Gay Paree! I’ve heard so much about it throughout my school life. The Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables and the history of the French Revolution drove my curiosity about Paris. I finally got to set foot there decades later…
Right from the moment i stepped into Paris till we left five days later, it was everything I expected it to be and more. The city, the people, the food everything was perfect. I fell in love with the cobbled-stone streets and the beautiful old buildings all seemed so surreal. The refinement and elegance of the city is like no other.
Our hotel was a quaint little one, tucked into a bye lane near the Sacre Coeur Church in Montmartre. (Lots of shops selling bolts of material here!!) We had been smart enough to book tours of course. But as is the usual tradition, the first day of arrival was left free. We immediately headed out after getting directions to the nearest subway train station. The station was a short walk away from our hotel. It was easy to figure out which train to take to reach the Eiffel Tower. There are maps at most hotels and at the train station.
After a 20 min ride we reached the right station, and walked the rest of the way to the Eiffel Tower in excitement. My dearest wish was about to be fulfilled. my heart was in my mouth! And there she was – the Eiffel Tower. It loomed over the landscape, tall and imposing. At that early morning time, people were already going back after a tour! I knew it would be crowded. The iron structure rose into the sky and I cannot explain the feeling of awe. If you know your history, it comes rushing back. The tower was built 125 years ago as part of a Universal Exposition. The iron tower hadn’t been meant to be a permanent mark, but there it is still. Gustav Eiffel has designed a structure that will stand for a long time to come.
My first view of the Louvre was awesome. The buildings loomed in the bright early morning light shining from behind. The famous glass pyramid had my thoughts flying to Dan Brown’s book Da Vinci Code! I quickly looked around for signs of the secret buried under the pyramid for all-time! Not a chance of course with that concrete flooring! 😀
We entered through a grand entrance with our “Skip the Line” tickets. The cool inside greeted us. Guidebooks and guides were everywhere. We picked our way to the first exhibit. Paintings after painting, sculpture after sculpture greet you in every room. We gaped and we ooh-ed and aah-ed at all the beauty. Some we understood, others we had no idea about! The headphones and guidebook give you a lot of information and you can listen to it or go around reading the little signs kept everywhere. There is so much artwork here you can spend a month and even that may not be enough time.
More than the paintings, I began to notice the architecture and structure of the building. The Louvre itself is a beauty. It was the Palace of King Phillippe Auguste built in 1189 as a fortress. And what a fortress it is today housing the world’s largest collection of art. The gold gilt walls, ceilings and the art painted on the ceilings, wow! You can spend a day just looking at this! The doors are beautifully carved works of art, oh and did I forget the floors? I could not photograph the beauty of all of this. Here are a few pictures that do not do any justice to the true beauty of this Palace.
The Mona Lisa was on our list of course. And the crowds that greet you in that high-security room! You cannot go within touching distance to the most celebrated woman in the world! There is a thick layer of glass covering the artwork too. With such a crowd it was not possible to study the painting or to find any mystery to it! We did take the obligatory photos of it though!
You get fancy sandwiches at the cafe at the Museum. So, have a light snack and continue the tour. After an exhausting whole day at the Louvre, where we had walked more than 16,000 steps (my iPhone told my aching feet this!), we returned to our hotel for an early dinner and collapsed into bed! I was happy to have spent a full day at the Museum, which was no way enough, but that’s all the time we could afford.
An evening cruise on the River Seine is a must-do in Paris. You can find the boat-jetty near the Eiffel Tower. Go down to one of them and buy a ticket. You can buy tickets in advance too. There are many different types of cruises from 30 min to leisurely dinner cruises and party boats. The boat ride was fantastic. Of course elegant buildings with unbelievable statues and decorations were all along the way. The bridges we passed under had wrought iron railings. You can see the Tower, the Giant Wheel, and a lot of other famous buildings from the river too. At the end of the cruise, stick around to see the lights on the Eiffel Tower before you head back!
You can see the most beautiful fountains in the world in Paris. It is, after all, the most romantic city in the world.
Places of Interest:
Arc De Triomphe: We walked along the Champs Elysee, found our way to the imposing Arc. You need to take the under-road walkway to get to it!
Visit the Sacre Couer Church, The Catacombs, the Haute Couture studios – if you like such things, there is also a Disney World if you have kids along. Don’t forget to have a meal at one of the famous street cafes. We had a fancy meal before heading over to see a show at the Lido. Duck is also a delicacy in France, along with wine.
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