I got up early with Laura and Gail to walk to the train station with them to make sure they got on the train to Bayeux in time for their tour.
After that, my job (and Elton’s) was to get everyone checked out of the hotel. We dragged all 4 suitcases and various items over to the train station. I bought 4 tickets to Paris…and sat down to wait. There were two possible trains that had the shortest time to Paris. I was hoping that we’d be on the earlier one -but it would take some good luck. Luckily the tour guide dropped them at the station in Bayeux after the tour and saved them the walk they would have had from the tour offices. They walked into the train station in Caen right on time…actually a bit before I expected them to be there. As soon as we saw them we gathered up the luggage and got on the train to Paris just a few minutes before it departed. It was about a 2 hour trip.
When we got to Paris I decided we should take a cab to the hotel. It was rush hour…It was INSANE! All we could do was buckle the seat belts and pray. Our driver did a good job –but it was simply chaos in some spots.
Our hotel is on a corner near Notre Dame Cathedral and both our rooms have a view. There’s a short stairway up to the registration that I worried about a bit for Laura’s sake – but I didn’t count on their elevator breaking down on our 2nd day. Luckily, Gail and Laura are only one floor up from registration –not three.
I picked the hotel mainly for its location -close to the transportation we were using during our stay. It is a small boutique hotel recently redecorated by the designer Christian LaCroix. It was definitely not your cookie cutter place!
At the street level of our hotel was a little bar/restaurant on a busy corner. We were across the street from the Seine and, as you can see in the above photo, a hop, skip and a jump from Notre Dame Cathedral.
Considering history -it was inadvertently unique that we were staying so close to where the city of Paris actually began.
The name of Paris evolved from the Celtic tribe called Parisii who inhabited this area around the middle of the 3rd century BC. The area was a crossroads for both water and land trading routes –the Ile de la Cite (the island in the Seine where Notre Dame is located) being a convenient spot for crossing the river.
The Romans conquered the city in 52 BC and began to create a more permanent settlement (spilling over to the left bank -where our hotel was located). Clovis the Frank made the city his capitol around 508. The Vikings stopped by in 845 and did a bit of partying…but by 885 or so, Paris had established good defenses and the city continued to grow. In the late 1100’s Philip Augustus extended the Louvre fortress defenses and built the first city walls between the years 1190 and 1215. He also rebuilt some bridges and paved roads.
Of course, as we checked in and settled down -our minds weren’t on Celts or Franks or Vikings. We were hungry!
We took a quick walk over to the Cathedral. The square in front was very crowded with people. We took a few night shots, but would officially visit the inside later.
We only had two days to explore Paris. We could have happily spent many more days there. Because time was limited, we bought tickets for the tour buses -called Hop On/Hop Off. These buses make a loop around the most popular points of interest in many big cities and you can get on and off as much as you like during the day. Our ticket included both the tour bus (land route) and the tour boats on the Seine River.
Our first day on the bus was mainly staying on the bus to see the route and get our bearings for where we wanted to explore. I’m going to sort our pictures by site -rather than what day we were there as we saw many of the same places more than once as we rode the bus loop. Some pictures were taken from the bus and some were taken later when we stopped and took a closer look.
History marched on in Paris– the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) saw Paris occupied by England when Henry V entered the city in 1420. Joan of Arc’s place in history was fired up when she tried to free the city in 1429. The English stayed until 1436.
In the 1500’s there were the French Wars on Religion. This ended when Henry IV converted to Catholicism and entered the city in 1594 to claim the throne.
Later that first afternoon when we went to ride the tour boat, we found out (after standing in line to board) that the tickets had to be validated not on the boat (as I thought), but in a little ticket office with a line out the door…over there. I probably stood in line for at least an hour. Just as it was almost my turn, I realized that the ticket agent was going to want to see both the bus and boat tickets together. I only had the boat tickets in my hand. Luckily the team wasn’t far away and I was able to get their attention and get their bus tickets from them before I lost my place in line and had to start over. WHEW! We took the boat loop and saw some fun things from the river view. My favorite being the small version of the Statue of Liberty, which is located on an island just past the Eiffel Tower.
The 1600’s brought Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII’s chief minister. He wanted Paris to be the most beautiful city in Europe –so he built new bridges and a palace for himself while he was at it -now known as Palais Royal . Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles in 1682 due to uprisings in Paris.
The 1700’s ushered in the Age of Enlightenment and the first manned hot air balloon was launched in 1783 by the Montgolfier Brothers.
The day flew by and it was time for dinner and ice cream… The hotel is situated on the edge of the famous Latin Quarter. There were two very narrow streets behind us filled with restaurants and a few souvenir shops.
After dinner we wandered over to Ile. St. Louis (another island next to Ile de la Cite) Oddly it seemed like every restaurant in Paris advertised pizza.
We were looking for a little ice cream shop that is supposed to be the best in Paris. Turns out –we got in line at a shop that wasn’t the “one”, but carried the same ice cream.
We enjoyed the view and our ice cream as we walked back over the bridge to Ile. de la Cite and then across the next bridge back to our hotel.
To be continued!