The other day I was at a friend’s birthday party when one of my blog follower friends reminded me that I had yet to finish my Paris blogs from my trip. It has been over 3 years now so I do hope I can capture the experience. Now is as good a time as any since I will be heading back to Europe in 3 months so I had better finish off the last trip before I get to the next one. Here goes…
A friend of mine who I met in Lisbon (Laurent if you remember) and who I had met on day 1 for snails and a wonderful tour around Sacre-Coeurs, drew me a map that would allow me to hit all of the major hot spots in 1 day walking. It is with this map that I set out to start day 3.
I woke up early enough to catch the end of the continental breakfast at my Paris Hostel and grabbed the metro to the stop nearest Notre Dame.
Paris Walking Tour: Notre Dame
Notre Dame sat just on the other side of a small bridge and seemed to stand out even though it was surrounded by other buildings. From afar, the architecture and shape of the building strikes you as quite unique, and as you get closer the details of the sculptures and windows are what take over. Out front there are hundreds of pigeons awaiting bread crumbs to be released from the hands of children and ‘bird men’ selling said crumbs for photo ops. I stood outside for quite a while admiring all of the little carved people and crevices and the stone design overtop of the main circular window – imagine how much of a feat that must have been back when it was built. I also couldn’t help but rememb the Disney version of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and imagining him hobbling through the towers, wishing I could see him peak out a window.
The line was not too long (probably because it was a dreary day for a walking tour and sight-seeing) so I strolled inside the landmark to see if the inside was as intriguing as the outside.
The thing I found with Notre Dame is that, on a whole, it seems like a dark church that is no more exciting than other churches I have seen. However, as you begin to look at the details and in the small nooks the beauty really begins to surface. There were a number of small prayer areas as well as the main area, which was still a functioning church. It was a long and narrow walk from the front to the back along huge stone pillars and lit chandeliers, allowing you to easily see everything the church had to offer. At first I thought the church was a little too dark for my liking, which it was, but I noticed that the stained glass windows stood out that much more because of it, which was truly breathtaking.
I also paid 2 eros for a small t-light candle to light for my grandmother who had recently passed away. While I am not religious I believe she, as a devout christian, would have appreciated it (and I think my dad did as well).
Love Lock Bridge – Pont Des Arts
Something I have always wanted to see was Pont Des Arts. What is special about it? It is the bridge that hundreds of lovers have attached locks onto with their names scrawled across. It has been in every travel blog related to France (and now mine is included in that) and many movies and tv shows as well. It just seemed like a really neat idea.
I walked from Notre Dame over the oldest bridge in Paris towards Pont Des Arts (which was included on my trusty map). Just a block before the locks were a number of street vendors selling all sorts of Parisian Souvenirs, some of which were locks. I picked out a plain lock with a long clasp (since I knew it would be hard to find a good spot) and headed over to the bridge.
Some of the bridge had been boarded up and had the locks removed but there were still hundreds left over. Since I was single at the time I wrote the name of my closest love – my dog Mackenzie (can you see it in the pics below?). I found a spot that jutted out more than the rest and secured my lock, throwing the key into the river below (really probably are not supposed to do that… but I felt I had to). I also wrote the names of my mom and dad and my brother and his (then) girlfriend on the boards where the locks had been removed so they, too, could be part of the experience.
Fast forward to current times… the ‘Love Lock Bridge’ has now had all of the locks removed because the weight of them was damaging the structural integrity of the bridge itself. While the Love Lock Bridge is no more, there are a number of other areas around Paris where people have begun to place locks – so the tradition is not lost. (not to mention… my dog died at a young age, as did my mom, and my brother broke up with his girlfriend… so maybe it was all just really bad luck anyway).
The Louvre & Tuileries Garden
The next stop on the map was the Louvre and Tuileries Garden behind it. It was less of a stop and more of a recommended stroll. I had been to the Louvre on my second day in Paris but I loved seeing it again. The architecture is remarkable and the incorporation of the new glass pyramid with the ancient stone backdrop is my favourite juxtaposition. The arch is also a beautiful touch to the surrounding area. The touch of gold all over the grounds is a reminder of the grand scale of the entire project and area.
Walking through the Tuileries Garden is as if you have been placed in a magical land. It was, unfortunately, grey skies and slightly raining during my walk, but the beauty still shone through. Jutting off the main path were separate paths that reminded me of passages to a secret garden. Tree lined walkways with sculptures and fountains waiting at the end.
As I wandered I kept a close eye on the map since one of these side paths would take me to a gate leading out the the street. Two blocks over I would see all things that glitter.
Maybe it was the fact that I’d be staring at the old world for so long that seeing something new caught me off guard, but I had never seen such beautiful things in one place. The Jewellery in the stores lining Place Vendome were so far beyond comparison to anything I had seen in person, I spent over an hour just staring through windows.
Limos and black town cars pulled up in front of stores and men in beautifully tailored suits would strut in, purchase items littered with diamonds, and get back in the car (whose doors had been opened for them by the driver). It was something out of a movie and I just wished I could be their wife! (or possibly it was for a mistress… The french seem very lax with their lovers and commitment). Even the store fronts were rich. While some were simple window storefronts, others were gates that led back to a courtyard through which you would find the true front door.
I found what I believed at the time to be my most perfect engagement ring, as well as a number of other pieces that I could only wish to be able to afford. The jewellery in this square seemed to exceed the price of all of the jewellery I had ever seen in my past.
Although I may never be able to actually walk into any of these stores without a salesperson quickly ushering me out, It was pretty inspiring to see how the other side lived. Though, I feel I am one of the lucky ones to even have the chance to glance in person.
Place De La Concorde
I made my way back to the gardens to finish my walk. Near the end of them was a large circular pond with chairs all around. I took this opportunity to sit down and contemplate life a little bit. With all of the culture shock around me it was hard to imagine where I had been and where I should be in the future (maybe the sparkles off the diamonds had muddled my brain). I took a few minutes to rest my legs and then continued to follow the map.
At the other side of the Tuileries Garden, opposite the Louvre, was the Place de la Concorde (Concord Place). It is the largest of the squares in Paris with a large obelisk in the center. My favourite part, though, was the fountain (what can I say, I love water features).
I didn’t stay long as it was busy with both people and cars, but I do remember the obelisk being my distant walking goal when I started through the Tuileries, and now I was on to the next.
Instead of following the crowds up the Champs de Elysees, I followed my trusty map along the river (Voie Georges Pompidou) towards the Trocadero Garden. It is the best lookout over the Eiffle tower as it is situated up on a hill with many grassy areas to sit, and only a quick walk to the base. I enjoyed the views of the old architecture, sat a few times to catch my breath (I had never been much of a walker before this trip), and purchased a banana nutella crepe when I was just about there from a street vendor.
There were a lot of people taking photos with the eiffle tower in the background and I was at the point of my trip where asking strangers to take mine was getting tiring. I snapped a quick selfie for the memory book (and apparently this blog) and sat for a moment on the hill looking at the Eiffle tower once again and to watch a wedding be photographed. I wasn’t sure I’d ever tire of the view.
I wandered down underneath it as well and decided that the line-up was too long to go to the top. I knew I would be back one day and would do it again.
I asked someone at the information booth where the bathrooms were and got an angry answer in french. I told him I didn’t understand and he yelled at me in french once again. I had already learned that the french do NOT like english speakers so I generally avoided talking to them, but I was in urgent need of a bathroom. I asked one more time and apologized for not speaking french and he said ‘I can’t help you then’. Frustrated, I headed to the train station hoping to find a bathroom on the way.
I headed back to my hostel to take a rest as I was going to be meeting my friend Nicolas (who I had met on the train earlier in my trip) for dinner and to hang out.
Paris at Night with a New Friend
I met Nicolas at a metro station near a restaurant he wanted to take me to. It was a small cafe-style restaurant where we got crepes and warm apple cider for dinner (my kind of dinner).
We then went to what I might consider the most beautiful mall in the world (which turned out to be just 1 department store). There are a number of them around the world (including Dubai) and they are all more or less high end department stores.
This one was more than 4 stories tall with an amazing glass and stained glass dome roof. It also had a rooftop patio that overlooked all of Paris, one I will need to revisit on a nicer day.
We walked around the entire mall hitting every store (Nicolas was a great sport).
After I felt like I had seen it all, we headed back outside to continue our evening at the Eiffel tower – something I loved seeing all lit up in the dark. It did not matter that I had been there already today, I just wanted to watch the lights sparkle one more time before bed.
We sat on the grassy hill chatting and admiring what had turned out to be a warm and beautiful night before he walked me back to the metro. I would be seeing him again tomorrow to go to the Palace of Versailles.