Paris, France: Part Une

Brian and I never expected Paris to be the first city in Europe we would see. Our Italian and German ancestors were (and still are) calling to us for a visit. But after spending four days in Paris, I don't think either of us could have asked for anything more. The city was wonderful, magical, overwhelming, incredible. A dream come true!

In fact, everything I have to say is too much for one post. So without further's a recap of the first two days of our Paris excursion. And of course, if you know me, you know I took photos of everything we ate. Paris Eats = coming soon.

Day 1 - Friday, October 18, 2013

Places des Voges
Jardin du Palais Royal
Centre Georges Pompidou
Galerie Vivienne/Palais Garnier
Montmartre/Sacré Cœur

Day 2 - Saturday, October 19, 2013

Luxembourg Gardens
Notre Dame/Shakespeare and Company
Pont des Arts
The Louvre/Tuileries Garden/Place de la Concorde

Paris is chock full of history, so it was no surprise that our first planned stop in Paris was Places des Voges - otherwise known as the first original planned square. If you're wandering through the Marais, Places des Voges is a beautiful, manicured park surrounded by 17th century-old townhouses. Victor Hugo's is located in one of the corners.

We also stopped by Jardin du Palais Royal, a peaceful, romantic park with pretty lines of trees and beautiful flower gardens. Don't miss this hidden gem near the Louvre.

We were often pressed for time, so we didn't have much of it to tour much of the Centre Georges Pompidou, a complex near the Marais. We did get to look at the cool, outer design of the building; you know, the one the New York Times said "turned the architecture world upside down." And with our handy dandy Paris Pass were able to scamper up to the top for some cool views of the city.

Galerie Vivienne is a covered passage from the 19th century in the very center of Paris, between la Place des Victoires and les Jardins du palais Royal. It was a sort of shopping mall of its time, with many shops and cafes. It's very pretty and was perfectly quiet when we went, allowing for a bit of rejuvenation after being on the busy streets. Don't miss this lovely spot.

From there, we continued onto Paris' opera house: Palais Garnier. We thought our Paris Pass would work here, but it did not. We debating paying 10 Euro for tickets to enter, but as late afternoon was creeping on, we decided to pass.

We were able to take in the outside and all of its beautiful architecture before moving on to the highlight of this particular day, and perhaps Paris in general...


This hilly neighborhood in the north of Paris quickly captured our hearts. I read that Montmartre is talked about by Parisians the way New Yorkers talk about the Village: the artists can't afford to live here anymore, too many tourists, etc. But the fact that residents and tourists alike love this unique village within a city is a testament to the place itself. We did do the touristy stuff...stampeded our way up the famous steps and look down, basked in the warm sun on the steps of Sacré Cœur, bought an overpriced crepe and took pictures of myself eating it (naturally). But we also explored Montmartre in another way: sans map, we kept our eye on the big white basilica and just kept walking until we found it.

Along the way we passed cafes, artists, graffiti, and French children coming home from school. We also passed a lot of something we were not expecting: dog shit. Parisians prefer to let their dogs go in the middle of the sidewalk so that you can step in it for the real cultural experience. That's what I had to keep telling myself - its all part of the experience.

Day 2

Since we hadn't seen enough gardens on our first day, we definitely had to make a stop at one of Paris' most famous parks: The Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Gardens. Seeing the place in person here Cosette and Marius fall in love in Les Miserables was neat. The whole place was so...French. Like the gardens we had already seen, they were pristinely manicured and looked beautiful with the autumn foliage.

I'm not sure why, but Notre Dame was so overwhelmingly amazing to me! It must have been the beautiful Gothic architecture at every corner and the extreme attention to detail in the carvings. No, it was definitely the fact that its over 800 years old. Its probably all of that, plus the fact that it's huge and glorious. Maybe it was just the gargoyles...anyway, "Our Lady of Paris" is a must-see, during the day and at night.

Just steps from Notre Dame lives Shakespeare and Company, a famous bookshop hailed as part of a major piece of Paris' literary puzzle. The original store closed during the German occupation of the city during World War II, and was reopened in its current incarnation in 1951. It's filled with second-hand books, narrow staircases, and a charming reading area in an attic. Definitely a place to get lost in.

Described as one of the most romantic spots in Paris, Pont Des Arts is the city's famous padlock bridge, where sweethearts come from far and near to place their lock on the bridge, memorializing their love forever. Tossing their locks keys into the Seine river below seals the deal. There must be thousands and thousands of them, so even if you don't have your own to add, it's definitely impressive.

Our final stop on our second day in Paris was the ever-so-famous Louvre Museum. We went later in the afternoon and had to pick out a few must-see items, since the museum was closing at 5:30. We definitely got lost inside, and were actually running through the place to get to Napoleon's apartment before closing time.

While we wished we had a little bit more time in the Louvre, we were exhausted after this long day. We walked out into the intricately-landscaped Tuileries Gardens, directly in front of the museum, to give our feet a break. I didn't realize what a treat this area would be. Large green spaces, old sculptures, wide walkways, and groomed plants make this park extremely pleasant to watch the sun go down behind the Eiffel Tower and the low-autumn light reflect off the windows of the buildings on Rue de Rivoli. While we were certainly enjoying seeing the changing leaves, even in October there were still lots of flowers in bloom to enjoy.

If you continue straight through the Tuileries Gardens, you'll find yourself standing at the Place de la Concorde, the largest public square in Paris. Its known for being the site where the guillotine was used to execute hundreds of people during the French Revolution. As one of the bookends of the Champs-Élysées (with the Arc de Triomphe being the other), I took a look around the square and imagined hundreds of spectators watching a beheading, and quickly moved forward!

If you made it to the end of this long post, I applaud you! Part II coming up soon!


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