Day 1. Arrived at Hotel Pavillon Louvre Rivoli, Paris, and met my daughter, Michelle. For the first day, we hopped on the Hop-on Hop-off Bus to get a lay of the land. We took the Blue line which covers Montmartre, Pigalle-Moulin Rouge, and the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. We disembarked at Montmartre and took the funicular to the top of the hill to view the Basilique. A magnificent view of the city is offered at this the highest point in Paris. We were short on time this day, but we knew we wanted to come back to explore these atmospheric streets.
Day 2. We took the Hop-on Hop-off bus Red line which covers the Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Opera Garnier, Louvre-Pyramide, Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, Champs-Elysees, Grand Palais, and Trocadero. We noticed that there was a free guided walking tour of the Islands (Ile de la Cite) and planned our arrival to include this tour. Of course, we toured the Notre Dame Cathedral, France’s most celebrated cathedral. We were equally impressed with Ste.-Chapelle, a Gothic masterpiece built by Louis IX in the mid-13th Century to house relics (such as the crown of thorns and pieces of the True Cross). Original stained glass windows with 1100 intricate biblical scenes transform the upper chapel into a translucent jewelry box. We wandered through the Paris Flower Market, a unique and romantic place to browse the colorful market stalls and feel the pulse of the real city of Paris. We had lunch at a typical Paris Brasserie on the Island.I bought a small painting of a Paris street scene before hopping on the bus.
Day 3. Today we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower which was built for the 1889 Universal Exhibition on the centenary of the French Revolution. It was a Holiday and people were out in masses--a good thing we had pre-arranged for our tour. The panoramic views of the city from the top are breathtaking. We strolled the Champs-Elysees and had lunch there. Had a lovely dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Day 4. Today we embarked on a guided tour of the Palace of Versailles and the Petit Trianon. In 1624 Louis XIII built a hunting lodge near a village called Versailles which was later transformed into Europe’s greatest palace. Louis XIV had a great interest in Versailles. In 1661 began a detailed renovation and expansion of the château. This was done to fulfill Louis XIV's desire to establish a new centre for the royal court which was officially established there on 6 May 1682. The palace is a masterpiece of Royal Architecture. Situated to the west of the palace, the gardens cover some 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in the classic French Garden style perfected here by André Le Nôtre. The massive gardens and 15 groves are decorated with fountains, vases, and statues, accessed by secret paths. The design includes a grand canal.
The Petit Trianon built in 1762 is a small château located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles as a place for the private use of Louis XV and Madame Pompadour. It stands in the middle of a “Garden of Plants.” Louis XVI gave it to Marie-Antoinette. She turned it into an English-style park and hamlet. The tour of the palace and the massive gardens, groves, and fountains and the Petit Trianon took all day. We had a lovely lunch on the grounds of the Petit Trianon and a nice dinner in a restaurant near the hotel.
Day 5. Today we took a guided tour to Giverny to tour Claude Monet’s
House and Gardens which I had read much about and was really one of the main reasons for this trip. Monet created an ideal home for his family, a haven protected from the outside world
and surrounded by the countryside. This was also the place that he gained recognition as a major artist after years of rejection. Upon entering the gardens, my breath was literally taken
away. I have never seen such a massive display of gorgeous varieties and colors
of flower ring plants. The house and gardens were conceived as a work of art and where he painted his Water Lilly series, one of the seminal works of 20th century art. We later viewed these paintings at the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris.
Also included was a tour of Auvers-sur-Oise where Vincent Van Gogh spent his last 73 days. Auvers-sur-Oise has remained the charming and peaceful artists’ colony that captivated Van Gogh. At the heart of the village the Auberge Ravoux, known since 1926 as the House of Van Gogh, harbors the last room of Vincent which we toured. He produced over 80 paintings while he lived here. He is buried in a small village cemetery alongside his brother, Theo. We were able to view paintings by both Monet and Van Gogh at the museums we later visited in Paris.
Day 6. Guided tour of Musee d’Orsay. Once a railway station,
the building has been beautifully restored and now features European paintings, sculpture, drawing, decorative arts and photography between 1848
and 1914. The collection is a greatest-hits feast of Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, Vincent Van Gogh and other superstars alongside equally magnificent works by their lesser-known contemporaries.
We took a stroll down the open-air market street of Rue Cler which introduces you to a thriving Parisian neighborhood and its local culture. The streets are lined with shops--wine, cheese, bread, chocolate--and pleasant cafes. It retains the work-day charm of village Paris.
That evening we took a Seine River Cruise enjoying the city of lights at night. The cruise ended docked at the Eiffel Tower where it was lit with a million lights. And on the hour, the tower put on a spectacular light show where all million lights blinked/sparkled for 5 minutes. Bravo!
Day 7. A guided tour of the Louvre was planned for today. The Louvre is not only one of the world’s great museums, but it is one of the world’s greatest historical sites. The palace was home to medieval kings and in the mid-19th century, to Emperor Napoleon III. It has retained the impressive collections of its former residents. Some of the most significant pieces are the Statue of Nike, Winged Victory of Samothrace, Jacques-Louis David’s The Coronation of Napoleon, Artemis with a Doe, Venus De Milo. And of course, the most famous painting, the Mona Lisa (surrounded by 500 Chinamen snapping Selfies).
We walked across the Jardin des Tuileries to the Musee de l‘Orangerie. The formal lawns and
woodlandspaces of this 63-acre garden offered spectacular views of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, a striking statue of Napoleon I in a chariot drawn by four horses. The gardens with its
fountains and ponds, formal flowerbeds, benches and numerous statues, including 20 bronzes, remains a popular oasis for Parisians and
The Musee de l’Orangarie is famous for housing Claude Monet’s Nympheas, a series of eight water-lily paintings. Painted between 1914 and 1918 they offer a stunning evocation of the beauty of his garden at Giverny which we had visited earlier in the week. The vast scale of the paintings is impressive--each are 6’ high and arranged in two groups, one representing dusk, the other sunrise. These paintings areacknowledged to be among the greatest works of 20th Century art.
Day 8. Montmartre. When we first visited here on day 1, we knew we wanted to come back so we booked a guided walking tour. Perched on a hilltop, Montmartre captures the essence of Old Paris like no other neighborhood. The signature landmark is the magnificent Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. The city’s winding streets that slope down from the basilica show its real character. The cobblestone roads with their romantic street lamps evoke a sense of the late 19th century when artists flocked to this once tiny village that became synonymous with high bohemian living. We followed in the footsteps of its famous residents where Pablo Picasso once painted and the Moulin de la Galette, the windmill, was immortalized by Renoir.
Summary. We had a remarkable time in this beautiful city with its striking architecture of every period from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century. We were able to accomplish everything we planned. It did take some planning--we set an itinerary and then booked all tours in advance for each day. Viator.com was our go-to site for making reservations. We stayed in a small boutique hotel near the Louvre which we found to be an excellent location. We ate in many of the small restaurants within a block or two from the hotel. The food was always excellent as was the service. The French people were delightful, friendly, and helpful. Michelle had brushed up on her French and used it as much as she could, but I noticed that a lot of people spoke English and we had no problem communicating. As an experienced international traveler and foodie, Michelle was also able to use her experience to search out great places for dinner and she was able to negotiate the metro which helped us to get around this very large city. This was a dream-come-true for me. And always a pleasure to spend quality time with my daughter. Merci beaucoup!