After a relatively quick train trip from Amsterdam we found ourselves in Paris. Paris is one of the most amazing cities in the world, this city has been an unforgettable experience with so much we have seen and done. Although I have visited Paris before (about 9 years ago) a lot of the experiences were a lot more enjoyable on the second time round. Plus being able to speak more French on this occasion was also a certain bonus.
|Arc de Triomphe from the top of the Eiffel Tower|
We checked into our hostel and decided to go into the heart of Paris to see some of the better known sights. First stop was the Place de Concorde where we took the chance to see the Champs Elysees in all its evening glory, before we made our way to the world’s most recognisable landmark – the Eiffel Tower. By night the Eiffel Tower is a breathtaking spectacle and every hour the lights sparkle to provide that extra sense of magic that the city has.
|Sacre Coeur in the evening|
When we returned to our room we met one of roommates who would stay with us for the duration of our time in Paris, Xavier. This is the second time that we have shared a room but it has been a great experience getting to meet different people from all over the world. As it would happen Xavier was moving to Paris after spending time in London and originally living in Nice. We have also been quite fortunate to stay with friendly people in both instances where we have had to share.
|Notre Dame Cathedral|
Thursday morning we started our day how we have tried to with other cities – a walking tour. Our guide, Billy, was probably the best guide that we have had to date. He was able to tell several interesting stories about the history of Paris while showing us the most interesting sights.
The First stop was the place of Saint Michel which was well known for its magnificent fountain depicting Saint Michel himself banishing Satan from heaven. Next up was a great view of Notre Dame Cathedral and an explanation about how the building is, possibly one of the greatest examples of gothic architecture which took almost 200 years to complete and has been standing for almost 850 years.
|The Stone Heads on Henry IV Bridge|
We continued onto the Henry IV Bridge – one of the earliest constructed out of stone. This bridge is quite interesting because when Henry IV planned to build the bridge he wanted it to last and be built out of stone, unlike many of the other wooden bridges in Paris. This idea attracted ridicule right up until its completion in 1607. In order to show off his new masterpiece Henry invited a number of French Nobles to admire the bridge. This was during a time where wine was a little more difficult to lay hands on so the king being generous opened the royal wine cellars to allow his guests to drink and be merry.
Realising how good of a time that everyone was having the King wanted them to have a portrait done to remember how good a night they were having, however when summoning the royal artists he quickly realised that portraits may not survive the night. So he has the faces of his guests carved into stone and placed on the bridge – there are nearly 300 stone heads that appear on the bridge. Henry IV was a popular French king, despite being controversial. One of his laws was that every man is entitled to roast a chicken on a Sunday, and if he cannot afford a chicken the king will provide.
Atop the bridge is a statue of one of the more popular kings who was one of the most popular in France. You will notice upon closer examination that the hind leg of his horse is raised. A quick lesson in horse statues; if a statue has the horse with both feet off the ground the rider has died in battle. A front foot off the ground signals a natural death, while a hind leg signals an un-natural death or murder. In the case of Henry IV he had over 27 attempts on his life and on the final attempt (successful) his attacker plunged a knife into stomach to which he replied “is that the best you can do” before being stabbed in the heart.
Unfortunately for his assassin the French were experimenting with new and interesting ways to illicit information through torture. They had just discovered the acid as a means of torture and decided to experiment on the killer of their beloved king. First his hands were first burnt off then he had acid poured on his back, surprised when this didn’t kill him he had non-essential organs removed and replaced with acid. The French were surprised when he remained alive and decided that old ways are the best way and attached him to four horses to run in different directions quartering him. What was supposed to be relatively quick was dragged out to over a day.
|Love Locks on Lovers Bridge|
Our next stop was ‘Lovers Bridge’ and for anyone who has been following my blog, and ramblings about love locks – this bridge is full of them. Across the bridge is the Acadamie Francaise home to ‘The Immortals’ who are charged with protecting French language and culture, and responsible for writing the French dictionary.
We moved on to the world famous Louvre Museum, once the royal palace in France and now home to some of the world’s most expensive paintings including the Mona Lisa. The building has a magnificent design and is quite significant in size.
|Orange Stickers on the Windows of the Louvre|
Upon closer inspection of the windows in the Louvre we noticed that every third window has orange sticker, we found this quite peculiar until it was explained to us that in the event of an emergency only windows with this sticker may be broken by emergency services. This is the logical approach of the French who have ensured the cheapest paintings in the museum back onto these glass panels.
|The Glass Pyramid at the Louvre|
After stopping for a quick coffee we continued onto the Jardins de Touleries that were originally constructed by the wife of Henry IV, Catherine de Medicis In his honour as a place she could mourn his murder. As we continued through the gardens, we admired the design of the gardens and the art sculptures
|The Cathedral of Notre Dame|
Place de Concorde, the heart of the French revolution and the famous Guillotine. We were told that it was a popular pass time for the French to observe the trials and executions at the height of the revolution. Even up to 10 years after children would jump on the cobble stones to try to get blood to the surface there was that much blood spilled here. We also saw the famous Obelisk that sits in the centre of the square. Napoleon Bonaparte returned with this from his travels in Egypt with this great and valuable gift. It is said that every year since the 1850’s the Egyptian government asks for it back and every year the French remind them that it was a gift.
That afternoon we enjoyed crepes for lunch and headed to the spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. We were able to go inside and see the beautiful paintings and decorative statues and windows, that are quite remarkable.
|Michelle and Escargot|
After Notre Dame we walked to the Pantheon close by however we were inhibited by arch enemy rain from really being able explore. We did however decide to take the advice of our morning tour guide and went into San Michel to enjoy some traditional French cuisine. First course was the world famous Escargot, surprisingly chewy and not much to report taste wise, they are actually quite bland despite swimming in garlic butter. We also enjoyed a Beef Burbingnon and a Crème Brulee for desert. The French certainly know how to cook.
|Stain-glass Windows of Notre Dame|
Our newest roommate arrived today, Kati from Germany taking a short break in Paris after doing an art excursion to the south of France. This just made me realise how unlucky we are to live so far away, the coolest place I have been at uni was the gold coast (and that was awesome) but I can’t just jump on a bus and go to another country. Both our roommates have been really friendly which has been good.
Friday morning we seized the opportunity to climb the Eiffel Tower. After missing out on reserving a time we saw the line and promptly decided that climbing to the second level was probably a better idea and a faster way to get the elevator to the top, unfortunately we didn’t realise that it was possible to climb to the actual top of the tower otherwise that would have certainly been our goal.
|View of Sacre Coeur from the top of
The Eiffel Tower
After climbing about 20 storeys to the second level and taking the elevator to the top we were able to enjoy spectacular views of Paris. The views really are breathtaking from the top and provide the willing or those patient enough to wait for the lifts magnificent opportunities to snap photos of this beautiful city.
Friday afternoon we ventured into Montmartre to book tickets to the Moulin Rouge and explore a little, before returning to our hostel to look into some of our travel plans. Friday night we decided to venture into Montmartre to explore a little bit. We arrived at the beautiful church of SacreCouer. It has not lost a day of beauty since I was last in Paris, we were able to take some amazing photos and stumbled upon an outdoor concert of sorts that we were able to enjoy before we had to find some dinner and get ready to go pub crawling.
|Les Jardins de Tuileries|
We have tried to do a pub crawl in every city where we are staying and with that in mind we headed out with our roommates Xavier and Kati to enjoy some of the French nightlife. First stop was an Australian Bar that calls the Parisian Red Light district home. An interesting little place that served Australian beer and food was a refreshing taste of home before we headed to a few other French bars and finished at a popular French R&B club. While this night out was considerably smaller than Berlin we met some great people including a few guys from the states as well as a few guys studying in Europe from Australia. We managed to navigate back to the hostel by taking the last train on the metro. It was great to be able to go out and enjoy a few drinks with all of our roommates.
|The Mona Lisa|
|Ornate Decorations on the roof of the Louvre|
|Wedding of Cana|
We started Saturday morning with a trip to the world famous Louvre museum, home to perhaps some of the most famous paintings in the world. Utilising one of the side entrances (thanks for the tip Nathan and Nicola) we were able to beat the queue and start enjoying the paintings without having to wait like chumps. We saw the Mona Lisa early to free up the rest of our time to enjoy many of the other exquisite works of art that call the Louvre home. The Mona Lisa is certainly the most popular painting in the museum with an estimated value of over 600 million Euros and as such attracts the biggest crowd. Whilst the Mona Lisa is an impressive painting the Louvre has many other pieces of art that would challenge for the best artwork in house to start with the painting hanging behind – The Wedding of Cana. We spent the rest of the day exploring some of the French paintings as well as seeing some of the Greek and Roman Statues including the Venus de Milo. We also took time to see the Egyptian Exhibit that is also on display – one of the best outside of Cairo.
|Venus de Milo|
Later that night we ventured out to get some dinner in Montmartre and enjoyed some traditional French cuisine. Montmartre as I have alluded to has many amazing little streets that are bustling with life during the night. After dinner we returned to our room to meet our newest roommate Magalie from the French speaking part of Canada. We enjoyed a relaxing Saturday evening spent sampling the French beers in a local tavern getting to know our newest Canadian friend.
|La Grand Arch|
On Sunday we set out to explore the famous Parisian Flea Market, filled with people trying to sell you everything you could need although whether the Adidas and Nike shoes on the shelves were real…the Jury is still out. After a morning spent exploring the market we headed into the business district of La Defense, surprisingly the only area in Paris where there are shops open on a Sunday. Unfortunately we were told that the Moulin Rouge has a formal dress code, and having not packed ‘formal’ clothes we felt we should probably buy something classier than jeans. Despite the day spent shopping La Defense is an interesting area – there are no skyscrapers allowed to be built in the heart of Paris so an area was designated outside the core of the city for their construction. Also in La Defense is the modern attraction La Grande Arch, which is exactly what it sounds like, a considerably sized arch constructed out of steel and glass, impressive in size but unless you have a need to go to La Defense, probably not worth the trek out.
|Eiffel Tower View from Sacre Coeur|
During the evening on Sunday we set out to climb the long spiral staircases at SacreCoeur. The view from the top was amazing. It gave us a great view of the Eiffel Tower and Paris by twilight, a breathtaking view to be enjoyed by any willing to climb the tower. We were also quite fortunate to see part of a service in the cathedral in all its French glory, complete with singing nuns; it was really something quite special. We also returned to meet our newest roommate, a med student from Holland.
|Bal du Moulin Rouge|
On Sunday night because it is Michelle’s birthday in a couple of weeks we celebrated an early birthday at the Moulin Rouge. It was a great night with magnificent dancers, costumes and acts on show. Probably the world’s most famous cabaret show more than lives up to its high standards, we enjoyed first class service, great champagne and a show that is probably one of the highlights of the trip. One of the highlights of the show was seeing one of the dancers dive straight into a tank with live python snakes swimming around. This was unbelievable and almost has to be seen to be believed.
|The Audience in the Moulin Rouge|
In addition to the display of dancing by the famous French Can Can dancers we were also treated to the world record holder for fastest juggling, a team of gymnasts who performed some incredible acrobatics and a half mime/half comedian who put on a stellar performance with some help from some members of the audience.
|A Casual afternoon cycling|
On Monday we set out to explore the last home of the French royalty – the Palace of Versailles. Although I have visited Paris and Versailles before the Château did not disappoint. We were greeted by the most amazing golden gates and the largest castle that we have seen with the most ornate decorations that scale the height of the building.
|Fountains In Versailles|
The gardens are designed with perfect symmetry and they are truly quite remarkable, especially the size and the scale of them. It was certainly a palace worthy of the royalty of France, even if it was the Kings and Queens that lived extremely lavishly in this palace that fuelled the cause for the French revolution.
|Gardens of Versailles|
Behind this magnificent chateau were the famous palace gardens. These gardens, designed by Andre Le Notre were truly breathtaking and officered us a chance to relax and enjoy the day at our own pace. After we explored the top of the gardens by foot we hired a bike to explore the rest of the area that circles ‘the Grand Canal’ these gardens were remarkable and so peaceful. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.
|The Golden Gates of Versailles|
|The Gardens of Versailles|
Monday night we enjoyed a casual picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower and took the opportunity to sample some French cheese and pastries. The Eiffel Tower is even more spectacular by night. After enjoying the lightshow we made for L’Arc de Triomphe by night, another spectacular view of a famous Paris icon. Sitting at the top of the Champs Elysees the Arc of Triumph, as it translates into English is in the middle of perhaps the most dangerous roundabout in the world with an accident happening on average every 15 minutes. This round about has 12 individual roads that lead off making it an amazing spectacle to observe the traffic. Words are not easily able to describe the madness that takes place every day on the roads here, it is truly something that needs to be seen to be believed.
|Artists Square Montmartre|
|Chataeu de Versailles|
On Tuesday we decided that because we loved Paris so much we would extend our stay an extra night. We enjoyed a relaxing day first visiting L’Arc de Triomphe before making our way exploring the shops down the Champs Elysees, and doing a bit of shopping. In the afternoon we tried to get into Musee d’Orsay however unfortunately due to a protest the museum was closed. The fact that there were fully kitted out riot police complete with gas masks did make for an interesting sight however. Without success here we went into Montmartre to explore some more of the famous Parisian arrondissment. We stumbled across artists square and saw some amazing artwork being drawn and painted by the resident experts. We also found a boutique biscuit shop where we were able to enjoy French macrons whilst enjoying the ambience.
|L’Arc de Triomphe|
|La Tour Eiffel|
Later in the evening we enjoyed a French dinner at a local restaurant and got a proper lesson in wine from our French roommate Xavier. We spent several hours relaxing talking and drinking and it was great to have met another new friend in France. We are without a doubt going to miss nightly discussions and joking around with our friends in the dorm.
After a bit of a sleep in quickly got ready as we prepared to leave to Brussels on Wednesday. Although Brussels wasn’t one of our planned stops when we started, it was highly recommended to us by one of our roommates and I am looking forward to spending a few relaxing days in Belgium.
|View from the top!|
The Eiffel Tower – world famous, Paris monument a must do for anyone who travels to Paris. There is a spectacular view to be had from the top of the tower and great pictures to be taken.
The Moulin Rouge – this was unbelievable, not knowing completely what to expect we both had a fantastic time at this famous Paris attraction, and whilst slightly more expensive it is a guaranteed enjoyable night for tourists.
Speaking French!! Finally I have arrived in a country where I can speak the language, while I am far from fluent I was impressed that I was able to speak French about 95% of the time, although a few waitresses would reply in English they assured me that my French was actually not that bad!
Funnier things I saw:
The Flea market had one area which was thriving with activity and I am not sure about the ownership of some of the goods, but this was certainly where the action was happening.
|This is where the action is
Paris Flea Market
The driving in Europe is getting progressively worse, and although there were not as many bikes to contend with it was common place in Paris to ‘touch’ park.
Pay attention to the little building that is behind the Eiffel Tower with the light show that is trying to steal the thunder, however unsuccessfully; it takes the cake for trying.
The last thing that caught my eye were the Ikea style how to erect your own Obelisk that appear on the base of the one in Place de Concorde, just in case you need to know.
|Obelisk in Place de Concorde|
|View from the top!|
|Entertainer on the Train|
|Buddy Bears Exhibition|
|The Pyramid made famous
by the DaVinci Code
|Our roommates Kati and Xavier|