Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Tag: France (Page 1 of 2)

Stained glass in Sainte Chappelle

Sainte Chappelle: Paris’ Hidden Gem

Everyone knows about Paris’ greatest hits: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe. But when planning my first ever visit, I came across one site that I’d never heard of: Sainte Chappelle. This hidden gem should be on any Paris Itinerary. Though it’s certainly less well-known than nearby Notre Dame, the inside of Sainte Chappelle is even more beautiful. Famous for its incredible stained glass, visitors are left in awe of this incredible royal chapel dating back to the 1200s.

The chapel, originally founded by Saint Louis (not the city) to house a collection of Catholic relics has survived a lot in its history. It was vandalized during the French Revolution, used for storage, and oiled up to protect it from WWII bombing. After lots of renovations, it’s now open to the public and should not be missed on your visit to Paris.

Sainte Chappelle’s lower level

Lower chapel in Sainte Chappelle

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Notre Dame by the River Seine in Paris, France

Notre Dame: Birds, Gargoyles, and an Incredible View

Everyone knows about the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. It may well be the most famous church in the world, and it is a must-see on most Paris itineraries. It’s every bit as hauntingly beautiful inside as you would expect. Here’s what you need to know for visiting Notre Dame.

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France

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The Best Time to Visit the Louvre and Orsay

Everyone says that to go to the Louvre, you need to get there first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. That was our plan all along until we realized that it’s open in the evening on Wednesdays. We decided to give that a shot because we only had two full days in Paris and wanted to fit in as much as possible. Visiting the Louvre at night allowed us to use our days for places that closed at 5. Plus, the famous pyramid was even prettier lit up at night. It turns out that we inadvertently found the best time to visit the Louvre and Orsay museums.

Visiting the Louvre at night

The Louvre pyramid at night in Paris, France

This is my favorite shot of the Louvre.

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3-Day Paris Power Itinerary

This fast-paced Paris itinerary will allow you to cover the best of the city in only three days. If you’re planning on spending a whole day at the Louvre or lingering at a café to just soak up the atmosphere, this isn’t the right schedule for you. But if you have limited time and a desire to see and do as much as possible, read on.

This schedule makes use of late evening hours that the Louvre and Orsay museums hold on certain nights during the week. Make sure to look up the current late night schedules and you can swap days around accordingly. The best way to accomplish this fast-paced Paris itinerary is to buy a Paris Museum Pass.

Day 1

Invalides | Eiffel Tower | River Cruise

This is a slower day to accommodate morning flights or jet lag adjustments. Start by exploring the city a bit and take a quick visit to see Napoleon’s tomb at Invalides. Book your Eiffel Tower tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in line. Try to go up in the late afternoon just before sunset so that you can enjoy the view in the daylight, watch the sunset, and see the city light up below you. Read more about that here.

View from below the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Take your time and enjoy a glass of champagne at the top and then take the elevator back down. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from for dinner in the area. Take an evening cruise along the Seine to enjoy views of the city at night and an introduction to some of the other highlights you’ll be visiting during your stay.

Day 2

Versailles | Notre Dame | Louvre | Arc de Triomphe

Start the day by taking an early train to Versailles. Take your time touring the palace and grounds, and enjoy lunch on site in the tea room. Take a mid-afternoon train back to Paris and head to Notre Dame.

Explore inside of the cathedral and then head up to the top for some close-up views of the famous gargoyles and the belfry. Once you’ve had your fill of the view, grab dinner at one of the restaurants on Ile de la Cite.

Night time at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France

Walk or take a train to the Louvre to enjoy their late evening hours. You’ll have a few hours to explore the museum and see highlights like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Make sure to enjoy the view of the famous pyramid lit up at night – it’s even better after dark than it is during the day.

Day 3

Pantheon | Sainte Chappelle | Sacre Coeur | Arc de Triomphe | Musee d’Orsay

Begin your day at the Pantheon, France’s collection of national heroes all entombed together. From there, you can walk to the Ile de la Cite to see the beautiful Sainte Chappelle. It’s not as famous as Notre Dame, but the interior is a must-see and the second level will leave you mesmerized.

The Pantheon in Paris, France

The Pantheon

Have lunch nearby on Ile de la Cite, and then hop a train to Sacre Coeur. There is an inclined railway up to the top if you don’t want to climb the stairs. On your way back, you can take a detour to visit the Moulin Rouge before catching another train to the Champs Elysses.

Sacre Coeur in Paris, France

Start at the Arc de Triomphe. Make sure to take the underground walkways to get to the center of the famous traffic circle surrounding it. A climb to the top offers beautiful views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Have dinner at one of the many restaurants on the Champs Elysees.

Musee d'Orsay gallery in Paris France

Your final stop of the night will be the Musee d’Orsay for its evening hours. Here you can enjoy impressionist paintings in the beautiful setting of a former train station. Be sure to climb all the way to the top of the main hall for a bird’s eye view.

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See the best of Paris, France in just three days in this fast-paced itinerary. Includes: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Versailles, the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Sainte Chappelle, the Pantheon, and a Seine River cruise. #Paris | #France | #EiffelTower | #NotreDame | #Louvre | Fast-paced Paris itinerary

See the best of Paris, France in just three days in this fast-paced itinerary. Includes: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Versailles, the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Sainte Chappelle, the Pantheon, and a Seine River cruise. #Paris | #France | #EiffelTower | #NotreDame | #Louvre

Should You Buy A Paris Museum Pass?

Opinions on the value of city passes vary widely, with some people viewing them as tourist scams and others seeing them as huge savings. When I was planning my visit to Paris, I did a lot of research into the options available and decided against the city passes I saw offered and instead bought just the two-day museum passes. The transportation, cruise, and Eiffel Tower add-ons that come with the city passes didn’t provide nearly the same value as the museum passes alone did based on our travel plans.

Paris, France from the top of Notre Dame

View from the top of Notre Dame

Are they right for you?

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An Evening on the Seine

After our visit to the Eiffel Tower, we grabbed dinner nearby and then headed down to the nearby docks for a sightseeing cruise on the Seine. We were treated to a gorgeous view of the tower while we were waiting to board and I was excited to see it in “sparkle mode.”

The Eiffel Tower at night in Paris, France
We had debated about buying tickets for one of the dinner cruises offered, but decided that we’d rather spend the money on something else. We went for a Sweety cruise on Vedettes instead, so we could have a crepe on board. Unfortunately, they were out of crepe mix, so we had to settle for candy bars and hot tea instead.

Ours was the last cruise of the evening, and there was only one other group onboard with us. The front part of the cabin had evidently been used for some kind of private party involving champagne on the previous cruise, but the staff cleared it out shortly after we departed and we were allowed to sit in the front area. We spent part of the time in the bow area, but it was too cold to sit there for very long.

The cruise was narrated in three languages: French, English, and Spanish. It was very hard to hear the narration on the outside part of the boat, but the speakers inside were fine. I actually learned quite a bit from it. One of the buildings that was pointed out was the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur, which evidently inspired architecture in Washington, DC, including the White House. I also didn’t know that the Musee d’Orsay was an old train station prior to the cruise.

Evening cruise on the River Seine in Paris

It was fun to get another view of the highlights of Paris after seeing them from above earlier in the evening. The cruise gave us our first up-close sightings of highlights like the Louvre and Notre Dame, increasing my excitement level even further. The cruise took us all the way down to Ile de la Cite and back.

I absolutely loved taking the cruise at night. Seeing the lights reflecting off of the river and the buildings all lit up gave Paris an almost magical feel. It was not ideal for photography – being on a moving boat at night isn’t very conducive to taking quality pictures without a high-end camera – but we were there to enjoy ourselves. If you want to get good pictures, I’d recommend a day cruise, but for sheer atmosphere, the night time is definitely the way to go.

Read more about our trip to Paris:

Notre Dame in Paris, France
The best time to visit the Eiffel Tower

The Best Time to Visit the Eiffel Tower

Going to Paris was an experience I’d been dreaming of for my whole life. Of course, I don’t recall ever meeting someone who didn’t at least like the idea of visiting Paris at some point. Since I knew we’d only be heading up to the top once, I made sure to plan for the best time to visit the Eiffel Tower. Needless to say, I was bouncing in my seat on the RER train we took from Marne-la-Vallee (Disneyland’s stop) as we got closer and closer to Paris and my first glimpse of one of the world’s most iconic sights.

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Disneyland Paris – Disneyland Park

As a kid who grew up roadtripping to Disney World almost every year and a former Cast Member, it’s long been a dream of mine to visit all of the Disney parks worldwide. I recently got to check Disneyland Parc off of my list, putting me halfway to this goal. Here are my thoughts.

It Knows How to Make a First Impression

The entrance to Disneyland Parc is truly majestic. Putting the Disneyland Hotel over the entrance was a stroke of genius, and it wasn’t until we were on our way in that I understood why the rooms there were so much more expensive than the other hotels on-site.

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris
As we were walking through the train station to get onto Main Street, I was practically bouncing with excitement. I’d been looking forward to exploring the Studios, but I was positively giddy to hit what I considered to be the main attraction.

As a lifelong WDW visitor, my first trip to Disneyland California a year previously had been the realization of a goal many years in the making. It was both new and familiar in a fascinating way because so many things looked like the Magic Kingdom I’d known and loved my whole life, but were just different enough to throw me out of my routine and cause me to really appreciate the details. Walking into Disneyland Parc was accompanied by the same sensation. Main Street looked almost like it does in my WDW-based mind, but at the end was a stunning, pink castle.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Paris

The castle. It absolutely lived up to my expectations. In fact, the only thing preventing me from declaring it the best out of the three Disney castles I’ve seen so far is my own childhood nostalgia. And a general dislike of the color pink. The gorgeous details on it were incredible, and it only got better when it was lit up at night. I suppose that being located in Europe provided some pressure to make the fairytale castle at Disneyland Paris especially beautiful, and the Imagineers who designed it definitely rose to the challenge.

We happened to hit the park while a lot of rides were being refurbished for the 25th anniversary, but the only thing I was really disappointed about missing was Big Thunder Mountain. Many Disney fans cite it as their favorite version of the ride, and as a Frontierland girl from my Cast Member days, missing out on it was hard. Since it was a slow weekday during the off-season, a lot of the quick service restaurants were closed too, which left a good stretch of Adventureland almost completely empty. I have to admit that I’m a bit tempted to visit Disneyland Paris again just for a chance to check out the things that were closed.

Ride Highlights  at Disneyland Parc

My two favorite ride experiences at Disneyland Parc were It’s A Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. I thought both of them topped the versions at either of the American parks. WDW’s Small World, with which I’m most familiar, starts out with a lot of detail and cultural variety in the European room and then sort of slowly fades as you move through the other continents. It felt like the Small World here made more of an effort to acknowledge individual cultures in other parts of the world instead of just tossing a couple dolls out there and calling them African. It even had a whole room for North America with Canadian hockey players and American football players. I was delighted. The final show scene with the kids from all over the world seemed better too. And cleaner.

It's a Small World at Disneyland Paris

Pirates of the Caribbean had a much better storyline than the WDW version and is a lot closer to the original in California. Most of the iconic show scenes were close approximations of the WDW ones I was used to, but there were additional elements that I really liked. We were totally unprepared for there to be a camera on the drop, which got us a great picture of my mom, who hates drops and barely tolerates the one on Pirates, on our first ride.

Space Mountain was the other ride that stood out to us. We rode it four times during our day and a half in the parks. It’s much more intense than the WDW version (I can’t comment about DL’s because it was under refurb during my only visit there) and we loved the speed and loops weaving through planets. It’s currently being turned into Hyperspace Mountain, but from what I’ve read it doesn’t sound like the track will be changing. I would’ve loved to have seen that theming as I am also a huge Star Wars fan, although it doesn’t really seem to fit with the overall steampunk style of the building.

Space Mountain 2.0 at Disneyland Paris

Disney Dreams

Disneyland Parc’s shining moment was Disney Dreams. Do not miss this show if you visit. We lucked into an almost front row spot and had a fantastic view of all of the show elements. When I watch Wishes at WDW I normally prefer to be a bit further away from the castle. My ideal spot is usually right where Main Street widens out to the Hub, but we would have missed out on a lot if we had been that far back. The closer you can get to Sleeping Beauty Castle for Disney Dreams, the better.

Disney Dreams at Disneyland Paris

This show is amazing!

Disney Dreams combined the best elements of Wishes, World of Color, and the castle projection shows and wove them together with classic movie clips and songs to make a thoroughly enthralling spectacular that I didn’t want to end. Everything from the fountains to the projections to the fireworks was perfect.

Per family tradition, we wandered through the Emporium and snapped some pictures on the delightfully empty Main Street before heading out of the park and making our way back to the hotel.

Read more about our trip to Disneyland Paris:

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The best way to spend one day at Disneyland Parc at Disneyland Paris. #Disney | #DisneylandParis | #DisneylandParc | #France | #Paris

The best way to spend one day at Disneyland Paris. #Disney | #DisneylandParis | #DisneylandParc | #France | #Paris

 

What to see at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris – Walt Disney Studios

Our first taste of Disney park magic at the Walt Disney Studios. While we were doing our pre-trip planning, I was looking at the Studios’ ride line-up and was kind of under the impression that it was a half-day park. I wasn’t wrong. The week we were there, Walt Disney Studios was the EMH park instead of Disneyland Park, and the first morning, we did everything but Crush’s Coaster (it was broken) and the shows in less than two hours. We were there on a very cold and rainy Monday in November which undoubtedly contributed to the lack of lines, but I still don’t think it would be a full-day park.

Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris

I love empty parks.

The Toy Story area

My favorite area of the Walt Disney Studios was the Toy Story part by far. I’m a sucker for goofy photos and there were so many cute spots for pictures in that tiny little section of the park. I also loved the way the fences were styled like K’nex. I wished that the weather had been better the morning we spent there because if it hadn’t been raining, I could’ve wandered through this area for hours. I’m now even more excited to see the Toy Story area that is currently under construction at Hollywood Studios in Disney World.

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Disneyland Paris – Disney Village

Disney Village serves as the gateway to the two Disney parks at Disneyland Paris. It’s full of shops and restaurants both Disney-specific and part of large chains. I was able to dine at two of them (both featuring Mickey!) during my visit.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show

Our initial introduction to Disney Village was chaotic and involved a lot of power walking, but when we got a chance to take it in more slowly later on, I found it quite enjoyable. We had spent way too much time eating and touring Pointe du Hoc and were afraid that we were going to miss our 9:30 reservations for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the Disney Village, which I was hoping would present a delightfully cheesy picture of the American West. I was not disappointed.
 Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

We had to run from the Sequoia Lodge to get there on time, but we made it with seconds to spare. I’m told that we missed a fun singalong with Goofy out in the lobby area, which would’ve been fun, but I was just relieved to get to see the main show. We were given straw hats representing our team color – getting to cheer “Go Blue!” warmed this Michigan girl’s heart – and took our seats just as the lights were dimming for the intro.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

I was pleasantly surprised by the food. I’d read in a bunch of places that the overall food quality at DLP is a bit lacking, so I went in with kind of a skeptical mind. We started off with a bowl of chili, which is a dish that I’m fairly picky about due to my dad’s most excellent family recipe, and I thought it was fairly good. It was served with a side of tortilla chips, which was a little odd, but it was tasty and hot and I loved that it was served out of a big metal bucket.

The main course was delicious as well. I got a large piece of bone-in chicken, a couple of ribs, an unidentified sausage, and a pile of really good potatoes. We also got some sort of tropical juice and a choice of soft drink or beer. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sausage, but everything else was delicious. Dessert consisted of some of the best apple cobbler that I’ve ever had anywhere. It was served piping hot and I definitely burned a lot of my mouth eating it because I just couldn’t wait for it to cool down. I keep thinking that eventually I’ll learn to let my food cool before eating it, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe my thirties will bring me more wisdom.

The show was as cheesy as expected. Minnie, Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Goofy performed a couple of song and dance numbers and there was a cowboy brawl around a campfire. Annie Oakley did a bunch of sharpshooting and the cowboys raced to deliver letters a la the Pony Express. Sitting Bull and a group of Native Americans were also featured.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Buffalo Bill himself

The end of the show pitted the audience members against each other, as the cowboys and Native Americans split up into four teams for some skill competitions. They were either totally rigged to keep the score close, or the judges were totally blind, but it was fun to cheer our guys on. Each team also had a rodeo clown to lead it in cheers and get everyone into the competition. The last task involved audience participation passing a ball up and down the rows and then giving it to the actors on the field to try to make a basket with it. I don’t think any of them has a future in the NBA, but we got really into cheering them on. Our team ended up winning, which was great because my family tends to be pretty competitive.

The winning team gets to have three audience members chosen to help “guard” a stagecoach shipment of gold. My brother and I were both chosen, so we got to climb down onto the sand – I wouldn’t recommend volunteering if you’re wearing heels or other shoes you wouldn’t want to have filled with dirt or if climbing up and down a short ladder would be difficult for you – and were taken backstage to participate in the final scene. We got to ride in a stagecoach with the ringmaster as it drove around in the arena. We were pretty terrible guards because we were almost immediately attacked by bandits, forced out of the stagecoach, and tied together like characters in an old cartoon. Fortunately, it’s a Disney show, so without giving away any spoilers, it had a happy ending. It was the perfect way to kick off our Disneyland Paris stay.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

This post is going to feature an unfortunate amount of pictures of me.

We were delighted to find that the Disney Village stores are open late, even in the slow season, so we took advantage of that and did our souvenir shopping early. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the merchandise was fairly cheap for Disney theme park items. Even taking the exchange rate into account, things seemed like a good bargain. I bought a light-up Christmas ornament for 14 Euros, and most of the regular ornaments I looked at at Disney World a few months earlier were around the $25 mark. Their pins were pretty pricey though. Most of them were 7-10 Euros, which is a lot more than they retail for in the American parks. If you’re a pin fan, I’d recommend buying them from the Disney Shop Parks app or at one of the American parks if you’re able to unless there’s something specifically DLP-related that you want.

Cafe Mickey

Our other experience in the Disney Village was eating at Café Mickey on our last day. We had purchased the dining plan, and this was the only character meal it covered (characters will no longer be appearing at the restaurant after the end of March) and it sounded like a fun way to wrap up the Disney portion of our trip.

I hadn’t looked at a menu prior to booking, and we found that there were only a few options available. I ended up with a cheeseburger, which is the kind of thing I usually avoid when traveling abroad, but nothing else really appealed to me. For dessert, I had a Mickey cupcake, which was adorable, but looked better than it tasted.

 Cafe Mickey at Disneyland Paris

We were amused by the eclectic mix of characters milling around. I’ve been to plenty of WDW character meals and they usually have some kind of theme ie. princesses, Pooh characters, Fab Five, etc., but this one featured Mickey, Rabbit (from Pooh), Goofy, Pluto, and the penguin from “Mary Poppins.” I was particularly excited to see Rabbit because I’d never met him before, and it’s rare for me to get to see new characters after working at WDW for almost two years through college and grad school.

Cafe Mickey at Disneyland Paris

I’ve spent enough time in Europe to know that meals take longer than most Americans are used to, but we were shocked at how long it took for our food. It took at least half an hour for our desserts to come, and they were all pre-made, so it’s not like there was a lot of prep work involved. When we finally got out of there, we had to run back to the hotel to get our luggage out of storage and hop on the RER train. We almost missed our Eiffel Tower tickets because we were running so late. I would leave yourself a huge cushion of time if you’re planning on dining there because you might end up missing Fastpasses or other commitments if you cut it too close.

Cafe Mickey at Disneyland Paris

Meeting Mickey is a good excuse to be late.

I really liked having the Disney Village as the gateway to the parks. It felt very much like Disneyland in Anaheim. As much as I’ll always consider WDW to be my Disney home, the way it’s spread out will always be a major drawback. Park-hopping with a five-minute walk sure beats a 20-minute bus ride and going through security again.

It’s also a great way to get a taste of Disney without having to shell out for park tickets. If you’re a Disney fan visiting Paris but don’t have the time, funds, or desire to spend a day or two at the parks, you could hop an RER train out to Marne-la-Vallee and spend an evening at the Disney Village enjoying the food, dinner show, or general Disney atmosphere before heading back into the city.

Hot air balloon reflection at Disney Village in Disneyland Paris

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