Europe Journey 2015
Some days in your life are destined to be memorable for eternity and today was one of those days. The sky was blue and clear when we awoke and a predicted weather forecast of 24 degrees celsius made us smile after the cloudy, rainy skies we’ve seen so far on our trip.
Before coming to Paris I had preconceived ideas it might be seedy, dangerous and dirty but today I discovered this was untrue. The sheer size and presence of the Eiffel Tower was breathtaking. You felt like you had to keep looking at it to believe your own eyes. A relaxed atmosphere surrounded the streets. People lay on the grass around the Eifel Tower enjoying the sunshine and the view of the famous Paris icon. We all enjoyed the day without imposing on each other’s space. It was a completely different experience to the frenetic tourist hysteria we encountered last year when visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
The Arc de Triomphe built in 1805 to honour those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars is an equally stunning structure. It is located at the top of the Champs Elysees, a boulevard 1.9 kilometres long and 70 metres wide. Later in the afternoon we walked to the impressive gold domed Hotel de Invalides, a hospital and the burial place of Napoleon.
Like yesterday we set out in the brilliant sunshine and travelled to the city via the metro system. We went to Montmartre, the art district located up a steep hill that reaches a height of about 130 meters located in the north of Paris. Although a bit touristy we saw artists painting and musicians playing in the busy streets. At the bottom of the hill stands Le Moulin Rouge, a famous cabaret dance theatre located in the sleazy end of town. The price to see a show with dinner is 199 euros ($300 Australian dollars each), a bit too pricy for us so we declined to do this.
Later we visited Notre-Dame Cathedral followed by an enjoyable one-hour river cruise on the Seine taking in the sights of all the beautiful historic buildings. To conclude our day in the city we sat in and had a relaxing drink in a bar on the street.
The only down side about Paris for me is travelling on the Metro because I get a little anxious about being underground and the implied threat of any incidents. However it is the most efficient way to get to the many interesting districts of Paris. It is incredible how large the city of Paris is. The city itself is divided into 20 arrondissements (areas), each with their own style and identity, that spiral out from the center in the shape of a snail.
I love the old buildings, the boulevards and the millions of apartments all similar in Parisian style with lots of large leafy trees lining the streets. Not a skyscraper in sight, although there are some taller buildings in the heart of the business city area.
Although leg-weary from our trips to Paris during the past two days we once again took the Metro back to the city. This time we visited the Louvre located on the right bank of the Seine, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century. The building structure is imposing and you have to pinch yourself to believe you are standing there. Unfortunately a visit to the Louvre is on the ‘must see’ list for EVERY tourist making the inside the museum crowded with people whose main objective is to get a photo in front of the exhibits. I couldn’t enjoy or appreciate the artworks as I became distracted with loud overbearing tourists pushing and shoving. We did get to see the Mona Lisa but the clambering of tourists trying to get a photo of it marred the experience. C’est la vie.
Later we explored the Latin Quarter situated on the left bank of the Seine, around the Sorbonne. It has a lively street atmosphere with many café’s. We enjoyed a lovely lunch, the best so far on our trip.
We strolled to the Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Garden, created in 1612. This exquisite garden covers 23 hectares and is known for its lawns, tree-lined promenades, flowerbeds, the model sailboats on its circular basin, and for the picturesque Medici Fountain. It was wonderful to stroll through the perfectly kept gardens and soak in the atmosphere of Parisians enjoying the open space and sunshine. We even got to hear lovely French music by a group of musicians playing in the rotunda. It was one of those surreal moments in my life where I felt I was lucky being part of something so simple yet so special.
Our four days in Paris have been outstanding and I’m sure we will remember them with great fondness forever.