As I write this, one of my close friends will be leaving Paris after her first ever visit. As a vicarious Parisienne, I think I probably banged on to her about it rather a lot, and I was desperately hoping she wouldn’t be disappointed – thankfully, yesterday I discovered she is not – a “Paris convert” is how she described herself, with her and her husband loving it. She found it beautiful and “drenched in history” – perfect descriptions I would say. Her being there has encouraged me to complete my reflections on our recent time there, and to include few suggestions for first time visitors – not that I am an expert of course, these are simply observations based on my own experience.
Paris – where do I start? It has heart, soul, culture and history – not to mention great cuisine and fabulous shopping…. What more could you want? I had a bucket list for Paris which I prioritised, and I ticked most items off. If you have seen my posts about our four full days in the City of Light you would know we crammed in an awful lot – fabulous Versailles, The Louvre, Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop, The Eiffel Tower, Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalides, Sacre Coeur, Sainte-Chapelle, historic Notre Dame, Ile Saint-Louis, The Pompidou Centre, The Conciergerie, Les Tuileries, Le Jardin de Luxembourg, Place des Vosges, and walking, walking, walking for miles, to simply absorb that infectious Parisian vibe.
There was no way to add anymore in our four days – it was just not realistic– so what did I miss? Cimitiere du Pere Lachaise, Rue des Abbesses, Clignancourt Flea Market, Galerie Vivienne, a visit to Laduree , Opera Garnier, and visits to the roof top of Printemps and La Tour Montparnasse to simply to see the view… these all seem like things that will be great to do at my leisure, in the future, rather than at the fairly hectic pace we took on this visit. I certainly am not disappointed that I still have a Paris “to do” list, because what we did was so fulfilling, so utterly intoxicating, that “je ne regrette rien” as they say – and besides, it is a good excuse to return in a couple of years.
If you are a first time visitor, I suggest leave being indoors for another visit (if the weather allows) – take a hop-on hop-off bus to orient yourself, and walk as much as you can. Perhaps choose one museum and check it out thoroughly – my pick would be the Musee D’Orsay. It was the only Museum we went to on our first visit, preferring as we did to walk and soak up the atmosphere – and it remains my favourite. However, this time round, we found that getting out early to tourist attractions like the Louvre, Versailles etc., allows you to join a shorter queue – but you have to be prepared to make the early start. It fits in with the French life style well to do this, as then you can take a long break in the middle of the day like the locals do. We loved getting out around 7am, and walking the almost empty streets looking for a nice café for coffee and croissant, omelette or pancake. It amazed us that the streets could be so empty at that time of day. Not only that, the early morning light is truly beautiful, and is the Parisian dusk. .
And my personal favourites from those iconic tourist attractions we visited this time? Napoleon’s Apartments in the Louvre (literally stunning!); climbing to the first level of the Eiffel Tower – that’s plenty high enough in my opinion to get your view and move on to another attraction if you are short of time, plus it is a great way to escape the long queue for lifts; picnicking in the beautiful Jardin Du Luxembourg (Theadora made me do it and she was right), and watching the stylish locals take their Sunday stroll in the park; viewing the exquisite stained glass windows in Sainte-Chapelle; taking in the magnificent Notre Dame ; strolling through Ile Saint Louis at dusk; watching the Parisian sunset from any of the bridges spanning the Seine; exploring the Latin Quarter and enjoying ethnic food choices.
It would be remiss of me not to mention how we got to Paris – we chose Eurostar and it is lovely way to travel and arrive – it feels much more relaxed to me – probably because I hate flying – and there is something special about train travel – we even got pensioner rates (60 years and over), so it was extremely affordable! What’s not to like?
My final reflections? Paris for me is an enchanting city – it is absolute magic. I feel so drawn to it – to the architecture, the history, the people, the vibe – to everything about it – it is hard to explain, but all I can say is that I will be back for more. There is so much to see and do, that short visits will probably never allow you to do everything you may want to do – but I figure this – do not lament what you did not see – simply remember and savour what you did see, and enjoy the precious memories you have will surely have etched in your heart and mind …
Here are some of my favourite places from our recent visit.
Napoleon lies here in The Dome des Invalides
Beautiful door in Notre Dame.
View across The Seine from Ile Saint Louis at dusk
Louvre forecourt in the early morning sun – empty!
The Louvre in the early morning – no crowds
Fountain in Les Tuileries
Musee National du Moyen Age.
The Latin Quarter in the early morning
Odette’s in the Latin Quarter – a lovely place to stop for drinks.
Notre Dame in the sun
Stunning Sainte Chappelle
The Domes des Invalides housing Napoleon’s Tomb.
The beautiful Place des Vosges.
The Pompidou Centre – great views from here.
Window display in Repetto
Locks on the Pont des Arts – the Love Lock Bridge
Floodlit Notre Dame Facade
Sacre Coeur from The Pompidou Centre.
Golden gates at Versailles
The Grand Trianon
The beautiful marble floor of the Chapel.
Sunset from the Pont de L’Archeveche