European Excursion Day Two: Exploring Paris
After an amazing night sleep on that hotel mattress, I”m being serious that mattress was heaven, we got up and set off on our grand exploration into the city of love. We decided to walk into the center of city from our hotel. This was a great idea because we saw so many things that we wouldn’t have, if we just took the metro straight to the touristy places. But before we started the hour walk into central Paris we had to grab breakfast. We walked along the street by our hotel looking for a bakery and there were a lot of them! So eventually we just picked one that wasn’t too busy and looked at the selection. I decided on a croissant because let’s face it, that is a very French thing to eat. I ordered in French both mine and Sam’s breakfast wishes. After we paid we headed back out onto the road to begin our journey into Paris. We ate while we walked and my decision on that croissant was a fantastic idea, it ended up being filled with some sort of peach filling. Yum! There isn’t really much to say about our walk other than it was beautiful. I love architecture and Paris has amazing building which the iconic Parisian style. Everything we saw on our way in was what I’d imagined Paris to be: streets lined with cafes, fountains, and white building with black iron balconies. It was all so lovely. I like to explore cities by just walking around, seeing what is there other than just the tourist traps. In my opinion it is the best way to truly get a taste of a city.
After walking for awhile we finally saw the first major landmark, the Paris Opera or better known as the Palais Garnier, This opera is the background of the very famous book and musical The Phantom of the Opera. We didn’t go in, but the outside spoke for itself. Wow!
Now I could ramble on for about 6,000 words about everything I saw that day, but let’s face it, you don’t want to read all of that and my fingers do not want to type all of that! So I’m just going to do a speed recap of what we did.
Just an FYI Paris is a huge city and we walked this way and that way, up and down and all around. We hit up nearly every spot on the tourist map, but it was a day of seeing. Literally the only things we paid for was food, transportation and souvenirs. Since we didn’t have a ton of money to through around our site seeing was based on landmarks and free things. So after the Opera we walked into the most iconic part of Paris.
We saw the Louvre (we went in the next day) and it’s surrounding gardens:
It was all so pretty. There were vendors selling paintings and trinkets, art whenever you turn your head, a trampoline that kinds could pay to jump on and peddlers that would follow you asking you to buy their mini Eiffel Tours three for a Euro! With all that said it was a lovely spot to just walk around or drink a cup of tea by a fountain.
Next was the Place de la Concorde:
This is the largest public square in Paris and also the home of the Fontaines de la Concorde and Obelisk (Cleopatra’s Needle). Not only that, but many a important figure was guillotined here. That list includes the one and only Queen Marie Antoinette and her charming husband King Louis XVI. This square played an important role in the French Revolution and was actually renamed Place de la Révolution at one point. During the Reign of Terror nearly 1,300 people were put to death in this square, in one month. Even with it’s bloody history it’s a lovely place to see. It also happens to be a starting point of the Champs-Élysées.
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées:
This probably the most famous street in Paris. It is lined with fancy restaurants and high ends stores such as Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton and the Disney Store. On top of that, it is the last stage of the Tour de France (I remembered Dad!). We spent our time peaking into some shops and eating lunch from a street vendor before making our way down to the avenues pride and joy, the Arc de Triomphe. For my lunch I had a nutella filled crêpe. It was amazing and I wished that it never ended. I swear nutella is very addictive, you should eat with care! At this point in the day is decided to down pour, so we took shelter under a tree and ate our food while we waited for the rain to pass. Luckily that didn’t take long and we were on our way again. We finally made it to the Arc de Triomphe, which is done by going through an underground tunnel to avoid the six lanes of circling traffic. The Arc is a memorial for those who died during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The names of all French victories and generals are inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Under the Arc is the tomb of the unknown solider from WWI and an eternal flame.
Pont de Grenelle:
This is one of the more obscure things we saw. As many of you know France gave us the Statue of Liberty in the late 1800’s, but Lady Liberty is not one of a kind. In fact there are several Statue of Liberties in Paris alone. We went and saw the one on the Seine by the Grenelle Bridge; the one that Nick Cage went to in the National Treasure movie. It was a little out of the way, but we really wanted to see it, so we walked along a really busy road to get to her. I should let you know that this road was not meant to be walked on my pedestrians because there is no real sidewalk. And of course I learned this the hard way by tripping and falling on my face. France has now been the second country I’ve fallen in and my poor little knee has really taken a beating. Though my main concern as I was falling in slow motion was, protect the camera at all cost!! I probably could have saved my knees some pain if I hadn’t been so concerned over my camera, but it was worth the scraps and bruises to not have a broken camera. Anyways…we did eventually make it down to the very small Lady Liberty. She is on a little man made island in the middle of the river and inscribed on the monument is the date July 4, 1776 (American Independence day) and July 14, 1789 (the storming of Bastille). We then headed back towards the Eiffel Tower on a tree lined walking path which led us the the bridge from Inception (the scene with the mirrors).
La Tour Eiffel:
Finally we made it to Paris’ most famous icon, the Eiffel Tower. The tower opened in 1889 and millions of people go up to the top every year. We didn’t go up inside, but walked around and took in the majestic structure. Let me tell ya it is really tall! I guess I knew it was big, but seeing it in person made me realize how huge it actually is. The Eiffel Tower stands just over 1,000 ft or 81 stories. It held the record for tallest man-made structure for 41 years until it was surpassed by Chrysler Building in 1930. I don;t have too much to say about our time here, we just did tourist things like take pictures, buy gifts and gawk at the tower.
L’Hôtel national des Invalides:
L’Hôtel des Invalides is a military museum and monument dedicated to the history of France’s military. There are three museums inside. Though it is also the tomb of notable military figures, including Napoleon Bonaparte.
After the L’Hôtel des Invalides we walked down the the Luxembourg Garden and then headed up towards the Notre-Dame. Not following a set path led us right into fancy town. We walked down really classy street lined with high end stores. Did you know that clothing lines like Armani and Ralph Lauren have restaurants attached to their stores? You can eat there for a pretty penny. I love looking into shop windows and seeing the displays. In a Ralph Lauren window we say a dress that could be yours for a measly $12,000. To bad I couldn’t go inside and try it on, I’m sure I could have squeezed it into my backpack for the plane ride home. So on our talk we saw a few churches, the Luxembourg Garden (where Marius and Cosette met in Les Miserable) and a ton of boutiques. It was a really lovely part of town and I’m happy we got to explore it.
Notre-Dame de Paris:
Now we didn’t see Quasimodo ring the bells, but we did get to go inside the famous Notre-Dame. One of the best things about visiting cathedrals is that they are allows free. I’ve gone to so many cathedrals and I’m still not bored. That could also be because i love architecture so much and the way cathedrals are decorated blows my mind. By the time we made it over to the Notre-Dame it was the evening. We waited in a short line to get inside and once we were inside we could walk around freely. Little did we know we walked in just in time for the beginning of Saturday Mass. We accidentally were ushered to seats and stood through the opening of Mass (in French). We were able to sneak out quietly and finish looking at the Cathedral. This may sound a bit rude, but Notre-Dame is not the most impressive Cathedral I’ve ever been too. I was expecting something a bit more extravagant. We later learned from a little girl that we stayed with in Brussels, that when it was built Paris was incredibly poor and the cathedral was all they had. So it made sense that everything wasn’t covered in paintings and gold, it also made me appreciate the Cathedral more.
Basilique du Sacré-Cœur:
The last stop on our day exploration was Sacré-Cœur, the Sacred Heart of Paris. We had to take the metro because it is located Montmarte neighborhood, which is the highest location in Paris. Meaning we had an amazing view of the city of light. We took the metro from Notre-Dame up to Montmarte. And we totally walked onto the metro without paying. What?! I am now living a life of crime, but my philosophy is why should I buy a ticket when you have major flaws in your transportation system that allows me to ride for free. Sorry Mom and Dad, I swear I’m not a criminal now, it was a one time thing in Paris (and also later on in our trip). Anywhoo… once we arrived we just had to walk about a huge hill to reach the basilica and enjoy the view. More poor feet hated me after this day! We took in the grand view and went inside the basilica to avoid the rain. Sadly we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside, but since I already reverted to a life of crime I did snap a few sneaky shots. The inside of the Sacré-Cœur is beautiful. There is so many mosaic tile work. The whole ceiling is actually a mosaic and the cost of building the structure was about 7 million French francs. So you can imagine how impressive the inside looks.
That was our first full day in Paris. We walked so much! I can now say that I’ve walked all over Paris, because we literally did and I loved it. My feet hurt so bad that night and they didn’t forgive me for putting them through so much work. Though the pain certain was worth it to see all of the things we saw. It was an amazing way to start a trip of a life time.
Until next time…