It’s a rainy day here in Orlando as I write this blog post. It looks like a perfect winter day outside, which just makes me want to curl up in some warm, cozy clothes with a book, a fire in the fireplace, and some Christmas music playing. Unfortunately, it’s 75 degrees outside. So no warm, cozy clothes and no fire. But I am listening to Christmas music (don’t judge) and it’s making me want to experience Paris during the holidays. I feel like Paris must be one of those perfectly magical places to be at Christmastime! Maybe someday…
Anyway, 🙂 my fifth day in Paris was as jam-packed as the first few days. At this point, I couldn’t stop my morning pastry habit if my life depended on it. So the morning started with croissants and a trip back to the Île de la Cité. This time, Teresa and I visited Sainte-Chappelle, a medieval Gothic chapel. Really, the only reason we decided to see this church was because entrance to it was included in our Paris Museum Passes. Well, I’m certainly glad it was, because this ended up being one of my favorite churches/cathedrals I visited during my ten weeks traveling throughout Europe!
There are two chapels within the building – a lower and an upper chapel – one built on top of the other. We started in the lower chapel which was somewhat dark but very unique. Climbing the spiral stairs to the upper chapel, I literally gasped when I saw it. Stained glass windows depicting more than 1,100 different scenes from the Bible fill nearly every inch of the walls. It was so breathtakingly beautiful! We just sat and took it all in for a few minutes.
Leaving Île de la Cité, we made our way to Les Invalides which contains museums and monuments, all related to the French military. We didn’t visit a museum but we did go into the Dome Church to see Napoleon’s tomb. A very impressive place and an incredibly impressive, incredibly large coffin! We viewed some of Napoleon’s personal belongings then headed out to take the train to Versailles.
After a 30-minute train ride, we arrived in Versailles and made our way to the object that draws people to this town – the Palace of Versailles. As we neared the grand palace we stopped in awe at the sight before us. Yes, the palace is impressive (although the scaffolding that covered its facade took away from it a bit), but what made our jaws drop were the massive crowds. The line to buy tickets to enter the chateau was one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen (and I grew up at Disney World, folks!). Thank goodness we didn’t have to wait in line as entrance to the Palace was included in our Paris Museum Passes. Score! 🙂
We went first to purchase tickets to the gardens which were not included in our pass, but there were zero lines. The gardens are stunning! So unique and beautiful! It took over twenty years to complete the gardens and it’s not hard to see why! It would take more than a day to walk through it all.
Since we were visiting on a weekend during the summer (could be a clue to the insane crowds…), we got to experience the Fountain Spectacle. During these weekends, the numerous fountains throughout the gardens go off and classical music fills the air. It makes the gardens even more magical and made our time there even more special!
We wandered along the paths lined with flowers and hedges, and discovered hidden fountains around nearly every corner. The day was quite warm so we purchased some ice cream, found a spot in the shade, and journaled for a bit.
I could have spent all day in these gardens. Heck, I could have spent all weekend here! But we eventually headed back up toward the chateau to get in line to see the famous Hall of Mirrors. Once inside, we encountered the most crowds we had seen anywhere on our 10-week trip. We could hardly walk through the rooms! We finally made it to the Hall of Mirrors and it was definitely worth the maddening crowds.
The Hall of Mirrors is so ornate with huge mirrors lining one side of the long hall and huge windows looking out over the gardens lining the other side. Quite impressive!
After walking through a few other rooms, we exited the palace and headed to the train station for our ride back into Paris. Once in the city, the first thing on our agenda was to find a place to eat! We had plans to go up the Eiffel Tower so we headed in that direction. We ended up at a little cafe called le Beaujolais with an Eiffel Tower view (see photo below). 🙂
I had a charcuterie plate as an appetizer which consisted of ham, turkey (was probably not turkey), sausage, and an unidentifiable pâté-type thing that tasted like dog food. Hmm. My entree wasn’t much better. But at least we had a view! 😉 And it’s funny how much my eating habits have changed – a charcuterie plate would be the last thing I would order at a restaurant now!
Our plans to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower were quickly dissolved when we saw the incredibly long lines that awaited us. We were actually a bit surprised as this was the first time we had seen lines here. Since it was already 9:00, we knew that by the time we finally made it to the top of the tower it would be completely dark. So instead, we got on the metro and headed to the Montmarte area.
What a fantastic area of Paris! Steep, narrow streets lined with lamps, and lots of cafes and bistros with live music playing. We wished we had discovered this area earlier! We climbed many stairs to reach the highest point of Paris which is where the Sacré-Cœur Basilica resides.
We just couldn’t escape the crowds on this day! The area around the basilica was just packed with people. I guess everyone wanted a front row seat to the sun setting over Paris. 🙂 The city did look amazing from this vantage point – sparkling in the night! We entered the church and were greeted by organ music as we had apparently arrived as a service was starting. We stood in the back for a bit then left to wander around Montmarte. What a happening place! So many people everywhere. I wish we could have made it back to this area but I guess I’ll just have to wait until my next trip. 🙂
As mentioned in previous posts, the Paris Museum Pass was a life-saving (or at least “line”-saving) purchase! Every place we visited on this day, Sainte-Chappelle, Les Invalides, and the Palace of Versailles, were covered by this pass. I can’t recommend it enough! A money and time saving little card.
Visiting the Palace of Versailles during a weekend in the summer is both a good and a bad idea. Let’s start with the good, which is the Fountain Spectacle. It really was so neat walking throughout the gardens while classical music played and fountains flowed! But on the flip side, these weekends bring some serious crowds! But really, most of the crowds were contained in and near the chateau, so if you just want to walk through the gardens and experience the Fountain Spectacle, the crowds shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Just know that if you want to go inside, you will be waiting in a line. 🙂