–by Angelina Morino, World Traveller–
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The capital of France, Paris is known around the world as the City of Lurrrve and Lights. Home to glorious architecture and globally recognized landmarks such as The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur, it’s simply no surprise that the fabulous folk of our wonderful planet flock to Paris to proclaim their unconditional love, share a baguette and bask in the beauty of this very romantic city.
I was nervous to visit Paris, I had conjured up a very vivid and very colourful vision of what I thought a Parisian Adventure would and should entail. My perceptions were based on French Noir, music and cuisine. I was frightened of destroying the illusion! What the haters say about Paris is simply not true – The Parisians are incredibly friendly and the City itself is in a word, glorious!
Euro Climate: 3 degree Winter (Dec – Feb) and 27 degree average Summers (Jun – Aug/Sept)
Visiting in the middle of a freezing Winter, my Sister and I rugged up like we were embarking on a Himalayan mountain climb. We decided the best way to explore the city was on foot. We were stripping off in no time as we worked up a sweat whilst pounding the pavement.
What should I see and do?
With its rich history, beautiful people and stunning Architecture, ensure your alarm is set early and you are out and away by no later than 8 am. Pack plenty of water, a camera, snacks and sturdy (well broken in) walking shoes on, be prepared to walk and walk and walk and walk and…. Of course we all know the very famous and very beautiful landmarks of Paris and I certainly recommend you visit them all in their full regalia, but lets first take a tour, off the beaten track and explore the much less-travelled Parisian covered Passageways.
Starting with Palais Royal galleries (A) near the Louvre and continuing on with Galerie Vivienne (B to C), it’s easy to see why Paris has the ability to enchant and delight its inhabitants and visitors, continuing on to Passage du Panorama (D to E), don’t forget to look up, the preservation of the fine detailing is beautiful. Amble onward to the famous Passage Jouffroy (E to G) and then finishing Passage Verdeau (G to F). The key here is to stop, look and take in the sights, sounds and scents the city and it’s humans are offering. If you’re using a smart phone – screen capture the below map.
Be sure to visit La Cure Gourmande, located in the the Passage Jouffroy, with all of their delicious sweets and treats ready to be devoured, choosing is the hardest part!
The Victoria Station Wagon Restaurant is quirky and fun, the food is as you would expect for a gimmick restaurant (a little bland to say the least). We ordered a pizza and because we were so famished from our walk it managed to taste quite good! It’s certainly an interesting concept- I recommend stopping in for a coffee.
Once you have explored the historic Arcade undercover passages, I highly recommend another walking tour – These can be done on separate days or both on the same day – This will certainly take the entire day, depending on the speed you walk and how many patisserie stops you make!
Below is the Montmarte walking tour – It’s a great way to meet Paris. The Montmarte walking tour will take you approximately three hours walking at a leisurely pace. Start from Abbesses metro station (marker A on map below) on line 12. Enjoy lively rue des Abbesses and its many parisian shops and cafes. Continue to Bateau lavoir (C), and witness its memories of Picasso and other great painters. Then head off to Moulin de la Galette (D) and see the lovely Paris windmill.
Amble on over to the famous Place du Tertre (E) and have your portrait painted by one of the many artists. Continue to lovely Saint Pierre de Montmartre church and the immense and impressive Sacre Coeur (F). Enjoy the fantastic Paris view from the top of the staircase as you listen to the buskers strum their guitars. Head back to Abbesses metro station (H) down the stairs and through Place Saint Pierre (G). TAKE YOUR TIME. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of this vibrant and bustling area of Paris, there are certainly some colourful characters around!
Be very wary of your posessions – pick-pockets are very good at their job. If you are accosted at the bottom of the staircase by men selling knick-knacks, ignore them and keep walking, unless of course you want a bracelet in exchange for your passport!
See the famous Moulin Rouge.. from the outside. Perhaps our expectations were too high but the show wasn’t as spectacular as we had hoped, they have a churn and burn procedure, herding tourists in like cattle and ejecting them by blasting on the house lights as soon as the show is over. There is a bar next door however that had great cocktails, babin’ bartenders and salsa dance classes all of which I would highly recommend!
The glorious Notre Dame – Remember the story of Quasimodo? He was the bell-ringer! Designed in the French Gothic style, Notre Dame was completed in 1345! Among one of the first buildings to use the architectural design of Flying Buttresses, I remember studying them during my Interior Design course.
The stunning and world-renowned Basilica, construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. Sacre Coeur is located on the highest point of the city and was built in Paris’ most rebellious neighbourhood, Montmartre. The crowning glory of Paris indeed.
Now that you’re in Paris, you should most certainly visit The Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 and arguably one of the world’s most famous icons, standing at a whopping 342 metres tall and with over 7 million visitors annually, its no wonder this feat of architecture is so popular. Skip the elevator and take the stairs – Explore the beast within and marvel at the grandiose construction that has enabled this famous symbol to stand the test of the time.
Whether you want to experience the romanticism of historical art or cutting edge contemporary art, the variety of galleries and museums in Paris will leave you spoiled for choice and most certainly appreciating a vast array of mastery by the time you’re through. Museums such as Musee De Louvre, Musee D ‘Orsay and The Pompidou Centre designed by the ultra fabulous Renzo Piano will both inspire, excite and put a spring in your step.
On a more morbid though interesting note, an experience you won’t soon forget will have you stepping in a downward spiral into the depths of the city, far below the fresh baguettes, teetering tower heels and well trodden footpaths to a world unknown and well hidden to many. Holding the remains of six million people, the catacombs were the answer to an over-growing urban population in the 12th Century and its need to expand, bodies were exhumed and followed by mass burials which took place underground for those not wealthy enough to pay for a church burial. Meander by the people of the past but don’t get too close, you don’t know what might happen!
The Palace and Gardens of Versailles
Roughly 20kms out of Paris the Palace of Versailles is an extraordinary example of extreme wealth and prosperity. Jump on a train and head out to the very leafy and very bourgeois suburb of Versailles. Allocate an entire day for this and I promise you will not be disappointed. Three million flock to Versailles annually, so get there early morning and avoid the enormous queues. Once inside, the opulence and grandiose nature of the building hits you like a solid gold toilet seat to the face. The myriad of well preserved artifacts, furniture and clothing is on display for the world to see. Do yourself a favour and don’t leave Paris without seeing Versailles.
Whilst you’re there be sure to explore Marie Antoinettes luscious lands. The gardens are exquisite and resemble something from a children’s story-book. Every hedge has been trimmed within and inch of its life and the little homes littered around the gardens are like those of fairy-tale dwarves.
Did someone say hot babes singing whilst perched atop a baby grand in a dark and slightly seedy jazz club?
You certainly don’t need to search far and wide for places to kick back and enjoy a few beverages with the friendly locals. Paris is littered with quaint piano bars with vocalists belting out the latest showtunes – Drinks are expensive depending on the area you’re in but fun is free! We spent our evenings bar hopping in St. Germain along streets such as Rue De Pont De Lodi, Rude Saint-Andre Des Arts and Rue Suger. We partied on until the early hours of the morning and what a grandiose time we had indeed.
Remember: A hangover is no excuse not to explore to day after!
Where should I rest my head?
Browsing what seemed like hundreds of apartments on Check it out herewe were able to find an incredible little nest – after much deliberation about what arrondissment to stay in, we finally decided on the 5th, staying in St. Germain Des Pres. It was, in a word, perfect. The apartment was compact but very comfortable, charming and certainly a joy to come home to after a huge day spent outdoors. We were spoiled for choice with restaurants, bars, nightclubs and gorgeous artisan stores on our doorstep. Only a short walk from Notre Dame, the River Seine and the oldest bridge in Paris, Voila! we most certainly felt like Parisian locals! A big thank-you to Roche for his great hospitality and welcome wine!
With a career spanning Design, Aviation and now Health & Fitness, Angelina is never satisfied sitting still. When she isn’t squirreling away at another zany idea she is trekking the globe on the pursuit for the path less traveled …
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