Dates Visited: April 27 – May 1, 2023

Cities Visited: France

Sites Visited: The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre Museum, Arc de Triomph, Joan of Arc Statue, Sacre Coeur

Accommodations: We stayed at this Airbnb for four nights, which was a total cost of $2,108. The pros were a safe neighborhood, close to the bus stop and unbeatable views of the Eiffel Tower. The cons were that this was the daily home of the hosts, which meant it was a little cluttered with their clothes and things, so there wasn’t closet or drawer space. Small things like the master bathroom having the toilet flush broken was an inconvenience that was not disclosed to us until the day of arrival. Overall, I’d still stay here again because the pros were pretty wonderful.

I went to Paris in 1999, some 24 years ago. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to go back. I loved it then, and I loved it this time around. We had longer here than we had in any of the other countries, except Italy, and I was looking forward to the girls seeing the same sites that made me fall in love with the city all those years ago.

We arrived at night to our Airbnb, and the first thing we looked for was the promised Eiffel Tower view from the living room. It did not disappoint.

The view of the Eiffel Tower could be seen from the Master bedroom as well as the living room. Additionally, the balcony stretched the length of the condo, giving us even more space to sit out and enjoy the lights. The girls were surprised and awed when the tower sparkled – it did this at the top of every hour from dusk to 11:45 pm. The view of the Eiffel Tower was one of the highlights of the Paris stay and I was really, really thankful to have found an Airbnb with such an unobstructed view.

The following morning, our first full day in Paris, we made our way to the Louvre Museum. This involved riding the subway and taking a bus and we were very cognizant of and nervous about pickpockets. There were multiple signs warning us about them. We’d purchased anti-theft bags that we wore in front of us to be careful and we tried to find seats so as to limit the number of people around us. We were especially careful when we were in busy places like the Louvre. Luckily, we were not pick pocketed and were able to enjoy the attractions.

The Louvre is massive. There’s no way to see everything at once. It has over 33,000 pieces of art! Instead, we decided to focus our attention on the wing with the Mona Lisa and the statues. Our goals were the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, Venus Milo and anything else we happened to run across. We immediately got sidetracked by an Egyptian exhibition that we weren’t aware was going on. We saw several paintings that we recognized. Alight used to have a small print of this one that she slept with under her pillow, so we especially enjoyed seeing it:

I was looking forward to seeing the Winged Victory as it was one of my favorites from when I came the first time. I remembered seeing it at the top of the stairs and being awed when I was eighteen by it. The feeling was no less profound this time. This is a magnificent statue, made more so when you realize it was thought to have been created thousands of years ago.

Beyond this statue, my sister Mandi was looking forward to seeing the crown jewels and we were able to find those with the help of a really nice staffer who allowed us private access to several exhibitions in order to get there quickly. Other highlights included Napoleon’s apartment with original furniture and art pieces; Alight found a sword with a jade at the top that she really liked and Breathe found several crucifixes that were beautiful.

We also managed to get directly in front of the Mona Lisa — and Breathe “got” it, just as I do! It’s funny because I don’t see it in replicas of the painting. When I look at a reproduction, it’s not even a particularly pretty painting. But when you’re standing in front of it — I get it. Her eyes do appear to track you and there is something about her that makes it hard to look away. This was a highlight for me and for Breathe of the Louvre.

We had fun outside the Louvre, too, taking silly pictures like this one:

and classic ones like this:

Ultimately, we stayed at the Louvre for nearly three and a half hours, exploring various rooms, before we moved on. From there, we went to see the Joan of Arc statue and grab lunch from a nearby cafe.

We also spent time exploring the Eiffel Tower up close and personal. The Eiffel Tower Village, which is in front of the Tower, is crowded with many vendors set up selling everything from sparkling towers to berets to pens. There’s a double level carousel and cotton candy and photo ops. It’s a very busy place to be, but this was a highlight of Paris.

Alight, me and Alissia in front of the Eiffel Tower, April 2023

People ran into the middle of the street to get centered pictures of the Tower. We did this, too, but honestly there’s not a bad view of this thing. On the very long cross continental flight, I watched the movie Eiffel which told, in part, the story of its commission and building. Fittingly, it’s a love story in and of itself.

One of the main goals of France was to track down authentic macaroons and chocolate banana crepes. I’d had one of those crepes in 1999 and have been searching for its match since. Alight loves macaroons. We found both! I’d researched and found Pierre Hermes is regarded as one of the best macaroon chefs — he has a shop on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, but he also has an independent shop, which we thought might be slightly less than the Tower. So, from the Village at the Tower, we took a cab to the Pierre Hermes shop. A box of 12 macaroons ran me $42.93 but it was worth it for the joy it bought Alight. I’d had a hard time deciding between Pierre’s shop and Laudree — but because Pierre created that shop, we went with his independent one. I was happily surprised when, walking through the Paris airport, we saw a Laudree macaroon bar — so Alight got both!

We also visited the Arc de Triomph

and Sacre-Coeur. Sacre-Coeur, 24 years ago, did not have the funicular that it does now, which meant that getting to the top was a lot easier today then it used to be. The crowds, though, were insane and we didn’t stay long.

Breathe and Mandi, my sister, in front of Sacre-Coeur

Our last day in Paris, and our last day of the Grand European Tour, was a special one: it was to be spent at Disneyland Paris! Disneyland Paris was an hour away from our Airbnb, so we started early. Me, Mandi, Alissia and Alight were ready to party all day — and it was a good thing because we wound up being there for about 8 hours.

Tickets for Disneyland Paris are less expensive (as is everything) than DisneyWorld in Orlando, and the fun started before you even entered the park. At the first gift shop, we had such fun trying on ears and picking out an autograph book for Alissia to carry around. The autograph book was important because the first thing we had to do, before any rides or anything at all, was meet Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse is special to Alissia. She sleeps with a big Mickey pillow. She loves this mouse. The line to meet him was 55 minutes but, true to Disney form, even the waiting had been thoughtfully planned. We passed the hour wait time by watching Mickey Mouse movies:

Mickey was lovely. Mickey hugged her, drew a heart around her face, twirled her around, signed her autograph book and, generally, charmed Alissia.

Mickey won the day, but the entire amusement park was in top notch form. Yes, there were differences between the American version and the French — the castle was different, for instance. And there weren’t really as many rides geared towards teens as there are at the American parks. We waited in line for anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour for rides, we didn’t wait in line at all for food (or a table to sit at) and Alissia, in her own words, “had a blast!” Alight and Mandi enjoyed the Tower of Terror, Avengers ride and a couple of others while I took Alissia to Toy Story Land and rode everything. My favorite was the magic carpet ride.

We grabbed a Bolt ride (similar to Uber) back to the Airbnb, and we were wiped out.

As we walked through the park, Alissia said softly, “I’m really, really happy.” Paris, in general, left us all feeling the same way.