On our second day in Nice, France, we found out that we couldn’t just use our rail passes to hop on a train to Paris. You could only buy tickets, and you had to do so well in advance. When we first talked to a ticket person at the station, they said that all seats on any trains to Paris were full for something like two or three days which would have doomed our last few days of plans in Paris. Just as we were losing hope, the ticket person found two empty first class seats in the system if we made a couple connections going to Marseille and then to Paris. So we coughed up the 40 or so euro for that ticket because had no other choice, and on the day we left Nice, we went through Toulouse where we had a small layover to take another train to Marseille and onward. We grabbed McDonalds, which we agreed was better quality than the American counterpart, and watched a trio of armed military guards with assault rifles patrol the station. We ended up having to hurry to our train because our car was near the front, in which we were the only people in the first class section on the upper deck. I was excited to have the whole car to work on my blog, until several other stops later when the car was quickly filled up with other passengers. A beautiful French countryside at sunset accompanied the trip to Paris.
Arrival in Paris was late, probably 10 PM. We navigated the large train station Paris Gare de Lyon on the southeastern side of the city down to the subway below, where we had a variety of technical problems on the ticket machines which prevented us from using it. So we just started walking to our hotel, which was probably 5 or more miles. This got old real fast, and so we flagged down a taxi, whom in my poor French I asked if he spoke English to take directions–he didn’t, so I just showed him my phone where I had the address. The ride was 20 euros to Hotel Luxia, where we had a decent sized room and a double bed for about 25 euros each per night.
In the morning we headed off to a couple of destinations I had lined up. On the way was an open air food market where chefs were making all sorts of mouth watering food. I bought what I can only describe as a delicious mix of fried bread stuffed with meat and spice. We stopped in a music store with lots guitars, I got a delicious Banana and sugar crepe, and then we headed over to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The lines going inside were obnoxiously large, so we walked along the side of it to a bridge with the rails completely covered in locks, and walked along the Seine River past some small carts filled with novelty items for sale like postcards and posters–mostly in English.
We crossed another bridge, and were berated by woman asking us to sign a document, probably to pick pocket us, and when I moved to pass one of them, she planted herself in front of me so that I bumped into her. She fell down in the most exasperated way you can imagine to pretend like I had hurt her–probably to try and pickpocket me again.
Here was the Louvre, the grand museum of Paris, with its huge buildings and iconic glass pyramid. Unlucky for us, we were in Paris on July 2nd which was a Monday, the only day of the week the museum is closed. It was a bummer, but at least we saved a lot of time and probably money. We ran into more pickpocket scammers and brushed them off as we walked towards an arc structure which Jacob had sworn was the Arc de Triomphe, until we were close enough for him to realize it was very clearly not, and I made fun of him a lot for it.
Back across the river we passed the National Assembly (presumably for the French parliament), and then through the free sections of a military history museum that had artifacts from both of the world wars, and where the French Airforce was based. The tomb of Napoleon was beyond that in a huge structure which we didn’t feel like paying the money to go into.
Next on our stop was the mandatory Eiffel Tower. We walked up the lawn leading up to it, and then I made Jacob wait with wait with me for probably an hour in line to climb the stairs to the first few levels for a few euro. The panoramic view of the city and pictures were definitely worth it, and who can go to Paris and not go up the Eiffel Tower?
We crossed the river from here and walked to the Arc de Triomphe, ringed by monstrous amounts of traffic, and thankfully accessible by underground tunnels. The Arc is massive, decorated with heroic figures all around it, and listed inside with all of the victories France had undertaken in its long history. I didn’t recognize many of the names, which was funny giving all of the jokes about France’s military history.
We started walking down a street going east, thought about grabbing a quick bite at a McDonalds, but decided to go eat at a nicer place further down the road (I only remember the wine), and then went back to the Eiffel Tower to relax on the lawn while the sun was setting. After the sun set we walked across the river and stumbled into a small carnival where we got chocolate filled crepes for a few euro, and made the long trek back across the city to our hotel.
A nice breakfast was served in the lobby the next morning, we threw our bags in a holding room on the first floor, and we went off to have a last couple hours out and about. Just north of our hotel was park leading up to the Sacre Coeur Basilica, a beautiful white church with several domes and a fantastic view of the entire city. I took my last photos of the trip here.
From here we went around cheesy souvenir shops to pick up last minute items, and ate at a McDonalds. It was at this time that I wanted to get going to the train station to catch our pre purchased ticket from Paris to London. Jacob pushed for wandering around more, but I didn’t want to play with messing with the time. This helped us not get stranded in Paris. We had trouble printing out our tickets at an automated ticket retrieval, and then got stuck in a long line that was basically a border check, then had to get out of line to fill out a card, and finally by the time we got through, we had to literally sprint to the train, which left 30 seconds after we hopped on.
From when we left Florence I planned our destinations and stops for the most part, where as Jacob planned most of what we did before Florence. I loved the city of Paris and the people of France. It was a great last stop on a long trip.