Paris; the ethereal city. For centuries, artists, poets and writers have flocked to Paris for inspiration, incredible culture and timeless love: And for good reason. Paris is the city for romance, the city of dreams, the city of lights and, of course, home to an impressive Eiffel Tower.
Following four weeks in Italy, my mom and I hopped on the high-speed train from Milan to Paris, eager to see this sophisticated, evocative city. Our five-hour train ride wound through a snow-capped mountain wonderland, peppered with red poppies and fairy-tale villages. A packed lunch and plenty of thermosed coffee kept us occupied until we were over the border and pulling in to Gare du Nord station.
Though tiiiny, our Air BnB flat was located in one of Paris’ most eclectic and vibrant neighborhoods, the colorful Le Marais District. Inviting cafes manned by gruff waiters lined the alleys. Street corners boasted pre-revolutionary buildings in all shades of red, gray and orange and bakeries warming fragrant, crispy baguettes. Bicycles with baskets full of vegetables and blossoms navigated the cobblestones and colorful flower stalls poured into the streets. It was the perfect spot to settle and explore.
Be amazed with Paris’ museums~Using the ridiculously simple city metro, cruising through Paris is easy, and we made use of our two-day Paris Museum pass to get an immense dose of culture. Good for over 50 museums and monuments in the Paris region, this pass allows guests to skip lines and save money at many of Paris’ renowned sights. We savored artistic treats at Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, Rodin and Orangerie museums, to name just a few.
Climb Notre-Dame~Standing at the very heart of the city, Notre Dame is Paris’ iconic Gothic cathedral and a staple on any to-do list. My mom, the traveling super trooper, was game to climb the narrow staircase of 387 steps, and we enjoyed the sprawling city views from between the north and south towers. Gazing at the hundreds of stone marvels, a.k.a gargoyles, was especially entertaining. Mythical beasts, hybrid monsters and other foreboding creatures in all shapes, sizes and moods launched from the cathedral’s facade. Many were beautiful in their unique ornamental grotesqueness.
Stroll the Champs-Élysées~Though probably the most cliché Paris tourist trap, we meandered along the bustling Champs-Élysées, if only to reach our destination of the famed Arc de Triomphe. Rich with high-priced designer stores, overly expensive eateries and absolute hordes of picture-happy tourists, the journey up the boulevard was on the low end of exciting and the high end of claustrophobic. Yet, it was entertaining to see the storied street come to life.
Experience the Seine~A few of our most memorable Paris experiences was simply walking and sailing along the beautiful Seine. One afternoon, we brought along a bottle of wine, snacks and a blanket and sprawled along the banks of the river to people watch and enjoy the boats gliding before us. Another evening transported us along the Seine itself, complete with dinner and nighttime sailing past the river front icons – absolutely worth every penny!
Gawk at art in Montmartre~This delightful neighborhood, where the lost generation of artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh and Soutine once lived and worked, is filled with cafes, small gardens, rambling alleys and the resplendent Basilica Sacre Coeur. The barrio’s main square, Place du Tertre, is filled with portrait sketchers, caricaturists and watercolor artists. It’s worthwhile to wander for a bit and admire their talents before traipsing down the hill past the seedier bars and sex shops.
Pont Neuf~ Pont Neuf, Paris’ oldest bridge, is yet another famous landmark. Though not exactly stimulating, walk across the bridge and snap a few photos of “Parisian in motion.” You’re bound to come across a wandering musician or a humble artist displaying their gifts. Pause to admire the river scenery in both directions; Eiffel Tower before you and the Notre Dame behind.
Sainte Chapelle~This stunning chapel, featuring exquisite 13th-century stained glass windows, is a masterpiece of sublime. Sixteen huge windows consisting of 1,113 panels boast scriptural stories, starting with Genesis/Adam and Eve and concluding with the Apocalypse. Standing in the center of the chapel, especially when sunlight gleams through the decorative windows, is a true sight to behold.
Arc de Triomphe~An obvious candidate on the Paris list, the Arc de Triomphe is another spot to admire excellent views of the city. Located on the western end of the Champs-Élysées, this famed monument honors those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
Eiffel Tower~And finally, the thing to see in Paris, this lofty tower really does live up to its adoration. Though lines can be long, experiencing the energy and buzz of the wrought iron lattice tower is a true life event. We journeyed up the tower at dusk, just in time to see the fading light of the sunset over Paris’ cityscape. Then we hung around for another hour to watch the lights dance up and down the Seine from all corners of the viewing platforms. It was freezing at the top of the tower, but we luckily found a few heaters to huddle next to while we gazed afar.
How about you? What did you enjoy in Paris?