I have been hard at work on our Paris itinerary and am eager to share. It is different than the one posted on the Passports website, so for Paris, this is where you can check for exactly what we will be doing. It may change over the course of the next few months as I gather new information, but in general, this is what you can expect:
Day 1: Thursday, July 21, 2011
Travel day - overnight flight from JFK to Charles de Gaulle airport in PARIS FRANCE!!!
Day 2: Friday, July 22, 2011
Arrive in Paris
After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we will hop on the Métro and make our way to Place de la Bastille. Although the actual structure is no longer there, we will check out the monument and the lines painted on the road around the perimeter of the former prison. Then, it's a short walk through the lively Marais District to the Place des Vosges, where we will grab some lunch and eat in the lovely Louis XIII park. After lunch you can stroll to 6 Place des Vosges and tour the Maison de Victor Hugo. After that, we will make our way to the Musée Carnavalet - the museum of the history of Paris - which is in Madame de Sévigné's former mansion. It houses amazing Parisian artifacts and for my fellow French Revolution junkies, there is an entire floor dedicated to the French Revolution!
Late afternoon we will head back to the hotel, check in and freshen up a bit before we head to the heart of Paris - the Louvre! Once a palace to the kings and queens of France, the Louvre is probably the most famous art museum in the world. All the great artists are represented here - and you can even see what all the fuss is about over Da Vinci's Mona Lisa as hers is the most renowned smile that resides here.
In true European fashion, we will eat a later dinner near the Place des Victoires, then head back to our hotel to rest our weary heads and get ready for another day in Paris.
Day 3: Saturday, July 23, 2011
Tour Paris & Montmartre
After enjoying a traditional French breakfast (croissants anyone?) we will board a private motor-coach to take a tour of Paris. We will not only see grand sights like the Arc de Triomphe and the Tour de Eiffel, but a certified Paris tour guide will explain to us exactly what it is we are seeing (and yes, the tour guide speaks English!!) We will also make brief stops at the gorgeous Jardin du Luxembourg which surrounds the old Medici palace (and now houses the French Senate) and Pont Neuf where you can admire the equestrian statue of Le Bon Roi Henry IV.
We will then bid adieu to our motor coach and guide as we exit near St-Etienne du Mont. In addition to some amazing architecture and stained glass, this church is the resting place of Saint-Geneviève, patron saint of Paris. Next, we will walk about one block to the Panthéon where one of the first things you will notice is the inscription on the front of the building: Aux grands hommes la patrie reconnaissante (For great men the grateful homeland). Here we will explore from crypt where we will pay homage to Voltaire, Dumas, Hugo, and many other French heroes (and Marie Curie - the only woman to be buried here!) - to the dome where we will see the single most amazing view of Paris.
After lunch, it's off to the Opéra! Don't worry...we won't actually see an opera. However, we will get a guided tour (again, in English!) of the Opéra Garnier - the National Opera House. This building is renowned for its amazing architecture, not to mention it's Phantom...
After the opera, we will enjoy a little free time before we head to Montmartre. Coincidentally, for those of us who like to shop, we will be by the Galeries Lafayette, which is THE place to shop in Paris. Even if you're not into shopping, it's worth going in just to see the spectacular stained glass ceiling!
Next, it's off for dinner and an evening in Montmartre, beginning at the Sacré Cœur which sits atop the highest point in Paris. After a delicious dinner, grab une boule de crème glacée and stroll down rue Lepic where the Impressionists lived and worked. Of course, a trip to Montmartre wouldn't be complete without a stop by the Moulin Rouge. Although we won't be going in, this historic landmark is a must see.
Day 4: Sunday, July 24, 2011
Versailles and Paris
This morning, we will travel via the RER (train) to Versailles. Be prepared to stand in awe at the Sun King's residence and magnificent gardens of Le Château de Versailles. Since it is Sunday, we will be treated to Les Grandes Eaux Musicales (the spectacular fountains at Versailles set to classical music) as we make our way to the Grand Trianon. Here we will explore the king's apartments before we leave to enter Marie Antoinette's estate. Perhaps even more entertaining than the palace is Marie Antoinette's Hamlet. Here you will explore her "peasant village" and see where she spent her happiest hours.
Once we return to Paris, you will choose an activity: the Musée d'Orsay where you can admire the works of the Impressionists; Pére Lachaise Cemetery where you can visit the graves of hundreds of famous people such as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison; the Shoah Memorial (Holocaust Museum); or shopping.
After a brief trip back to the hotel to freshen up, we will make our way toward the Champs de Mars for dinner near the Eiffel Tower. At 9 PM we will board the Bateaux Parisiens and cruise the Seine River. As we watch the sun set over the Seine, we will end our cruise just in time to see the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle like Edward - the perfect ending to another magnificent day in Paris!
Day 5: Monday, July 25, 2011
Final day in Paris
Savor that breakfast croissant as it is our last day in the City of Light. First on today's agenda: an appointment with royalty. We will see all but three French monarchs on our excursion to Basilique St-Denis. Okay, so they're all dead, but this burial site of the French monarchy (including Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette!) is simply amazing.
After lunch in Paris, we will tour the Invalides. Originally commissioned by Louis XIV as a veteran's hospital, today it is the Museum of the Army, both World Wars, and the French Liberation. But perhaps it is best known as the final resting place of none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. Here you can admire his tomb and ponder why a man of renowned short stature needs such large sarcophagi...
Next, there will be another choice in activities: the Towers of Notre Dame (warning: they frown on Quasimodo reenactments...don't ask how I know...) or the Conciergerie (Marie Antoinette's prison). Both groups can meet up again to visit Saint-Chapelle which is known worldwide for its incredible stained glass.
You will enjoy a little free time to grab any last minute gifts or souvenirs before we begin our trek down the Champs-Élysées. We will start at the Place de la Concorde and see where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (among others!) lost their heads, do a little shopping and eat dinner as we head toward the Arc de Triomphe, our last Parisian monument.
Day 6: Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Morning flight to Pisa
Au Revoir Paris...Buongiorno Italia!