Like Rome, our visit to Paris felt far too short to take in everything the city has to offer — all the more so because we had a number of old friends now living in the city. In just five days and six nights, we were trying to cram in a month’s worth of social visits and some of the world’s most-visited tourist attractions and some time to just soak up the city and its atmosphere. We could have spent a month.
In terms of attractions, we braved the crowds at the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. For both, we were up early and ahead of the worst of the crowds. That strategy really paid off at the Eiffel Tower, where we walked up to the second floor (beating most of the people waiting for elevators), and made it to the summit without a line. For the Louvre, it may not be possible to beat the crowds in the Denon wing, home of the most famous works. The Mona Lisa was marginally less busy first thing in the morning, but we would still describe it as unpleasantly crowded. However, if you’re willing to make do with a few Rembrandts and such, the Richelieu wing was quite tranquil, even after lunch.
We had more fun at some of the less popular attractions. The Rodin museum had lovely sculptures, a pretty garden, and a great hands-on area where kids could make their own art. The kids loved the Musée de l’Armée at Invalides, where they learned all about the Napoleonic wars and associated weaponry.
But best of all was when the attraction was almost incidental to how we spent our day. Notre Dame still looks grand under reconstruction, but it was really special to take in all the goings-on as we wandered Île Saint-Louis and the banks of the Seine. Sacré-Coeur was cool, but wandering the (delightfully shaded) laneways behind Montmartre was more charming still. Collecting breakfast pastries from our neighbourhood in the 14th arrondissement, spending a hot afternoon chatting with an old friend, sitting under shade at the Jardin de Luxembourg, sitting in a bistro savouring the delicious food…those are the reasons we’ll come back to Paris next time.