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A relaxing September week in Paris

We touched down at Orly in early afternoon; a delightful taxi driver took my son and I to our Latin Quarter hotel and threw in some commentary. (An hour nap let me survive the evening.) Our first visit to Paris was on RS’s “Paris and the Heart of France” and we wanted more. For our first exhausted days, we relaxed in gardens and parks. I recommend Square de Viviani, just across the Seine from Notre-Dame, as an oasis from the crowds. We also explored my favorite, the Luxembourg Gardens, sat by the pond, and had picnics. Another day we walked along the Seine to the Jardin des Plantes and visited the Menagerie. It’s a small zoo, but not a sad small zoo—the animals have good spaces, and some of the architecture, such as the art deco building for the cats, is lovely.

Once rested, we made full use of our 6-day museum passes. We spent a full day in the Musee D’Orsay (still didn’t see it all!) and two half days in the Louvre. I found RS’s audiotours to be very helpful in both, if only to provide an overall direction in the face of So. Much. Art. At the Cluny, we saw The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries and a few other rooms, and could walk above the Roman baths outside, but the rest was still closed because of renovation. We took the better part of a day at Les Invalides and the Army Museum, and could have used another day, what with WWI and WWII exhibits, halls of armor and armaments, and extensive exhibits on Napoleon’s campaigns and reign. And it was a mistake to walk all the way there from the Latin Quarter, on to the Eiffel Tower afterward, and then back; we (or at least I) should have taken the Metro back, but by the time I realized where I'd gone wrong, it was too late. Ah well, worked off lunch!

Two sites not included in our earlier RS tour were the Conciergerie and the Pantheon, both worth a visit. I had known the Revolutionary history of the Conciergerie, but not that it was a sixth-century royal palace. The Pantheon seems even bigger inside than one would expect, and one could spend hours in the crypt below visiting the famous and infamous. I was most impressed that people still leave flowers and letters for people such as Pierre and Marie Curie, and Victor Hugo. A final site we visited that I highly recommend is the Deportation Memorial, right behind Notre-Dame at the tip of the island. In addition to the memorial itself, with its 200,000 lights commemorating French deportees and the tomb of the unknown, there are rooms that present the history and experience of the Nazi camps. Very moving.

In the midst of all that history, often painful, we were grateful for our good fortune, and spent much wonderful worthwhile time in cafes, trying as many French specialties as we could: duck confit, roast chicken, beef burgundy, Nicoise salad, onion soup (yes, I know, wrong season, but this was the season we were there), croque-monsieur, escargot, quiche, cheese, bread, and pastries; as well as wine, kir and kir royal, Suze, cider, and the best hot chocolate in the world at Angelina (a branch right outside the Luxembourg Gardens). I will echo what so many have said before: when you go to France, slow down!

Posted by
1956 posts

Michele, thank you for sharing your lovely Paris experience!

Posted by
7689 posts

What a terrific time you had!! Perfect vacation!

Had to laugh at your long walk... yes have done that as well. By the time you realize you don’t want to walk any further you’re almost there!!

Thanks for taking the time to post!

Posted by
4214 posts

Well, now you've got me all ready to go again! Thanks for getting my memories and taste buds all cranked up! ;-)

Seems like an ideal visit, a chance to return to old favorites and make some new discoveries. And there will always be more to discover in that magical city.

Posted by
967 posts

I love Paris and it's always a delight to read about other people's grand times there!
Thanks!

Posted by
908 posts

Enjoyed the report. I will be returning this coming May. If I remember correctly, the square across from Notre Dame also houses the oldest tree in Paris.

Posted by
3384 posts

Thank you, Michele, for posting your trip report! I will be returning to Paris next September and enjoyed picturing the places you visited. And your food list - yum!

Posted by
119 posts

Brushtim, you are correct: Square de Viviani does have the oldest tree in Paris, an acacia planted either 1601 or 1602 depending upon who you believe. I forgot to mention that, which is surprising because that tree was why I sought out that square in the first place.

Posted by
9 posts

A great report sums up a great trip. Looking forward to more of your trip reports!

Posted by
4028 posts

Michele, thanks for the trip report. I'm glad to know the Cluny is open again. We were in Paris in May, at the end of our 21 Day Best of Europe, and the Cluny was closed. We'll be there again next May (Paris and the Heart of France, followed by Best of Eastern France!) Can't wait to revisit the Cluny, and to finally make it to the Pantheon. Did you happen to go to the Marmottan? We saw that years ago, and I'm hoping to have time to visit it again.

And I love the list of foods you tried. I always make it a point to try local specialties, and have been keeping track. So far all were winners except andouillette. Don't want that one again. :-)

Posted by
2092 posts

Such a lovely trip! Definitely makes me want to return, perhaps next September...I went in 2016 and spent 6 days, so much to see and do and a great city for just wandering. Seeing the tapestries at the Cluny were a major highlight, so much intricate detail.

Posted by
955 posts

What a wonderful trip! I’ve been to Paris a few times and still have not had the hot chocolate at Angelina’s. Also, when I went to Cluny, the Lady and Unicorn tapestry was on tour as they were renovating the gallery. I definitely have reasons to go back to one of my favorite cities!

Posted by
12103 posts

Thanks for an enlightening report.

Great that you spent the time at Les Invalides. There was a special exhibit on "Napoleon as Strategist" which it sounds like you did see. When I was in Paris this time, I saw news of this special exhibit on the French TV news as something to check out. I did and saw it was a pretty elaborate exhibit, well worth it. I wonder if anything special will be presented on Napoleon in 2019 at the les Invalides or Fontainebleau as it is the 250th anniversary of his birth.