Paris 2014 – Day 1 – Notre Dame, Île de la Cité, Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

When you’re like me and afflicted with wanderlust, it’s hard not to always be dreaming of running away to another country, shedding your identity, and starting new. Sometimes, your body and your heart just know when you’re meant to live somewhere else, maybe somewhere you’ve never even been, and call that place home.

For me, it’s always been Europe. I’m not really sure if there is one defining reason – or multiple – for this, but there’s just something about the place that calls to me. There’s something super alluring about the mixture of old and new in these countries, some mystical power set in the stones of each building and emanating from the cobblestone streets that draws me to them. Not to mention the people, the art, and – God, help me – the food.

So when it was decided that my dad, brother, and I would be taking a trip to Paris and London in celebration of my brother’s high school graduation (and a bonus of my dad’s birthday while we would be away), I was ecstatic. There were nights when I didn’t sleep until 3am because I was up trip planning, researching the places we’d go and see, and the restaurants and cafés and macarons we’d have to attend to. And for such a jam-packed vacation, I’m excited to share the day-by-day details in hopes that it’ll inspire you to jet off and go to the places that are calling you home.

Enroute to Paris To start off our 9-day European adventure, we left Toronto for Paris on a Thursday afternoon and flew with Air Transat. My team was kind enough to let me work from home in the morning, so our final hours of packing and departure to the airport were comfortable and stress-free. After a quick snack at the gate, we boarded and took off! Fun fact: I’m typically quite awful at flying, and try to sleep for the majority of the flight. There’s just something about being in/near a plane that makes me nauseous. Can we just invent apparition already?

En route to Paris

Despite being sandwiched between my brother and dad in the three centre seats, the rows were quite spacious and I was able to stretch my legs. None of us really got any sleep though, which was rather unfortunate, considering that we’d be arriving at 7am local time. On the upside, Veronica Mars was available as an in-flight movie, so I was relatively satisfied.

When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we arrived in Terminal 3 and made the short walk to the RER station to take public transit into the city. Considering we came in early Friday morning, we knew we were bound to hit rush hour traffic trying to get into Paris by taxi or bus, and research had told us that the cheapest and most reliable choice was to take the train.

Taking the metro to Gare de Lyon

At the station, we bought our tickets, as well as our first 10-pack of t+ single ride metro tickets to get us started. Each ticket comes out to €1.37 and in our four days, we needed just over 3 packs (roughly 12 rides altogether), so it was a considerably better deal than the full day passes. If you plan on walking around the city for the majority of your trip, packs of t+ tickets should get you around just fine.

From the airport, the RER B will get you into the city, where you can then transfer to wherever you need to go. At Châtelet – Les Halles, we transferred onto the RER A to get us to Gare de Lyon, where we would be dropping off our bags at our hotel. I had gotten us a great deal on Expedia to stay at Hôtel Terminus Lyon, a hotel I had remembered from my last trip to Paris, because of its location directly across from the station and its large red lettered sign. Although it’s relatively small, its proximity to the Metro and the fact that the hotel is clean and the staff are friendly made for a pleasant stay.

Since we had arrived so early, we left our bags with the front desk, and walked around the corner to a café called La Consigne for our first breakfast in Paris.

Breakfast at La Consigne

A standard continental breakfast – a croissant, baguette, tea or coffee, and a glass of orange juice. Yum!

Walking along the Seine

After breakfast, we headed towards our first destination: the Notre Dame Cathedral. Since we were so close to the river, we opted out of taking the Metro there and chose to walk along La Seine instead. The weather was absolutely beautiful and the walk gave us a chance to stretch our legs after the long flight. All along the river, there were mini “beach” areas set up with tons of beach chairs and umbrellas with people lounging and soaking up the warmth of the sun. What I’d give for that kind of a life on a Friday morning!

Paris Day 1 OOTD

My Outfit of the Day:
Dress – H&M, Necklace – Stella & Dot, Purse – H&M, Sandals – Topshop

Notre Dame Cathedral

After crossing a bridge onto the Île de la Cité, one of Paris’s two remaining natural islands on the river, we approached the cathedral from the back side where we could already admire the Gothic architecture.

Notre Dame Cathedral

 The impressive front face of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The cathedral has some of the most beautiful stained glass windows. Inside, there are several to admire, along with some beautiful sculptures, artwork, and the chance to sit in on one of the public services that occur every day.

Notre Dame Cathedral

 Beautiful lit candles.

Vintage Metro Sign

After our tour of the interior of the cathedral, we continued our trek around the island and spotted one of the city’s older Metro entrance signs.

Palais de Justice Gate

Nearby was the entrance to the Palais de Justice. This grand building was once a royal palace, which explains the beautiful ornate front gates. During the trip, I realized that I have a big thing for golden gates. Just wait until you see the one at Versailles…

Palais de Justice

 Dad on the front steps of the Palais de Justice.

Conciegerie

Although we meant to also visit Saint Chapelle to see the stained glass windows there, the line was a little too long for us to wait out, so we decided to continue our walk back towards the north side of the river. Here is my brother, Kelvin, in front of the west side of the Palais de Justice, known as the Conciergerie. During the French Revolution, this part of the building was a prison, one of its prisoners being Marie Antoinette.

Eiffel Tower in the Distance

After crossing the river, we turned around and spied a little Eiffel Tower in the distance! In this photo, you can also see the little beaches I mentioned set up all along the river. Heaven.

Place du Châtelet

We found ourselves at Place du Châtelet, one of the many public squares in the city. Click to enlarge the photo, and see if you can spot the space invader! As well as some graffiti that looks suspiciously like my name…

Place du Châtelet

Feeling pretty exhausted from our lack of sleep, we checked the time and realized that our hotel room should be about ready, so we headed back to check in. Lucky for us, we were placed in an “Executive Suite”, which I think just meant that the couch was pulled-out to accommodate our 3-person occupancy.

The View from Hotel Terminus Lyon

Still, it meant we were on the fourth floor, where all of the rooms have balconies facing Gare de Lyon! Great view.

We all took a much-needed cat nap for a couple of hours. When we woke up, we felt much more refreshed and decided to head over to the Eiffel Tower!

Eiffel Tower in the Distance

To get there, we were going to take the RER C from Gare d’Austerlitz, but since a couple of the stations on the line were under construction, we had to do some creative transferring between lines to get around it before transferring back onto the RER at Javel. From the station, we could see our destination from afar. Cue the excitement!

One stop over, we got off at Champ de Mars / Tour Eiffel and began our approach to the iconic monument.

Eiffel Tower

My dad looking fly with the Eiffel Tower behind him. We thought this was a great angle to take a photo with the tower – one that I don’t often see from other travellers. It’s right along the river on the west side and perfect for photos in the afternoon/early evening as the sun makes its way towards the horizon.

Eiffel Tower

Although we weren’t planning on going up to the top, we definitely spent quite some time admiring the structure from below. There’s just something about the architecture of the tower that I really love – so very far removed from what I’m used to seeing from the CN Tower every day.

Ice Cream at the Eiffel Tower

 Enjoying a delicious ice cream cone at the Eiffel Tower, nbd.

As you can probably imagine, we took a ton of photos of the Eiffel Tower and with it. But some photos are worth taking the time to capture. As we moved up towards Trocadéro Square, we realized that the landings around the large water & fountain display in the Jardins du Trocadéro were the best position to capture us with the tower. Of course, when we came to this realization, the fountain show began, and we ended up waiting for a good half hour for the show to finally end!

In the  meantime, we set up the tripod and had some fun with the new remote control for our camera.

Paris Timer GIF

Finally, we got the shot that we wanted…

Eiffel Tower

 The Kwongs in Paris.

Feeling peckish after all of the picture taking, we checked out the restaurants in the Square area and decided on Le Wilson. Although it’s very obviously a tourist trap (being so close to the Square and all), we were very happy with our meals, which we thought were decently priced. The wait staff were very friendly and accommodating to our English-speaking needs, but I always make a point to greet and start conversations in French – I find people are much more receptive and appreciative if you try! And don’t forget, always say merci to thank them for their help and the good meal!

Dinner at Le Wilson

When in France, drink French beer! I’ve never typically enjoyed Kronenbourg, but this glass tasted exceptionally good. Or maybe I’m just biased…

Dinner at Le Wilson

We each got the prix fixe meal. I started with one of my favourite French dishes: salad with shrimp & avocado (not pictured), followed by a nice steak and frites. The last time I was in France, Michelle and I became obsessed with the salad and insisted on making it twice a week when we had returned home. I’d been longing for the dish for quite some time. Craving: satisfied!

Dinner at Le Wilson

 For dessert, I had a slice of pineapple pie that was delicious and not too sweet.

Dinner at Le Wilson

 My dad and brother both got the crème brûlée, which was massive!

Dinner at Le Wilson

While we paid for our meal, we learned that all restaurants in Paris already have taxes included in their menu prices, and some also indicate that the service charge is also included in the price. Look for this indication on your bill, as it should typically be stated as such. If you’re unsure, just ask! All of the restaurants we ate at were helpful about clarifying our questions. If the service charge is included, and you think your waiter did a great job in serving you, then you can always leave an additional tip.

After dinner, we walked back over to Trocadéro Square, just in time for the midnight “light show” at the Eiffel Tower! The show occurs on the hour starting at 10pm every night and lasts for about 5 minutes each time. It’s a beautiful sequence of shimmering lights that makes the tower twinkle beautifully, and a must-see before we headed back to the hotel.

Eiffel Tower at Night

 Just seeing the tower illuminated like this makes you fall hard in love with the city.

Eiffel Tower at Night

A beautiful end to our first day in Paris.

Coming up next…. walking along the south side of the Seine, strolling through Jardin du Luxembourg (my favourite gardens), Arc de Triomphe at night, and more good food on Day 2 of our time in Paris!


Follow along on my 2014 trip to Paris & London!
Day 2: {Paris} South of La Seine, Jardin du Luxembourg, Arc de Triomphe at Night
Day 3: {Paris} Versailles & My Dad’s Birthday

5 thoughts on “Paris 2014 – Day 1 – Notre Dame, Île de la Cité, Eiffel Tower

  1. LOVE this post! I feel most people forget what an amazing world we live in and just crave a holiday for rest. There is so much to see and do I think people should start living!! You have captured Paris beautifully! And as for the food – that looks AMAZING!!
    I am currently in New York and was just as excited about coming here as you seem to be about visiting europe! Enjoy!

    Like

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