France Odyssey: Seine River, Reims, & Paris Day 13 & 14

This morning we had a timed entrance ticket to visit Sainte-Chapelle. The sun was rising as we were walking toward the chapel.

There was a restaurant nearby so we had some breakfast before it was time for our entrance. We had a great breakfast at Brasserie Les Deux Palais.

Brasserie Les Deux Palais

It was a beautiful day with no clouds in the sky. Sainte Chapelle and the Palais de Justice were Part of the former royal palace. The Palais de Justice was a courthouse that contained the Court of Appeals. Sainte Chapelle was the Royal Chapel and was built in the middle of the 13th century and of the High Gothic architecture.

King Louis IX built this chapel to hold his sacred relics. He went on crusades and paid enormous prices. His chapel was specifically designed to follow his wishes. Louis IX was considered a saint during his lifetime and was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1297 and was Saint Louis.

The security checkpoint was backed up and we were a little delayed getting into Sainte Chapelle. It was worth the wait! Sainte Chapelle had two levels. The upper chapel housed the king’s most precious relics: the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross. The Crown was a wreath of thorns that was supposedly placed on Jesus Christ at his crucifixion. The fragment of the True Cross which was made of wood of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. The relics were no longer kept there.

Panoramic picture of the second level of Sainte Chapelle

We went up the spiral stairs to the second level first. It had 1,113 stained glass windows that depicted scenes from the Old and New Testament. It was gorgeous.

Facing west and almost 30 feet in width was the Rose of the Apocalypse which was rebuilt around 1485 under Charles VIII and consisted of 87 panels.

When we were finished admiring all of the beauty of the stained glass we then went to the lower chapel (first floor) was fro the royal palace staff. The ceiling was lower and it was much darker because there were fewer windows. The lower level was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the area was divided into a nave and side aisles. The ceiling was filled with the fleur-de-lis pattern and had decorated columns.

In the apse was a statue of Saint Louis

There were 13th century original elements from Sainte Chapelle before the French Revolution destroyed them.

The scary gargoyles outside Sainte Chapelle were quite fun to see.

After Sainte Chapelle we walked to the Eiffel Tower to get tickets to go up the tower. We walked along the bank of the Seine River for most of the way. We passed many of the 240 bouquinistes (book sellers) who sell out of green boxes that house over 300,000 old books, journals, stamps and trading cards. In 1991 the bouquinistes of Paris became an UNESCO World Heritage site. These green boxes are located on both sides of the Seine.

It was a great day for a three mile walk to the Eiffel Tower entrance. Below were some of our sites on our walk!

We stopped for a drink at a small cafe on the way because we needed to use the restroom before going in the Eiffel Tower security entrance.

We stood in line to purchase our tickets for the Eiffel Tower and when we were almost to the ticket counter the sign for the tower summit changed from open to close. Three of our group had really wanted to go to the summit and it was a perfect day for it so they were disappointed. We found out later from our hotel clerk that they closed the summit due to the winds!

In a nearby neighborhood was an Italian restaurant that’s menu was 100% gluten free! The food was delicious. If you need to eat gluten free in Paris we would recommend Tasca Bio.

By the time we finished our meal we walked back to the Louvre mall entrance. We wanted to check out the Paris 2024 Olympic store. We looked around but didn’t find anything we had to have other than we purchased the Paris 2024 mascot (the Phryges) for our granddaughter. We stopped by the hotel to freshen up and since it was our last night in Paris we walked around the neighborhood from our hotel.

We passed the Church of Sainte Marie-Madeleine that was built in the style of a Greek temple and was finished in 1842.

Church of Sainte Marie-Madeleine

There were some interesting head busts by the artist Rero. One had Shift carved on it, one had low resolution and another had Error 404 carved on it.

We eventually stopped at the Cafe Madeleine for wine and shared a charcuterie board. We toasted our great trip and great friends!

Today we leave Paris for home. We have a late afternoon flight so the hotel gave us a late checkout. The six of us walked for breakfast at Ladurée Paris Royale restaurant. It had a quaint decor.

The hot chocolate was very rich and we enjoyed the gluten free Eugénie which was a shortbread cookie with a soft center and melted coating! Delicious!

After breakfast we said goodbye to our nephew who traveled with us for two weeks. He was staying in Paris for one more day before heading home. We went back to our hotel to pack our bags for flying home and wait for our ride to Charles de Gaulle airport. We said goodbye to the Hotel Du Continent.

Hotel Du Continent

Our driver showed up on when scheduled and our flights were on time! We arrived home close to midnight. It was a wonderful adventure in France but as always it was good to be home!

France Odyssey: Seine River, Reims, & Paris Day 12

This morning we had a timed entrance ticket to the Louvre Museum. We were lucky because our time was for when the museum opened.

Emmanual Frémiet’s Joan of Arc Bronze statue from 1874

We walked to the Carrousel du Louvre entrance.

Carrousel Entrance

This was considered to underground entrance and we had no line to enter. There were stores as you walked to get to the Louvre entrance near the inverted pyramid. And of course it was another chance to do O-H-I-O for our Buckeyes who were playing later today.

As soon as the Louvre opened we entered!

In we go with no line!

The Louvre first opened in 1793 with 537 paintings. Today the museum had almost 35,000 objects exhibited over 652,300 square feet. We’ve included a few of our favorites from our visit.

Looking up through the pyramid

The first place we went to visit was Mona Lisa! Three of the six of us had never been to the Louvre so they were so excited to see the infamous portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. He painted the oil painting on wood sometime between 1503 and 1519. We saw her in 2019 and our nephew saw her when he last visited Paris.

Mona Lisa

As we climbed the Daru staircase we had the Winged Victory of Samothrace, Nike all to ourselves. It had been on display at the Louvre since 1866. This ancient sculpture, 190 BCE, was found on the Greek island of Samothrace.

Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory

The Venus de Milo was another very famous sculpture found on the Greek island of Milos (was Melos) in 1820. She was donated to the Louvre in 1821. Nobody was around when we visited her. We were very fortunate to be ahead of the crowds for her as well as Mona Lisa and the Goddess of Victory!

We walked through galleries and you can see with the picture on the left that it was advantageous to arrive when the museum opened. The picture on the right showed the crowds getting heavier.

Athena Parthenos, known was Minerva with a Necklace was a Roman copy from the 1st-2nd century AD. It was believed that the original was dedicated inside the Parthenon in Athens in 438 BC.

Athena Parthenos

We visited the Egyptian antiquities and saw the Grand Sphinx of Tanis from 2500 BC. It was carved from a single block of granite.

Sphinx of Tanis

Looking out from the second story window you could see the courtyard of the Louvre and also just how large this museum was!

When we left the Louvre the cloudless sky had now changed to rain clouds.

Rain Clouds over the Louvre!

Since it looked like rain we got tickets for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to tour the areas of Paris that we might not have visited.

We passed the Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois which was located opposite the Louvre museum. The church has been on this site since the 5th century and rebuilt several times. Unfortunately it was most remembered for the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on August 24, 1572. The church’s bell signaled the beginning of the killing of tens of thousands of Huguenots (French Protestants).

Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois

When we passed the Notre Dame Cathedral we could really see the construction of the rebuilding of the church from the devastating fire in 2019. There was still a lot of scaffolding.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Arc de Triomphe was built between 1806-1836 and was located in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle and at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. This triumphal arch was built in honor of those who fought for France. Located underneath the arch was the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Arc de Triomphe

Located at the other end of the Champs-Élysées was the Place de la Concorde. It was created in 1772 and originally known as an execution site during the French Revolution. The most notable guillotined here was Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. It was redesigned and in 1836 the famous Luxor Obelisk(3,300 years old) was erected. Fountains were also added. When we saw it, the Rugby World Cup Village was set up. Throughout Paris, the police presence was heavy. We later learned that France was on their highest terrorist threat!

We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at a Mexican restaurant called El Vecino Taqueria Saint-Honoré. A disc jockey was playing music while we ate our meals.

Paris was doing a lot of construction and advertising for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

The Louvre received a threat and it was evacuated and closed for the rest of the day!

Louvre closed and a heavy police presence

The clouds were eerie as we walked back to our hotel.

It was a busy day in Paris even with some rain mixed in during the day.

France Odyssey: Seine River, Reims, & Paris Day 11

This morning we left Reims and the bus took us back to Paris. We said goodbye at the Charles De Gaulle airport to our other travelers who were heading home and the six of us met our Uber driver for a ride to the Hotel Du Continent in Paris. It was difficult to find a hotel room because the Rugby World Cup 2023 was going on while we were there.

Our Uber driver was great and got us to our hotel without any issues. Our rooms were ready at the hotel so we checked in and put our luggage in our rooms. Our room was definitely unique. The room was fine but we had to take stairs to the bathroom!

After dropping off our luggage we headed over to the Musée D’Orsey in the center of Paris along the Seine. We had a timed-entrance ticket for 3:30 PM and it was after 3:00. The Musée D’Orsey housed the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces. It was the second biggest museum in Paris. The building was the former Orsay railway station which was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900.

Musée D’Orsey

The Musée D’Orsey housed art creations from 1848-1914 and the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world. The main hall was once the train tracks and the platforms.

The museum had three enormous clocks. The gold clock near the entrance was stunning and you could see another scaled model of the Statue of Liberty from behind.

The other two clocks were made of steel-framed and glass. Because the clocks were glass we could see Paris through the clocks!

A couple of pictures of Paris from the museum.

A few of the most famous works that we saw:

Van Gogh’s Self Portrait
Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone!
Vincent Van Gogh’s The Bedroom
Vincent Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet
Claude Monet’s Blue Water Lilies
Edgar Degas’ “Petite Danseuse de 14 Ans” (Small Dancer, Aged Fourteen)
Auguste Renoir’s Moulin de la Galette

Some of our other favorites are located in the following slide show. We took so many pictures that it was difficult to choose.

We had a little time before our timed entrance into the Orangerie Museum. The distance between the museums was about a five minute walk so we were looking for a restaurant on the way to grab some dinner. We found a small little restaurant, Nicole’s. Everyone had a very good meal before it was time to leave for the museum.

Dinner at Nicole’s

This was the Orangerie’s night where they stay open late. It was so nice because it wasn’t crowded at all.

The Musée de l’Orangerie or Orangerie Museum was a stone building that was built in 1852 and was originally an orangery. It was a winter shelter for the orange trees that lined the garden of the Tuilleries Palace.

The museum housed Claude Monet’s 8 decorative panels. He gave them to France as a symbol for peace in 1922. These huge water lily panels were installed in 1927, a few months after Monet’s death. They were a permanent exhibit.

Seeing Monet’s Water Lilies was a highlight here but we did see artwork by Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Rousseau and more!

The museum had a display about the life of Paul Guillaume (1891-1934). He was an art dealer and collector. He wanted to collect enough art to create his own museum. Unfortunately he died at the age of 42 and his dream was never realized.

Paul Guillaume

After the museum we walked back toward our hotel. We passed the Rugby Village for the 2023 World Cup.

Closer to our hotel we stopped and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle! We’ve experienced before but it was still magical! It was a great ending to our day!

France Odyssey: Seine River, Reims, & Paris Day 10

This morning we left our hotel in Reims for the Champagne region. On our way there was a scenic overlook of the grapevines and the small town of Hautvillers.

Our first stop was the historic village of Hautvillers that was surrounded by vineyards. It had a population of around 700. As we walked through the town it was raining and this made it difficult to really enjoy its charm. The streets were fairly empty.

Hautvillers was also the home of the famous monk Dom Pérignon. He didn’t create champagne but he was very involved in the winemaking process. He was buried in the Abbey at Hautvillers.

The narrow streets were lined with winegrowers’ houses and champagne tasting.

During medieval times each shop in the town had its sign with a picture that depicted its business to let the townspeople know because many were illiterate. The mayor of the town relaunched this idea of the signs in the 1960s. Residents had to submit an application to the town hall if they wanted to add a wrought iron sign. Because of the rain it was difficult to look up and see all of the various signs. Below were just some of the signs that we walked past

You had to look up as you walked to see the signs.

Epernay was our next stop. It was home to some of the most famous Champagne houses and the town was nicknamed the “Capital of Champagne”!

We had a tour and tasting at Mercier Champagne House that was established in 1858.

Eugène Mercier was 20 years old when he founded his own house. He was one of the first to add electricity to his cellars and to advertise! He presented a giant vat at the 1889 World’s Fair. His giant vat held an equivalent of 200,000 bottles of wine and weighed over 20 tons! It was a hit at the fair and was only outshined by the Eiffel Tower.

An immersive descent in the elevator took us down 98 feet to the cellars that were dug out in 1871 by hand. Down in the cellars we boarded a train for a tour. We was bas-relief carvings by sculptor Gustave Navlet as we road the train.

When we finished our cellar tour we had a tasting session with Mercier’s sommelier. Their champagne was delicious!

We had a toast with the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce President. She does such a fantastic job promoting these trips and always added so much when she traveled with the Chamber groups!

After we finished at Mercier we had free time in town and the rain had stopped!

The Avenue de Champagne was lined with Champagne houses and some of the most famous! It also was an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Avenue de Champagne

We had a lunch at Le Progrès.

Le Progrès

After lunch we wanted to try another champagne so we visited the Brasserie de la Banque. It was once a bank.

We sat at the bar and shared a bottle of Champagne that was recommended by the bartender. It was Autréau from the village of Champillon which was about 3 miles from Epernay.


The Le Parc de l’Hôtel de Ville d’Epernay was a park that was created in the mid 1800’s to enhance the town house of the Moët & Chandon family. This park opened to the public in 1920. This garden surrounded the city park hall.

After our time in Epernay we headed back to Reims and our hotel. We sat outside our hotel and enjoyed some more of the Mercier champagne with chocolate and Cider before we walked into the town of Reims to explore the city before dinner.

We walked around the town of Reims and visited some shops.

The hotel recommended Le Tablier restaurant for dinner. Nine of us met there for our last dinner in Reims.

Le Tablier

Below was the Subé Fountain from 1906. The bronze winged victory at the top was taken by the Germans in 1941 and was replaced identically in 1989!

Subé Fountain

Tomorrow we head back to Paris!

France Odyssey: Seine River, Reims, & Paris Day 9

This morning we said goodbye to the staff on the Amadeus Diamond and boarded a bus to head for a tour of the Palace of Versailles. We had a delayed start because our local guide that would be with us for the next three days was late.

Our guide had us wait just inside the gate while he got our entrance tickets. Our tickets had a timed entrance but the Palace was running way behind so we were late. It was very crowded the day we visited. It was a very popular tourist stop and we could tell by the crowds.

The Palace of Versailles spanned over 1,977 acres. It was also an UNESCO World Heritage site. It was the main residence of the French Kings from Louis XIV to Louis XVI. It originally was the former hunting lodge of Louis XIII and it was transformed and extended by his son Louis XIV in 1682. Each king who lived here added his own enhancements until the French Revolution.

The Royal Gate was destroyed during the French Revolution which began in 1789. The French Revolutionary government ordered it dismantled. It was covered completely with gold! The gate below was rebuilt in 2008 but decorated with 100,000 gold leaves.

Royal Gate

It was another cloudless day with blue skies. The palace was so big that our phones and camera could not get the entire palace in one picture. We had some pictures of the front of the palace.

We visited the rooms that were open to the public. Every room was grand and full of opulance. Below were a couple pictures from the Queen’s Apartments.

The Queen’s Guard room
Queen’s Bedchamber

The King’s State Apartments’ layout was identical to the Queen’s State Apartments. One of his rooms was the Salon of Diana was named after Diana the goddess of the hunt.

The beautiful ceiling in the Salon of Diana

Also in the Salon of Diana was a marble bust of Louis XIV.

Bust of Louis XIV

There also was a full-sized model of King Louis XIV that was sculpted in the 17th century.

King Louis XIV

The Mars Room was used as a guard room.

The Mercury Room was the Royal bedchamber.

Royal Bedchamber

Also in this room was a clock from 1706 that you can see its mechanism and it was decorated with a miniature figure of Louis XIV crowned by victory.

Clock given to Louis XIV by its maker, Antoine Morand

The pictures below show the organ of the Royal Chapel that sat above the altar and also the 2-story entrance doors!

One of our favorite rooms was the Hall of Mirrors. The mirror makers were from Venice, Italy. Construction began in 1678 and the hall had 357 mirrors!

Walking into the Hall of Mirrors

The Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors. This peace treaty brought an end to WWI.

As we were walking in the palace we took this picture looking out at the gardens!

We spent time walking around the gardens and fountains. Unfortunately the water for the fountains was already turned off for the season.

The back of the Palace.

It gardens were beautiful even if it was late in the season. Click through the slide show to view the various gardens, fountains (with no water), and statues.

When we finished with the grounds of the palace we walked over to the town of Versailles to find a restaurant for lunch.

The Crêperie La Place was close by and offered gluten free crepes. We sat outdoors and enjoyed the sunny day and had a delicious lunch!

Our next stop was the city of Reims. Before going to our hotel we stopped and visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims or also called the Reims Cathedral.

The cathedral was a wonderful example of Gothic art and in 1991 was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The West facade had two twin towers and a rose window. The stain glass windows were beautiful.

There were 2300 statues inside and out. It was the only cathedral to display angels with open wings. One famous statue was the “smiling angel” near the entrance.

Reims Cathedral was where kings of France were crowned. It hosted over 30 sovereign coronations. Reims became known as the “City of Kings”!

A statue of Joan of Arc was at the Cathedral’s forecourt. During the 100 year war Joan was beside the crowning of King Charles VII at Reims.

Joan of Arc Statue

The interior stained-glass windows were throughout the church.

After our visit to the cathedral we checked into our hotel.

This evening we walked into town for dinner. It was a nice evening for a walk and a chance to see the city after dark.

Our favorite picture was the Reims Cathedral at night!

Reims Cathedral

We found a small restaurant and we had excellent service and our meals were delicious! It was another day of exploring another area of France.

France Odyssey: Seine River, Reims, & Paris Day 8

This morning we are docked back in Paris! Our morning was spent with a city tour of Paris. Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower. It was built for the International Exposition of 1889. The tower stood 984 feet and was constructed of wrought iron.

Another stop was the Notre Dame Cathedral. Building began in the 12th century and it took 300 years to complete the cathedral. The upper part of the cathedral was severely damaged in a fire in April, 2019. We could only visit the outside of Notre Dame. It was planned for reopening in December, 2024.

Notre Dame with scaffolding

More sites of Paris that we passed on our morning tour.

After our Paris city tour the rest of the day was on our own. We stopped at a cafe for something to drink.

Our next stop was the hill of Montmarte. We weren’t close so we took a subway to get close.

Entrance to the metro station
Riding the metro

The over 250 stairs awaited us to climb them to reach Sacré Coeur basilica.

Sacré Coeur was a popular tourist spot with over a million visitors every year! The Basilica du Sacré Coeur meant “sacred heart” in English. Its exterior was made from white limestone with a Roman-Byzantine style architecture. In front were two statues, one of Joan of Arc and the other of King Louis on horseback.

Basilica du Sacré Coeur

From here there were great panoramic views of Paris. It was a beautiful blue sky but the Paris skyline was hazy.

Behind the Sacré Coeur was the Place du Tertre we saw many artists ready to draw your portrait or caricature!

We ate lunch nearby at Chez Eugène on their terrace. We had a delicious lunch.

We spent some time walking the streets of Montmarte.

As we were walking around we came upon the two surviving windmills of the 30 that once were on Montmarte. The first one we saw was Le Moulin du Radet. It was built in 1717 and was originally used to ground flour and moved in 1924 and it now sits above a restaurant.

Le Moulin du Radet

Then we passed the Moulin de La Galette or Le Moulin Blute-Fin. This windmill was built in 1622 and was abandoned. You had to look through the trees to barely make out the windmill!

Le Moulin Blute-Fin or Moulin de Le Galette

We really enjoyed out walk around this area. From the historic windmills of Montmarte we then past the red windmill of Moulin Rouge, a caberet. This was another great spot for O-H-I-O!

On our walk back to the riverboat we saw the Eiffel Tower with the beautiful clear sky.

We walked along the Seine River and saw this bronze monument that was called “Monument des Martyrs Juifs du Velodrome d’Hiver”. It translation was “Monument to the Jewish Martyrs of the Winter Stadium”. It was dedicated to the memory of the 13,000+ Jews that were rounded up in Paris during WWII. At the bottom of the monument was enscribed “Let’s never forget”! Wise words to remember!

Monument des Martyrs Juifs du Velodrome d’Hiver

On a man-made island near the Grenelle Bridge in Paris we saw the quarter-scale version of the Statue of Liberty. It weighed 14 tons and stood 37 feet 9 inches tall. This was given to France in 1889 by US expats in Paris that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. On the base of the statue were two plaques, one with the date July 4, 1776 and the other with the date July 14, 1789.

Our city tour and the time to explore Paris on our own was invigorating and also tiring. We did a lot of walking today! This evening was our last night on the riverboat. Tomorrow we tour the Palace of Versailles.