Touring the Eiffel Tower at Night

night tour eiffel towerI had been to Paris one time before my solo birthday trip but had never toured the city to the extent I wanted… I had seen the Champs-Élysée area and some of the tourist traps that surrounded the Louvre and the river Seine. My previous trip didn’t allow me to reach the next layer of traveling beyond the initial tourist exploratory phase.

This solo trip was a trip where I would do what I call ‘a second-layer’ exploration. I could visit some of the neighborhoods that I saw on the initial trip but didn’t get a chance to explore. Plus, I could spend more time in the places that I liked rather than waste time in touristy areas that I didn’t particularly care for. On my initial visit, I was only able to spend a little less than 48 hours in Paris. It was time to peel back another layer of the city on this visit. I wanted to dive deeper into the Parisian culture and history that had me at hello!

A Solo Journey to the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower at night was something I had been waiting to do – a bucket list item! This was probably the only touristy thing I did on this trip with a group but as a solo traveler. I wanted to see Paris at night and from way up high. As I get older, I realize that some things are worth experiencing independently and some are better with friends. You can’t go wrong when traveling – however, this trip was one I wanted to do solo. In part, so that I could experience Paris at night and remember all she had to offer with an open mind. I wanted to later reflect upon this uninterrupted experience.

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When planning my trip to Paris, I came across a couple of Eiffel Tower at night tour options and went with City Wonders tour. I chose this company because I did not see any bad reviews and it seemed like a legitimate price to get to the top of the tower. I am not endorsing this company by any means; I’m sure there were plenty of other options. We were instructed to meet in front of the Architecture Museum at the Palais de Chaillot promptly at 8:30pm. Luckily, the tour was not very crowded at all.

On Top of the World

It was the end of September in Paris, so, naturally, the weather was unpredictable. In my case, it was foggy and misty, but it made for some cool photos. The tour was a pretty basic tour – nothing too special. The cost paid for the entrance up to the tower and the tour guide provided a history of the tower through our earphone audio system. They talked about the history from where we met, at the museum, until we were up on the tower.

It was really chilly while on that upper level that evening, so I don’t remember everything about what was explained by our tour guide. One can only take in so much history when their fingers are going cold! One thing that I do remember is that Parisians really do not like the skyscraper Montparnasse that was built recently(ish). They didn’t like its modern look because it does not blend with the charm of the rest of the city.

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After Touring the Eiffel Tower at Night

After the tour finished, we were directed where to find the nearest exit. Our guide showed us the safest place to find transportation. It was a good tour for tourists who are looking to see what the view looks like at night with a touch of Parisian history included. For a more personalized tour that includes more historical references, I am sure there are private guides available. However, they probably cost more. Overall, the trip to the top was just as I expected. Touring the Eiffel Tower at night is a memory that I will never forget.

Be sure to check out our travel resources section to see what some of our other travelers are saying about Paris.

Tune in next time for the final installment of Leesa’s adventure in Paris, where she tours the city by night.

 

 

A Day at Notre Dame and the Louvre

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We had woken up early to beat the crowds. We got onto the crowded subway, joining the Parisians in the rat race. The subway was particularly intimidating. It had one of the fastest-closing doors I’d ever seen! Our whole group raced on and off the train in order to stick together. The night we arrived, one member of our group, Jenna, was separated after the doors closed. Luckily, she and her sister knew sign language. Jenna signed to her sister that she’d get off at the next stop and come back through the window of the train!

We definitely avoided a major situation thanks to their quick thinking. After that, however, the rest of us knew that we’d be flat out of luck if we were to be the next one who didn’t make the doors. We all took the subway extremely seriously. I’m sure those two have a travel tale they can tell all their friends about!

Excited to See Notre Dame

We walked a few blocks from the train station. I was incredibly excited to see Notre Dame. It was something that my dad had talked about from his time abroad, as well as something I’ve read about in fiction and nonfiction alike. As we approached Notre Dame, I craned my neck up to look at the gothic cathedral that rose in front of me. My blood raced through my veins as I cracked a smile. It was just as beautiful as I’d heard from my parents’ travels.

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Notre Dame

Expect the Unexpected

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The crowds weren’t as bad as they could have been. Since we were there so early, the sun had enough time to peak through the Parisian clouds. It was warm, and the greens of the shrubberies popped. I saw people dressed as pale, white clowns roaming around, hassling the tourists.

The clowns seemed like an odd addition to the gothic church. When I got close to one, I could see the paint dripping from his face. He reminded me of the costumed people you can find in Times Square, New York: dirty, but more sinister because of the clown makeup. I think I saw more than one reach around into someone’s pocket, only to get pushed or slapped away. I avoided them at all costs. This was one tale I didn’t need to explain to my parents.

The Ultimate Gothic Cathedral

The line to get into the cathedral was not too long. Luckily, Mass wasn’t being held. However, there was an automated voice that spoke to the tourists in several different languages, telling them to be respectful. Unfortunately, pictures and videos were frowned upon (they were allowed). Regardless, it didn’t feel entirely right to me to whip my phone out to observe every detail. Some things are worth just placing into memory, so you can be just as inspired when you return.

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The inside of Notre Dam

After we exited the church, Nikos took us on a brief tour around the building. When we had circled it, he showed us some lesser-known historical spots of Paris on our way to the Louvre. We also took a quick boat tour of the Seine. Unfortunately, the sun was, once again, clouded over by the dismal rain clouds that had seemed to haunt us since our arrival. As a Floridian, I’m used to heavy, intense, hot showers that are over within twenty minutes. Paris was the exact opposite! There was a constant light drizzle that seeped into my bones, no matter how many layers I was wearing. I couldn’t believe that this was what Parisians thought of summer!

Down into Culture

By the time we made it to the Louvre entrance, we were freezing. Nikos left us ambling around the park above the Louvre while he secured our tickets. Unfortunately, it was so cold and wet, none of us felt like ambling! As we waited for Nikos to return, Dounia and I huddled underneath an archway with street vendors that looked similar to the Arc de Triumph. After my last street vendor incident, I was a little wary of them, but luckily, they seemed to understand that we were simply avoiding the weather.

Louvre

Nikos returned, and we quickly began our excursion into the Louvre. We passed through a mall-like area that had stores that breathed wealth. Afterward, we took a pitstop in the Louvre’s cafeteria. It was ridiculously expensive! The bathroom cost upwards of four euros, not to mention the price of food! Finally, finally, I was going into the museum that my parents had visited on their own journeys so long ago. I purchased a map simply for the scrapbooking opportunity.

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Arc de triomphe du Carrousel next to the Louvre

Even Trips Abroad Need Down Time

Dounia and I saw as much of the Louvre as we possibly could have. It was absolutely incredible. There was so much artwork, it was honestly a little overwhelming. I raced past the Mona Lisa, catching a quick side glimpse because of the crowd that stood in the queue in front of it. I think I saw Monet’s Day at the Park, but I can’t be sure. It was not until we reached some of Van Gogh’s paintings on the fifth floor that I finally began to feel some ease.

The fifth floor was filled with famous impressionist and classical paintings that I had previously studied in my art classes. It was exciting to see things that I had learned about. After such a full day, it was nice to calmly meander around the fifth floor, where there were fewer crowds.

Once we had finished, we met the group again at the Louvre’s underground subway station. As we leapt through the subway doors, we talked about going to see the Eiffel Tower. Nikos offered to take us there and guide us back to our hotel room. I could feel exhaustion creeping its way into my bones. Dounia and I decided to spend the afternoon at the Eiffel Tower! Join me next time for my travel tale as I talk about all of our iconic adventures!

Touring the Palace of Versailles

Catch up on my last article, Dinner in a Basement and Exploring Montmartre, to stay updated!

We were huddled on the far end of a large underground platform. The train to the Palace of Versailles was late. I paced around in circles, bored out of my mind. There was no wi-fi on the platform, which meant I couldn’t use my phone. You can only talk to a group of people you don’t know for so long before running out of things to say. Nikos bought everyone a small cake from a nearby vending machine to lift our spirits.

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The Journey to the Palace

The train pulled in, almost an hour late. Almost nobody got off. As we shuffled on, I realized how large this train was. It wasn’t the ordinary subway. There were two floors, with a staircase near the doors. A few of our group members found seats, but the train was too full; there were no more seats. I wound up standing near the staircase along with Dounia and Nikos for the full 30-minute train ride.

I was bouncing my knees trying to keep them from going stiff when we finally pulled into our stop. As we emerged from the train station, I could tell we were a long way from Paris. The clustered apartment buildings and car-lined streets had suddenly vanished, replaced with wide, fenced greenways and grand government-looking buildings. The wide sidewalks were accentuated with young trees, and the street was nearly void of cars. As we rounded a corner, we saw the gates to the palace in the distance.

The Gardens of Versailles

Past the gate, we walked down the long, gravel driveway to the entrance. It was swarmed with visitors waiting in line for tour guides. Nikos told everyone to wait nearby while he went to check in with our pre-scheduled tour. After about 15 minutes, he returned and told us we had about an hour until the tour started. He passed out tickets to the Gardens of Versailles, so we could explore while we waited. I was simply happy to get out of the surging mass of people.

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Although I had heard about the Gardens of Versailles before, I’d never really thought about them. I didn’t know any details about it, like how big it was, what was in it, and what made them so beautiful. I was extremely surprised as I walked towards the balcony to look across the largest piece of manicured landscape I’d ever seen. My jaw hung ajar and then slowly curled into a smile. This place was awesome! There was so much to explore, they were renting out golf carts to the tourists. I immediately was disappointed that we only had an hour to see as much of this gorgeous garden as we could. There were several gold-encrusted fountains, a large reflection pond, mazes, pathways, topiary gardens, and probably much more.

Unfortunately, it was still cloudy and rainy. Even though the sun wasn’t out, the gardens were magnificent. I can only imagine what it looks like in the sun, with the gold reflecting off the pools and the shade of the trees stretching across the paths. I feel like I had barely scratched the surface of the gardens when it was time to return to the palace for the tour.

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Crowded is an Understatement

When we met up near the tour’s entrance, we were each given a small listening device. This way, the tour guide could speak into a microphone and all of us could easily hear what she was saying. This was especially important, and I quickly realized why once we got inside.

I’ve never quite felt exactly like a sardine until the tour of the Palace of Versailles. Everyone shuffled inches at a time. Both of my shoulders were touching three or four different strangers while I tried my best to reach my group. There were people everywhere. I felt like I couldn’t quite get a clean breath of air because there were so many bodies in such a small area. The room we were in was lined with beautiful paintings and had a large mural on the ceiling, but I couldn’t really enjoy it because of all the people in that first room.

As we continued the tour, the people began to thin out and I started to relax. There was gold everywhere we looked, it seemed like. Red was everywhere. Red walls, red curtains, red blankets on the bed, a red and gold bedazzled throne. There was a wood floor throughout the entirety of the palace that we toured. The tour guide took us from room to room, explaining what each was and what they had been used for. Then, we went into the Hall of Mirrors.

A Look into the Past

The Hall of Mirrors was, by far, my favorite room in the castle. The ceiling housed another gorgeously done mural, with golden ornamentation along the molding of the ceiling and walls. On one side of the hall, there was a long row of windows that looked out into the gardens. On the other, there were massive mirrors. They were old and slightly translucent. They weren’t the quality of mirror you’d typically see today. There were flaws and spots were age had gotten to it. My face was a little distorted when I looked into it.

Palace of Versailles

I was almost confused about the quality, as I assumed that people would have figured out mirrors by then. This, as I found out, was a very wrong assumption. As we roamed around the hall, the tour guide told us that peasants would come to visit the palace simply to look into the mirrors for the first time in their lives. They’d never seen themselves before! I was looking into the exact same mirrors as someone from centuries before had, where they saw themselves for the first time ever. I thought that was one of the coolest things I’d seen within the palace.

A Stamp in Time While at the Palace of Versailles

What was so bizarre to me about the Palace of Versailles is that there were places that were dripping with wealth: gold encasements, draperies, ceiling murals, extensive artwork, expensive furniture, and more. Then, there were places that seemed like any other old building. What was strange about the palace is that it was divided into public and private faces. The public saw the lavishly decorated side of the palace, while the family lived on the side that was almost plain. The walls were white and undecorated. The rooms were largely empty. It seemed like any other old house, not the Palace of Versailles. Learning about the history of the building and the almost double-life the family lived was fascinating.

After we finished the tour, we explored the area a bit, hoping to catch a bite to eat before heading back to Paris. We wound up in a tiny restaurant off of an alleyway, where our group was ushered to take up the entirety of the upstairs dining area. After a wonderful home-cooked French dinner, we made our way to the train, which was (thank god!) empty. I settled into the chair and napped the rest of the train ride.

Be sure to check out my next installment of our trip up the Eiffel Tower and exploring the Louvre.