Friday, November 29, 2013

Reminiscing about Paris

I've got a bit of a travel bug lately. I miss going somewhere new and discovering new foods and exploring back roads. But this year, I've decided to go visit my family, and I can't afford to explore new places and buy a plane ticket home! So, to try and tackle my travel bug, I'm going to write some posts reminiscing about trips I've taken that I haven't written about yet. So to start off this series, I'm going to tell you about my trip to Paris!

Here are some tips for visiting Paris on a budget:

1. Stay outside of the city center. We stayed in a cheaper neighborhood, but had the metro right in front of our door. There are different ticket options for the metro, including a weekly pass or even a tourist pass for a certain number of days.

2. Buy food at the grocery store. We got lucky enough that our hotel was right next to a grocery store and we were able to buy pre-prepared foods for lunch, and even for dinner some days.

3. If you're going to visit a lot of museums, buy a museum pass. It also allows you to skip lines, which will save you a lot of time. Keep in mind that if you're a student or under 26 you can get discounted or free tickets at some museums with an EU ID card.

Now on to the fun part! The very first night we went to visit the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre because it was close to our hotel. Then we went to see the Moulin Rouge, which is in the same neighborhood.

 Sacré-Coeur, and Place du Tertre

Moulin Rouge                                                                  Metro entrance

It wasn't until a couple days later that we were able to get back to Montmartre in the daytime, but I fell in love. The whole neighborhood has a quaint artsy vibe, which makes sense because it is known for its art. The Place du Tertre is full of artists with their work on sale. Some will sketch a quick portrait of you for a few euros. It's a good neighborhood to get lost in, with a cozy cafe around every corner. 

   Sacré-Coeur and the Mosaic of Christ inside the dome

Cafes and shops in Montmartre

Eiffel Tower
The next day of course, we went to visit the Eiffel Tower. Can you believe that it was originally constructed as a temporary exhibit for an exposition in 1889? Parisians thought it was ugly and wanted it taken down, and now it is the most popular tourist attraction in France! It was the tallest building in the world until the Empire State building was built in 1931. To get to the top, we climbed the stairs to the first two levels (720 stairs!) and took the elevator from the second level.

                                                           This is the original staircase to the top. The stairs 
                                                            are 30 inches wide and there were almost 2000. 

Enjoy a glass of champagne at the top for the small price of 10€! 
(That's the cheapest, there are options for up to 20€)

               Champ-de-Mars from the 2nd level             Arc de Triomphe from the top


Les Invalides/Dôme

This church was originally built to house the tombs of the kings. Somewhere along the line, It was decided differently and is now the final resting place of the  Bourbons. This is the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Île de la Cité

Île de la Cité and the Seine River

All of the bridges are covered in locks. I've seen bridges all over Europe with locks on them but some of the ones in Paris were incredibly full. So full that you wouldn't be able to fit another lock on there. Normally people write the name of their lover on the lock and then put it on the bridge. Or they just put really cool ones like these two. 

Marché aux Fleurs et Oiseaux (bird and flower market) 
Paris used to be known for its flower markets but this is one of the few that still exists. 


Gargoyles on the top of the tower. On the right you can just barely see Sacré-Coeur in between the two. Climbing the tower in Notre Dame is the only line you can't skip with the museum pass so make sure you get there early!

Inside Notre Dame:

The Sainte-Chapelle was originally built in 1248 by Louis IX to house the crown of thorns and other relics, including a piece of the holy cross. The relics are no longer there as they were removed during the French Revolution, but some can be found in the Notre Dame. This Chapelle holds the greatest collection of 13th Century stained glass in the world- fifteen full size windows plus a rosette at the back. The windows all depict stories from the bible, starting with Genesis and ending with he Apocalypse, which is the rosette. Unfortunately, five of the windows were being renovated when we visited so I didn't get the full experience. 

 The windows not under restoration

The front and the rear rosette. 


So you thought there was only one Pantheon, in Italy right? Yeah, me too. But there's one in Paris too! It was originally constructed as a church, but the with the revolution, it was converted to a pantheon, and was changed back and forth several times before it was finally changed to display the tombs of great minds of France.

 Illustrious minds in the crypt (from L to R): Marie Curie, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, and
 Louis Braille

We were able to take a free tour to the top of the dome which offers some fabulous views of Paris! 

The Pantheon is in the Latin Quarter, which is a neighborhood where you can feel that it has a story to tell. It offers a range of cafes, book shops, jazz clubs, and beautiful buildings. 

When in Paris...this crepe was filled with a delicious gingerbread spread. Happy tummy :)

Arc de Triomphe

Napoleon promised his troops that they would arrive home after battle "under arches of triumph," and so the Arc de Triomphe was born. This is another building in Paris that you can climb to the top of, and it offers great views of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. 

Avenue des Champs-Elysées

I made a video from the top of the Arc because it is a crazy example of French driving. The roundabout that goes around the Arc is about five lanes wide, with the traffic from twelve different roads spilling into this one roundabout. There are more accidents here than anywhere else in Europe. It's definitely an interesting experience to watch...I'm glad I wasn't in any of those cars!

Les Tuileries & Musée du Louvre

Warming up in the formal gardens

Right outside the Louvre

The reason why they never should have allowed people to take photos inside the Louvre

The obelisk in front of the Madeleine and Les Invalides

We were eating dinner across the street      This obelisk is in the plaza where the 
               from here and the next day Rafael Nadal      guillotine was during the revolution
              tweeted that he was having a drink there!      and more than 1000 people were 
                                                                                                   beheaded there.

This ossuary, formally known as l'Ossuaire Municipal, was started in the 18th century because the nearby cemetery was too full and was causing sickness. It took the workers over a year to transfer all of the bones because there are the remains of over 6 million people here. This space has been used for everything from parties for the elite class to the headquarters for the military during the second world war. 

We also took a train out to Giverny to visit Monet's gardens and Versailles, so keep an eye out for those posts!

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