The saints above the entryway gave us and our travel-rumpled clothing the side eye as we passed under. Or maybe it was the fact that we hadn’t slept for 24 hours. Either way, we could tell Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Genevieve and Pope Saint Sylvester were thinking something. Seeing Notre Dame sleep deprived may actually have deepened the experience, turning every gargoyle into a shifting fiend.
We book ended our road trip through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro with a Paris layover. One really can’t complain about a day in the city on one end and two days on the other end so we could use our airline miles for three free tickets to Zagreb. Paris is a city that can take months to fully discover, but a few days was all we had so we made it work.
So what does a family do with three days in Paris? Walk mostly. Eat. Look at things. Eat more.
Summary of all the good stuff
Layover 1: 10 hours
Store luggage, take the metro into the city, eat, see Notre Dame, walk over Pont des Artes, go to the playground, walk on the Seine, eat, back to Charles de Gaulle airport.
Layover 2: 2.5 days
Day 1: Take a taxi to Rue Cler; settle in to AirBnB; wander to Les Invalide, check out statues along the Seine, walk up the Champs-Élysées to L’Arc de Triomphe; walk to the Eiffel Tower; buy fruit, cheese, and wine for dinner.
Day 2: climb the Eiffel Tower, go to the catacombs, take a boat ride on the Seine.
Day 2.5: Go to Musée d’Orsay, walk everywhere, back to Charles de Gaulle to home.
We stayed in my Grandmother’s favorite neighborhood, Rue Cler. She stayed there dozens of times in her life, using it as a home base while spending days at a time in the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay as a good art history fanatic should. She returned to Rue Cler in the evening and I imagine she did exactly what we did—buy wine, cheese, and strawberries to sustain her exploration.
My grandmother always stayed at the Hotel Leveque, but we opted for an AirBnB so we could enjoy a kitchen and a little extra space. Ours was steps from the colorful fruit stalls on Rue Cler with a view of the Eiffel Tower from the bed and a child’s room with dress-up and toys. And a lot, lot, lot of stairs.
We dragged the kid, mostly without complaint, up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triumph, across to the Eiffel Tower, along the Seine, over bridges, under statues, and all the neighborhoods in between. As usual, some sweets had to be built in.
We didn’t have much time, so we focused on wandering and immersing in the feel of Paris rather than visiting specific sights. That said, Beija did request a visit to the catacombs where she examined the centuries-old bones with interest and slight trepidation.
It was good that we walked so much the first day, because when we emerged from the catacombs it was pouring rain. This led to a very serious frowny-faced child.
So we put her on a boat. The river cruise was perfect on the rainy day. The food, as usual, was delicious and the puckered face loosened up into a smile.
We did make an attempt at the Musee d’Orsay, but I got outvoted after an hour and a half. Next time I’ll go alone.
One evening I decided to buy myself one Parisian item of clothing to see if I could be as fabulous as the effortlessly stylish women we saw everywhere. I went to a few shops with my high-school French and was able to ask to try a few things. I should pause here to tell you that I am not a delicate person. I am 5’9″ with a 10.5 (US) shoe. I have shoulders that I’d like to think are a result of my commitment to CrossFit, but more likely my breadth is just genetic (thanks Dad). So the lovely girl in the shop was a little unsure what to do with me. I ended up with the largest blouse they could find me and a tying belt that didn’t require a French waist. It was a humbling experience, but I do feel fabulous when I wear my yellow lace from Paris.
Anyway, other than those things we just ate. And drank wine. Paris lived up to their reputation for impeccable food and wine. Beija ate escargot and croissants – not at the same time – and continued building her list of consumed foods that shock her friends.
Three days was enough time to know what we were missing and to bookmark things we’d like to try next time we get a long layover in Paris.