What would you expect in a city that you have read and heard so much about? In every romantic or artistic movie, in every modern and Renaissance artist’s life history and more recently in ( somewhat unpalatable) thriller mysteries (read Dan Brown)?
I found that no movie or book did it justice, and that it is clearly the place for an artistic mind to play its tune. I also know why no one could do it justice in writing or movies, Paris is to experience, not an explanation. In fact it defies all kinds of explanation, in my mind. Although, i do believe that you can describe the people that live there over all the different eras and somehow put all their experiences, ideas and ideologies together and somehow breathe all that in into the soul of the city. That is Paris. Not the Tour de Eiffel, nor the Moulin Rouge or the Opera, Louvre or Cathedral de Notre Dame. Though all of those are as much a part of it as the metro stations and the cafes that line the streets, full of people very evening. People having drinks and people watching, the chairs turned outwards, people watching is taken seriously there!
On our first day in Paris, our second day in France, we had my friend as tour guide and I think we probably did the most site seeing that day, we saw the pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre, the Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, Pont Neuf and the Bastille area. The lover’s bridge ( with locks) from 1970s that I saw myself, was true to its name, filled with lovers busy locking themselves in a padlock and throwing away the key!
I particularly like the La Basilique Sacre Coeur on Montmartre. There are so many majestic monuments, like the Arc de triomphe, that are riveting and breathtaking. day or night. We never climbed on top of any of those, I don’t know, I prefer seeing the monument that seeing the city from on top of it. I am not a landscape photographer for a reason. I like details, not an overview.
The Eiffel tower looks wonderful in daylight and with lights on, the sparkling lights on the hour when it turns dark ( around 10 at night in the summer) are also very pretty. The bridge with locks that have families and lovers’ names on them, was very interesting. Pont Neuf with grotesque masks lining its arches, offers quite a view of the Seine and the Eiffel tower. It is the oldest bridge on the river.
We ate is several cafes and restaurants, and I can recall the name of about three of them, one, Cafe Central ( close to Eiffel tower) and Cafe Constant.
We walked into the tail end of what must have been a phenomenal farmer’s market, in the Bastille area (it was a Sunday) with a large variety of very large sausages, cheeses, hundreds of varieties of fish!! I saw my first whole octopus.
The next time we went to Paris was see a Moulin Rouge show, something my dad had recommended and i believed would be entertaining and spectacular. Surprisingly the food and the champagne was also not bad! Though they did take away the exquisite dinner napkins in a hurry, probably afraid of them being taken as souvenirs. The show was full house and lasted about two hours. Exotic costumes and dancers. As part of the variety show some very skilled acrobatics and a few magic tricks. But nothing was as spectacular as the lit costumes of the finale. Definitely worth the steep price, if you are not certain how much you would enjoy the opera knowing no French ( and if you definitely don’t have opera appropriate attire).
We had been staying at Rueil Malmaison when we went for that show, at the end of the week, we moved to a hotel close to the Eiffel Tower, the Relais Bosquet. We stayed at a classic room ( one up from standard). It has to be best hotel I have ever stayed at, despite the room being restricted in size, it is IN Paris, after all. I couldn’t stop thanking the supremely friendly manager and whoever was present at the reception. They were just plain wonderful. They kept our bags for free for five days when we went to London, despite the fact that we were not returning to the hotel to stay our last night in Paris. I would totally recommend that hotel, and I will certainly stay there the next time. It is already highly rated in Tripadvisor.
We walked to the Eiffel tower, several times, once during the day and twice at night. But the tower can be seen from several little streets and I really thought some of those views were quite unique. So, I am glad we walked instead of taking the metro.
However that said, taking the metro in Paris is very very simple, there are information centers in almost every station, especially near the tourist spots. Once you have a map, it is easy. However, as I said in the last post, you don’t need a map or the information center, someone is likely to help you in English, if you ask. we didn’t need to, but that’s thanks to my friend, who already got us used to it the first day in Paris.
The only really confusing place in Paris is the Louvre and of course its humungous size doesn’t help. There is very little written in English anywhere, you can rent the audio guide which does have English. The arrows points are totally cryptic, it is seriously a treasure hunt!! However, there are very few museums that can compare to the Louvre. The palace converted to the museum is beautiful, and the collection far more than anything I could safely assimilate in a day, or even 30 days. So we just did two wings, saw the Mona Lisa, Venus De MIlo, Winged Victory, Cupid, some Michelangelo sculptures and several of Da Vinci’s works that I prefer over the Mona Lisa, some Rembrandt.
A very rare and old painting using entirely different colors than I have seen ever before. The best thing was that we didn’t have to stand in line for the tickets, we got off at La Carousel metro station and that is an entirely separate entry to the Louvre. My husband found this suggestion in the tripadvisor. And it really is true. Not one person head of us.
There are many places we didn’t have time to see, or rather we would have had to rush through them, like the Musee d’orsay. But, I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted to walk around and eat and drink. I wish I could recall the names of the dishes we ate, but alas, I can’t. But most of the fish and all of the shrimp was very good. Desserts are to die for, especially the gateau called ‘Opera’. There are various kinds of bread, and we barely scratched the surface of the variety of bread and gateau. Not to mention the cheeses.
Our last night in Paris (after 5 days in England) coincided with the summer solstice, which is commemorated by Fete de la Musique, a street (all streets!) music festival, all night in Paris. The dinner was at a small, but old ( 78 yrs old) restaurant that served an apple tarte in flames ( i am so sorry that I cannot remember the name of the restaurant).This time we stayed right next to one of the biggest train stations, the Gare Du Nord. At Ibis hotels. This hotel was also very nice, friendly reception. But my heart is sold to Relais Bosquet. There were several jazz singers, little choir groups playing all around Pont Neuf, where we decided to hang out that night. Some circle, as we that’s what we saw first in Paris. We saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle, one last time from the bridge. It was wonderful, children, youngsters, older couples, everyone was on the streets. That is what I love about Paris. There are no hotspots where only the young or the old or the children hang out. Lots of drinking too! But most of the drunks are well behaved in Paris. It was definitely a perfect end to a memorable trip, in my most favorite city in the world. Paris.