“Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.”
Ahhh *sigh* Paris…the city of light. Not the often mispronounced “lights”. The famous catch phrase referring to the enlightenment era and the explosion of the philosophic movement led by the likes of Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and not so much the vast amount of city lights we now see today. Nonetheless, Paris is most certainly a city of many lights and love! Paris lured me in and seduced me to love it for everything it is in every which way from the art culture, to the history, to the architecture, the people and most of all the foooood. Anyone who know me knows that food is something I adore…I love to cook (I even, sadly talk to the food while cooking it…I’m telling you that’s the secret ingredient to a great meal, letting the food know you love it – okay, this is beginning to sound like a therapy session…) I love creating new things with food and expressing my love for others through food…and Paris and food go together like peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, hugs and kisses! In all honesty, there is just too much beauty in Paris that I could never do justice to in this blog…it must be experienced; however, I will try my best to communicate to you all the magic and wonder of Paris – there’s so much I may have to do multiple entries so bare with me as I figure this one out.
I’m going to keep this entry very much in line with my London one…first I’ll go through all the things we did get to do and tell you of our experience first hand then I’ll pass along information for other sights that I researched before going but we didn’t get a chance to do in a separate entry.
1) The Eiffel Tower
Address: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France
Cost: 5-15.50 Euro per Adult, 4-13.50 Euro per child ages 12-24 and 3.50-11 Euro per child ages 4-11 – The prices vary depending upon which floor you go up to and if you choose stairs or elevator lift.
Hours: The tower is open everyday even on holidays from mid-June to early Sept from 9am-12:45am and the rest of the year from 9:30am-11:45pm
So, I figured we’d start out with one of the most iconic buildings in the world. Show anybody a picture of the Eiffel Tower and they will immediately know it represents Paris. Erected in 1889 as the entrance into the 1889 World’s Fair the Parisians initially considered it an eyesore and wanted it to be taken down but as with anything in Paris they grew to love it. Standing at 1,063 feet tall with three levels to view all of Paris from this beautiful piece was once ordered under the authority of Hitler to be destroyed under the German occupation of World War II but General Von Choltitz disobeyed that order and millions of visitors every year are grateful for his choice as they come to gaze at the building that represents the heart of Paris. The tower has 5 restaurants for you to enjoy, but make sure you call ahead for reservations as you will not have to wait in line to ascend the tower for your meal. The tower is a very popular place…there is a line to purchase your ticket (you will wait in line at opening time anywhere from 30 minutes-2 hours) then you must go to another line for the stairs or the lifts (depending upon the season again I would say 30 mins-2 hours). Unfortunately, while we spent a lot of time at the tower we never were able to go up to the top as it was under construction and our wait time estimate was 4-6 hours. Talk about seeing a grown woman weep. There’s a lot to do the at the bottom of the tower and with the Champ de Mars park under the Eiffel Tower it’s a wonderful place to bring some baguettes, cheese and drinks and picnic on a sunny day.
** A fantastic little treat is just across the street from the Eiffel Tower heading towards the Seine River. To the right, there are multiple tents set up with food, little shops and trampolines for the kids to jump on and to the left is a two tiered carousel to ride. Don’t miss these awesome things…the prices are cheap and the quality is great!**
2) The Louvre Museum
Address: Very hard to find an accurate one…so here is the map!
Cost: 16 Euro per Adult; children 18 and under are FREE
Hours: Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday, Friday: from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., Closed on Tuesdays
Wow, the Louvre has so much history in it I couldn’t help but fall head over heels for her. Once serving as a Palace to the royals it fell to the common people during the Revolution and in 1793 the Revolutionary government opened the first portion of the museum to the people. It’s grown vastly in the last 200 years to house more than 35,000 pieces of art in a 652,000 square foot building! The Louvre has iconic pieces such as the Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory of Samothrace and the beloved Mona Lisa (which let me burst your bubble now…the original Mona is only 30 in × 21 in – ya, I was shocked when I saw it). There are places to eat inside as well and enough rooms and collections to easily fill a full day or two. For the latest exhibitions & events click here.
3) Musee d’Orsay
Address:1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur 75007 Paris
Cost: 11 Euro for Adults, FREE for children 18 & under
Hours: 9.30am to 6pm, 9.30am to 9.45pm on Thursdays, Closed on Mondays
The Musee d’Orsay is great for someone who likes a little art but not the over-whelming experience places like the Louvre have to offer. You could easily spend half a day there and walk out seeing original pieces by Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. The building used to house the Gare d’Orsay railway station that ran trains from 1900 to 1939 before almost being demolished to make way for a new hotel in 1970. It officially opened as a museum in 1986 after the station was put on the supplementary list of Historic Monuments and has operated as a museum ever since. For a list of exhibitions and events click here. I love this museum, the paradox of it once being a place of hustle and bustle and people going from here to there and now housing brilliant artwork with a calming atmosphere as people wander the halls to reflect on an artist’s soul being on canvas…it’s a truly remarkable experience.
4) Notre Dame Cathedral
Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II 75004 Paris
Cost: FREE for entry to the church; Audio guides are 5 Euro per person; Entry into the treasury is 3 Euro for adults, 1 Euro for children ages 6-12 and FREE for children under 5; to walk up the towers is 8 Euro for adults and FREE for anyone under 18.
Hours: 9:30 am – 6 pm; Sundays from 1:00 pm – 6 pm
Notre-Dame de Paris or “Our Lady of Paris” is a French Gothic Cathedral that sits on an island known as Ile de la Cite in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Construction of this church began in 1163 with the remaining elements completed in 1345. During the French Revolution in 1793, the cathedral was taken and rededicated to “The Cult of Reason” and many artifacts and treasures of the church were destroyed as well as the building itself being widely damaged. In 1845, a 25 year long restoration occurred only to be damaged again during World War II and finally in 1991 another restoration began and lasted until 2010. Notre Dame offers up incredible photo opportunities and history. The line generally goes very quickly and walking through the massive building is fairly easy. I would suggest reading up on the history of this church…each statue as a significant story and purpose and the buttresses supporting the choir area of the church have a special purpose that is just mind blowing. You will really appreciate your visit more when you understand the designer’s perspectives when creating all these details. The church still regularly holds services for times and dates click here – I think this is a must go!
5) Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise
From Notre-Dame we hopped on a little boat that docked right outside the church across the Seine River. We paid 15 Euro per adult and 6.50 Euro for our son (ages 3-12 are 6.50 and 3 and under are FREE). The boat went around Ile de la Cite island and up to the Eiffel Tower as we were educated by our tour guide about the city and the buildings we were going by. The boat looped back around and dropped us back off at the Notre-Dame stop but they do have boat tours that go from one place to another and also have lunch and dinner tours. There is also a family-friendly tour called the “Enchanted Cruise” where elves tell children all about Paris as you float down the Seine. Check out the website for times, docking points, menus and more!
6) Arc de Triomphe
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle 75008 Paris
Cost: 8 Euro per Adult, FREE for children under the age of 17
Hours: From April 1 to September 30: 10 a.m.-11 p.m., From October 1 to March 31: 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Website: http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com – As far as I can tell, France doesn’t have an official site for the Arc de Triomphe but this website has all the info you’ll need.
Sitting at the end of the most famous street in Paris, the Champs Elysees, this structure represents French patriotism and honor in full glory. It was created to honor those who fought and died during war fighting for France and beneath it lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This experience was both humbling and unique…we were lucky enough to be there while they were rekindling the eternal flame and laying red, white and blue flowers in memory of all the unknown soldiers. To experience the feelings of gratitude, love and remembrance for their men was unlike anything else. I couldn’t help but be moved to tears as people gathered to watch and pay their respects. Even if you can’t make it to watch this it is still a moving experience. The Arc is located in the center of a busy traffic area so the only way to get there is to go underground! The ticket counter is located inside the pedestrian tunnel and had minimal wait times, of course the Paris pass is good here so that could save some time for you there. I say it’s a must go!
Address: Boulevard St. Michel, Rue Auguste-Comte and Rue Guynemer, 75006 Paris, France
Cost: FREE for everyone!
Hours: Daily 7am to 1 hour before sunset in summer; 8am to 1 hour before sunset in winter
These gardens are a great place to bring lunch to and sit and relax as the day passes. It is filled with people but still offers up a relaxing environment. Built in 1611 the palace has held a rather uneventful history much like the uneventful day to day activities that take place during our modern time. Our son had a blast as they have little toy boat rentals for 3 Euro to take out on the ponds located in the garden that are just surrounded by children playing and racing their boats in the water. It made for a pleasant afternoon and a nice break from all the touristy schedules we had on the other days. TIP I think it’s a great idea to do one day of running around and busy sight seeing and then one day of relaxing activities and strolling the streets then back again to the hectic schedule of checking your list off and repeating the pattern while you’re vacationing. Sometimes you get so burnt out running around and checking sight seeing off it doesn’t feel like a vacation anymore let alone having an enjoyable time.
8) Rue Cler
Hours: Weekdays – all day; Saturday and Sunday mornings. Many of the stores are closed on Mondays.
Located in the 7th arrondissement this street market is the must see for any food lover. There is everything from fruit and vegetable stands (Halles Bosquet) to flower stands to my favorite CHEESE (La FermetteFromagerie) there are cafes, bakeries, butchers and chocolate shops! A one stop shop for anything and everything you could possibly dream of. Shopping a market like Rue Cler is not simply shopping in Paris…it is an experience. It’s a time to socialize, to purchase groceries for that day (lets face it, kitchens are small in Europe and that equals small refrigerators so a lot of things are purchased daily or every other day to ensure freshness), to smell the fruits and vegetables and get a euphoric vision of how to treat them and love them in the kitchen. The food in Paris is just…well, better. The French actually refer to our American strawberries as “plastic” – at first I didn’t understand this but when we actually bought some of their strawberries – well, lets just say I don’t really eat them here in the states anymore. The strawberries in Paris are deep red in color, all the way through…no bitter white center and the tops look like fresh little trees not wilted and dead. They were sweet and delicate – AND THAT’S JUST THE STRAWBERRIES! You could easily spend a half a day strolling Rue Cler trying samples, buying items to take back home (I bought some fresh vanilla beans, Herbs de Provence, jams and jellies) or picking up items to keep in your hotel or flat for snacking late at night. I found all the shop owners to be very pleasant and they just loved and adored that I was an American trying my best to speak French. They would laugh with me, talk to me about their food and why it was such good quality and share samples. This was where I tried my first authentic baguette…when you’re in Paris walking around you will notice an abundance of people literally just walking around carrying a full size baguette in a paper sleeve that they picked up from the bakery minutes ago and just taking bites out of it as they get to where they’re going – when in Paris, do as the Parisians do…I bought a fresh baked baguette from the bakery and I do believe it was love at first bite. I’m embarrassed to admit that I refused to share (even with my son – way to teach him how to share mom). We sat down outside a cafe and had lemon and sugar crepes and people watched as all the Parisians went about their busy day buying groceries and socializing with the fish monger over a table of freshly caught fish from the English Channel. I really could go on about Rue Cler for a couple more paragraphs…but I’ll spare you from it. As you could probably tell, I absolutely adored this famous little street and everything it contained. It makes for a tranquil afternoon of enjoying company and stuffing your face with everything delicious.
9) Montmartre (Sacre Coeur)
Address: 35, RUE DU CHEVALIER-DE-LA-BARRE75018 PARIS
Hours: Everyday, 6 am – 10:30 pm; for a list of mass services click here.
Montmartre is a hill located in the 18th arrondissement that houses the renowned Basilica of the Sacre Coeur (The Sacred Heart). It is surrounded by what was once the art cultural scene (many artist either worked or had studios in the surrounding area…such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and more!), the infamous Moulin Rouge and many little cafes and shops. Keep your wallets and purses close! This is such a high traffic area and in all honesty not the absolute safest place in the evening hours…we noticed that on our way up the stairs men were trying to tie bracelets around people’s wrists (as you are walking they will hook your swinging arm into the band and just start to tie it) and then demand payment for the product in which they “sold” you. This is not a huge problem there and don’t let it deter your decision to go just be aware and keep your arms in close to your body if you see them outside. There is a wonderful little train ride that takes you on a tour throughout the entire hillside (yes even a little taste of the Moulin Rouge area but we didn’t see anything too sexual displayed). The train cost 6 Euro per adult but lasted a good 20-30 minutes. It is a guided tour so you will learn a lot of history and facts about Montmartre. When walking the streets around the basilica you will see modern day Picassos setting up their easels and painting in an effort to sell you some of their works. Some are beautiful and some are well…lets just say maybe the basilica is hiring for the clergy. There are plenty of little shops and a lot of pop up t-shirt shops that offer souvenirs not worth of much value but certainly over priced. I’m glad we went and enjoyed the art but I think the next time we are there we could do with out going again. There wasn’t a whole of of fun to be had but I do think the train ride memory will stay with our son forever.
The Champs Elysees really can be described as a Parisian Las Vegas Strip. Being over a mile in length, the well-known street is the shoppers dream! They have everything from a Mercedes Benz store (yes, with cars in it) to Louis Vuitton to Disney and Nike. The lights are heavenly and the streets are just full with activities. You won’t find yourself not having enough choices for dining, entertainment or shopping.
Originally the site of fields and market gardens, the modern Champs Elysees has become a major heart beat for Paris. We had such a great time going in and out of the stores, purchasing one of a kind souvenirs (not the generic ones like under the Eiffel Tower) and stuffing our faces with good food. We came down here a few times during our stay in Paris just for the fun and excitement. If you are visiting in July make sure to check out the massive military parade that celebrates Bastille Day on the 14th every year and if you are there during the holidays be sure to check the street out for amazing holiday lights and decor!
There is much more to see and do in Paris but these are my top 10 (in no particular order). My hope for you is that you discover that everything posted above is just merely words on a screen because when you get to Paris suddenly all the information will come alive and pierce your souls with the magic of Paris.
I will have another entry in the future covering some more sights that you might enjoy. If you have any questions or need any further info leave me a comment or e-mail me. Until next time, Happy travels my fellow gypsies!