In 2010, I traveled to Sweden for a work meeting. On the way home, my former manager arranged it so we could stay in Paris a couple of nights. It was the weekend before Valentine’s Day, bitterly cold and not very romantic, but I’ll never forget how it felt seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I wished Jay had been with me then but I knew we would visit Paris together someday.
Needless to say, we were both very excited on the morning of Day 3! Ruth was waiting for us in the hotel lobby and after quick introductions, we jumped on the bus that took us to Saint Pancras railway station, where we would board the Eurostar to Paris. As we approached St. Pancras, we could hardly believe it is a railway terminus. The building is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture and is often referred to as the “cathedral of railways”. We arrived super early and after our baggage was processed through the station, we made our way to the platform.
The Eurostar is a high-speed train that can travel up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour and will get you to from London to Paris in two and a quarter hours. A good chunk of the route is through the Channel Tunnel, AKA “The Chunnel”, which has the longest undersea section of any tunnel in the world. We snoozed for most of the trip and before we knew it, the train was arriving at Gare du Nord station in Paris.
At this point, most of our group was together and we would stay that way until the end of the trip. We followed Ruth to the station exit, where we boarded the awesome Insights coach for the first time and met our lovely Italian driver Domenico. As Domenico loaded our luggage, everyone slowly got on board Ruth began going over the day’s agenda. This was the first opportunity we had to get a good look at our travel companions and Ruth promised we would get better acquainted later that evening during the Insights Welcome Dinner. Ruth also explained that we would rotate seat positions every day so everyone had an opportunity to sit up front.
It was a beautiful day in Paris and we could hardly wait to start exploring the city! On the way to the hotel, we made a sight-seeing stop at Les Invalides, also known as Hôtel national des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalides). This collection of buildings includes a museum for France’s military, as well as a hospital and housing for war veterans. Additionally, it is the burial place of France’s most famous political figure, Napoleon Bonaparte. Domenico stopped the coach in front of the Dôme des Invalides, a beautiful French Baroque church where Napoleon’s tomb is located. We walk around a bit and took some pictures while Ruth gave us the first of many fascinating history lessons to educate us on what we were looking at.
Our hotel for the next two days would be the Pullman Montparnasse on Rue du Commandant René Mouchotte, a contemporary establishment located in the Montparnasse district of Paris. This area of the city is home to many trendy cafes and bars and superseded the Montmartre district as the center of intellectual and artistic life in Paris during the first half of the 20th century. After checking in, we took a short walk to check out the neighborhood and find something to snack on before dinner.
The hotel is situated on an incline, which ends in a small roundabout at the top. As we rounded the corner on the right-hand side, we were stunned to see the Eiffel Tower, beautifully outlined against a clear blue sky in the near distance. We paused for a few moments to fully appreciate the scene and then descended to the next street, where we found a small pastry shop. I encouraged Jay to try a mini cheese quiche, which I quickly became addicted to the last time I was in Paris, and could only appreciate it through him now that I am vegan. The afternoon had become quite warm and we stopped in a few markets before we found some take away water and a snack for me. Soon, we were back in the hotel and getting ready for some wine assisted mingling and a fabulous riverboat tour of the River Seine later in the evening.
Check back soon to read more about our first day in Paris!