This is part two of a seven-part series on my trip to Paris. Read the other parts here.
Monday morning arrived with no sign of the rain or clouds subsiding. With its persistent dreariness, Monday was also the day my aunt arrived in town and I’d transfer over to the apartment she’d rented for the remainder of the week.
I needed to fit in picking up my Paris Pass at some point, and as I looked out my third floor window, I decided not much else was going to happen that morning. Better to stay inside, dry and happy than head out sight-seeing for the sake of sight-seeing and end up soaked and shivering…again.
So that’s what I did. I read, I wrote, I researched some upcoming plans. I sipped on coffee and listened to the rain fall outside. Eventually, I set out for the 2nd to pick up the pass I’d need for the rest of the week.
[Brief pause here for a word about the Paris Pass: if you’re headed to the city for an extended period of time, I highly recommend snagging one for your visit. At least for one go-round, it takes all the guesswork out of seeing the best sights and getting around the city. Pay for it once and then pop into essentially any museum in the city, from The Louvre to the L’Espace Dali (yes, Dali has his own museum in Paris). What’s more, it includes a transit pass that’ll have you zipping from place to place, too. While I wouldn’t snag it the next time I go, it made for a great primer this time around.]
And now back to our regularly scheduled recap.
Once more lugging my large bags (who packed for me?!), I boarded the Metro and made my way across town to the 15th, where I met my aunt at our digs for the week. A one-bedroom with a pull-out couch on the 9th floor of a high-rise, it was quickly apparent that we’d moved a far cry from the quaint streets of Montmartre. Instead, we were blocks away from one of the city’s main train hubs in a work-a-day neighborhood, with Tour Montparnasse around the corner and the Eiffel Tower in clear view down Boulevard Pasteur. The bed in this apartment wasn’t much better than the last, but it was kind of cool to see the two versions of the city firsthand.
With my aunt now in town and my Paris Pass in hand, the real wheeling around the city could begin. After a bit of settling in (and a momentary wifi scare, thinking we’d broken this woman’s internet!), we set out for the Big Bus, ready for an evening tour courtesy of the ubiquitous double-decker tourist magnet. The rain had stopped enough that I braved the chill on the top deck; if Paris was going to buzz by me, I wanted to be able to see all of it.
Though hopping on and hopping off is encouraged on these bad boys, we didn’t do any such thing. We rode and rode as the pre-recorded English narration pointed out the various sights as we zoomed by, until we found ourselves at the Trocadero, that gorgeous plaza across the river from the Eiffel Tower. Now dark, we waited just long enough for the lovely lady to start her twinkling before heading to dinner at a bistro across the square. I had roast chicken with pommes frites and we drank bordeaux and we cheersed to the week ahead.
In advance of the trip, I’d tried to slate in a few top-priority experiences, pencil them into the trip so I knew they’d happen. One of those was a trip out to Versailles, which I slotted in on Tuesday morning, allowing my aunt (who’d been out to the palace on her last trip) to spend the day getting settled. I was a bit unclear on the directions Google gave me for the train, but after just one brief encounter with a rude transit worker (I even asked Parlez-vous anglais? first!), I found the right train and was on my way.
I can’t really overstate the awe that overcame me as I approached Versailles. The train station where I arrived was a bit further away from the palace, so I walked through town a bit and approached the palace from the side, walking through the large parking lot up to the courtyard. Immediately, I was transported back to the time of kings and carriages, imagining the arrivals that must’ve taken place in that very spot.
Though she’s no one’s feminist icon, I’ve long been enamored with Marie Antoinette and her court; wandering the halls of Petit Trianon and the surrounding grounds, I admit I got a little emotional. To be in the same space, to see her MA monogram on the wrought-iron railing of the main staircase, the mirrored room where she dressed, the gardens she tended with her children. Whoa. It all got to me a bit more than I anticipated.
Transfixed as I was, my tour of Versailles only took the better part of the day. By the time I paused mid-afternoon for lunch in their small cafe, the grounds were swarming with local school field trips and foreign tour groups. Though the massive grounds can accommodate such crowds, I wasn’t feeling it, so I found my way back through Versailles proper to a train back to Paris.
Back in the city, we had just enough time to slip over to Musée Rodin for a quick stroll as the day wound down. One of my memories from my first whirlwind trip is seeing The Thinker from the tour bus as we barreled by and telling myself I’d be back to see it in person someday. Sure enough, I got a firsthand look at the masterwork, plus so many of his other pieces, too. A small museum by anyone’s scale, it didn’t take long to wander the rooms and sculpture garden. And yet, each space is chock full of models and scale practice pieces, and even art Rodin collected by way of trade with his contemporaries (Monet, Van Gogh…).
Having had our fill of great art, we sat a spell in the gardens (where a tent from Paris Fashion Week was still standing) and plotted our next move over a coffee and pain au chocolate. As we looked ahead at striking a balance between doing enough to soak up the city while also enjoying, you know, a vacation, we decided to take advantage of our Paris Pass and the relatively pleasant evening with a river cruise.
Getting our tickets and nabbing seats was easy enough with our passes, but unfortunately the tour itself failed to live up to expectations. Awkwardly narrated, our whole game was thrown off with the top deck of the boat closed; I tried to step out to the main railing a bit here and there to nab a few photos, but generally speaking, our cruise down the Seine was not exactly the stuff of dreamy Parisian evenings. Though I did get a couple good photos out of it.
Though the grey skies remained, by Monday and Tuesday the rain and wind had subsided enough to allow for a pleasant – if chilly – couple of days at the beginning of our week, and we took full advantage.
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The Paris Pass included entrance to Versailles (though not the train to/from), Musée Rodin and the Bateaux Parisiens river cruise.