For an extended layover, start or finish to your French vacation, or weekend getaway, there are ways of making the most in the City of Light. For me, I hadn’t been to Paris since I was 12 years old, so when I planned my 36-hour weekend, I made sure to include all major tourist destinations while still experiencing and not just seeing.
I passed the weekend with a coworker Sandrine and her son and dad. We departed Saumur late Saturday around 10 a.m. for the roughly three-hour drive up to Paris (with one coffee and croissant stop along the way).
We arrived at hotel Villa Escudier in Boulogne-Billancourt just in time for lunch. After a cheery afternoon eating our sushi and looking out the window, we made our game plan and headed out, bundled up and ready for a great day.
We took metro line 10 at the Boulogne – Jean Jaurès stop around the corner, and changed for line 9 to Torcadéro for the Eiffel Tower. Only about a 15-minute journey in all, we walked through the gardens surrounding the beautiful icon, and even passed through a Christmas Market facing the structure.
A short walk along the river Seine from the tower, Musée du Quai – Jacques Chirac displays ancient native artwork, from sculptures to costume to spears, from across the globe. We spent about two hours meandering through and enjoying the unique displays.
As the sun set and the fog rolled in, we crossed the river to arguably one of the most popular Christmas Markets in the country (the largest being further north in Strasbourg), on the Champs-Elysées.
We entered the famous street at the Grand Palais, walked to Place de la Concorde and considered riding the ferris wheel, then turned around and continued to the other end at l’Arc de Triomphe with a stop in a beautiful gallery to thaw our toes.
The market was so crowded (too crowded for my taste, but I loved it anyway) with visitors, tourists, and locals. The smell of sugar and cigarettes packed the sidewalks as we passed vendor after vendor selling many of the same things. Sandrine’s father and son went through a Christmas haunted house, we all shared churros and Nutella, and overall had a lovely experience walking the Champs-Elysées from end-to-end.
Taking the Metro 10 to line C, and departing line C at Musée d’Orsay, we spent the first hours of our morning in Paris (after breakfast and coffee in the hotel) wandering the spectacular galleries, views and artwork in Paris’ most famous train station, the Musée d’Orsay.
I’m so in love with this museum. I visited when my family spent 10 days touring Paris over a decade ago, and I couldn’t wait to go back. The architecture of the building, and the art filling inside it, is an amazing experience.
A short walk along the river passing beautiful architecture and romantic views, we crossed the Bridge of Love for a quick lunch before heading into the Louvre. Another staple museum of the city, the Louvre’s collection is immense. Too massive to dream of seeing everything in a lifetime, the palace itself is also a piece of art, in addition to the amazing collections within.
We all chose specific pieces or exhibits we wanted to see most. Between the four of our choices, we spent an exhausting three hours in the museum.
After passing the day in museums, we decided to spend the evening in some of Paris’ most iconic churches. Although we were too late to enter the gates to look at Sainte Chapelle, we still crossed the Pont Neuf to walk the other end of Île de la Cité for a meander through Paris’ magnificent cathedral, Notre Dame. While a little disappointing in the dark, the architecture, Christmas decor and mass service made up for the lack of light to view the stained glass.
Passing up the opportunity to head south into the quarter Saint-Michel and visit the iconic Café de Flore due to time, we walked to the metro line 4 station at St. Michel, and took it up to Barbès-Rochechouart for a climb up to the Basilique du Sacré Coeur.
Also a little disappointment due to the dense fog masking the breathtaking views of the city and lack of light to flood the stained-glass windows, the interior was amazing, and, just like with Notre Dame, the mass service was exciting and architecture a delight to see.
With the Sacré-Coeur, we boarded the metro for a 45-minute journey back to the hotel in Boulogne. A fantastic, tiring, cold 36 hours, my time in Paris was perfect.