We got up bright and early in the morning... or to be more realistic, dark and early in the morning and took the 6:30am high speed train down to Paris. Our cabin steward was hilarious, and provided us with a bounty of food for breakfast... croissants, croissants and more croissants all covered in chocolate. Definitely a good start to my special day.
After speeding through Holland, Belgium, and a bit of France we arrived in Paris around 11:00. Once we figured out where we were located on the map, and where our hotel was located we were able to figure out the metro system and made our way to the hotel. Now, I've been told that all hotels in Paris are quite poor in quality, and ours fit along quite well in that assumption. It was clean, light and airy... but it was nearly the size of a generous walk in closet. It had a bed that felt like you were sleeping on the floor with pillows so flat you really didn't know what they were there for. However the bathroom was quite nice, and you couldn't beat the absolutely perfect location. We were situated in the Trocadero: 1/3 of a mile away from the Eiffel Tower and 1/3 of a mile away from the Arc de Triomphe/Champs Elysees.
When you grow up seeing the Eiffel Tower in pictures... or in 3 inch miniatures, actually seeing the magnificent building for the first time as you round the corner is breath-taking. Once we were finished taking pictures from the Trocadero, we sat on the grassy hill overlooking the tower and ate lunch (brie, bread and fruit).
We then continued on to Notre Dam, because the lines to go up the Eiffel were worse than those you'd find at Disney on a busy day. By the time we walked over to the cathedral it was nearing the end of the afternoon, and the clouds had taken over the sky. So I wasn't able to see the reflection of the stained glass on the floor, but it was beautiful none-the-less. The only thing I was slightly sad about was not being able to ring the bells while yelling “sanctuary, sanctuary”. Fortunately, I live close to Paris so I haven’t given up on that dream entirely. Notre Dam was also enormous in size, but, in general, Paris is large in scale. All houses and apartment buildings are at least 6 stories high, so you can imagine the size of the buildings they want to stand out.
After touring Notre Dam and its grounds, we moved on to the Latin Quarter, which was our favorite area of Paris. It was much cozier than the rest of the city and felt more inviting. We ended up eating dinner and both lunch and dinner the next day in that area, since we liked it so much. But, before dinner we had much more to see.
We continued our day long self-guided walking tour by walking down the river, along the length of the Louvre which is at least a mile in length, and down the Champs Elysees. Needless to say, we were much too over zealous on day #1 and paid the consequences for the next few days with aching legs. The famous Champs Elysees was extremely over crowded and I personally felt it was slightly over rated. Yes, it was an absolutely beautiful street, but most of the shops I had noticed were ones you could find anywhere, and the restaurants weren’t anything close to a bistro or café you’d find on the smaller streets of the Latin Quarter. So we hopped on the metro and ate outside at a cute bistro with a waiter who sang questionable songs to us.
Once dinner was through, we took the metro back to the Eiffel Tower to go to the top. After waiting in line and paying for our entrance, we found out that the elevators had stopped for the night. So we had to climb the stairs. Ugh. We called it good on the first platform, even though we could have walked up to the second. By this time our legs were burning, especially since we had walked the city the whole day. But seeing the city from above (even in the dark) was quite nice. Good thing Paris is the city of lights.
Then before calling it a night, we walked past our hotel and over to the Arc de Triomphe …all lit up. It was a great ending to a wonderful birthday.