After my work meeting in London, we decided to add some extra vacation days and travel. Paris was number one on the list. I’d been to Paris once, but didn’t get to explore much at all. Gen had been in Paris once for an hour when she was traveling through Europe during her college semester abroad in Lancaster. Aman had been pestering to see the Eiffel Tower for the past 6 months. So Paris was a no-brainer.
We settled on only a long weekend in Paris since it was too expensive to stay for a whole week, and we wanted to have some peace and quiet time (i.e. not Paris!). We took the Eurostar from London St. Pancras into Gare du Nord in Paris on Friday. I love the Eurostar; despite the higher cost and longer time (compared to flying) it is so much more relaxing — no long security lines, no rushing for luggage space, no cramped seats.
Because we were there for only a short time (and it was very hard to find hotels), we splurged and stayed right near Parc Trocadero. We got to the hotel around mid afternoon, dropped our bags off and went out. Our first stop was a cafe on Trocedero circle. Sitting at a sidewalk cafe, with a view of the Eiffel Tower, watching the world flow by — definitely felt like a Parisian experience to us! After our snack we headed across the street to the Eiffel Tower. Aman was ecstatic!
Aman wanted to go up the Tower. The lines for the elevators were too long, so we opted to take the stairs. We made it up to the second level to some great views.
That was pretty much it for the day. We had had to get up pretty early that morning in Woking to catch the train to London in time for the Eurostar, so we were pretty tired, and turned in early for the night.
I set the alarm pretty early the next morning to catch sunrise. With Gen and Aman still sleeping, I slipped out and made my way over to the Palais de Chaillot, overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
I returned to the hotel and we had breakfast at the delightful hotel courtyard. Our only definite plan for the day was to hit the Louvre. Instead of taking the Metro, we decided to play the tourist and take a riverboat (the choice was made easier by the fact that we were staying a 10-min walk from the riverboat stop). We decided to take the boat to the Notre Dame first.
The line to enter the cathedral was pretty long, but it moved quite quickly, and so we were able to get in without too much problem. I don’t know what it was, maybe the light, maybe the crowds shuffling along, but I just didn’t find it as impressive as when I visited St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. So after quick round, we left.
From the Notre Dame, we walked along the Seine for just about a mile to the Louvre. The Louvre truly is a wondrous place. We spent only a couple of hours before Aman got tired and we barely scratched the surface. So many rooms, packed with so many artifacts. The undoubted highlight for me was seeing the Code of Hammurabi, the oldest preserved code of law (from 1772 BC) – I’d read about it and seeing it in real life right in front my eyes was just breathtaking. I wish we had several more days to explore it all, but it just means that we have an excuse to return.
It was mid afternoon by the time we returned to the hotel for a nap. Refreshed after the nap, we headed over to Tour Montparnasse for sunset views. The open-air roof-top terrace was fantastic, with 360° views of Paris. But here I faced my biggest regret of the trip. The terrace has a glass wall but with an opening at about head height for photographers. In order to save space and weight, I’d brought my travel tripod — and unfortunately, it extends only about chest height, nowhere near enough to clear the glass barrier. Shooting through the glass on the tripod at lower height was an option I couldn’t clear the terrace overhang that extended beyond the glass wall. So my only option was to shoot hand-held. I’d been looking forward to shooting from the Tour Montparnasse, and I was really disappointed to not be able to get some nice long exposures. Thankfully, I still had by 35mm f/1.4 and 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lenses, so the evening wasn’t a total loss.
The next morning we woke up to be greeted with a light rain. That wasn’t going to deter us, so armed with our umbrellas, we stepped out. We walked over to the Arc de Triomphe. We broke for a little snack on the Champs Elysees, and by the time we were done, the rain had stopped. We walked along the Champs Elysees down to Petit Palais, then over Pont Alexandre III, lunch on Rue Cler, hung out at the Eiffel Tower and along the Seine, before coming back to the hotel.
That night, after dinner, and after Gen and Aman had gone to bed, I went out for one last shoot. Being so close to Trocadero helped, because I was at the Palais de Chaillot in 10 minutes, and this time my tripod was the right size for some decent shots of the Eiffel Tower.
Unlike my last trip to Paris, this time I got to explore the city and really loved it. Paris is a beautiful city, with gorgeous architecture pretty much all over. It is a photographer’s dream, with so many interesting scenes around every corner, sitting out in the open or just down the alley.
From Paris we were off to Italy next. The next morning (Monday), we took a taxi over to Paris Orly airport. Foolishly, I hadn’t figured there would be traffic going OUT of the city in the morning and we barely made caught our flight on time (got to the airport 35 minutes before departure).
Then we were off on our Italian adventure.