Paris is reputed to be the city of love where the Eiffel tower stands as the epitome icon of lovers all over the world. For me Paris was far more than the metal structure or lovers. To me it was the seat of Renaissance (which was glorified by the Louvre), French revolution and the iconic novel by Charles Dickens – A tale of two cities. More than that, I wanted to walk the cobbled streets and gaze at the architecture that is resplendent of an artistic era gone by. I had reserved eight whole days for my Parisian pilgrimage and I was determined to scour every possible nugget the city has to offer. ⇐ I did a guest post a while back on Paris which you can catch here ⇒
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Louvre – the mecca of art in Paris
The plotting and scheming was ably aided by Google who gleefully informed me that on Wednesday the Louvre is open for the longer duration than the rest of the week. More than the Monalisa, it was the Venus Di Milo that held my fascination. Do make time to visit the oil painting section – the eyes follow you everywhere in those portraits. There are cafe’s within the Louvre where one can dine on sumptuous cosmopolitan fare. Oh and don’t miss the art and crafts shop – I thought I had stumbled into fairy land for there was color coded sections for everything there – sequins, glitter, paints, crayons, paper. Needless to say I spent the whole day there and was not happy to leave at all. I wish I had kept a spare day to re-visit any one sights on my trip, for I really wanted to come back to the Louvre again.
A Royal Chateau
Palace of Versailles on the outskirts of Paris was an enchanting lure for the history/architecture buff in me. Then I stumbled on a bicycle tour to Versailles with picnic on the grounds. Needless to say, my imagination ran riot and I immediately enrolled for it. It’s another matter that I found it very difficult to cycle, given my state of physical inertia and the mostly uphill ride; ended up walking besides it rather than riding it.
The tour begins at their office from where everyone gets a bike and instructions. Then we pedal onto a train line and catch the train to Versailles. We exit from the station onto a market square where scores of farmers have put up stalls of their fresh produce including cheese, poultry,meat, etc. We could stock up a picnic lunch from here which we later enjoyed eating in the grounds of the palace. Sad part about this was the boggy land all around the palace which made sitting down a very uncomfortable affair.
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I don’t have words to describe the grandeur of the architecture nor the significance of its history in this post alone. You have to visit this absolutely stunning piece of history which teems with priceless art and sculptures. I couldn’t get enough of roaming around in this palace, though my feet thought otherwise. If I could break it down how to visit this grand palace of Louis XIV, then it would be:
- The Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. Incredible as it may sound, the room is lined with more than 300 mirrors.
- Le Grand Perspective
- Marie Antoinette’s bedroom
- The art gallery which houses the famous painting-The Coronation of Napoleon
- The Grand Chapel
- The Grand canal
- The musical fountains which come alive in the summers and Tuesday is when their glory is more regal and full as compared to rest of the days of the week.
My wine palate was in its nascent stage at the time I was going on the trip; so it made sense to include a wine tour on my itinerary. After all French wines are reputed to be one of the best in the world and its the home of the bubbly spirit – Champagne! I went ahead with a day tour to Epernay by an air-conditioned bus which is about 130 Kms North-East of Paris. The drive is charmingly rustic with varying shades of green grape vines studding the landscape on both side of the road, as far as the eye can see. There is even a small stop over at a very charming market place where I saw one of the most gorgeous Churches ever. The stained glass work on the windows was just exquisite.
I was not at all disappointed and the two vineyards I toured here were Moet & Chandon and Mumms – both extremely reputed wine makers. There was endlessly free-flowing wine at these wineries and I must have had more than 6 glasses that day of wine and champagne. In fact its the first time I became aware of Pink champagne- a thorough delight for my palate! I loved the walk down in the cellars of the vineyard where the actual wine was stored in oak barrels and casks. I came to know about the different sizes of Champagne bottles and what they are called. Our hostess explained all the nuances of how the wine is made, bottled and stored. She also shared the secret of getting the bubbles in the wine to make it into Champagne.
Churches in Paris
I fell in love more with the Notre Dame and Sacre Couer than the Eiffel tower. I wanted to climb up to the highest point at the Sacre Couer and was breathless and claustrophobic in the narrow spiraling stairways – only problem is you have to keep climbing as it’s a one way and there are people behind you. Damn that’s something I wont recommend to anyone. There is a tram service to carry people from the ground zero to the cathedral which is about 3-4 story above ground. But one can also walk up the gorgeous staircase and take in the view at all sides at leisure.
The Notre Dame is an extremely charming and elegant building by the river Seine and makes for very pretty picture as the sun drops down over the horizon. Its rose window is world-famous and is truly a sight to behold. All the stone gargoyles seem to be in great pensive moods and its fun to catch them in a frame or two.
A glamorous affair
While searching for Moulin Rouge– the acclaimed dance and theater performance; google came to my rescue again as it got me a great deal on the ticket pricing. Please don’t miss this show as its simply stunning with oodles of flair and drama. Warning: you need formal wear to attend the show; no flip-flops and shorts please.
Another glamorous thing to do in Paris is to go on a horse driven carriage ride. I found this near the gardens of Eiffel Tower and after some haggling, I got into it. The ride lasted about an hour or so and took me all around Eiffel tower, past Arc the Triomphe, Champs Ellyeees, Grand Palais, Petit Palais and across the bridge to Trocadero. I cant even begin to tell you how romantic it was to clip clop on stone paved side streets and then merge into the light traffic. I felt like a princess and waved at people with great glee.
Disneyland in Paris
When I heard that Paris has its own Disneyland, I just had to go. No matter how much I was scoffed at by the puritans and history buffs at wasting a day in Paris over this! I caught a train on the RER line in Paris and it delivered me at Disneyland in under 2 hours.
Once there it was a wonderland at my disposal though the lines were humongous and the waiting took half of my day. I ended up doing about 5-6 rides with some bites to eat in between. The park is huge and I just couldn’t do it all in the on day that I was there. But the thrill of seeing Mickey dancing down the street is something I cannot explain in words. I shook hands with Mickey mouse folks!!!
I had dreamed of strolling through the famed Luxembourg garden in Paris which is actually situated in the Left Bank of Paris. Inspired by her love for her homeland, Marie de’ Medici designed these gardens to reflect just that. The tree-lined promenades were just the most perfect place to fulfill my romantic notions. I was missing a parasol and a lady’s maid-in-waiting!
There is a large circular basin of water by the Palace, where one could spot loads of enthusiasts with sailboats. Its quite a colorful affair. And of course you will find tonnes of artists with easels set up and painting away in a world of their own.
The entire garden is quite an elaborate affair with the famed Medici fountain, over a 100 sculptures, pavilions, balustrades and much more. And there are deck chairs to be found here too which you can pull out to sit and relax in a corner to soak in the atmosphere.
There is a museum for the history buffs while the outdoorsy types can play chess or tennis or simply have a picnic in the gardens. Its a very versatile garden with something to suit everyone.
Fountains of Paris
One sight not to be missed while you are in gorgeous city are the stunning fountains that were initially built as the town’s water supply.
I fell in love with the Fontaines De La Concorde which were designed by Jacques Ignace Hittorff in 1840. These are two monumental fountains built at the Palace De La Concorde in the heart of Paris. These are said to be inspired from the ones in Saint Peter’s square in Rome. They are called Fontaine des Mers and Fontaine des Flueves and are constructed out of cast iron with some stunning sculptures in bronze.
I just loved the half naked Tritons or Neriads that are sculpted around the basins of each fountain, holding water spouting from a dolphin. They seem to be sitting in a boat and the entire fountain is just gorgeous when lit at night. Do spend some time admiring these beauties when in Paris.
Getting around in Paris
I fell in love with the french baguette and would buy one from a bakery and then walk the streets munching on it. The street side cafe’s serve house wine which is cheaper than water and is a must have. And talking about food, perhaps you would like to take a trip to Normandy region of France to check out the cuisine there?
There is a really helpful city tour service called Hop-on Hop-Off which is basically a network of buses which travel from north to south and east to west. One can get on and off them at any point and keep travelling the city to enjoy its various attractions at a fraction of a cost. Best part is that these have open air seating on the roof which allows for great views though you do get chilled in the breeze.
I loved the metro system too as its got a great connectivity with all parts of Paris. There is an excellent folding map for the same with all train lines marked in different color.
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Scores of artists can be seen dotting the pavements, sidewalks, parks, cafes – you name it and there is an artist there. They will offer to do your portrait, if you are into that sort of thing. I ended up picking some gorgeous pen renderings of four of my favorite buildings of Paris.
Besides the artists, you will come across mimes, people dressed as statues and covered in body paint; gives you quite a start when what you thought was a statue come alive to change its position 😉
Then there are the quaint side streets, awesome looking doors, locks and bolts on doors, bookshops, bakeries and even workshops for Chocolate making and Perfume distilling.
Oh I can go on and on and on about this trip for this is one such city where the vistas are never ending and very unique in flavor. I didn’t get enough of this city at all and my plan is to head back here once again as soon as I can.
If you haven’t gotten enough of this either, then head to this guest post on my blog about breaking stereotypes in Paris.
¢ Some of the pics were shot by me while some are from the free photos section of Canva ¢
I fell in love with the idea of Paris/France when I read this book – The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
A trained Interior designer who loves to travel, photograph and write, I have done some boutique stays in limited budgets and some in extravagant ones too. My forte is in using locally sourced/ made products which would provide support to the local community. I am also an advocate of using sustainable practices in housekeeping, laundry,etc which lessens the use of harmful chemicals. The water used for such chores is clean enough to be fed into the garden directly.
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