Paris was definitely a unique experience for us during New Years Eve and New Years Day. If Paris was a person, I'd say it was a moody teenager.
Every day the weather was nothing but fog and the streets were packed with people, cars, and curvy roads that didn't seem to be established with any sort of order in mind. Our first trip into the city was to take the Metro to the island along the Seine.
First we passed the Palace of Justice (also known as the Conciergerie). It used to be a palace for the French royal family (this is before Versailles), but was later renovated and used as a prison. During the Reign of Terror, it added Marie Antoinette and Robespierre to their guest list as short term residents before being marched to the guillotine. Unfortunately, we did not get an opportunity to go inside, because we opted to visit Notre Dame first.
Big mistake. Notre Dame had a very long line to get inside. Along with the French greeting party- soldiers with automatic weapons walking along the plaza to watch the tourists.
The outside was beautiful and what I expected. I kind of wish I had thought about walking around to the other side to take pictures of the flying buttresses, but the weather was not just foggy, but cold. As you might have guessed from previous posts I don't do very well in the cold. There are 3 doors with the various saints watching below as you enter God's home. Interesting story- during the French Revolution almost all the heads were decapitated from the saints. They were later recreated and attached to the existing statues. The only one that doesn't have a head is St. Denis- who was a martyr of the Church who lost his head. He never had his head taken off during the Revolution as he was carved without it attached.
The inside was spectacular with the stain glass windows and high vaulted ceilings.
The Cathedral is dedicated to Mary. However, you can also find a statue dedicated to the French martyr Joan of Arc.
Something I did not know, was that Notre Dame contains (apparently) a thorn from the Crown of Thorns Jesus wore as he died upon the Cross.
It was very beautiful but very crowded. And we weren't able to stay long as we had hoped to make it to the Palace of Justice before the end of the day- but quickly realized that it had closed moments before. So we spent some time walking around looking for souvenirs instead.
The following day (I'll let Brian tell you about our New Years Eve in Paris), it was even colder than the day before! But we got up early and headed to the Louvre wanting to be in line early to avoid crowds. However, our bad luck continued as we learned that the Louvre was closed. We thought it was closed New Years Eve... we didn't realize it was in fact closed New Years Day. I'm very disappointed that I didn't get to go inside- I had my spaghetti diagram of all the exhibits and artwork we needed to see and the order we were going to see it so we could effectively manage our time. (That's right- Six Sigma Green Belt Lean training coming into play!). But we instead could only take pictures of the outside.
Since we had planned to spend 4 hours at the Louvre, we had essentially 4 hours of extra time on our hands to stroll about Paris. But it wasn't like a pleasant stroll because did I mention.... IT WAS COLD! So we took the subway to see the Arc de Triumph. Where I quickly took a picture, then ducked back downstairs into the Metro to get away from the wind and cold weather.
Our next stop was the Eiffel Tower, where unfortunately, my best photo was taken from the train window. Notice the fog? Fog was always part of the forecast while we were there. When we got off the train and near the Eiffel Tower I was (again) comfortable taking only 2 pictures and then running into any place with heat so I could warm up.
Brian was pretty upset with me during Paris, because honestly.... we didn't take as much time seeing things outside. That and the fact that the Louvre was closed and therefore our schedule was off. But again, did I mention..... IT WAS COLD! If we ever return to Paris, I think it would have to be in the summer when the weather was warmer. However, I'm not sure if we could handle more people and tourists surrounding us.
We ended up arriving at the Charles de Gaul airport early and ended up staying later as our flight was delayed. I think we spent most of our time in Paris on New Years Day in the airport. Yup... I'm not sure how my husband tolerates me.
It is easy to state that Paris was the lowlight of the trip, for several reasons. It originally took us about an hour to get parking figured out for check-in at our hotel. As Stacey said, the fog really dampened our time in Paris and it was always cold (at or below freezing).
Fortunately our hotel was close enough to Metro that it wasn't too hard to get into downtown Paris quickly, even on NYE. We hadn't planned on going to the Palace of Justice, but it would have been nice to see. Our planning in Paris was the only snafu of the trip, as we actually moved up our visit to Notre Dame from Jan 1 to Dec 31. Notre Dame was nice, but I think I preferred the previous cathedrals that we saw during the trip. In an ode to my Aunt Tina's NYE tradition, we found a great Asian restaurant somewhere between Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. Then we returned to the hotel....until New Year's Day. Yes we were in Paris (aka romantic city) on New Year's Eve and Yes my wife is pregnant, tired and cold...so Yes we watched the festivities on tv in our hotel room.
The upside of staying in was that we were able to get up early..but that didn't really help us much with the Louvre being closed. I have to credit Stacey, because even I was cold from the temperature and winds. We could have spent more time at the Arc and Eiffel Tower, but I'm not sure it would have made a difference. If we gone to the Louvre our timing for the airport would have been much tighter, but naturally our flight was delayed due to the weather anyway.
I could see going back to spend 1-2 days in Paris and most likely in the warmer months. However, it probably isn't at the top of my list. And part of that is because of what Stacey mentioned at the beginning....the "attitude" of the city was fairly off-putting.