Individual Days - France

On Our Own

September 30, 2023

It is hard to believe that our 21-day Rick Steves’ tour is over. It just went so fast, and yet we saw and experienced so much. However, we are not done with Paris yet. We are staying a few extra days so we can see more of the City of Light.

We had breakfast and checked out of the Hotel Beaugency. Just a few blocks away, we dropped off our luggage at the Hotel l’Empereur to hold until our room was ready. We started our day by visiting the Hôtel National des Invalides.

Hôtel National des Invalides

The Hôtel National des Invalides was built in 1670 as a home and hospital for old and disabled soldiers by King Louis XIV, the Sun King. Later it grew to include the Cathédrale Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, the tomb of Napolean I, and the Museum of the Armies.

Northern Gate and Portal
Tomb of Joseph Bonaparte
Tomb of Napoleon II
Napoleon Bonaparte's Tomb
St. Louis Cathdral
French 75 (apparently, it's not a drink)
St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral Organ
Veteran Ceremony held in the Court of Honor

Rodin Museum

Right next door to the Hôtel National des Invalides, the Rodin Museum hosts many Rodin statues, including The Thinker.

The Thinker
Two Thinkers
Rodin Museum
Ugolino and His Children
The Three Shades


For lunch, we returned to rue Cler. We ate at Le Café du Marché.

Hotel l'Empereur

After lunch, our hotel room was ready. When we entered our room, we found a handwritten note and chocolates to welcome us. Look at the view from our window!! We look right out at the gold Invalides dome. Even the bathroom has a large window looking at the same fantastic view.

What a view!!!

We had a little time before our next reservation, so we walked over the Pont Alexandre III bridge which connects the Invalides and the Champs-Élysées quarter. It is an extremely ornate bridge.

Equestrian Statue of Simón Bolívar
Petit Palais
Winston Churchill Statue
Looking down Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Rather than walk the Champs-Élysées, we took the Metro. But here is what we didn’t realize, there are TWO arches. Without paying much attention, we boarded the metro going to the Grand Arch, not the Arc de Triomphe. We were tired and not focusing. The Metro was taking much longer than we expected which is when we realized what we had done. We switched trains and headed back in the right direction. We cut it close showing up right at our reservation time.

We saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then went up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Beautiful views of Paris, especially looking back at the Eiffel Tower. In the distance, we could see the Grand Arch.

Arc de Triomphe
View of Grande Arche de la Défense
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier


Next, we went underground, and I’m not talking about the Metro. Rather, we descended stairs to underground tunnels and passageways containing the bones of millions of Parisienses. The Paris Catacombs were founded in the 1700s to address two problems: sinkholes and the surplus of dead bodies.

As the city experienced several major sinkholes, King Louis XVI ordered the underground mines and quarries to be cleared and shored up to support the city.

Paris was also experiencing an issue with overcrowded cemeteries. At this time, most Parisians were buried in communal graves at their church. When the grave was full, it would be closed, and the bodies allowed to break down. Then the grave would be reopened, and more bodies added. With overcrowding, the process was not working which led to health problems for the living.

Bodies (bones) from overcrowded cemeteries were transferred to the underground mines. In 1786, the catacombs were officially named the Paris Municipal Ossuary. The Catacombs do not contain any individual headstones but do have markers identifying the names of the original cemeteries. Parisians from different classes and times are all placed together, side by side. There is equality in death. When entering the Catacombs, the sign reads Halt, this is the empire of the dead.

The Crossroads
Bone Wall
Presenting the Bones
Crypt of the Passion

Ô Chateau Wine-Tasting Dinner

Rick Steves recommended Ô Chateau. They have several wine-tasting options, but we selected the full wine-tasting dinner. It was a fun experience.

We were escorted to the cellar below the restaurant where our sommelier, Jasmina, taught us about French wines and how to pair them with different courses. We started with Monmarthe champagne. We learned the proper way to open a bottle of champagne so you don’t spill one drop as some champagnes can be quite expensive.

For the Starter Course, we had mimosa eggs and tarragon mayonnaise served with Clos du Vignon, a chardonnay from the Burgundy region. Black Angus steak and potatoes were the main course paired with Diane de Belgrave, a red wine from the Bordeaux region. Last, for dessert we had chocolate ganache with poached pear. Dessert was paired with Parcé Frères, a dessert wine from the Roussillon region.

A wonderful end to our first post tour day. We walked 12.1 miles today.

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