Come Away With Me. Norah Jones
This summer I checked two more amazing countries off my travel list and I can’t wait to share with you what I learned and saw.
The first stop on this fantastical European adventure was
Paris, France.I highly recommend purchasing The Paris Pass before your trip to Paris and picking out places you want to visit ahead of time. The pass comes with a book of all the places included in the pass, directions on how to get to each of them, hours that the location is open, and a quick detail about each place. The pass also allows you to enter the different locations through a quick pass location, and you do not have to wait in line at any ticket office because it is all in your card! The Pass includes all public transportation, the museum pass, a boat tour, and a hop on hop off bus for a day.
However, my favorite place in Paris is not included on the pass. The O’pera Garnier costs €7 and is the place that inspired Phantom of the Opera (one of my absolute favorite musicals). It is gorgeous and is also air conditioned which was nice during the major heat wave Paris was under when I was there. The O’pera is so incredibly beautiful it is worth a trip to see! After entering the opera you can take the stairs up to the lobby area and it takes your breath away with the intricate designs, antique coloring, and splendor of the giant staircase, much like the one in the movie Phantom of the Opera.
Before heading to Versailles, you should purchase your tickets ahead of time. We got our tickets at the Tourist Office in Paris, near the O’pera Garnier. We opted for the ticket that includes the castle, the grounds, and the outlying castles. We also went on a weekend when all of the fountains were running, which was a really wonderful and pretty.
We arrived at Versailles around 10:30 and skipped the incredibly long line to the castle and headed to the right towards the gardens. We went straight to the Golf Cart booth (a green booth right past the entrance) and got a golf cart for 35euro for an hour. We then went on their pre-determined route and were able to see a lot of the gardens more quickly than walking everywhere. I would suggest to save yourself time, skipping the part where it takes you to Marie Antoinette’s since you will walk there later. That gives you more time to make stops in the gardens and take pictures.
Before heading to Versailles, look up the hours to all of the places. We went to Marie Antoinette’s first which opens at 12:00p.m. You can walk through the building and then head out to the grounds. If you get there early you can be first in line (the green door on the side, to the left of the palace gates) and tour the castle when it is least crowded. We also then got to the grounds nearly before everyone and made it to here Hamlet before the crowds, making it seem more beautiful and quaint.
After the Hamlet head towards the Grand Trianon. Be sure to plan ahead on when you want to eat lunch. If you don’t mind a late lunch you can eat at any of the cafes in the Versailles grounds. Otherwise, head to a grocery or cafe before getting to Versailles to pick up a sandwich, salad, or pasta to bring with and eat on the grounds in a picnic style.
After touring the outer castles, head towards the main castle and enjoy walking through the main gardens. By 3 or 4 in the afternoon the line into the castle has gone down significantly and you should have no problem getting in within 10min. It’s still really crowded inside, but better than earlier in the day! We opted to walk through at a pretty brisk pace (my sister and I have visited many castles in England, so we just wanted the overall feel and an idea of what it looked like. It’s a long walk through the palace, even going quickly!) Some people even skip the castle, but if you really want to see it, go later in the day!!
*Note- The Paris Pass includes Versailles, but we decided to purchase our tickets separately because we only got the 2 day pass. Since Versailles is an all day thing we though we could get more out of our 2nd day with the pass and just pay for Versailles.
With the Paris Pass you can sign-up for a free wine tasting class that is an hour long. We learned a lot about French wines, how to taste them and some of the different rules the country has on making wine. Our wine expert was entertaining and knowledgable, plus FREE FRENCH WINE. Make sure you reserve your spot online before!
There are of course many delicious places to eat in Paris, however on a college/young adult budget it becomes a little more tricky. We really enjoyed Cafe Paul! It’s a chain in Paris and has delicious pastries, coffee, salads, and sandwiches. Once we got something to go (which is cheaper than sitting, if you are standing to eat or taking away the food is cheaper, it costs to have a table) and ate on the steps of the O’pera in the shade, which made for one of my favorite lunches. (I just really loved the O’pera Garnier…)
The pass also provides you with a day on a hop on, hop off bus that takes you to the main sights in Paris. You can choose to do this bus a few different ways.
1. You can ride it full circle around the city listening to the information through your head-set and seeing the panoramic tour.
2. You can hop on at a sight and take it to a sight you want to visit. Ex. You hop on at the Eiffel tower and take it until Notre Dame.
Either way you decide to use the bus, it’s pretty fun. Make sure to go to the bus office to pick up your ticket with your Paris Pass. Usually you can buy the tickets on the bus, but I’m not sure if you able to using the Paris Pass.
A perk of the pass is that it includes a boat tour down the river. It’s pretty to see all the buildings and Paris from the water. The only downside to the tour is that the guided tour audios are only available in the lower part of the boat.
What else can you do with the Paris Pass? The 56th Tower of Montparnasse tower. There is a 360degree panoramic view of the city. We went up an hour before it closed so we could see Paris all lit up.
Another favorite of mine was climbing the steps in the Arch de Triumph at nearly sun set and taking pictures on top. You just have to show your pass to get in (skip the line!) and it’s a long way up! Once you get to the top and catch your breath it’s really beautiful. Our pictures from here ended up being amazing because of lighting from the sun as it was beginning to set.
The Louvre is also part of the pass. Skip the line in front of the glass pyramid by going in a side entrance to the left. We headed straight to see the Mona Lisa. It’s hard to spot her past the swarming crowd. It’s not the ideal situation to enjoy a spectacular piece of art, but it’s not unexpected either.
Looking for Macaroons? You can find them anywhere, but this place is a spectacular place to get them. Be aware that it is extremely pricey, but the macaroons are not too expensive.
Technically the Lock Bridge locks have been taken down because it was weighing the bridge down to much and making it unstable. There are locks all over Paris though and a few bridges that have them as well, don’t be too sad.
Notre Dame was beautiful and we ended up making it inside (however we were a bit evil and just stepped into the line right towards the front instead of going to the very end). It was pretty, but not a must see, considering how long the line is. I do believe I remember it being free though.
However, if you want to go to the top the line starts on left side of the building (if you are looking at it) and is very very very long. We did not wait in it because it looked hours long. I’m sure it was beautiful and worth seeing though!
Hopefully this is somewhat helpful for an upcoming Paris trip! It’s such a beautiful city, don’t forget to just enjoy walking down the street and sitting along a sidewalk at a cafe; drinking a espresso and eating a pastry.