June 09, 2016

48 Hours in Paris

One of the biggest excuses Americans give for not traveling abroad is that they don't have enough time. But this excuse doesn't fly with me (pun totally intended). In 2014 I spent a whirlwind 48 hours in London and managed to see most of the top attractions during that short time. Last year, I did the same thing in Paris, plus I was in the throes of first trimester pregnancy sickness. It was a weekend long on walking and short on rest, but it was so worth it! And you know what I'm about to say... if I could do it, you can, too!

A Brief Account of 48 Hours in Paris

Day One
We took the early morning, high speed train from Stuttgart (Germany) to Paris, arriving at the Gare du Nord around 10am. From there it was a leisurely 10 minute walk to our no-nonsense hotel (with a quick stop at the deliciously gothic Eglise Saint-Laurent) where we dropped our baggage and prepared to see the sights!

The Rue Saint-Martin* was the most direct route from our hotel to our first destination: the Notre Dame. My first glimpse of the church stunned, standing proud and white against the gray skies. It was the first moment in Paris where I felt that familiar tingle - the one you get when you're finally standing in front of a place you've stalked in books, shows, and movies and you just can't believe you're actually there!

There was a long line to enter the Notre Dame, but the wait wasn't overbearing. Danny could've spent the rest of the day here, but unfortunately the rest of Paris beckoned! We dragged him away to walk along the River Seine and then deeper into Paris to the Panthéon.

Having left the Paris portion of our Europe trip for our friends to plan, I had never heard of the Parisian Panthéon (we saw the "real" one in Rome back in 2014), but I certainly had heard of the famous Frenchmen and women buried there: Dumas, Voltaire, Marie Curie, and Victor Hugo, to name just a few.

From the Panthéon we backtracked to the Louvre to snap a few pyramid pictures in the courtyard (the museum was closed) before going back to the hotel and hunting for a restaurant to appease the growling bellies of two pregnant women.

Day Two
Our second day dawned just as overcast and cool as the first, but we were counting on the Eiffel Tower to lighten our moods! The lines were insanely long (pre-book your tickets months in advance to cut down on some of the wait time), but we finally made it to the top by mid-morning. The views did not disappoint, despite the fog and clouds.

After a ridiculously overpriced lunch a few kilometers away from the tower, it was only natural to distract ourselves from our lightened wallets with a little walk in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Spring still hadn't quite sprung in Paris in early May, but the gardens were gorgeous nonetheless. A few weeks later and I'm sure the flowers would have been in bloom.

However, there were plenty of flowers in the Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides, a church dedicated to French military veterans located in the all-encompassing campus of Institution Nationale des Invalides (National Institute for Veterans). What most international tourists come to see at Les Invalides is the burial spot of Napoleon himself, the most celebrated non-Frenchman in all of France.

We had no time to tarry long at Napoleon's resting place, because we had to see the arch commemorating those who fought or died under him in the Napoleonic Wars. At the time of its construction, the Arc de Triomphe was the tallest triumphal arch in the world. While it's no longer the tallest, in my opinion that doesn't matter; it was the most beautiful sight in all of Paris. The sun was finally out, and the French flag danced beneath the arch while a commemorative ceremony for Victory in Europe Day (May 7th) played out. I could've stayed there all day watching the traffic flow around and down the Champs-Élysées from the Arch.

But there was still more to see during our last few hours in Paris! We took the metro, which we found to be very easy to navigate, to Montmartre** and the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Montmartre, which means mountain of the martyr (referring to Saint Denis), affords sweeping views of Paris and is best known for its nightlife and for the Sacré-Cœur. Our friends' guidebook touted the basilica as the best place to view the sunset. We arrived in time to take a quick turn around the church itself before watching some street performers and the sun's descending performance.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica on Montmartre
Thoroughly exhausted by this point, we returned to our hotel room for a few hours of shut-eye before catching our 7am train back to Germany the next day.

And that, my friends, is how you do 48 hours in Paris.

What places would you rank as "must-see" for a 48 hour trip to Paris?

Want more about Paris? Fellow blogger, friend, and self-confessed Francophile Christy Swags of What Up, Swags?! lived in Paris for four years and has tons of Parisian inside scoop to dish out!

*We were not very comfortable on the Saint-Martin, the Boulevard des Strasbourg, or the general area around our hotel. Even in the middle of the day, there were a lot of prostitutes and loiterers on the streets. One of our companions asked sarcastically if we were in Paris or downtown Detroit. While I've never been to Detroit, I can only say that that area of Paris certainly evoked comparisons to the stereotypes of seedy downtown areas.

**This was possibly the most unpleasant part of our visit to Paris as we had to go through what could only be called a gauntlet of young men harassing us to buy souvenir trinkets. One went so far as to grab my friend E and try to force a bracelet on her arm. When she refused, he followed her up the steps shouting at her, and even when she and her husband broke into a run up the steps, he continued to follow until the crowd closed around them, preventing him from going further.

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