SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY BOOKSTORE
THE ORSAY MUSEUM
By the time we got to Paris, I’d been traveling nearly five weeks and Waldir nearly two, so we were exhausted. But Paris energized us, because it’s MAGICAL like that. Waldir and I packed as much as we could into 3.5 days. We drove ourselves into the ground, running around seeing as much as we could see, staying up until 1 or 2 a.m., and doing it all over again the next day.
I fell hard for Paris, which I hadn’t expected. I told Waldir I want to live there someday, and I keep dreaming about how to make it happen. Be warned: if you go, you might not ever want to leave.
Paris is huge but doesn’t feel like it; the metro system is great; the streets are clean; people are friendly; the food of course is unbeatable; and the museums?! HEAVEN ON EARTH. Except for the crowds. But seriously–I am in love with the museums. SO many museums. We didn’t even scratch the surface. This is a city you could spend years exploring and not get bored.
DAY 1 ITINERARY AND TIPS:
My general Paris tip is to purchase the Paris Museum Pass (it also covers Versailles). It saves you a little bit of money–if you visit enough museums and churches, that is–but most importantly, it saves you lots of time standing in line.
Classic must-see. The line to go inside ebbs and flows, so if it’s long when you get there, you could go do something else and then come back. When we arrived, the line was long so we headed to the Deportation Memorial first (it’s close)–by the time we came back to Notre Dame, the line was short so we went in then.
Holocaust memorial dedicated to 200,000 French victims of the Nazi concentration camps. It is a sobering, as it should be, which may feel jarring as you are going and coming from tourist attractions. It is definitely worth a visit. It’s quiet. Security line is short. No entrance fee.
Shakespeare and Company bookstore
A small, and seriously magical, bookstore. You should go there. When you do, make sure you go upstairs and find the piano and the cat, along with the wall of notes. You can leave a note, too. 😉
Prison that served as the last stop for victims of the guillotine, including Marie-Antoinette. Not my favorite place, but worth a quick stop if you’re interested in history. If there’s a line, don’t wait in it–come back later.
Gothic church built between 1241-1248, arguably the best stained-glass in the world, breathtakingly incredible. You might feel overwhelmed because there is so much to see in the glass, and it’s hard to read. I sat in there for an entire hour just looking (Waldir had to take a call for work, so I had lots of time in there before he even made it in)–and we both could have been in there longer, we enjoyed it so much. This is a busy, busy place. You will definitely want the Paris Museum Pass in order to skip the long line and get to the short pass-holder line.
Between Sainte-Chapelle and the Orsay, we made a quick stop for fast, delicious, inexpensive food at a Lebanese place called Chez le Libanais. They have vegetarian and vegan options, too. SO GOOD. I’m dreaming of it as I write this.
The Orsay Museum
My favorite museum of those we visited in Paris (and that’s saying something, because the Louvre is hard to beat). It’s far less overwhelming than the Louvre and the collections are stunning. I recommend giving yourself a good chunk of time to enjoy the art–probably three hours (or more if you can stand it. Usually around the three hour mark, everything starts looking the same to me, but you might have more museum endurance).
The Orsay is open late on Thursdays (until 9:45 p.m.) but please be aware that galleries start closing at 9:15 and the staff tries to clear everyone out by 9:30. We missed out on an entire floor because the gallery closed at 9:15 and we erroneously assumed we still had 30 minutes–oops!
We loved the Orsay so much that we wanted to go back the next day, but the Louvre pulled us in instead. 🙂 Would love to go back someday!