Tales on Rail: Eurostar Train – A Tale of Two Cities, Part 2 (Paris)

In my last post I told you about my time in London helping to host a group press trip Rail Europe coordinated. Now, I share with you my fantastic Paris experience and recommendations.

Eurostar train at Paris Gare Du Nord station. Photo courtesy: Eurostar

Eurostar train at Paris Gare Du Nord station. Photo courtesy: Eurostar

After a comfortable and high speed train ride aboard the Eurostar train, we arrived in Paris Gare du Nord station from London. Our group took a taxi to the Pavillon de La Reine Hotel, located in the heart of one of the most famous and historical districts of Paris, Le Marais. This 4-star gem of a hotel is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.

The neighborhood surrounding the hotel is one of the oldest and most historical areas of Paris, with elegant, notable buildings and private mansions dating back to the 1600s; beautiful manicured parks and gardens; and some of the finest art galleries, museums, and vintage boutiques. It’s also known for its abundant street art. Definitely check it out if you have the chance!

Street Art in The Marais district - Paris

Street Art in The Marais district – Paris

To explore Paris, we provided everyone in the group with a Paris Visite Pass for use on public transportation, and a Paris Museum Pass, which gives access to many museums and attractions in and around Paris.

The Paris Visite Pass: The Best Way To See All The Sights In The City Of Lights

Night Shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

Night Shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

We walked 10-15 minutes from the hotel to the Bastille Metro station and used our Paris Visite Pass, which provides extensive travel throughout the validity of your card on the Paris Metro, RER (express regional trains), bus, funicular de Montmartre, and more. It’s even valid for the Charles de Gaulle train shuttle to the airport, including travel to Disneyland Paris and Versailles (if you have a pass for zone 1-5). You can even use it to hop on and off for impulsive stops without thinking twice.

Galeries Lafayette: A Must-See

Our first stop: Galeries Lafayette, a huge, 10-story exclusive French Department store and a must-see in Paris. I had always heard the shopping and the building were equally magnificent, and it was true, with the stunning glass & steel dome and the overall spectacular artwork of the building. We were given a guided tour of the history and architecture of the building, after which we made our way to the roof garden for a bird’s eye view of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower!

Galeries Lafayette - Spectacular artwork

Galeries Lafayette – Spectacular artwork

After the tour we had some free time. Some of us made our way to the café where we had options for some delicious snacks and beverages. We did some “window” shopping, and then headed back to the metro station to return to our hotel, but not before stopping at Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera.

Dinner was at a charming local restaurant in the Marais area, named after the song Pamela Popo sung by local legend, Serge Gainsbourg.  After dinner we all had a leisurely walk back to the hotel, which included sights of some very interesting street art.

Gardens Of Palais Royal & Tuileries

We began the next day with a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, after which we made our way to the Bastille station and took the metro that went to Palais Royal/Louvre Museum. We had scheduled a private walking tour of two of Paris’ most beautiful and historical parks: Gardens of the Palais Royal and Tuileries Gardens.

Gardens of the Palais Royal were historically considered among the most beautiful in Paris, and a hub of society life in the capital. The Tuileries Gardens include beautiful sculptures by Rodin, and work is currently underway to restore some of the gardens earliest designs.

Our architecture and design tour started at the Palais Royal Garden and finished off at the Tuileries. After this tour the rest of the afternoon was free.

Tuileries Gardens in Paris

Tuileries Gardens in Paris

The Paris Museum Pass: The Art Of Cutting The Line (fairly)

Now being in the Tuileries Gardens, and so close to museums, it was the perfect time to start using the Paris Museum Pass. It gives you access to over 60 museums, monuments, gardens, castles and cathedrals. Plus it comes with a fast-track admission, so you won’t have to wait in line at museums such as the The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, and many other must-sees. You can even save monumental time at the Arc de Triomphe and the Pantheon. Or revisit the same museum multiple times as long as your museum pass is valid.

The Orangerie Museum is within the Tuileries gardens, and some of us headed to visit it, as it had Monet’s Water Lilies on display. Instead of a series of average sized pictures, the oval room had 4 extraordinarily large pictures on display. It was so huge that you couldn’t take in the view of one entire picture in a glance; you almost had to look at it in sections to get the “big picture”. The paintings are truly spectacular!

View of the Louvre Museum taken from inside the Glass Pyramid

View of the Louvre Museum taken from inside the Glass Pyramid

From here we headed to the Louvre Museum. I visited the Mona Lisa, and then did a 90-degree turn to see the painting that I really wanted to see… The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese, one of my favorites. It is the largest painting in the Louvre’s collection. It hung in a monastery in Venice, Italy for 235 years before being plundered by Napoleon, and cut in half for shipping!!! Happily, it was re-stitched in Paris where it hangs today.

After a late lunch at the museum Café, we headed back to the hotel.

Musee D’Orsay For Dinner: Good Taste Is Everywhere

That evening our group met at the Musee D’Orsay for dinner. Formerly, it was a train station before being converted to a museum. This beautiful Beaux-Arts structure on the left bank of the Seine provided the perfect atmosphere for our last night in Paris. The museum itself focuses on French art dating from 1848 to 1915 and proudly houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, including works by Monet, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. And dinner? Well, let’s just say Musee D’Orsay had something to satisfy the ambitions of both the palette and the palate.

Assorted Cheeses Desert at Musee D’Orsay Restaurant

Assorted Cheeses Desert at Musee D’Orsay Restaurant

After dinner we took taxis back to a local pub in the Marais district for our last evening as a group.

Au Revoir Paris! A Fond Farewell

The group portion of our trip had now ended and we had said our goodbyes the previous night. Still, I was pleased to see some of the group at breakfast before everyone started departing throughout the day. I had some time before leaving for Paris CDG airport, so I took the opportunity to explore the Marais area. Well, mostly I wanted to go shopping and was just as eager to visit the Picasso museum.  It turned out the museum was closed for renovation, but fortunately, the boutiques were open. I indulged in some retail therapy!

Chic Boutique in The Marais district in Paris

Chic Boutique in The Marais district in Paris

How do you travel in Paris? Have you dined at Musee D’Orsay? What was your impression of Galeries Lafayette? Did you have a favorite street for shopping? Please share!

 

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