Our fourth day was certainly one of the craziest days but one of the most memorable as we fit so many sights into our day by going first to the Louvre, walking through the Jardins des Tuileries and down the Champs-Elysées, to the Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides and the Musée de l’Armée, and finally, the Eiffel Tower!
Musée du Louvre
Address: Musée du Louvre, 75001 Paris
Hours: 9h-18h Wednesdays-Mondays (ie. Closed on Tuesdays)
Métro ligne and stop: to Palais Royal
The Louvre is one of those super touristy places but also one that you just kind of have to go visit. I’m a terrible tourist and I become easily annoyed with other tourists so my brother and I regularly woke up with the first signs of sun (around 5 am) to be ready to be to any of our busier destinations when they first opened.
Many people flock to Winged Victory (which– surprise! Had been refurbished since high school and I felt very old) and the Mona Lisa. Selfie sticks abound and, although they are discouraged or outright forbidden in most places, people just DGAF. The Louvre is MASSIVE. You just can’t do it all in one day and you will get lost. Aside from the main famous painting and sculptures, I recommend enjoying the courtyard of French sculptures in the Richelieu wing.
Napoleon III’s personal apartments in Richelieu (we got super lost despite having a map and I have no tips for you in this regard. A compass or tracking the north star, maybe):
French paintings of the 18th c in Sully (my brother and I had to time this shot perfectly in order to be able to sneak in front of the painting while being unobtrusive and also while eluding any passersby; level: EXPERT):
An attraction that many passed were the medieval moats beneath the Cour Carée; part of a 12th c defensive fortress that fell into disuse but was the beginning of the Louvre (again, no pictures as flash is not allowed and it is rather dark in that area). The most exciting thing about the Louvre, to me, is that it began as a defensive castle and has been expanded upon throughout the years and was built into a royal residence in the 14th c by Charles V. From then on, various monarchs built on top of this site and expanded upon it and it remained the royal residence for French monarchs until Louis XIV moved the royal court to Versailles. The building itself has grown and evolved, the art within reflects various time periods and cultures throughout history and both continue to evolve today.
We likely spent 4 or 5 hours there. We did a lot on that particular day and looking back, I have no idea how we fit so much in this day. Toward the end, we stopped at the shops at the Galérie du Carrousel (it is like an underground mall) where my brother and I were somehow just so in love with Maille (yes, the mustard shop). They have so many different types of mustards (and jams) and you can taste each. I think we were just extremely hungry because it was 1pm or 2pm at this point but we loved Maille and bought many gifts (I still have some of the mustard. That Balsamic Vinaigrette mustard is money well spent and I will buy more from the internet as soon as we run out). I also bought the best, most fantastic purse I have ever owned: LONGCHAMPS LE PLIAGE. Look, I know this is the basic-est of basic bitch bags but I don’t even care because it is so sturdy and wipes clean so well. I will never own another brand of bag and I will probably even use it as a baby bag when I have kids. The perk of buying it in France itself is the price. Here in the US it retails for $125 but because of the lack of import/export taxes, it worked out to be closer to $90.
My brother and I thought eating at the museum would be expensive so we skipped it and decided to continue on our journey for that day through the Jardin des Tuileries
where we stopped at a crêperie. My brother got a banana and Nutella crêpe while I got banana, Nutella, and shredded coconut. I had to force myself to take this picture, honestly because I wanted to just shove this whole thing in my mouth like a maniac. We sat on a park bench and ate our food because (and I’m just inserting this for those who may not know) the French don’t walk and eat or drink coffee like we do and you will just look out of place. This may not matter to you but I want to blend in so I wouldn’t be robbed by gypsies. 🤷🏻♀️
How often do you really just enjoy a walk through the park? It was so refreshing to walk and enjoy it. We had a purpose and a place to go but it reminded me how, on a day to day basis, I don’t just observe everything around me. It was a nice mild and sunny day. The plan was to walk down the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe (the itinerary for this day mostly mirrored one day’s itinerary from a trip in high school).
Arc de Triomphe
Address: Arc de Triomphe, Place Charles-de-Gaulle, 75008 Paris
Hours: 10h-22h30 every day (hours vary by season and there are some closing days so check their site)
Cost: 12€; 9€ for non-EU students; free for minors, EU students, and disabled
Métro ligne and stop: to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile
We walked down the Champs-Elysées (the Michigan Ave./5th Ave. of Paris) and thought about sitting at a café but ultimately did not because $$$. It truly wasn’t awful (none of the places really were) but we were trying to minimize cost and eating out certainly adds up! My brother maintains we stopped at a Starbucks on the CE. Not sure on that one.
You should be looking out for pick-pockets wherever you go but because this is such a crowded area with shoppers and café seating all on one sidewalk, it is very easy to be pickpocketed. My purse was open because I had taken my trench off and stuffed it in there, confident it was so firmly packed that it became an impenetrable fortress; I was correct but it didn’t stop a Romani woman from sticking her hand in and trying! I hate to stereotype but I’m just going to throw it out there that both times I was in Paris, there were attempts by Romani/gypsies to pickpocket me. Always keep your valuables nearby and zipped up. In high school, I had a zippered and snap crossbody bag that I kept visible (I.e. the body of the purse not flipped to the back); this time, I had a handbag that zipped (the zipper part sitting essentially in my armpit when worn). Don’t put anything in any non-zippered pockets including butt pockets on your pants. I wore a secondhand J.Crew blazer that had a handy breastpocket that was perfect for storing my passport and Metro tickets close at hand. My trench also had nice hidden inner pockets.
So on the Champs-Elysées, I saw, quite by accident, this fun little placard, another reminder of the close friendship the US had with France in the infancy of our state:
“In this place resided Thomas Jefferson, US foreign minister to France 1785-1789, US President 1801-1809, author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia; this plaque was dedicated (it actually translates closer to “placed or affixed” but I just don’t think we’d say it that way) April 13, 1919 by University of Virginia alumni”
So our next intended stop was l’Arc de Triomphe which holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and an eternal flame lit in memory of all the soldiers who died for France in both world wars. You must take an underground access tunnel from the Champs-Elysées to line up for the entrance of the Arc de Triomphe because it is situated in the middle of the craziest roundabout I have ever seen at Place Charles de Gaulle/Place de l’Étoile. I don’t recall there being a fee to actually set foot upon Place de l’Étoile when I went in high school or that it was so incredibly busy to get up there (I do remember there being a cost to go on top of the Arc). We didn’t want to wait or pay so we skipped it. I did visit this in high school and it was certainly interesting to see the changing of the guards at the tomb as well as to climb to the very top of the Arch and be able to look out on the city and at the traffic below.
After passing on the Arc, we went up the stairs to the nearest metro at Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile and headed to Les Invalides.
To get there, take at CDG Étoile toward Chateau de Vincenne and disembark at Champs-Elysées/Clemenceau. Then, transfer to toward Chatillon-Montrouge and disembark at Varenne (NOT Invalides unless you intend to take a bus the rest of the way). Then you must walk about 5 minutes to the museum.
Address: Place des Invalides, 75007 Paris
Hours: 1 April – 31 October every day 10h-18h, 1 November-31 March every day 10h-17h
Cost: 11€, free for children younger than 12
Métro ligne and stop: to Varenne
Let me tell you something: France loves Napoléon I. I can’t presume to know what the exact feeling is. He was a phenomenal military leader but I wouldn’t be surprised if the sentiment is/was that he brought back prestige and power to France while retaining the ideals of the Revolution after the bloody regret of the Reign of Terror where its leaders became corrupt in the wake of the coup. He was initially buried on St. Helena, his place of exile, but his remains were brought in a state funeral procession approximately 8 1/2 years later to St. Jerome’s Chapel and then its current resting place in a sarcophagus at Les Invalides the following year. The building was constructed specifically for this purpose and has a gold dome that can be seen from multiple landmarks throughout the city.
My brother is also interested in military history so we visited the on-site military museum that features uniforms, artillery, and artifacts from multiple wars and campaigns fought by the French throughout history.
To give you an idea of our timeline for the day, we arrived at approximately 4:30 pm and left as they were closing at 6pm.
There isn’t a very direct way to get to the Eiffel Tower so we walked. It is approximately a 25 minute walk but the majority of the walk is through the park (Champ de Mars) leading up to the actual structure.
Address: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole
Hours: 9h-12h every day (hours vary by season and there are some closing days so check their site)
Cost: this varies depending upon your age and prices have actually gone up since we visited so check their site; in general, the cost for adults is 17€, 12-24 year 14,50€ and 4-11 years is 8€ to take the elevator to the summit; it is otherwise free
Métro ligne and stop: to Bir-hakeim or to Trocadéro (and then cross then bridge, Pont d’Iéna)
We got here probably around 6 pm, took a few pictures, and then realized we were famished. We walked around, pondered a few cafés or carts, and ultimately walked down a ways to a nearby restaurant that was more expensive than what we would have liked by virtue of being near the Eiffel Tower (the food was honestly the most disappointing of the entire trip). We didn’t care at that point, though, because I really think up until that point our food consisted of toast with jam, yogurt, and crêpes (and possibly Starbucks coffee and a pastry, according to my brother).
After that sojourn, we returned to the Eiffel tower whose crowds had thinned out a little bit as we approached the end of the day. My brother suggested we go to the top because he thought there was a restaurant up there. Now, when I was in high school, none of us wanted to pay the money or wait in line to go to the top and I think we were all under the impression there was nothing up there. I didn’t even consider it when I was planning this trip because I assumed that, in order to save money, it would be much the same. Fortunately, my brother was differently informed because when we made our way up to the summit:
What! You guys, there was a little café with swings, recycled bean bags, and afro-Caribe dance music; a gourmet restaurant (58 Tour Eiffel), a club, and a gift shop. The club was currently being used to film a TV show. It was so lively and great and you couldn’t tell from the ground that all of that activity was happening up there. Best of all, we were able to see the transition from day to night (it was overcast so there was no visible sunset to speak of).
For timeline purposes, we bought our tickets at about a quarter to 9pm and probably got to the summit a half hour later (latitude-wise, France is further north so in the summer, their sunset it later than it would be in Chicago). The sun set around 10 pm after which time my brother and I walked around, explored, and took pictures before returning to the ground. There were a lot of younger people sitting on the grass at Champ de Mars with bottles of champagne and listening to music. It was a fun atmosphere but, as you can see from reading this incredibly long post that took me multiple days to write, my brother and I were exhausted from our full day.
We wandered around a bit because I didn’t have return directions back to our room but once we found a station, we were easily on our way but were fortunate to see the tower twinkling in the distance before we ended our incredible day.