Prior to a Viking River Cruise, my husband, Eddie, and I finally realized our dream of seeing Paris, France, together after nearly thirty years of dreaming about it. We flew into Charles DeGaulle, and then were brought by bus and Viking River Cruises to the Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel, our digs while in the city. Viking includes a city tour, which we gladly obliged, shooting pictures as fast as we could because let’s face it, the scenery is epic pretty much everywhere you go.
If you haven’t been to Paris, here is a whirlwind visit through the pictures that I took. I spent way more time enjoying the views rather than learning the facts and history of each building (which is quite unusual for me), but I enjoyed getting to explore the City of Light, and it’s bustling shops and attractions.
The Eiffel Tower
Seeing the Eiffel Tower is probably a bucket list item for most travelers. I was glad that after 50 years of life, I was able to check it off mine. The Eiffel Tower is smack dab in the heart of the busy town and a major tourist attraction. It is more beautiful in person than I could ever have imagined. I really liked walking underneath the tower and seeing the views and intricate ironworks.
The Eiffel Tower is massive, much bigger than I anticipated. For a fee, you can ride the elevator to the top, which we didn’t take time to do. It is a really busy area with armed guards and plenty of security. I was also surprised to see how many vendors and street performers were around this part of town.
A Seine Sightseeing Cruise
I felt that the best way to see Paris is by a sightseeing cruise of the Seine. It wasn’t expensive and the Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches boats are offered often, so you don’t have to wait around. We had incredible views and photo-ops of the 37 stunning bridges in Paris (my fave is the Pont Alexandre III ), and the biggies: the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Pick a spot at the front of the boat for the best photo-ops. The narrated tour is really good and gives you a historic account of many things you are seeing. From museums to shopping areas, it was money well spent.
You may want to ride the gorgeous carousel while you are in this part of town.
More Stunning Architecture
You can see from my pictures that the boat cruise was a great way to see a lot of Paris in a short time. The boat has indoor and outdoor seating, and is adaptable for all kinds of weather. Here are a few more Paris, France, pictures from that excursion.
Our Tantalizing Food
You can’t go to Paris and not enjoy the gooey cheese dishes, fresh fish and seafood, and impeccable wines. Then there are the French fries, not really a native of Paris, but they are really freaking good there.
The Croque Monsieur is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches, and the ones in Paris are unbelievably delicious. Basically a glorified baked or boiled ham sandwich with grated Emmental or Gruyère cheese, then topped with a toothsome béchamel sauce and baked. Great day in the morning this sandwich is good morning, noon, and night.
Salads are also a great option for a full and satisfying meal. I don’t know how the same food combination tastes different 4500 miles away, but it does. I always look for the salads with chicken, salmon, egg, and or high-end French cheeses. And while this is far from Italy, the pasta dishes are exceptional. I know because I sampled quite a few of them. The pizza and coffee were both worth mentioning, too.
Paris also offers extraordinary pastries and fantastic macarons (not pronounced the same as macaroons, the coconut haystack cookies). Macarons made correctly have a chewy texture but rich, buttery flavor. These round sandwich cookies come in a variety of flavors, like pistachio, strawberry, coffee, rose, and lavender.
Sightseeing Around Paris
The tour with Viking Cruises drove us through along the riverside Champs-Elysees promenade, around the Arc de Triomphe, and the Palais Garnier opera house. Though I first laid eyes on the Louvre Museum from my boat cruise, seeing the I.M. Pei-designed glass entrance was incredible. Other points of interest along the ride were the Musee d’Orsay, Grand Palais, and Petit Palais.
Later that afternoon, we had a tour inside the Notre Dame Cathedral, known for its precious history, Gothic spires, and elegant facade. The next morning, imagine our shock as we watched the beloved Parisian Cathedral burning only blocks from us in a devastating and tragic event for the whole world.
Notre Dame Cathedral: 12 Hours Before the Fire
The most famous medieval Catholic Notre Dame Cathedral, was built over 200 years, from 1163-1345. It’s vertical towers and flying buttresses make it easy to identify. I love the statues depicting The Last Judgment around the central portal. Inside the cathedral, its stained glass art, marble, sculptures, and light fixtures are truly jaw-dropping. The most special features are the three 13th-century rose windows, primarily blue and red in color, signifying the purity of the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ.
In 1991, Notre Dame was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. I visited the landmark 12 hours before it caught fire and shocked the world. What an eerie feeling to have been one of the last people inside this magnificent historical attraction. I actually visited the cathedral twice in one day; once with our guided Viking River Cruises land tour, and once a few hours later when the lines had died down some.
Where I Stayed in Paris
Our accommodations were at the Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel, in Montparnasse. It holds the largest conference center in Paris with a 1,200-seat auditorium and numerous meeting rooms. The 4-star Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel has a stunning lobby, noteworthy customer service, onsite restaurant (R’Yves), fitness center, and the rooms offer spectacular views, quality beds and linens, and super quick Wifi. I loved the deep soaking tub, an unexpected room fixture.
The hotel is close to both the Montparnasse Train Station and Denfert-Rochereau Station.
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