If you’re just finding my blog, make sure you start at the beginning of this trip with Day 1 – Getting to Paris!
Hotel Henri IV Rive Gauche, located on Rue Saint-Jacques, is just a block away from Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame. It’s in the 5th arrondissement, or Latin Quarter, and borders the 6th or Saint-Germain-des-Pres area. We chose this area because it’s centrally located, surrounded by shops, cafes, pubs, pharmacies, bakeries, crepe stands, and in walking distance to many museums. The Saint-Michel–Notre-Dame metro station also gives you access with few or no connections to every part of Paris. This area is heavily populated with students of the Sorbonne and other Paris universities located nearby. The night life is supposedly very good in this neighborhood as well.
The front desk staff at the hotel were friendly, most spoke English, and were happy to answer our questions. They weren’t overly chatty or friendly, but I chalked that up to the language barrier. Our rooms were small, but we expected that for the price and central location. My parents’ room had a nice layout, with closets on either side of the bed and a shelf running behind the headboard with plugs on either side. Our room was cramped, with a closet in the hall just inside the door that didn’t equal their two closets together. A suitcase would not fit in the closet, so I stored mine under the desk after I emptied it and hung my clothes in the closet. Josh left his on the luggage stand and never fully unpacked. The bathroom was small but adequate, had a tub and half of a shower door that made it quite difficult to shower without getting water everywhere. Apparently this is a French trick I must master some day. We loved the heated towel rack, and used it later to dry our socks that we washed in the sink.
We had asked for a view of the cathedral next door. Both our rooms faced the busy street and the cathedral (Saint Severin), and with the windows closed the street noise wasn’t too loud. We did hear lots of sirens because of our proximity to a hospital, but they didn’t keep me up at night. We even had a tiny glimpse of the Eiffel Tower way off in the distance above the other buildings. Our room had two sets of windows, both opened easily, and a set of sheer curtains and blackout curtains that covered the entire wall. My parents’ room had a small balcony and a set of French doors instead. We were on the 4th floor, though I hear the view from the 6th floor is fantastic. The hotel has rooms that face a courtyard instead of the street, which can be requested if you’re a light sleeper. We didn’t mind the street noise, but if you’re visiting in the spring when you might like to sleep with the windows open, I’d recommend the courtyard view.
After checking in and lugging our bags to the room (there is an elevator!), we had to dress quickly and head downstairs to meet Heather from Secrets of Paris, who had agreed to give us a 2 hour introduction to Paris. She met us in the lobby and we sat to talk for a few minutes about our neighborhood and what we would like to see. She gave us maps of the metro and of Paris, along with a local book of seasonal highlights (winter/Christmas in our case). We headed out to take a walk around the Latin Quarter, stopped in somewhere for a coffee, then took the metro to the Champs-Elysees.
Heather talked the whole time about Paris and things we should try to see, giving us tips on speaking with French people and navigating the city. She gave us a ton of valuable information, and made us feel a lot more confident about spending the next two weeks in Paris. We got off the metro at the Arc de Triomphe, and marveled at the scene. The Champs-Elysees was lit up and we could see all the way down it to the ferris wheel at the bottom. The Arc de Triomphe was spectacular and the street around it just as crowded and insane as I imagined. Thank goodness I will never have to drive around that circle! Heather left us there, confident that we could now use the metro on our own. We wandered down the Champs-Elysees, stopping for pictures and all of us growing a little cranky with our jetlag. We walked as far as the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro stop, then hopped back on to return to the Latin Quarter. On our walk back to the hotel, we popped in at a boulangerie for to-go quiches and tomato and cheese tarts that we took back to the hotel and ate before bed.
We all collapsed into bed around 9:30pm Paris time, about 32 hours after we got out of bed at home the day before.
Day 2, Christmas Eve, is up next. We visited Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur, and the top of the Eiffel Tower!