Each member of our family had one "bucket list" destination choice, and mine was Paris! This was our second visit - the first was around 12 years ago, when the kids were only 3 and 5 years old. Paris has changed quite a bit since that earlier trip, but I'll touch on that later.
This was the one place where I was less-than-satisfied with our accommodation choices. Even though I started looking for accommodations a good three months before the trip, it was a real struggle to find something within our budget. I realized later it was because we were there smack in the middle of the Euro Cup, and many places had been booked up for MONTHS in advance! I briefly considered using Airbnb to look for an apartment, but after reading about crackdowns on illegal apartment rentals in Paris, I decided to stick with a hotel. We ended up staying at Grand Hotel de Paris in the 10th arr, right next to the Gare de l'Est. I can tell you that it's certainly not "Grand"! It wasn't bad, and the room was quite roomy for the four of us, with a large and recently updated bathroom and consistent and free wi-fi. The area, though not unsafe, was a bit run-down. The hotel also looked a bit run-down and didn't have air conditioning, which forced us to keep the windows open at night. Between police sirens and train sounds, this didn't make for the best sleep!
We were here three full days, plus two half days, so we took advantage of the Paris Museum Pass and saved quite a bit of time and money. Our daughter, who was 16, could get into all of the Museum Pass attractions for free, so we only needed them for my husband, myself, and our 18-yr-old son. I'd love to go into detail on everything we did, but I'm running out of characters! OK, highlights:
The first evening, we took it easy with dinner in Marais (a completely forgettable meal at La Fontaine Sully), followed by a Seine river cruise with Vendetta at Pont Nouf.
Day 2 included visiting Les Invalides and Napoleon's Tomb, yummy lunch on Rue Cler at Cafe du Marche, and going up the Eiffel Tower with our pre-purchased tickets. Definitely pre-purchase tickets - it saved sooooo much time! Unfortunately, the Euro Cup was going on while we were there, and Champ de Mars was all torn up and blocked off as a "fan zone." I remembered how pretty that area had been on our previous trip, so seeing it like that made me sad.
Day 3 was our art museum day - we headed out bright and early to the Louvre and stayed there till around 1pm, then grabbed lunch in Toulluer Gardens. We learned a lesson - the little outdoor restaurant has both table-service dining and a take-away window. We sat at one of the table-service tables and got the exact same food and very slooooow service for almost twice the cost! We should have grabbed take-away sandwiches and found a nice bench by the fountain instead. After lunch, we did the Orangerie and the Orsay. The Art Neuveaux section of the Orsay was closed, which made me sad, but I guess that means I'll just need to come back and see it later! We also ran out of time to see the Cluny museum, so The Lady and The Unicorn tapestries are also on my "next time" list. We had an absolutely delicious dinner in the St. Germaine area, La Bonaparte, and it was one f the best meals AND best service that we received in Paris!
Oops, I'm out of room! Continuing below...