Paris Part 1: The City of Lights & Sights
I have been to Paris more times than I've been to major cities in my home state. Maybe that's a glimpse at my nomadic tendencies or maybe it's because Texas is massive. Perhaps it is because Paris (if you're doing it right) is every bit as lovely as you'd expect it to be. Take the hustle and bustle of a major European metropolitan and blend it with equal parts French charm, and you have Paris. Sometimes it's a little uppity and sometimes it's a little grubby, but most times it is charming and romantic. Full disclosure: if you can't tell already, I adore Paris and likely will not be able to hide my overwhelmingly biased opinion about it throughout this post. History, wine, art, shopping, and carbs? Oui, s'il vous plaît!
I think I enjoy Paris so much that I have almost put off writing this post, until now! I wasn't sure how to seamlessly blend my visits for one share, but with the help of a perfectly chilled dry French Rose I have a solution for you, lovely reader. While this post will rely mostly on information from my most recent visit, I will also reference activities from my visits in 2014 and 2007, but nothing before that. Turns out 6 year old Nicola's agenda was mostly consumed with coaxing my parents into getting me a pair of those overpriced mini mouse ears at Euro Disney Paris... priorities have shifted slightly, I suppose. PS thanks mom & dad for forking over the cash for those.
But really, how incredible are these views of the Champs Elyses from the Arc de Triomph?! It took me 4 visits to Paris to actually go to the top of the Arc, along with a visit to the small museum inside. As one of Paris' most famous monuments, the Arc commemorates those who fought for France in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The monument is 50 meters tall and includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI, interred in 1920- the eternal flame has burned ever since.
As you'd expect you're going to get great views of the city from the Eiffel Tower, too! When visiting during high traffic season, you can book a tour or trip up before hand that often includes "skip the line" access. If you're more into winging it, buy your tickets as you enter and prepare for sky high sights from this wrought iron tower.
A quick note because you may be wondering about the words burned into the grass along the Parc du Champ de Mars. Apparently it was done with herbicide by activists who are against euthanasia. Despite that blemish, this is the perfect area for a picnic in the park.
Standing tall since 1889, this iron clad beauty was originally constructed as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair held in Paris. After all these years, she is still iconic; the most visited paid monument in the world in 2015 with a staggering 6.91 million who made the rise to the top. I imagine there were many more who visited below but were too chicken to take in the views from 276 meters up. The tower itself is 324 meters tall, and is collectively regarded by the Parisians as an eyesore. Gustav Eiffel, how could we possibly improve on your lovely design? Add sparkle, duh. From sundown until 1am, every hour on the hour is a five minute display of magic and charm. Twenty thousand flickering bulbs were individually installed, which gives the tower it's "sparkle" effect.
Paris is a city that loves to fuse architecture, engineering, art, and design- creating unique and beautiful. If you love grand churches, Notre-Dame de Paris is your perfect example medieval Gothic architecture. Organs, relics, crypts, stained glass... she has it all.
For more stunning churches in the city, pencil in a visit to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
It would be hard to cross Paris off your travel list without a visit to the Musée du Louvre. Even the most museum-hating folks I know don't skip this worldly treasure. After all, how can you skip THE biggest museum in the world? The design outside alone is a sight to see.
You don't have to be an art buff to appreciate the works inside. No matter what you're into, you're likely to find a piece you enjoy here out of the 70,000 different works and objects displayed. The Louvre opened its doors for the first time in 1793 and houses everything including Greek, Roman, Islamic, Gothic, Italian Renaissance, and Egyptian collections. Sculptures, ceramics, drawings, paintings, and antiques fill room after room of each wing.
Some of Mona Lisa's neighbors in the Denon Wing, room 6.
One of my favorite rooms is the Galerie d'Apollon with it's sky high, ornate ceilings.
Still craving culture? Head to the Musee d'Orsay. This former railway station is full of natural light and man-made beauties from favorites such as Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Degas, and my name dropping could go on for days. Opened in 1986 and one of largest in Europe, it's packed to the brim and an Impressionist lover's paradise! Paintings, sculptures, photography, and even antique home furnishings; just go, it's here, and usually less packed than the Louvre!
If you're into Monet, put this on your bucket list- his 8 Water Lilies murals are permanently housed at the Musee de l'Orange, along with the likes of Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and more. Beyond the fascinating art in galleries, I enjoy noticing how the art is displayed. What's the lighting like? Does the floor plan guide me to certain works? At the l'Orange (established in 1852) you will find a smaller space and collection that it's Parisian counterparts, but an interesting juxtaposition of displays. Pristine paintings in elaborate and ornate frames, set on drab colored walls with a concrete floor. At first glance you notice it just doesn't "go together" and it comes across as almost haphazard lazy design. But maybe there's something to all that contrast? Just a little something to ponder over your latte today.
Step into all things historical and military related at the Hôtel national des Invalides or simply "Les Invalides" for short. Armor, uniforms, weapons and what more can you ask for? Tombs, of course. The most elaborate of the homes for the interred? That of none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. In true Napoleon fashion, it's larger and more grand than everyone else housed here within the Dome des Invalides.
The city of lights. The city of romance. No matter the season, love is always in the air in Paris. On my fourth trip there I had to chance to visit with my sweetheart, and the opportunity to add a lock to the "love lock bridge" was not a Kodak moment to be missed. The Pont des Arts used to be a simple pedestrian bridge over the Seine River in Paris. Around 2008 (borderline) vandalism with a romantic flair began to occur when tourists decided to attach padlocks with their initials on the lattice of the bridge, then gleefully tossing their keys into the river to signal an everlasting commitment. At first the locks were removed by authorities, but as time progressed and the gesture became more popular (enter: dodgy street vendors selling overpriced padlocks and sharpies to every PDA couple passing), the locks found a home.
In 2015, the locks were said to have become a safety issue, with an estimated one million locks weighing down the bridge and compromising it's structure. After a semi-successful social media campaign urged visitors to take a selfie on the bridge rather than attach a lock, the lattices and locks were removed. Word on the street is that the locks will be melted down and a monument will be created. Ahhh, I love love!
Is Paris on your bucket list? For more Parisian love of the sweeter variety check out my post: Paris Part 2: Sweets and Treats.
As they (sort of) say in Paris...
BON VOYAGE, BABE! xoxo