Even the second time around, Paris successfully won me over. The city of fashion, love, art, romance, lights… You name it. I spent the last weekend of March wandering around the capital of France, basically absorbing everything that is French – baguette, cheese, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and most importantly, the crêpes! (Does that surprise you at all?)
The first time I went to Paris was about two years ago, my freshman year spring break. I had spent three days in Amsterdam and three in Paris. Indeed it was a week jam-packed with sightseeing, eating and uh, a lot of typical college spring break characteristics. But I must say, I gained a bit more out of this second visit.
Instead of doing a bus tour, we did a 3+ hour walking tour – the same company that ran free tours in Dublin. We walked around everywhere. We wandered. We bought food from street stands. All in all, I feel we sufficiently experienced everything that is French.
First things first. The market. We arrived at our hotel a bit earlier than expected, which meant about 30 minutes of waiting time before we could check into our room. The nice lady at the hotel reception suggested we go walk around the nearby market for a bit, and of course, us hungry sleep-deprived tourists took her advice and headed out to the market. Maybe she read our minds because we definitely stumbled upon one of the best street markets I have ever visited. We found baguettes, cheese and fresh strawberries. Yum!
After enjoying our impromptu, yet delicious, breakfast/lunch, we headed out for St. Michel metro stop, the meeting point for the walking tour. I found the Paris metro to be fast, efficient, but smelly. Not sure why, but Paris streets and metro stops seemed to be infected to trash and stink… More so than London, Boston or Madrid.
Anyway… Our walking tour basically highlighted all the major sights of Paris and provided a bit of history as well. Not too surprisingly the tour took more than three hours, but simply walking around the city for that long made me fall in love with Paris even more. (But don’t you worry, still in love with London… and Berlin as well – You’ll see in my later post about my Easter weekend).
After St. Michel, we walked along the river until we reached Notre Dame. From there, we could see the Shakespeare book store and the police headquarters. Currently under renovation, the police headquarters building has a big screen with pictures of all sorts of people working there. My favorite, the Rollerblade guy.
With determination and focus as intense as that of that Roller-cop, we walked toward the Louvre. On our way, we walked past the very first stone bridge in Paris constructed under the direction of Henry IV and the narcotics control building, which contains the only wounds from World War II.
(the random black indented spots on the building are bullet holes from WWII)
Next up, the Louvre. Ah, the Louvre. The biggest museum ever. After walking through the plaza with the “invisible” pyramid, we strolled around the Tuileries Garden where we followed the Axis of Paris or Axis Historique (an imaginary line that contains all the major monuments and sights of Paris) that eventually led us to Obelisk, a big monument basically stolen by Napoleon from Egypt (it’s really… NBD). From there, you can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance and begin walking along Champs d’Elysee.
Simply, what a gorgeous walk! By the end of the tour, we had walked by or seen the Little Palace, the Big Palace, the Invalides, Joan of Arc and many more. Afterward, we spoiled ourselves even more by well, first, stopping by an Irish pub for refreshments and heading up to Sacre Coeur for this:
From there not only can you indulge in this view of Paris but also enjoy impromptu dance or music performances put on by the locals. Honestly I’m not exactly sure where in the world we conjured up energy to continue on to Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, but we did it.
I have to say the way to conclude a day in Paris is definitely going to the top of the Eiffel Tower – despite it being extremely windy due to its height and scary altogether – and walking around the Bastille area for some good Shwarma and people-watching. While the first day was filled with romantic and historic sights, the second day was rather different and unique – THE CATACOMBS. When Jack first tried to explain to me what visiting the Catacombs entailed, I couldn’t exactly get the complete picture of it. The exhibit, located about 100 steps below the ground, contains a mass grave. Hmm… a mass grave? Under Paris? Yes. You enter the exhibit near one metro stop, and you come out about 2-3 metro stops south of your original entrance.
During your journey underground, you walk through something like this:
A bit spooky. A bit cool. A bit weird. Thousands, no millions, possibly billions of skulls and bones are stacked up quite nicely on both sides of the hall away that intertwines in the darkness for about 45 minutes. Some are even arranged in heart shapes or cross!
Naturally, after the Catacombs visit, we went straight for some delicious crêpes. Yum. Then stopped by the Louvre for some Mona Lisa viewing and headed toward Gare du Nord for dinner with our friend Devon, which finally concluded our short weekend in Paris. I honestly couldn’t have asked for better company and a better city for this lovely weekend trip! Take me back soon? 😉