Flying into Orly, out of CDG
An easy 2 hour flight from Porto to Orly airport and the last 5 nights of our trip – Paris! The original concept was for 7 nights, but that time had to get squeezed to 5. Too bad, but we’d been to Paris once before and this time didn’t need to revisit the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur or Versaille. With a perfect location on Ile St. Louis we went to museums we didn’t see the last time, a couple of visits to the Louvre and time for relaxing in the apartment.
Best things about the trip
- Staying on Ile Saint-Louis!
- Notre Dame tower gargoyles
Worst things about the trip
- People in the Louvre taking pictures and selfies in front of incomparable masterpieces – with barely a glance at the art.
- Being stuck behind huge groups in the cramped spaces in the sewer tour.
Would I change anything?
- We would have gotten more out of the sewer tour with an actual tour instead of self-guided.
Beautiful 1br on Ile St Louis, 5 nights in a terrific apartment in a perfect location – LOCATION + QUIET + COMFORT + STYLE = WONDERFUL! (Airbnb)
Ile Saint-Louis is a charming island, busy in the daytime and a little oasis of calm after the day tripping tourists leave.
And right in the heart of Paris, a short walk over a pedestrian bridge to Notre Dame. Perfect relaxing place after out and about all day.
We flew into the Orly airport and bought the museum pass without a wait at the Tourist Information stand at the arrivals level (ground floor) near Gate A. The museum pass saves not only money, but lots of time – no waiting in line at the Louvre if you know about the entrances other than the pyramid!
Another nice feature of the pass is the ability to go as many times as you want to the sites. That’s REALLY great for the Louvre – you can plan for multiple visits of a 2-3 hours, much more relaxing.
Even with the Museum Pass, you still have to wait in line to go up the Notre Dame tower, no way around that as there are only 20 or so people allowed up at a time. Another place on our list with a short wait was to see Saint-Chapelle. The Saint-Chapelle entrance is in the government complex and the line is to get through the security.
Sandeman’s 3 hour walking tour – fun, entertaining and a whole lot of history too. Tip: Bring your jacket and umbrella! It might start out sunny but along the Seine a cool wind can have you wishing for extra layers (and socks!) in your backpack.
The walking tour ended at Place de la Concorde, plenty of time after the tour to pop into the Louvre through the Porte des Lions entrance (no waiting!).
Tip: You must have the museum pass to use the alternate entrances, the only ticketing is done through the pyramid long line entrance.
Wouldn’t it be GREAT if they didn’t allow photos in the Louvre? Ah, the digital age – people just go crazy taking pictures of themselves in front of the masterpieces, and barreling through the Louvre clicking photo after photo with barely a glance at what they are in there to see. The atmosphere in the Italian Renaissance wing, the Mona Lisa, and in front of the top pieces is frenzied. Quite a switch from any museum that doesn’t allow photography. The good news is there ARE wings that are calm, such as the Northern European wing.
The Marais and the Jewish museum
A great walk to the Musee d’art et D’Histoire du Judaisme up Rue des Rosiers in what was historically called the Little Place (Pletzl in Yiddish) with lots of Jewish shops and Yiddish/Middle East/Eastern European food. We took some Jewish specialty pastries to go.
The Jewish museum is terrific, well organized and with an audioguide.
The Pletzl had a horrific history during WWII as you can sadly imagine, one of the reminders of the Nazi terror is the commemorative plaque on Ecole de Travail, #4 Rue des Rosiers, which was originally an apprentice school.
A la mémoire du Directeur, du Personnel et des Élèves de cette École arrètés in 1943 et 1944 par la Police de Vichy et la Gestapo dèportés et exterminés a Auschwitz parce que nés Juifs
In memory of the Director of Personnel and Students of this school in 1943 and 1944 arrested by the Vichy Police and the Gestapo deported and exterminated in Auschwitz because they were born Jews
Hopped on the metro at Chatelet and zipped over to the Champs-Elysee stop to walk to the Sewer tour from there. We were looking forward to this “infrastructure” tour, which also had good reviews on TripAdvisor. It’s self-guided without an audioguide, meaning you read read read.
That wouldn’t have been bad except for the huge groups and school groups that completely blocked the tunnels. While they were given the guided tour, us poor folks who were stuck behind them had no way around and nothing to read. One of the areas that was very interesting to read board after board was the section over the open sewer. Phew! Didn’t want to linger long there! (The tour groups didn’t!) That said, it didn’t take long to go through.
Out in the fresh air for a walk along the Seine to L’Orangerie. The L’Orangerie museum was closed when we were in Paris in 2000 and we were happy to be able to see it this time around. I Loved the fact that they prevent photos in the Monet’s sweeping exhibit rooms and keep the environment peaceful for contemplating his water lilies. Just like Monet wanted it.
Notre Dame tower
Worth the long wait in line to climb the Notre Dame tower for a gargoyle view of Paris. Terrific to see those gargoyles up close, you can’t see the huge variety of chimeras and creatures from below.
Tip: The amount of people allowed up at a time is limited, the first stage is the room where people can buy their tickets, if you have the museum pass you still have to wait. Just keep your eye on the door you entered and in a few minutes you’ll be allowed to continue up the tower.
A nice walk along to Seine to the Orsay museum, and YAY! they don’t allow photos – just enjoy the art.
Tip: Find the museum pass entrance on the side farthest from the Seine, around the line of people waiting to buy tickets.
Notre Dame Cathedral
There was a long line to get into the Notre Dame Cathedral during the day, but NOT late in the afternoon. We popped in on our way back to Ile Saint Louis and had time to see behind the nave and the exhibits. We would have lingered longer but the guard was closing the gates to this section for the day. The rest of the Cathedral was still open for the afternoon mass.
Saint Chapelle and The Pompidou
The Pompidou wasn’t on my list this year, but we had plenty of time before another visit to the Louvre with a first stop to see the magnificent windows of Saint Chapelle.
Tip: Don’t get to the Pompidou before 11:00 or you’ll be standing in line with everyone else waiting for them to open.
One of the floors was closed and it didn’t take long to see the one floor available with the museum pass. Let’s go to the Louvre!
The Louvre Round Two
This time we entered the Louvre through the Passage Richelieu entrance – pass or ticket holders only, no waiting. No pass? Wait in that long line! The calm wings of Netherlands, Germanic and French paintings plus the Napolean apartments were a welcome change from the craziness in the first floor Italian wing.
A great way to end 4 days of the Museum Pass in Paris.
Travel: We flew home from Charles De Gaulle airport with a first stop in Frankfurt to get our flight to San Francisco – a fun Business Class experience in the upper deck of a United 747-400 – only 20 seats, like you’re on a private jet! A nice finish to 6 great weeks eating our way through Portugal, Northwest Spain and Paris.
Paris Handy Resource List
Cell Phone and Internet Plan
The TOP Tip: Save LOTS of money with T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan! – Unlimited international data and text. We have this plan – texting to notify your accomodations of your arrival and departure is easy and free. This is THE plan for international travel.
WIFI calling – FREE!
Turn your phone to WIFI only and if there’s WIFI where you are use WIFI calling – free and worked GREAT! If WIFI wasn’t available for calling, the T-Mobile Simple Choice international rates are only .20/minute.
- Sandeman’s New Europe Paris Free Tour
- Paris Museum Pass – Unlimited visits to sites so you can go back multiple times.
- Louvre – Closed Tuesdays
- Musee de l’Orangerie – closed Tuesdays
- Musee d’art et d’histoire du judaisme – 11-6, closed Saturday.
- Pompidou Center – opens at 11-9, closed Tuesdays
- Picasso Museum – opens in 2014, opening delayed until? Missed it this time, too bad.