I’ve been trying to devise the best way to present my France material. Do I try to slim down my stories or do I basically word vomit information to you. Unfortunately for you (or maybe fortunately if you actually read these things) I’m going with the latter. If you prefer to wait till the end, I’ll probably create some sort of itinerary post with just the basics. but WHAT FUN WOULD THAT BE. So Day 1 Itenerary: Musee de L’Armee, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées
Our flight got us in around 11 in the morning and after little to no sleep on the plane, we were ready to hit the ground running. I’d previously google maps’d how to get from the airport to our hotel to leave our luggage and it looked REALLY easy. I’m talking 2 train lines. 1 transfer. less than 5 minutes of walking. Boom. Want to know what really happened? We got there and B-lined for the train. Bought out tickets to Paris city center using the ticket kiosk. Cool. Get on the RER C as expected. Cool. Only 15 minutes into the journey an announcement is made in French on the train and EVERYONE (including people with luggage) Gets off. We asked a few people if they were going into Paris and they said yes so we hopped off along with them…. at a bus station where there were queues of people lined up to board buses. OK NOT IN THE PLAN. The buses took us then to Gare du Nord where we once again had to ask where to go. (google maps was NOT being helpful) We took this next train to a stop that was somewhat near the Louvre…. which hey we needed to pick up our Museum Pass over there anyways so.. detour!
It took us about 15 minutes to walk to the office, then another 15 minutes of waiting in a queue to get the passes Then looking at google, it would take equal time to walk to our hotel or take the metro (about 20 minutes) so we decided to walk. And a lovely walk it was! We glimpsed just about everything we had plans to see but it was HOT and we had dragged our bags probably 2.5 miles by the time we finally reached our hotel. At 3. Late enough to check in. haha Totally not what had been planned but hey we checked in, we already had our museum pass tickets. We were set. We were hungry. So we changed clothes and headed out in want of our first French meal.. but it had to be fast cause museums start closing at 5. We ended up at a small creperie stand right next to the Musee de l’armee. Braden wimped out and got a panini but the crepe stuffed full of eggs, ham, and cheese I got was heavenly. (BONUS I TOTALLY ORDERED THAT MEAL 100% IN FRENCH BOOYAA)
So stop 1: The Musee De L’Armee: As the name suggests it is a “national military museum that was created in 1905 with the merger of the Musée d’Artillerie and the Musée Historique de l’Armée. The museum’s seven main spaces and departments contain collections that span the period from antiquity through the 20th century.” Meaning this museum, like others, is MASSIVE. We saw a good amount of it, but in our hurried 1.5 hour tour I doubt we saw it all.
Opening times: April- October it is open from 10-6 PM
November – March it is open from 10-5 PM
Ticket prices: 11 euros* during the summer at least, children under 12 are free
Tickets can be purchased online and printed in order to skip the line
However museum AND Napoleon’s Tomb are included in the Museum Pass (a better way to skip the line)
*There are concerts and special events that happen at the museum and are extra. The 11e only grants access to museum exhibits and tomb.
Not actually heading to the entrance but I liked the shrub symmetry so had to get a photo of it.
Huge sculpture at the entrance to the museum courtyard.
The inner courtyard of the museum which is on both sides and then there is a chapel straight ahead.
So Musee De L’armee. Probably one of the lesser busy big museums to visit. Very short security queue compared to the others and with our museum passes, we walked right in after. You start to the right (we were informed) but honestly I don’t see it mattering. In the right grand hall you will have A LOT OF ARMOR. It’s amazing and mind blowing, and was probably my favorite room in the museum. In the left hall is a bunch of mannequins on horses showing the different uniforms and battle wear used during the time of Napoleon( or something like that) And the best part are the walls lined with the most elaborate musket handles you’ll ever lay eyes on. Really amazing. Then as you walk through the other parts of the museum you’ll come across A. a lot more armor but not set up on display as well. B. some cool Oriental rooms show casing some of their battle gear. and C. a lot of weapons. There is also a very large room full of miniatures to showcase uniforms and also a museum at the very top that shows pretty large scale models of fortresses around France. (mont st. michel is actually one and was my favorite model to look at) Once you’re done perusing the various battle equipment in the museum. (it took us like 1.5 to walk through everything reading descriptions occasionally) you head out towards the back right of the museum (from where you entered) to go to Napoleon’s Tomb.
Full set of armor. You’ll see a lot of these and all we could think about was how EXPENSIVE these were back then (and still would be) and how cool it is that these survived the test of time. We wondered privately what stories a lot of the armor could tell us about the people who donned them.
Really beautiful helmet that did belong to one of the Kings, whoops cut it out of the shot.
We really loved the intricate musket handles they had on display. Like seriously, who wields a gun like this?
The chapel at the far end of the museum. You can see through those windows Napoleon’s Tomb however to get in there, you have to exit the chapel and go to the right corner where it connects to the other side from the courtyard.
The domb above Napoleon’s Tomb
Napoleon’s Tomb was pretty. dang. cool. Honestly I was pretty in love with the building and architecture itself, but it was a pretty momentous feeling standing in there. If you aren’t into battle stuff, that’s cool, but I’d probably still check out the tomb anyways.
Braden in front of the tomb itself. Just a giant tomb. no big deal.
The gold dipped domb in close up.
The garden just outside Napoleon’s Tomb. Our hotel was basically in between the Eiffel Tower and this museum so we saw a lot of them going back and forth each day.
After that we caught a bus from right outside the museum down to the Arc de Triomphe. Very little walking which was great since we were already at 20,000+ steps for the day. The arc is SO much bigger in person then you would imagine. You imagine the Eiffel Tower as huge but the translation for the arc de triumph, at least in my mind, did not equate in size.
Braden posing with the Arc.
Our museum pass covered climbing to the top so we snapped a photo from across the road then headed for the stairs that take you to a tunnel UNDER the round about. PLEASE DON’T ATTEMPT TO JWALK THIS THING. There was so much traffic it made me cringe to see families with small children darting across the multi lane, VERY BUSY, roundabout. There’s stairs for a reason. Use them. Anywho as you walk through the tunnel you may notice a queue building up. That’s to climb if you don’t already have tickets. TADA Museum pass saves the day! Our wait to go through security took less than 5 minutes and we were on our way up. A long way up. Come prepared or buy one of the 1 euro water bottles the marketing genius set up outside the tunnel is selling. You first top off at a small almost museum area inside the arch (which is a pretty big interior giving even more emphasis on the SIZE of this thing) then you take another stair case up to the top and outside. All stair cases are one way which was a REALLY nice change after the narrow stair cases in Italy that were 2 way.
the view from the top! Oh my SO WORTH IT. You can see everything although the Eiffel Tower is highlighted probably the best. But Montmantre is also easily seen plus the roads all going in different directions from where you are standing is a pretty cool feeling. I read a lot of reviews of the best roof top views in Paris and compared photos of them to see which I actually wanted to do. This may surprise you but I actually had little to no desire to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Why? Because whatever views of the city I wanted, I wanted that structure included in them lol. So the plan was Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame for our climbs and we’d call it good. After a few (33982579328 photos) from the top we began our descent, which seeing as that staircase is almost a perfect spiral all the way down, I was clinging to the bannister I got so dizzy so use caution.
Views from the top. The road on the right is the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous shopping boulevards in the world. It also heads toward the Louvre.
The Arc de Triomphe Paris, the most monumental of all triumphal arches, was built between 1806 and 1836. The triumphal arch was built in honor of those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. Engraved on the inside and at the top of the arch are all of the names of the generals and wars fought. There is also a grave for the unknown soldier under the vault of the arch which was added following WWI in 1921. The Arc de Triomphe is an incredible 162 ft tall, 150 ft wide and 72 ft deep. The vault is 95.8 ft high and 48ft wide. You will have to climb 284 steps to the top but the view is quite rewarding.
Arc de Triomphe Practical Information:
Cost: Adults are 8 euros, students / ages 18-25 are 5 euros, Children under 17 are FREE
Opening hours: From April 1 to September 30: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
From October 1 to March 31: 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
A close up of the Eiffel Tower
Views from the top of the Arc with the Eiffel Tower
Me posing with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Seflie with the Eiffel Tower
And a view pointing out toward skyscrapers? A part of Paris the tourists never venture to. Myself included. haha
The incredible and huge statue that is inside the Arch.
Getting dizzy going down the infinite spiral staircase.
Looking up at the underside of the Arc.
One of my favorite things about the arc is not even how huge it is, or the view from the top, but the incredible artwork and detail that is put into the outside of it.
Each pillar has a different massive sculpture on the side that represent a time in French history. These 2 were my favorites. The one just above hear is a representation of the cause of the French First Republic during the 10 August 1792 uprising. Above the volunteers is the winged personification of Liberty.
Last but not least to check off for the day was a shopping spree on the Champs-Élysées: one of THE most famous shopping promenades in the world. I had actually planned to just stroll down it and window shop but when the husband offers to buy you anything you like you head straight for the jeweler. JK we headed straight for Zarah which I’d noticed a lot of people with bags walking around. Turns out it’s like a slightly nicer H&M (which there were plenty of those 2) Anyways he got me a lovely off the shoulder shirt/dress which you will see plastered all over the next post and a cute tank with pearl beads on the bottom. Thanks hun! (is he romantic or what?) lol so we walked the boulevard all the way back almost to the Louvre where we turned off to head back to the hotel.
Views from our walk back to the hotel
It was a mere 7 PM but my feet were swollen twice their size (forgot the compression socks for the plane so.. started off my 30,000 step day on an already bad note lol) and we were both pretty exhausted so we skipped dinner and hit the sack. End day 1, the lightest day as far as sight seeing goes.
Cost day 1 breakdown:
Train from airport to city center: $20 for 2 people
Museum Pass: 4 day pass at a cost of 167 for 2 people divided by 4 days: $42/day for 2 people
Lunch of panini and crepe: $14 for 2 people
Day 1 total: $196 for 2 people
Discussion time: Museum Pass. What is it and is it worth it? Quick answer to is it worth it? YES 100 times worth it. We bought our passes from the City Scape however I realized only after I made the purchase there are cheaper sellers, such as The Museum Pass website itself. The cost I think was only a $20 difference in the end but you’ll want to shop around a bit. The pass gets you free admission into over 40 museums and monuments in the Paris area covering all the major sites (except the Eiffel Tower) Most of the museums are around 11 euros per day so if you plan on a museum and monument or 2 it is actually cheaper (at aprox. $20/day) and a lot less of a hassle to have your tickets all in one. The most notable lines we got to skip were at the Saint Chappelle chapel and Arc de Triopmhe (as there was next to no line for pass holders here where the line for no tickets was AT LEAST an hour) however we also skipped longer lines at the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay (even though the security line for pass holders was pretty long, it was still shorter and faster moving than the non ticket holders line)
Paris Pass thoughts: On top of the Museum Pass there is also a “Paris Pass” that includes a metro card, one day with the hop on and off site seeing bus, Seine River Cruise, Wine tour, Montmartre tower, Paris Opera house, and other attractions. This pass is A LOT more expensive however than just the museum pass. Is it worth it? Maybe if you actually think you will use all of these things. Even on a day where we used the public transport a lot we only spent around $16. And truth be told, if you can walk, the streets of Paris are the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Trust me it is a little better to walk when you can. I also didn’t think we’d even have time for a river cruise or the other benefits that come with the all in one pass. But if you want a more luxurious experience with the passes, than you may at least check it out and decide for yourself.
Next up: Eiffel Tower area, Louvre, Concierge and Saint Chapelle, Notre Dame, Palais Garnier (Opera House), and Montmartre.