Paris, France

Posted on March 28, 2010


Paris is a city that has so frequently been featured in movies, print, and as a character in books, that everyone feels that they know something of it, even if they have never been within five thousand miles. I had my first opportunity to see Paris last weekend, and it lived up to much of the hype. It is a huge city full of five story tan apartment buildings in the French Federal Style (iron railings on the windows, block tan stone, roofs of slanting blue slate, many decorative elements). It sprawls in every direction and is very big. It is a city of mixed heritage, everything from the die hard Frenchman to the recent immigrant from Ghana. The variety of people makes for good food.
Speaking of food, we did have some great meals while in the city. One restaurant featured tarts of all different varieties. They were delicious and full of many ingredients tucked into a warm fresh crust. Another restaurant featured fondue and I ate enough cheese coated bread and potatoes to feel it in the morning. There was also the memorable pizza in the small restaurant on the first floor of our hotel. Combined with a jug of wine, it was the perfect end to a long day of strolling the city.
Travel around the city is easy if you ditch the car. The train and metro system is very good as well as reasonable. We had a two day unlimited pass that cost twelve euros, really an excellent deal considering the heavy workout that it received. The metro winds under the streets of the city. The underground metro stations are full of long winding tunnels going up and down stairs, splitting off in countless directions. Without the signs to lead the way, no one would ever find a way out.

We stayed in La Terminus Hotel, which is near the end of the train line, hence the name. It was a good hotel considering the bargain price of 49 euros per night. As mentioned above, the pizza shop run by the Manager was a nice touch. A hint if you ever stay there: to turn on the TV, press and hold the “4” button.
We rented a car in Rotterdam to make the journey. When picking up the car, the rental agent looked a little uncomfortable when handing over the keys, explaining that the color was a bit bold. This Fiat 500 was unlike any car I had seen before. Colored in a bubble gum pink, it drew attention everywhere we went. We got many double takes and people slowing down to take a look. In Europe, cars are usually muted colors, so this car stood out even more. It looked like Barbie and her friends should be driving. It was a good car though, and it added yet another fun detail to a good trip.

The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is huge and is just as impressive during the day as it is at night. The tower is the size of an 81 story building and has been towering over Paris since 1887. The line to get to the top took about two hours, so we just strolled underneath among the sellers of memorabilia, the ducks, and the confused tourists.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame is distinctive and beautiful. Filled with stained glass, rosette windows, and carved stone. The outside has one of the most extensive collections of gargoyles in the world, bristling from every corner with menacing faces. There are also hundreds of carved statues outside the church. Construction started in the year 1160 and the design was on of the first to include flying buttresses.

In the great tradition of my blog, I found congress, twice!

Avenue des Champs Elysses and the Arc de Triomphe
The famed avenue, full of high class stores and people looking good. Busy and full of energy, it is fun for a street that mostly features stores. At the end of the street is the Arc de Triomphe. Inside the Arc is a winding staircase leading to a museum and to an observation deck on top of the Arc. The view is fantastic, especially at night. I thought it interesting that the museum did not see it fit to include the famous photo of German troops marching through the Arc during WW2, there is a bit of denial in the French character.

The Latin Quarter
In the Latin Quarter you find the classic winding, narrow ancient streets. Small stores and restaurants line the streets, which are closed to motor traffic. We were there on market day, which means all the shops had lots of merchandise out in front for sale. It was busy and lively. We even stopped in a small church along the way and listened in on a Roman Catholic mass given in French. Outside the church there was accordion music and dancing, many people having a good time.

The Louvre Museum
The famed home of the Mona Lisa also houses hundreds of thousands of other works of art. Considered the treasure house for the French people, the wide variety of art certainly makes for an interesting visit. The museum houses large collections of art from Europe going all the way back to a period of time called pre-history. There are small sections for American and Asian art, but they are clearly not a focus. We visited the Mona List and then headed to Roman and Greek art galleries.
Posted in: France, Travel