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My first visit to Paris was as part of the Contiki European Vista tour, a 21 day odyssey very similar to what is still on offer today with the exception that my trip did not include Prague. It was the first stop in what was meant for me to be a sampler of Europe at the beginning of my 18 month working holiday there, so that I could figure out which places I would want to spend more time in later. I ended up holidaying more than working after this trip, so it must have done its job in whetting my appetite for more European travelling!
As a neophyte in travelling at the time, I had rocked up to Paris and indeed the whole tour completely unprepared. Having done no pre-reading or even looking up maps to figure out the general lay of the land, all I knew was that I somehow needed to see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Mona Lisa, some impressionist paintings and the Sacre Coeur…in one day! While I do not recommend the frenzied, unplanned back-and-forthing across town that I embarked upon, this “sample itinerary” is just to show you that it CAN be done. Even with only 1 day in Paris, you CAN take in ALL of the main sights, and hopefully the little introduction will be enough to make you fall so in love with the place that you can’t help but return. Again and again.
We were able to obtain a 2 day Paris Museum Pass from our Contiki tour director. Although we were only in Paris for 1 day, we felt the 2 day pass was still a worthwhile investment given the number of sights we were aiming to visit and, more importantly, so we could skip the queues at each sight. If you have more time, you might like to visit more of the sights covered by the Paris Museum Pass – you can read about my top 10 recommendations here.
We began our day at the Louvre, as we knew that this place would soon get crowded. Sad to say, on this occasion, our only agenda was to follow the little signs to the Mona Lisa, and thereafter to the Venus de Milo.
After taking the obligatory snaps, we stepped out of the Louvre and made our way towards Notre Dame. By around 10am, there was already quite a lengthy queue for the tower, so we decided to give the gargoyles a miss that time and instead popped inside to admire the stained glass.
From there, we crossed to the other side of the Seine and walked through the St Germain area towards the Musee d’Orsay and Musee Rodin. Much to our disappointment, both are shut on Mondays, and we were therefore unable to admire the Impressionists and Rodin’s sculptures that day. See why it is so important to do a little bit of pre-travel research?
Since the Hotel des Invalides is so close to the Musee Rodin, and because we had our Museum Passes, we decided to visit Napoleon’s Tomb at the Eglise du Dome. As it is right next door, we then quickly wondered through the Musee de l’Armee. I can’t say this was my cup of tea, but others with a greater interest in military history and paraphernalia would probably enjoy this.
After a quick lunch at the cafeteria of the military museum, we crossed the Seine. Again. This time we walked across the grand Pont Alexandre III and ended up at the Place de la Concorde, the Eglise de la Madeleine behind that, and thereafter the Opera Garnier.
We then decided to double back again so we could walk down the Champs Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe, which we climbed up for views towards the Eiffel Tower.
Yes, that really IS a giant Louis Vuitton suitcase storefront!
After admiring the views, we decided to walk back towards the Seine again, stopping first at the Palais de Chaillot for this view of the Eiffel Tower.
We were lucky as we had actually arrived in Paris the evening before and had had the opportunity to go up the Eiffel Tower just before sunset the previous day. Therefore, all we had to do on this day was simply to admire the Tower from all angles. After walking through the Champ de Mars, we finally decided to hop on the Metro so that we could enjoy the sunset from the Sacre Coeur.
We went back to our hotel exhausted that night, but feeling pleased that we had seen so much in just 24 hours!
Note: Apologies for the poor quality photographs. These were taken way back in 2005, when I didn’t have as good a camera or as much photography experience!
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