Friday, September 4, 2015


My very first view of the iconic Eiffel Tower was  from the backseat of a cab careening through the streets of Paris.  Despite the perilous ride, it was a wonderful moment.  I could not believe that I was finally in the beautiful City of Lights.

Like London, the accommodations in Paris run the gamut from budget hostels to five star luxury hotels.   The more impressive and expensive properties are located on the more formal Right Bank and they are gorgeous but costly.  I personally prefer the Left Bank where the hotels are more moderately priced and offer some old world charm.  You can find so real gems in the shadow of Notre Dame, St. Germain du Pres and even the Louvre.   Remember that hotel rooms in Europe offer little in the way of elbow room and may feel cramped to those of us that are accustomed to big, spacious American hotel rooms.  Most rooms offer TV with CNN and BBC in English and internet (not always free) and some are now offering air conditioning.  Traditionally, a continental breakfast which consists of a croissant or pastry and coffee is included with your hotel stay.

There is so much to do and see in this old city.  Of course, a must do is the Eiffel Tower.  It is the most visited paid monument in the world with almost 7 million visitors a year.  There are 1665 steps to the top but most of us opt for the elevators.   I always recommend a trip up the tower at dusk.  There is nothing like standing on the platform and watching the lights come up all over the city.  The view is spectacular and it becomes obvious why Paris is often called the City of Lights.  You can avoid the lines by reserving a ticket online prior to your visit.

Also, visit Hotel des Invalides, the eternal resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte.  His remains lay directly below the spectacular golden dome (said to be the inspiration for the American Capitol Building) in six coffins, one inside the other similar to Russian nesting dolls.  The tomb is very large and very impressive.  The building also houses the French Army museum, including Napoleon's uniform and tri-corner hat.

Of course, every tourist wants to take a leisurely stroll down the Champs-Elysees toward the magnificent Arc de Triomphe which most of us remember from the newsreel movies of the liberation of Paris.  This historic landmark was built by Napoleon and was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus because Bonaparte considered himself the heir to the Roman emperors.  The Arc is known for its impressive sculptures and they are really something to see.  France's Unknown Soldier is buried beneath the arch and a memorial flame is lit every night at 6:30pm,  The traffic circle around the Arc radiates out into 12 avenues and is infamous for its traffic accidents.  Watching the traffic from the top the Arc de Triomphe is definitely not for the faint hearted.

A trip to Paris would not be complete without a visit to one of the most famous and largest museums in the world, the Louvre.  The most famous pieces housed in this historic gallery are the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory.  Where you go after seeing these three amazing works of art depends on your personal interests.  Suffice it to say that you could literally spend days viewing these spectacular works of art so it is best to pick up one of the museums excellent color coded maps and prioritize according to your interests.  Passes for the Louvre can be purchased stateside to avoid the long lines.

While in Paris, we attended mass at the incomparable Notre Dame , the first cathedral built with flying buttresses. The mass was celebrated in French, we were surrounded by people from all over the globe.  We did not meet one French citizen on that Sunday morning.  To sit and take in the glorious stained glass window and to hear the incredible organ play familiar hymns was a very  moving experience for my husband and I.  Since our visit, they have installed nine bronze bells to celebrate the cathedral's 850th birthday which I am told are very impressive when they ring.  Leave yourself plenty of time to explore the cathedral and its grounds, it is well worth it.

Not too far from Notre Dame is Sainte Chappelle which is a small chapel that managed to survive the Revolution.  Try to visit in the afternoon to fully enjoy the stunning floor to ceiling stained glass windows as the sun shines through them.  Though a bit off the beaten track and not one of the top attractions, this was one of my favorites.  The windows defy description and you should make every effort to see them for yourself.

Like London, there is so much to do and see in the French city, that I will have to blog about it again in the future but I hope this gives you just a taste of what Paris has to offer.  So until next time, safe travels!

Notre Dame

Windows of Sainte Chappelle

Another shot of the windows

The Louvre

Another shot of the Louvre

The Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

Venus de Milo

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