The end of August and into September we were lucky to have Tracy’s Aunt Deb and Uncle Gerry come and visit us in France. Deb had come to Paris before, but always on business trips that limited her opportunity to tour the city. This was Gerry’s first travel outside the United States except as a guest of Uncle Sam and the US Army with an all-expense paid trip to Southeast Asia in 1969 where the locals were hostile.
En route to Paris, Tracy and I stopped for a short layover in Montpellier. We enjoyed a coffee and a walked through the Place de la Comédie while waiting for the OUIGO TGV to arrive and take us to Paris. We have become big fans of the French national rail system’s, SNCF, discount high-speed train. The train gets us from Montpellier to Paris (465 miles [750 km]) in 3 hours and the cost is only €10 if you book your tickets early.
When we arrived in Paris, we found that there was a problem with apartment that Tracy had reserved. Since the apartment was unavailable we received an upgrade to a much larger apartment in the Trocadéro district in the 16th arrondissement. The apartment was located behind the Palais de Chaillot in easy walking distance to the Eiffel Tower. Great serendipity for our stay in Paris. Tracy and I are getting to know Paris, its sights, its Métro (the second busiest subway system in Europe after Moscow), and the RER (Réseau Express Régional) system better with each visit.
We met Deb and Gerry at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport (Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle) and zipped into town on the RER and the Métro to drop their bags off. Then is was out into Paris to see the city. While in Paris we enjoyed the Eiffel Tower Romance tour and had a private view of Paris from above the Jules Verne Restaurant on the second level of the Eiffel Tower. We enjoyed the daytime and nighttime views of Eiffel Tower and the city of Paris from the Palais de Chaillot near our apartment. The Palais de Chaillot and its grounds over looks the Eiffel Tower and was built as part of the Exposition International of 1937.
We walked along the River Seine to the Île de la Cité (one of the two islands on the Seine at the city’ center) to visit the Cathédrale Notre–Dame de Paris. It is always a stunning sight and Tracy and Deb conducted “zoom lens” wars searching for the most interesting gargoyle and detail on the Cathedral. I always enjoy admiring the flying buttress and hearing the bells ring. On the nearby Pont de l’Archevêché (Archbishop’s Bridge) we introduced Gerry and Deb to the “Love Lock” controversy of visitors securing a padlock to a bridge as a symbol of their love and their visit. It has become such a popular practice many historic bridges are festooned with locks and suffer damage. According to the Daily Telegraph in September 2014″ (All the love locks’) weight caused a section of metal mesh to collapse this summer on the Pont des Arts under the strain of some 54 tons of padlocks.” While not illegal, Paris is responding by replacing the grates with clear plexiglass panel to prevent locks being attached. Tracy and I became “part of the problem” by adding our own “love lock” prior to the practice being banned.
We walked the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées (that was originally built as an exhibition hall for the Universal Exposition of 1900) with its stunning glass and steel roof. We spent time photographing the nearby Pont Alexandre III bridge’s Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs, winged horses, and its view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.
Across the Pont Alexandre III, Tracy and Deb enjoyed exploring the L’Hôtel National des Invalides. Les Invalides was originally a home and hospital for disabled veterans (a role it still serves), it now contains Musée de l’Armée (military museum of the Army of France) the Musée des Plans–Reliefs (that displays military models), the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine (with non-military contemporary history), and serves as a burial site for many of France’s war heroes, including Napoleon’s Tomb.
We liked exploring the grounds of the Musée du Louvre. Fantastic location to people-watch since the museum entertains nearly 10 million visitor from around the world every year. Tracy led Deb down to the Carrousel du Louvre (the underground shopping mall adjacent to the Lourve) for photo ops of La Pyramide Inversée (the inverted pyramid.)
At Deb’s suggestion we visited the Luxembourg Garden, (Jardin du Luxembourg) for the first time. Fantastic location to explore and a “must return” place for Tracy and me. The 57 acres (23 hectares) of public park was originally built as a private garden in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici (the widow of King Henry IV) as part of her new residence, the Luxembourg Palace (which now serves as the seat of the French Senate.) The Luxembourg Garden has amazing lawns, tree-lined promenades, sculptures, flowerbeds, playground, tennis courts, a large circular basin with children sailing model sailboats, and several fountains, including the stunning Medici Fountain. On the ground is the original model of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty that has been in the park since 1906. The park has chairs everywhere and Parisians and visitors alike enjoy relaxing at their favorite spots in the garden.