“Paris is always a good idea.”
Paris: a world of its own impossible to be explored in two days only, but this is all we had on our way back from Bulgaria to the USA. Having been there before (lucky me, I know), I had a pretty good idea where to go and what to see. So here we were at Munich airport, impatiently waiting for our flight to Charles de Gaulle, Paris.
A good book and a camera, my travel companions, always make the time go faster.
After a short flight, we were approaching the airport.
Paris: Love at first sight! (do you see the heart?)
Where to go and what to see: so many options! As soon as we landed, we caught a train from the airport to the center of the city, and managed to find our hotel close to the Louvre withougt any difficulties. We checked-in, left our luggage, and headed to our 7pm appointment with a 365 friend of mine.
It was exciting to meet my Parisian friend, with whom I have only communicated online. We decided to go for a walk around the area, and then find a restaurant for dinner – in a typical Parisian manner.
This famous cafe across from the Louvre and right next to Comedie Francaise has been featured in many movies.
My Parisian friend took us through little know passages and parks. Paris has wonderful gardens all over the city center – a great escape from the hustle and bustle.
Dinner was exceptional. We walked into a small restaurant off the street, with only a handful of items on the menu. The less, the better – it means the food is fresh from the market. I had a salmon dish which was to die for. French baguette included, of course.
An evening stroll was a must. We decided to walk along the Seine, destination: the Eiffel Tower.
The Pont Alexandre III at night: widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in Paris. It is classified as a historical monument and it was built between 1896 and 1900.
What looked like a short stroll, turn out to be a nearly an hour of walking. However, we reached our destination: exhausted but happy.
The Eiffel Tower is one of these famous monuments which looks even more impressive live. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, it has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower stands 320 metres (1,050 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building. So beautiful, and it sparkels at every hour. So Romantic.
Day 2. That was our only full day in Paris, and we were going to make the most of it. For a start, breakfast around the corner from the hotel at the Japanese French Bakery. Pain au Chocolat, I love you!
Our plan for the day was outlined. I love watching big cities wake up, and local people getting on with their day.
We were very close to the Opera, so we decided to head that way. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d’Opéra, and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and officially renamed the Académie Royale de Musique, but continued to be known more simply as the Opéra.
Next was Galeries Lafayette: an 10-story upmarket French department store which houses all famous brands. The stores only let in a couple of people at a time, but we were there to admire the interior, and not shop.
The view from the top floor of Galeries Lafayette is spectacular, and they even have a cafe on the roof top.
Next we were headed to one of my favorite pedestrian streets in Paris, full of restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and shops.
Seafood…yum! Paris truly has wonderful food. And people do appreciate it and take an hour for lunch.
French cheese – yes, please. One thing I love about Europe is the small specialty shops, and the ability to walk home from work and get all you need for dinner on the way. Fresh, delicious, nutritious.
Locals and tourists mingle on the streets. Cars are restricted in the city center, but you do see many people on bikes.
Most buildings in the city center have private courtyards. As a fellow blogger wrote “The French seem to be the masters of the hidden courtyard…sometimes it would seem that every second doorway leads to a surprise destination.”
On the way to Notre Dame we had to stop by my favorite souvenir shop. I still regret not buying this adorable mug. But I got a postcard – lightweight and unbreakable. Have to be practical, sometimes.
Street fun near Centre Georges Pompidou, which houses the Bibliothèque publique d’information, a vast public library, the Musée National d’Art Moderne which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research.
My orientation was pretty good: after a short walk we stumbled upon Notre Dame. The cathedral is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most well-known churches in the world ever built. A popular tourist spot, where many walking tours of Paris begin.
Notre Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports). Many small statues were placed around the outside. These were crafted individually and served as supports for columns and water spouts. Among these are the famous gargoyles and chimeras (the former of which is designed to run off rain water).
Next on the map was the Latin Quarter, situated on the left bank of the Seine, around the Sorbonne. The area gets its name from the Latin language, which was once widely spoken in and around the University since Latin was the international language of learning in the Middle Ages. Known for its student life, lively atmosphere and bistros, the Latin Quarter is the home to a number of higher education establishments besides the university itself. A great pace to buy souvenirs and grab a quick lunch – a gyro or a crepe with Nutella and Banana. Or both. 🙂
A river cruise was an option, but we decided to watch the Seine at a park at Île de la Cité: ne of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris, the other being the Île Saint-Louis.
The Pont des Arts, one of the many bridges across the Seine, has been invaded by love locks. A great place to have wine and cheese and watch the sunset, we were going to come back to.
Of course, we visited the Louvre. No time to stroll inside, we admired this incredible museum on the outside, wondering how it was built back in the time.
A crepe with Nutella at the Tuileries Garden was an afternoon must. Created by Catherine de Medicis as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564, it was first opened to the public in 1667, and became a public park after the French Revolution. In the 19th and 20th century, it was the place where Parisians celebrated, met, promenaded, and relaxed. And it still is.
Night time Paris. A trip to the grocery store was at hand. We already knew our way around, and sign language was working perfectly with an occasional “Merci” 🙂
Our little picnic at Pont des Arts, admiring the sunset over the Seine and the Eiffel tower.
We were not the only ones…
A view of Île de la Cité and The Pont Neuf, the “new bridge” that is now the oldest bridge in Paris, at night.
After admiring the sunset from the bridge, it was time to go back to the hotel. We walked by Pyramide du Louvre, the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. The pyramid and the underground lobby beneath it were created because of a series of problems with the Louvre’s original main entrance, which could no longer handle the enormous number of visitors on an everyday basis. Visitors entering through the pyramid descend into the spacious lobby then re-ascend into the main Louvre buildings.
On the way back, I had to pick up some European chocolate and cookies to take back to the USA. I got limited edition dark Lindt with pistachios – yum!
Paris: amazing architecture, great food, landmarks at every corner, cosy gardens, stunning museums, fashion, bridges, history, macaroons, pastries, arts, celebrities, tourists, romance, love, french cheese, narrow passages, courtyards, faces, sculptures, cathedrals, universities, picnics, writers, models, muses. Paris, je t’aime.
“And then something happened, something that is hard to describe. Sitting there in a foreign country, far from my job and all the people I knew, a feeling came over me. As if I recalled something, something that I had never known and for which I had been waiting. But I didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was something I had forgotten. Or something I had missed my whole life. I can only tell you that at the same time I felt joy and sadness. But not a great sadness. Because I felt alive. Yes. Alive. That was the moment I fell in love with Paris and the moment that I felt that Paris had fallen in love with me.”
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
Photos and text: Me
For more of Paris, watch Midnight in Paris, 2 Days in Paris and Paris, je t’aime.