It had been 11 long years since I last visited Paris and that was just far too long. When Pegasus Airlines emailed me about their big sale, I decided to take advantage of what was supposed to be a three-day weekend in April, extend it to four days (don’t tell my boss…) and fly to Paris. Not only was Paris one of the cheapest flights offered on Pegasus, it had also been on my mind a lot lately as a place I wanted to visit again before leaving the Middle East. I booked my flight for 200 USD return from Kuwait and got busy planning my long weekend in Paris
The dates of that supposed three-day weekend got changed about two weeks before my trip to Paris, and I decided to hell with it. I knocked off two days at work instead of one, and off I went to the City of Lights. There were three big to-do’s that topped my list, and everything else was just gravy.
How much can you do in four days in Paris? Well, it turns out quite a lot. I also fit in a surprising amount of coffee-drinking and lemon tart-eating. I think I was in a diabetic coma on my last day.
This trip wasn’t long enough to do the Louvre and a lot of museums justice, and I had been to all of the big museums twice before. I wanted to do the things I missed out on during my two previous trips. This is a list of what I did, costs, and whether or not it was worth it.
Day #1 Cathedrals and Boobs
I had an afternoon to explore my neighborhood before going to a show at Moulin Rouge at 9:00PM. I checked in to my Airbnb abode, and headed straight for Sacre Coeur where I had been before, but my pictures were crap and I had never gone up in the dome. For 6 euros, I climbed to the top of the dome for what I thought would be amazing views on this clear, sunny day.
Guess what? The pollution was so bad I could hardly see anything. You can tell in my pictures how bad it was. I still think it was worth 6 euros, especially since there was no line. Afterwards I went in the cathedral. It wasn’t that busy inside since everyone was outside enjoying the weather.
I didn’t want to wander too far since Moulin Rouge was nearby. I walked towards Moulin Rouge and found a place to eat and have my first beer of the trip at Luna Café. The roast chicken and green beans were all right, but the beer and the pear crumble were excellent! French food doesn’t do much for me.
I know, I know! Shock and horror! I just find it bland and saucy, and not in a good way. But the pastries and desserts are divine.
At 8:00 I made the short walk back to Moulin Rouge for the big show! I couldn’t wait. The show was Feerie, and it was fantastic. Jaw-dropping, tassel-tossing, sequin-sparkling, roller-skating, boob-bouncing fantastic. It was so not-Vegas. So European. The duo on roller-skates left me speechless, as did the pair who did an entire routine with a giant hoola-hoop like ring. I had to remind myself to close my mouth.
Here’s the deal with booking tickets to Moulin Rouge and one of the reasons I will probably never make money on my blog. I don’t usually book packages through online vendors. Instead, I go straight to the source. I looked at packages on Viator, which looked great, and then I decided to check out the Moulin Rouge website. On Viator, at the time I checked, they only offered dinner and show packages for the 7:00PM dinner and 9:00PM show. On the Moulin Rouge website, I could buy a ticket to the 9:00PM show, sans dinner at 7:00PM. Viator now offers tickets to the show without dinner, I think. You can click the link to see their special pricing, which is cheaper than what I paid. If you purchase tickets through this Viator link, I will make a small commission to help keep the site running.
Since I was traveling alone, I really didn’t care about the dinner. As a result, I booked directly through the Moulin Rouge website, which you should check out because of the info about dress code, arrival time, etc. Also, it’s just a really freakin’ beautiful website. I would recommend comparing prices on their site and Viator before booking.
When I arrived, I was seated immediately because most people had already arrive at 7:00PM for dinner. If you go to the 11:00PM show, apparently, you’ll have to wait in a rather long line while the previous guests leave. I’m too old to stay up till 1:00AM, even for Moulin Rouge, so I knew I wanted the 9:00PM show. I was seated with three other people who were also traveling solo, and all three said the dinner was good, but not worth it. So there ya go. I didn’t miss anything. The show lasts about 1.5 hours. After seeing it, I actually think I could stay up past 1:00AM to watch it again.
Day #2 The Dead and The Pensive Nude
I had a long list of things to do today, starting with the Catacombs. If you take Line 4 to Denfert Rochereau, the entrance to the Catacombs is right there by the metro, across the street from the building where you buy tickets for the metro and RER. Entrance is 12 euros and you pay as you enter, not in advance unless you buy the Skip the Line tickets online, which is worth it. I learned that the hard way. The line at 10:00AM when the Catacombs opened was insanely long, and I was at the back of it. I waited 1.5 hours to get in, and the line behind me only got longer. I knew better than to leave and try again later.
If you want Skip the Line Catacombs tickets, or other Skip the Line tickets, you can use this Viator link to check out the deals and I’ll make a small commission if you make a purchase, and I’ll really appreciate it. I kind of wish I had done this guided tour because I think I would have gotten much more out of it and seen parts of the Catacombs I didn’t see. Not to mention that I could have skipped that line!
Actually, the biggest problem wasn’t the line. It was that I hadn’t had my coffee yet. Ouch. I didn’t dare step out of line to go across the street to Paul for coffee. One of the disadvantages of solo travel is that you lose your place in line.
When I finally got in, it was pretty anticlimactic at first. I think I built it up in my mind too much after seeing the ossuary in the Czech Republic years ago. The catacombs are a maze of tunnels that run underneath the city of Paris and have for hundreds of years. The history is described at the entrance of the tunnels, and it is actually pretty interesting. The tunnels were created to help with the flow of water from the tides. I think. The first tunnels I saw were just brick, meant to basically support the city above.
Where were the bones? I came to see bones! And then suddenly, there they were, neatly stacked in a design made with skulls and femurs. These weren’t just piles of bones. This was a work of art. It went on for one kilometer, although it didn’t feel that long because it’s like a maze. The sheer number of bones is incredible, but they were stacked into different patterns and designs. It must have taken countless hours to accomplish this feat of engineering.
I think I spent about 45 minutes underground. Was it worth 12 euros and a 1.5 hour wait? Yes, it was. That said, I wouldn’t recommend it for a first trip to Paris unless you skip the line.
By the time I emerged above ground, I was desperate for coffee. I headed across the street for a way-too-small coffee and a ham and cheese sandwich with absolutely nothing else on it. It was literally baguette, one layer of ham, one layer of cheese. Bland as licking an apple. That said, I felt renewed, so I headed over to Montparnasse Cemetery, which is much more entertaining than you might think. And free. And quiet. Pay attention and you’ll see some amusing and not-scary-at-all sights in this cemetery.
The Montparnasse Tower is just down the street, and I wanted to go to the top for the view. This is NOT free. It is 17 euros. There was no line and no crowds, and the view today was much better than yesterday. Less pollution. Was it worth 17 euros? Actually, I would recommend this instead of climbing the Eiffel Tower, because this way, you get views and pictures of the Eiffel Tower. But I would say don’t spend the money to do both. You can get Skip the Line tickets for the Montparnasse Tower here on Viator, for the same price I paid for a regular ticket. This is probably a good idea during peak season.
After an ice coffee from Bruegger’s Bagels – I needed a LARGE coffee – I walked to the Rodin Museum. I had somehow missed this museum and The Thinker on my two previous trips to Paris. There was just a very short line, and I paid the 10 euros to see the museum and sculpture garden. There are three sculptures here entitled Pensive, commonly called The Thinker. The original is only 70cm and still sits atop The Gates of Hell, representing Dante, and is also located in the sculpture garden. The figure was so popular, it was enlarged in 1904 and this version is the most popular. There are numerous molds of the sculpture worldwide, including another smaller version inside the Rodin Musuem.
Was the Rodin and The Thinker worth 10 euros? Absolutely. The Gates of Hell and Pensive by themselves would be worth 10 euros if you ask me.
Next I walked over to the Eiffel Tower. Not to climb it, but to take pictures of this Paris icon with a good camera. So I did, without paying to enter. I took most of the pictures from the surrounding park and the Tracadero.
Time to eat again. I know, I’ll walk to Notre Dame and have dinner there and take pictures of it at night! That was a long ass walk along the Seine in my stylish but not as practical as I would’ve like boots. I finally arrived and had a gross hamburger and really excellent fries and beer at Notre Dame Hotel, just so I could have a view of Notre Dame. I have sentimental reasons for eating there, otherwise I would not have dished out 30 euros for a meal.
I took my pictures of Notre Dame all lit up, got hit on by a man who said he was French but clearly wasn’t, and got ready for another day of lemon tarts and buttery croissants.
Day #3 Fleas and Chocolate
This morning started, once again, with no coffee, but a trip to the St Ouen Flea Market. For the cost a 1.90 euro ticket for Line 4, I was amazed and entertained all morning by what might just be the best flea market in the world! Was it worth 1.90 euros? Hell yes! This retro, hip, vintage, old school, extravagant, taxidermied, delightful flea market ranks right up there with any sight in Paris. There’s a spaceship in the center of the more expensive antique section that you can just climb right into and sit down! I have never seen so much retro furniture, vinyl, LP’s, and art deco in one place.
One thing that is seriously lacking here is coffee and food. There is one cool restaurant in the antique section that looked awesome, but I was so cold I had to go outside and sit in the sun at a café where I had a way-too-small-but-good cup of coffee and a croissant that melted into buttery goodness in my mouth. Oh my.
Around 11:00, I got back on Line 4 and headed towards the Louvre. I took a walk on Rivoli behind the Louvre in search of an art gallery called 59 Rivoli, which was closed. I just took a picture of the super-cool building, and then headed back the other way for lunch and more importantly, dessert, at Angelina’s. Look closely at the paintings on the building, and you can guess the subject of the current exhibit.
Angelina’s is a Paris institution, famous for its hot chocolate and desserts. It’s at 226 Rivoli, in a strip-mallish location, but when you walk inside, it’s like another world. An English tea house kind of world. It reminded me of Betty’s in Harrogate, England. I perused the desserts while waiting to be seated and decided upon, of course, the lemon tart.
I was seated upstairs, and ordered a sandwich, but Angelina’s isn’t about the food. Skip the overpriced meal (25 euros for a club sandwich and matchstick fries that were just blah) and go straight to the hot chocolate and desserts. The hot chocolate was like silk, only better, and the lemon tart was, well, lemony and tart. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
My bill was 45 euros, including a glass of white wine, sandwich, fries, hot chocolate and lemon tart. I was stuffed and miserably happy when I left. Was it worth it? The lemon tart and hot chocolate were definitely worth it. Skip the rest. Don’t even pretend you’re there for lunch.
Now I was miserably stuffed and pretty sure I had diabetes. I think that hot chocolate was meant for two. Time to walk it off. I took the metro to Pere Lechaise cemetery in search of famous dead people, but without a map of the cemetery, my search was futile. I walked for about an hour till they closed and did not find even one of the famous dead people I was looking for, not even Van Morrison. Oh well, I’ve seen his grave before and I’m not even really a fan. The cemetery was really cool anyway, and very photogenic. And free. Was it worth it? Yes.
Watch the slideshow and you’ll see a particularly huge, cone shaped grave marker. I was actually drawn to it thinking it was part of the crematorium, but when I reached the top of the hill and saw it, I realized it was a grave marker for JUST ONE MAN! Not even a family! Can you say “compensating?”
Day #4 Canals and Quasimodo
Two things on the agenda today. I started my morning, once again with no coffee, by going for a walk in my neighborhood at Canal St Martin, which wasn’t what I expected. This neighborhood is experiencing a revival. It’s up-and-coming with cafes and places to hang out. I did have an excellent way-too-small latte, and an even better lemon tart and cinnamon roll to die for. But the bridges across the canal could use a bit of restoration, or maybe all that chipped paint and rust is part of the charm. It could also use a good cleanup and a few more rubbish bins. But, it was free and photogenic. Was it worth it? Yes, definitely. So was the tart and the cinnamon roll. I’m still thinking about them…
I went to check out of my Airbnb apartment, and then took Line 4 back to Notre Dame. It was time to go inside. I love this cathedral. It was the first cathedral I ever visited on my first overseas trip. I wanted some better pictures than the ones I already had, and it was time for Sunday noon mass. I’m not religious, but I wanted to experience mass here. So I did. With my backpack on standing up to the side of the alter. I stayed for over an hour, went across the street for fries and a beer called a Monaco Twist. This beer was pink and went down way too easily.
As I sat there at the cafe I could hear a tour guide telling her group about Quasimodo, as if he were a real person. I wondered if she knew The Hunchback of Notre Dame was fictional.
I wasn’t ready to leave. Back to real life. At least I know for sure that four days in Paris is definitely worth it.