4 Day Itinerary in Paris for Your Second Trip and Visiting Disneyland, Paris
Thursday September 26, 2019
1. Drive to Paris and Make a Pit Stop
We started our drive to Paris early. We opted to pay the tolls, as it was about an hour faster route for us, and it cost us about 20€. (We know many people like to take the train to Paris, but we were going camping, bringing our gear, and driving actually ended up being cheaper for us).
We alternated naps in the car while driving through the French countryside. I loved the calm I felt as we passed from Germany into France. There is a certain ease that comes when there is no more language barrier. I can read French and understand enough to get around. German, on the other hand, is still a very foreign and mysterious language to me.
As we drove, I realized our route to Paris would take us through Reims.
On a whim, we decided to make a pit stop.
If you’ve taken any European history class, then you likely know Reims is not only an esteemed city, but one abounding in history, architecture, and art.
Our 2 hour stop gave us just enough time to see the Reims cathedral of Notre Dame and wander the streets a bit. The Reims cathedral is spectacular. From May through September they do a light show on the cathedral. We just happened to miss the cut off date so the show was over, but it was astonishing all the same.
After chatting with some of the workers who were restoring parts of the cathedral, we learned that the large organ housed inside no longer works. They are working on getting it repaired, but need to raise 1 million dollars! That's an expensive instrument to fix.
You never know what you'll find when you wander. We stumbled across a fun street with brightly painted cobble stones!
2. If You're an Art-Lover, Spend Some Time Learning & Exploring the Cathedral
How pictorially literate were people in the 1200s? Maybe they couldn't read, but I bet they knew better than we do today what ALL THE HUNDREDS of sculptures meant adorning the cathedral. There are stories in every stained glass window, archway, and edifice.
If you have the time, then there are some awesome informational panels throughout the cathedral that explain what each of the specific scenes mean. It's a fun scavenger game to read the stories and then to try and find the statues or stained glass window scenes that match!
Reims is also famous because so many kings held their coronations here. We were able to stand in the cathedral where Louis XIV was crowned, and then later camp on the grounds of his former palace gardens. How cool is that?!?
3. Use the Restroom
One of the things I've learned after living for almost 4 years in Europe as an Expat, is that it can be so difficult to find a bathroom. Not every gas station has one and gas stations aren't always just a few minutes down the road. Luckily, as a major tourist destination, France has installed hundreds of self-cleaning bathrooms in major cities to try and making finding a restroom a little bit easier. You can download the Flush app to find toilets.
**A little note about sanitaires. Throughout major French cities there are self-cleaning toilets that have been installed. I learned that some travelers have been caught inside the toilets during a cleaning cycle.... ooops. Mainly this has happened to small children that aren’t detected by the machine. So, if taking your kids, go with them inside the sanitaires or they might get stuck inside and get a shower they weren’t planning on.
4. Set Up Camp
We opted to go CAMPING for our Paris adventure because it was significantly cheaper (though still not cheap) than any hotel, Airbnb, or bnb we could find.
We were quite pleased and impressed with the campsite. We brought our own tent to our pitch, though there are tents and cabins you can rent for various prices.
We stayed at Huttopia, Versailles. There are flushing toilets, showers, private sink rooms for getting ready for the day or going to bed, a heated pool, ping pong tables, a restaurant, WiFi in the lodge, a playground, and it’s gated and locked with a code. We were certainly excited to Glamp here! We set up our tent, ate some snacks, watched an episode of Big Bang Theory, and then headed into the city.
We loved staying at Huttopia. The staff were polite, friendly and helpful. We were a short 10 minute walk from the train station Porchelafontaine. We also didn’t realize we had to have an adapter to use the electricity at our campsite 🤦♀️ Luckily, the front desk had an adapter for our German extension chord. We had to pay a 50€ deposit to use the chord but this was completely refunded when we checked out and returned the adapter.
4. Hit the City!
There is a train station right next to the Huttopia Versailles campsite. We bought our Navigo Decouverte passes to ride the metro the next 4 days, and then headed in to Paris!! I love being here.
We walked around the Eiffel Tower and walked along the Seine River. I enjoyed seeing people from all around the world and so many different fashion styles. We then walked over to the Trocadéro gardens and chatted with a lovely artist from Albania who was selling quite impressive street art.
I love being able to talk with craftsmen about their passions and how they’ve generated their ideas. When you care about what other people care about, real connections are made and life has more fulfillment.
We aimed to visit a few “free” sites a little off the beaten path. So, next we walked down to the Statue of Liberty from National Treasure, all the while trying our best at Nicolas Cage impersonations.
It was kind of cute to see a baby-sized Statue of Liberty.
We sat by the riverside and chatted a bit, enjoyed watching a French man play fetch with his dog, missed Gracie, re-hydrated, and planned our next move.
5. Don't Miss the Light Show
Sunset was on the horizon, and we knew we wanted to see the light show on the Eiffel Tower. I also knew Ryan just had to see the madness that is the 80 billion lane round about surrounding L’Arc de Triomphe (okay, so it’s only 8 lanes...)
We got tickets and went on top of L’Arc de Triomphe just as the sun was setting.
We watched the cars, mopeds, motorcycles, and trucks dart around the round about. We saw several almost crashes.
I would highly recommend climbing the stairs for L’Arc de Triomphe over the Eiffel Tower. I've done both. L'Arc de Triomphe is cheaper, you still get an awesome view of the city, and you get to see the light show if you go up in the evening. Tickets cost 13 Euro per person. On a weekday, you'll be fine buying tickets there. On a busy weekend, you may want to skip the line and buy your tickets in advance.
6. End the Day with Delicious Crêpes
After all our sight-seeing today, we were starving. We also didn’t want to fork out a bunch of money for dinner... (if you haven’t caught on by now we were trying to affordably travel Paris).
With a quick google search, and Ryan voicing his desire to have a real French crêpe, we made our way off of L’Arc de Triomphe and down the street to grab some grub. We found a delicious crêperie called crepes and greens.
The owner of the restaurant was delightful as he explained the different types of crepes and the meticulous process he goes through to make them. Everything was organic and the dark chocolate drizzle on our dessert crepes was made in house.
We got back on the RER train and returned to our cozy campsite. After doing so much walking, it feels great to take off your shoes!
Friday September 27, 2019
Well, some days just don’t go according to plan.
1. Check Out Disneyland, Paris
Under normal circumstances, we think this would have been an excellent day... but Disney broke just as we arrived. We took a combo of the RER train and the metro into Disney, but when we arrived half of the park was closed due to mechanical failures. They also had reduced their staff working, and so it took us several hours to get through the ticket line to even get into the park. (We were unable to purchase tickets online because were trying to get a discount only available at the ticket windows in person. Sometimes trying to save money *might* not be worth it.)
All in all, we were only able to ride 3 rides, which really sucked. Still, I feel like it was a neat experience to explore Disneyland, Paris.
It’s not so fun to wait in line for hours for only a few rides, but we made the best of it.
At one point we stood in line for a ride for over an hour and then were shuffled out right before we reached the ride because of mechanical failures. I could have screamed! (They offered to give us fast passes at city hall, but at this point the park was almost closing and we wouldn't have time to use them anyway)
We enjoyed playing heads up and seeing all the imagination that has gone into designing the park. It was also kind of fun to hear Buzz Lightyear speak French :)
Plus, the Ratatouille ride is super cool.
Saturday September 28, 2019
As we walked into the station, I was immediately pelted in the face and my glasses went flying. I was certain some devious child had suddenly thrown a rock at me!!
I spun around, trying to catch my attacker. Who was it?
To my surprise, it was a blasted chestnut!! It had fallen from a tree and hit me right in the face, knocking off my glasses and splitting open!
Watch out... there's lots of murderous nuts out there.
1. Visit a Temple or Versailles Gardens
We started our morning stopping in at a fantastic French pastry shop by our campstie called pâtissier delangle:
24 Rue Coste, 78000 Versailles, France
We started our day by visiting the Paris, France Temple. It is beautiful inside and out. Although this is a destination unique to us, the grounds, gardens, and visitors cetner can be visited by anyone.
If you would aren't interested in visiting a religious site, no problem! The campsite has bike rentals and you can ride around the Versailles gardens. If you're there on a weekend, stop by the outdoor markets. They usually have one in the morning selling meats, cheeses, flowers, and other delicious treats.
2. Tour a Free Perfume Museum
We rode into Paris and headed to la musée fragonard, a free perfume museum. We had about 30 minutes before the tour started and so we made the maddest dash to get some kebab from a stand about 10 minutes away.
Ugh, why do the streets smell like pee! Men just pee everywhere in Paris...
Anyway, once our tour of the perfume museum started it was awesome! I think I was grateful for something that smelled good... We learned about the process of making perfume through distilling, and how some flowers cannot be distilled so they have to use a device called a headspace to extract the essence.
It is quite a complex process to make perfume! Our guide told us how they used to have to soak flowers in pig lard for up to a month at a time, changing the flowers every week so that the perfume could be made! It was a very time consuming process and made perfume expensive. We also learned that Fragonard (the brand and factory we were touring) does not spend money on exporting or advertising so they do not have to extensively mark up their perfume prices as do other perfumes (up to 80% mark up!!)
It was enlightening for me to learn about the histories of perfume. Ever since ancient times perfumes have been used, though their purposes have been changed. The ancient Greeks used oils. They thought the oils would protect them from the sun.
The word perfume comes from the Latin which means to send the smoke to the Gods/sky as a way of communicating. The Greeks used porous ceramic containers, which absorbed the scent from the oils, so the oils only lasted a couple days with their smell. The Romans were really the first ones to perfect the art of bottling perfumes in glass so that they lasted longer.
We then learned about what it takes to be a professional perfumer. You must have a very good nose and the ability to pair scents in an artistic way. They showed us a set up of bottles laid out in an organ-like fashion. They explained it was a perfumer’s organ. An “instrument” they use, each bottle containing a specific essence that perfumers will smell to put together scents. I loved learning about how each perfume consists of different layers of scents.
There are top notes, which are fresh scents that usually last 2-3 hours. It is the first thing you smell when you test a perfume. These are usually citric and aromatic scents such as lemon, orange, rosemary, thyme, etc. Then there are the middle notes that come into play as the top notes have faded away. These last 6-8 hours. There are 4 kinds: floral, fruity, spicy, and green notes. Finally there are the base notes that last up to 24 hours that are sweet, woody, and oriental. Each of these 3 layers make up the olfactory pyramid and are components of quality crafted perfumes.
There are 3 enemies to perfume: light, heat, and humidity. So the worst place to keep your perfume is on the bathroom counter! It’s better to store your perfume in a wardrobe or a nightstand drawer, in a dark, dry place.
People in the medieval ages believed that perfumes would keep away the plague and diseases. Especially the nobles would wear elaborate perfume containers to try and protect themselves from diseases. It was not an effective method, but people believed and did this until the end of the 18th century.
Perfume bottles also became very elaborate and ornate. They were often passed down as family heirlooms through generations. People would have bottles made and then have them filled with their favorite scents. Our guide showed us little bottles that were filled with salts that had been soaked in essence that she informed us would be carried by ladies in the 18th century. They would put these bottles in their bosom or under their skirt and the bottles were used to revive women when they fainted from their corsets being too tight! Of course, women would occasionally pretend to faint so that their crush would have to retrieve their salt bottle from their bosom or under their skirt!!
Women and men would flirt, too, by putting black beauty marks on their faces to cover up blemishes. Wearing a beauty mark was a way of communicating with the opposite sex. Depending on where the beauty mark was placed it could communicate things like, “I’m shy, I’m single, I’m married, I’m passionate, and so on.”
3. Visit L'Atelier Des Lumières
Of course if you go to Paris, you're going to hit up the famous art museums. You can't miss the Louvre or Centre Pompidou. However, if you want a little more interactive, immersive art experience, then L'Atelier Des Lumières is for you! *Not suitable for people with epilepsy for very young children.
Tickets can only be purchased online and in advance. It costs 15 euro per person, or a family of 4 for 44 euro. You can see their discounts for students, seniors, etc. on their website.
38 rue Saint Maur 75 011 Paris
By metro: (Voltaire, Saint-Ambroise), (Rue Saint-Maur) and (Père Lachaise) lines
4. Relax at Camp
After Fragonard we really wanted to go to the atelier des lumières but tickets were sold out!
I was bummed. Oh well.
We headed to catch the train back to our campsite. We just so happened to be in Paris during Fashion Week, so while we were waiting for our train we ended up chatting with a fashion designer from the Philippines. You meet the coolest people while traveling.
While we were waiting for our train, several people got off trains and approached me to ask directions.
Ryan responded, “Geez why does everybody seem to pick you out as the person to ask for directions?”
Apparently I looked French enough ;)
September 29, 2019
For our last day in Paris, we made a visit to see the iconic parisien monuments, ride some scooters, and visit Sainte Chapelle. We visited Place de La Concorde, Jardin Des Tuilieries, and Le Louvre.
1. Walk from the Louvre to Place de La Concorde
I'm the art nerd, 100%. Ryan sometimes puts up with my desire to stare at paintings for hours, but I usually reserve my art-staring adventures for when I solo travel. Given that I had already been to the Louvre, and Ryan didn't really want to walk around inside, we opted to walk around the museum and check out nearby famous monuments. You can take a couple hours and wander the gardens as you walk towards Place de La Concorde for some amazing fountains.
If you do want to visit the Louvre, plan a half-day to full day (5 to 8 hours). There's SO MUCH to see. Entrance is free for those younger than 18 years, and under 26 years on Friday evenings. The museum is also free on the first Saturday of each month between 6pm and 9.45pm, and all day on Bastille Day (14 July). General admission is 17 euro per person.
2. Step Inside Sainte Chapelle
The first time I came to Paris, we were not able to see Sainte Chapelle. I can’t remember if it was closed or we just ran out of time, but I’ve always wanted to see it. It did not disappoint.
After you've been in Europe a while, a cathedral becomes a cathedral becomes a cathedral. Just like you get tired of visiting castle after castle after castle...You start looking for more unique things to do and see. Sainte Chapelle is not just another cathedral. It is worth seeing.
Buy tickets in advance to skip the line. It's easy and no more expensive than what you'll pay if you stand and wait in line anyway.
I immediately lost my breath as we stepped into the chapel. Around the chapel, the stained glass windows depict the history of man in the Bible from Genesis through the crucifixion of Christ. The rose window depicts the end of the world--the apocalypse--with Jesus as the judge at the center.
Since the 10th century the area surrounding the chapel has been the seat of royal power, and now functions as the palace of justice. (Hence why there’s quite a bit of security around the building). Sainte Chapelle was built between 1242 and 1258 to house the relics of Christ, most famously the crown of thorns. These relics had belonged to emperors in Constantinople in the 4th century.
The cost of the relic the crown of thorns cost the Catholic Church more than the building of Sainte Chapelle itself. I’d be intrigued to read about the authenticity of these relics... maybe I’ll go research that later.
There are statues of the 12 apostles as “the pillars of the church” symbolically around in the nave. 5 of these statues are original dating from 1240 to 1260.
Sainte Chapelle became the Jerusalem of Christianity during the 1200s. It houses 1,113 biblical scenes in 15 stained glass windows. Today Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergie are the only visible remains of the oldest palace of the kings of France.
We only had an hour or two left before we had to hit the road to drive home. We decided to snatch a couple of lime electric scooters and they were a blast! It was raining, but we darted through the French streets like crazy mice in a maze! It’s a little frightening to ride scooters through the streets of Paris, but also so much fun. At one point I braked too quickly, not really thinking about the road being slick. My scooter went out from under me and I quickly stumbled to a stop--amazingly all on my feet. Where did that coordination come from?!? I was more careful, slowly braking the next time I had to stop.
We took our scooters up to Sacré Coeur, which meant we didn’t have to trek up the hill or tons of stairs. Yeah! It was hilarious to ride the scooters over the cobblestone streets at times. Definitely the smoothest ride of my life...not.
Sacre Cœur was gorgeous as always.
We peered out over Paris as we prepared to say goodbye! We stumbled upon a few more delightful surprises, like a pirate shop full of gummy candies, and some fun pastry shops at the base of the stairs.
We snatched up one last crepe at the base of MontMartre, and hoped back on the metro to return to our car and drive home.
I’m so grateful for a chance to be in Paris again. There are still sights to see and mysteries to explore, as I suppose is much the very nature of Paris itself. A city full of mysteries, surprises, and new adventures around every corner.
This was a funny sign in one of the restrooms indicating men to the left, women to the right.
Think the French know a thing or two?
Since this was my second visit to Paris, and I had already seen most of the major monuments and museums during my last visit, this time I really wanted to do less rushing around the city, trying to see everything, and focus more on enjoying the experience of Paris in the fall.
During our 3.5 day stay in Paris here’s a list of the things we did:
Stopped in Reims and saw Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims
Explored Reims streets and wandered
Checked in to our campsite at Huttopia Versailles got our tent set up, went to the train station and got our Navigo Decourte passes.
Visited La Tour Eiffel Walked along La Seine river
Went to visit the Trocadero Gardens (sadly, this area is all under construction as Paris is preparing for the Olympics in 2024. This entire area is being turned into a €72 million garden that will connect the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero Gardens)
Visited the Statue of Liberty
Climbed L’Arc de Triomphe and watched the light show on the Eiffel Tower I would highly suggest not climbing the Eiffel Tower and climbing L’Arc De Triomphe in the evening instead. See the Eiffel Tower light up every hour on the hour and still get a great view over Paris for half the price.
Had a delicious dinner at Crepes and Greens
Pasteries at Boulangerie Delangle
Attended the Paris France Temple
La Musée de Parfum Fragonarde Free museum - very cool
Opéra National de Paris we couldn’t go inside because Fashion week was going on and there was an event, but it was fun to see.
Sainte Chapelle. The app doesn’t work very well, but do get the €3 audio guide or read the free brochure
Notre Dame - so sad to see! You can’t go inside still from the fire damage
Rode electric scooters
And of course, we ate lots of Crepes & Macarons