I never thought it was possible to visit Picasso’s favorite restaurant, walk around Van Gogh’s old neighborhood, and see Monet’s Water Lilies in the same day, but it is!
On October 21-22, Mom and I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Paris for a fabulous weekend getaway. Even though we only stayed for a little bit, we packed in as much as possible and got to see the best of Paris in just two days.
It didn’t start out completely perfect, though. To get to Paris, we had to take a series of trains from Blonay (our town in Switzerland) to Gare de Lyon (misleading because it’s in Paris, not Lyon!) in France. We almost missed the train from Lausanne to Paris due to a miscommunication at Lausanne Gare, but ran fast enough to make it! Not in the right seats, at first, but we got it all figured out eventually.
We arrived in Paris around 8 pm after leaving Lausanne at 4:23 pm, so the train ride was about 3 hours and 4 minutes. Not bad if you ask me! I was borderline hangry (hungry + angry, haha) when we got to the train station, so we grabbed some quick sandwiches for dinner from a small bakery called PAUL. I got the Parisien and mom ordered a chicken sandwich.
After dinner, it was time to head to the hotel to get checked in and sleep fast for the huge day we had planned on Saturday. We stayed at the Empire Hotel in the heart of Paris, right next to the Louvre! Our room was really nice and I loved how close we were to everything.
We got off to a super early start on Saturday! After waking up and getting ready, it was time to grab a quick (but very delicious) breakfast in the lobby and walk to the meeting point for the start of our “Paris in a Day” tour. One of the men working at the front desk told us the best bus to take and helped us get there without any troubles. Très bien 🙂
Our tour consisted of the Sacré Cœur (Sacred Heart) Basilica, walking around the historical “old town” of Montmartre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting some of the most famous works in the Musée du Louvre, and finally going to the top of the Eiffel Tower! It lasted from 9 am to 5 pm, so I was expecting to be pretty exhausted and /over it/ by the end of the day, but our tour guide was incredible, and the day went perfectly!
At around 8:30, we arrived at the meeting point next to a Steak ‘n’ Shake (wasn’t expecting that!) and met our tour guide, Violette. She was awesome! She told us that she studied art history in Rome and gave walking tours there and then in Paris, although she is a Paris native. We then took the metro from the meeting point to Montmartre, where we took pictures in front of the Basilica before going inside and walking around for a bit to take in the incredible architecture. There were /technically/ no photos allowed inside, but I made sure the guards weren’t looking before I took these 😉
Funi to the top of the hill
After the Basilica, we walked around the Montmartre area. We even got to see Picasso’s favorite restaurant in Paris! There were tons of street artists around and it was a really cute area to walk around. Paris is such a unique mixture of old and new, and Montmartre definitely showcases that. There is a 200 year old shop right next to a Starbucks! It was also a great place to stop for a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and take a much needed bio break.
From Montmartre (18th Arrondissement), we traveled to the 4th Arrondissement for the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is absolutely breathtaking inside and out. We even got to see the ceremony they do to start each Mass where the priest walks out and says a special prayer.
Before we could continue with the tour, lunch was essential. We stopped at a cute little café just outside the Louvre and we both ordered French onion soup because you just have to when you’re in Paris, right?
The Louvre was next, and was probably my favorite part of the day! I learned so much and it was incredible. Violette told us that the museum is so huge that if you looked at each piece of artwork on display for one minute and spent 24 hours a day doing that, it would take three months to see it all. Plus, that’s only counting what’s on display! The Louvre only displays about 8% of its collection at a time. Crazy!!!! We obviously didn’t have time to look at everything, but Violette showed us the highlights because she knows her way around pretty well. Obviously we had to see the Mona Lisa, but we also saw tons of Greek statues, including one of Nike, (recognize that name?!) the goddess of victory. My favorite work might have been “Les Trois Grâces” (pictured below) 😉 And tons more!
After the Louvre, our day was coming to a close. We took the metro to the Eiffel Tower for the last leg of our walking tour. Our tickets included a ride to the second floor, but we opted to go up to the very top as well. It was sooo windy up there, but it was worth it! Since we went towards the end of the day, we got to see the sun set from the top and take some pictures from the bottom as well.
For dinner, we found an adorable spot right off the grounds of the Eiffel Tower with literally 4 tables. We ordered pasta (a choice that’s always safe, duh) and it did not disappoint! The waitresses were so cute and funny and took pictures with everyone in the restaurant. Highly recommend!
I’m sure you’re exhausted by now, and I was too! But our tour included tickets for a nighttime cruise along the Seine River, which we couldn’t pass up! We had to make the most of our short weekend, and we already had the tickets, so we finished our Saturday night with a relaxing cruise. It was really cool to see the city from a different perspective and be able to sit down and relax while seeing everything. Trying to get back to our hotel after the cruise proved challenging since we’re not as good with Parisian public transportation as we are with the Swiss system, but we ended up just taking a taxi to save some stress and to flop into our beds as soon as possible! It was a really enjoyable day, but we were TIRED.
On Sunday morning, we slept in a little bit. Our train home was at around 1 pm, so we wanted to do something in the morning before leaving but we weren’t in a huge rush. We grabbed breakfast from the hotel and then walked from there to the Musée d’Orsay. It was a really nice walk because our hotel was super close to the Louvre, and the Musée d’Orsay is just behind that.
Even though the Louvre is considerably bigger, the Orsay wasn’t any less impressive. In fact, the size of the Orsay makes it a lot more manageable and it wasn’t as crowded. We were able to see several works by Van Gogh and Monet which was incredible. I wasn’t expecting to see Van Gogh’s work and it wasn’t in a huge special display room like the Mona Lisa, but it was impressive to see nonetheless. My favorite work of art from both museums was one of Van Gogh’s starry night paintings in the Orsay.
There are also some really cool animal sculptures outside the museum, so I had to take a picture with the elephant 🙂
After the art museum in the morning, we walked back to our hotel through a beautiful sculpture garden where all the Parisians go on their daily runs. We also took some fun pictures outside the Louvre since we had more time than on the walking tour and because we were already walking back through it!
We made sure to leave plenty of time to get to the train station in order to avoid a similar incident to the one on our way to Paris. We took an Uber from the hotel to the train station and bought some snacks for the journey home before getting on and enjoying the ride!
We didn’t have much time in Paris, but we definitely enjoyed the weekend that we did have. Plus, we walked around this special medallion in front of the Notre Dame three times, which (according to urban legend) means we’ll be back to Paris soon!