually no waiting!

Upstairs in the Musee de l’Orangerie, we saw the famous Monet waterlilies.  The round rooms with Monets all around were by far the most impressive.

The Waterlily Room at l'Orangerie

Monet at the Musee de l'Orangerie

Monet at l'Orangerie

Downstairs we saw works by Renoir, Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse, among others.  I also came upon probably my favorite painting of the entire trip.  This small boat scene by Monet.

Meredith's Favorite Monet

For such a small museum, the Orangerie packed a big punch!

After the museum, we walked back towards the Arc de Triomphe and saw dozens of huge retail stores – Louis Vitton, Chanel, Sephora, and Cartier to name a few.

The Heards at Arc de Triomphe

I don’t think we set foot on the Metro (the Paris subway) that entire day, so we were grateful to have an excuse to rest our feet and fill our tummies at dinner at a nearby cafe.  We enjoyed tomato salad and duck and prawns at one restaurant and then moved on to the next for drinks and dessert on the way back to our hotel.

Appetizers at Paris Cafe

Just across the street from our hotel was the little pub we frequented most often on our trip.  It was called L’Etoile Venitienne and had a charming, relaxed atmosphere about it.

Stephen at Paris Cafe Meredith at Paris Cafe

It was very pleasant, sitting and watching the sun go down.  One of my favorite things to do on vacation is just sit and watch the people.  After only a few minutes of watching, I was amazed by how obvious it was whether a person was a tourist or a local.  All you had to do was look at their feet. Tennis shoes?  Definitely a tourist!

Of course hearing them speak would give them away as well.  We laughed and laughed when one visitor in particular walked by and said (in one of the thickest southern accents I’ve heard), “Look at that rooftop garden, y’all!  It’s a jungle up there!”

We quoted him for the rest of the trip. 🙂

Stephen Looking at Our Hotel Hotel Raphael from L'Etoile Venitienne Cafe

After that it was time to head back across the street to our hotel and turn in for the night.

Two days down, four to go!  I hope you’re enjoying our trip recap.   Any questions about the photos I showed you today?  Do you have any funny quotes or sayings lost in translation from a trip abroad?  Any close encounters of the bird kind to report?  😉

Stay tuned for more from Paris!

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