Paris Parfait!

Europe, France

Visiting the capital city of France is truly a wonderful experience. There is something for everyone here from the wonderful sites and monuments to the extravagant shopping and amazing cuisine. So to find your perfect Paris, or Paris parfait, as they say in France, read on.

Travel

Obviously, before you can enjoy the delights that one of the most popular cities in Europe has to offer, you have to get there first. Luckily this isn’t too much of a problem as travel links to the city are excellent.

If you are coming from Europe, then you have the choice of plane, train, ferry or Eurotunnel. Of course, you need to check which one will suit your best. For example, the ferries take longer, but can be a pleasant journey and are excellent value if you are bringing your car with you.

If you are travelling from further afield, you will need to select a direct flight to Paris, usually Charles de Gaulle airport. Or you can include Paris as a location on a multi-stop trip. Great if you want to see the delights that the rest of Europe has to offer.

However, you do need to make sure that your passport and travel documents will allow you entry to France before you begin your journey. As some folks will need an ETIAS depending on where they are travelling from.

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The Unforgettable Eiffel Tower. Photo from Pexels.com

Monuments

Paris is full of the most spectacular antique and monuments. Not least of all; the Eiffel Tower. This 300m tall structure was built in 1887, and its lit at night so it can be seen from all over the city. You can take some wonderful pictures in front of it and beneath it, and if you are feeling particularly active, why not climb to the top, for a spectacular view over Paris?

But the Eiffel Tower is not the only place in Paris that should be on to your to see list. You should also make time to tour some of the cities beautiful fountains. Which make particular pleasant places to peruse in summer. Try the Medici Fountain at the Luxembourg Garden. Or what about the majestic St Michel Fountain in the Latin Quarter?

Culture  

Now, if you like a little culture in you city trips, then Paris will not disappoint. This is because it has the stunning Louvre and Musée d’Orsay to explore. Plan your time at the Louvre well and invest in a map, because you could literally spend days wandering the halls. Coming across new, unique and enticing things.

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The Louvre At Night. Photo from Pexels.com

Of course, it’s home to the Mona Lisa. Which is actually quite small, and usually hard to get up close to. But there other interesting things to view as well such as the Egyptian collection and the religious triptychs.

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Arc di Triomphe. Photo from Pexels.com

Romance

Of course, Paris is often known as the most romantic city in the world, so you’ll want experience a little of this before you leave.

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Lovers in Paris. Photo from Pexels.com

Enjoy a romantic alfresco meal in one of the charming bistros that line the streets. Or walk arm in arm with your loved one down the wide and treeline paths just soaking up the atmosphere.

 

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The Louvre Museum in Paris

Europe, France, museums

Paris, without a doubt, is an enchanting and a very romantic city which any decent traveler, must visit.

There is so much beauty and history in the city that it literally sweeps you off your feet, during your very first glimpse.

Aside from its sheer elegance, Paris boasts of so much history and it is reflected in the city’s well-preserved buildings, sculptures and street art.

It is therefore not surprising that Paris is home to one of the most important museums in the world: The incomparable Louvre Museum.

From its beginnings as a fortress in the 12th century, it was transformed into a royal palace housing some of King Francis I’s most precious art collection in the 16th century. Since then, it has seen several expansions and now, it is considered as the preeminent art center in the world, attracting approximately six millions of visitors annually.

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The Italian Painting Section

The Louvre Museum is also one of the biggest museums in the world in terms of space, occupying a total of 60,600 square meters trust me, its huge!!!!).

It has been reported that the Louvre museums contains more than a million works of art but only a mere fraction of them are on display due to security and practical reasons. Among the most famous works of arts you will find here is THE one and only MONA LISA, Venus de Milo and the Nike of Samothrace.

There are three ways to enter the Louvre. There is the Louvre Pyramids (introduced in the 1980s), the Carrousel de Louvre or the Pontes de Lions (this is actually a secret entrance. No lines, people).

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Pontes des Lions

After passing the main entrances, you will have access to the museum’s three main sections: The Sully, Richielieu and Denon wings.

The arts displayed in the museum are also separated according to several classification such as Near Eastern Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Paintings, and Prints and Drawings.

Because of its sheer size, it is really impossible to see everything. During my visit, I spent four hours walking around the museum and I still missed a lot of important artifacts and works of arts.

So in the interest of brevity, I will mention that most famous works of arts in the Louvre’s main wings.

The Sully Wing 

 The best thing in this section of the Louvre is the massive collection of Egyptian antiquities.
Sure, it’s nothing compared to the collections in Cairo (duh), but the Louvre’s stash of Egyptian artifacts is still impressive. I saw lots of statuettes by Isis, Osiris and Horus. But I think the highlight is the huge statue of Pharaoh Rameses II.
the Egyptian Antiquities

the Egyptian Antiquities

Rameses II

Rameses II

Aphrodite’s most famous sculpture “Venus de Milo” can also be found in the Sully Wing. It was discovered in 1820 in the island of Melos and has since been a beloved remnant of the ancient Greek civilization.
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Venus de Milo

The Richelieu Wing 
If you are into classical paintings, the Richelieu wing will definitely enthrall you. Here you will find masterpieces from true masters. My favorites in this wing are paintings by Rembrandt.
You can find here the intricately designed Napoleon III apartments, which is a throwback to the old glamour of the Louvre back when it was still being used as a palace.
The Denon Wing
Of course, this is completely subjective but I feel like the Denon Wing is the powerhouse area of the Louvre.
This is where you will find the most famous and most recognizable work of art in the world. You guessed it right. It’s THE MONA LISA. A painting my Senior Leonardo Da Vinci, the Mona Lisa is given a whole wall given the throngs of people who come to visit it.
I was surprised to find our that the Mona Lisa is actually a small painting,relative to its fame .
The Very popular Mona Lisa

The Very popular Mona Lisa

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Another highlight is the Consecration of Emperor Napoleon I by Jacques Louis David (I bought a copy to display on my desk).
Consecration of Napoleon I

Consecration of Napoleon I

The Denon Wing also boasts of the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace, a 2nd century BC marble statue of Nike, the goddess of victory.It is considered as one of the best examples of Hellenistic sculpture largely because of the artful display of movement as displayed in the billowing clothes, and wings.
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Winged Victory of Samothrace

You can also find in the Denon Wing, Michael Angelo’s “The Dying Slave”
This section of the Louvre also features a collection of Roman and Etruscan antiquities as well as a collection of sculptures from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. It also features artifacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Medieval sculptures from Europe are displayed on the lower ground floor of the Denon wing.
Visiting the Louvre
Under the Louvre Pyramid

Under the Louvre Pyramid

Visiting the Louvre is definitely one of the highlights of any visit to Paris and I recommend for everyone to come visit it at least once in their life.
The Louvre is open every day but Tuesday and the following holidays: Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and International Workers’ Day (May 1). The hours are: Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

Must-See Montmartre in Paris, France

churches, Europe, France

Paris is without a doubt, one of the most visually striking cities in the world. Any visitor who reaches its shore attests to its sheer beauty and splendor. No surprise, it is the most visited city in the whole world.

The Eiffel and the Louvre are certified crowd favorites and they are definite must-sees. You can’t leave the city without paying a visit to the grand Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.

But if there is one district in the French capital that you should visit to feel the collective rhythm and heartbeat of the city and its people, it is definitely Montmartre.

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A View of Montmarte

Located in the northern region of Paris, in the 18th arrondissement, Montmartre is a large hill, largely knowned for the white domes of the Basilica de Sacre Couer. The name Montmartre however, refers to the greater community that surrounds the church.

Sure, Montmarte has lost some of its luster and fame over the past decades. It has also lost its reputation as the preferred haunt of aspiring artists, since the district has become too noisy, and too crowded, no thanks to the millions of tourists who climb this hill.

In many ways, however, Montmartre has retained its schizoprenic identity that captivated some of the most renowned artists in the world like Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh and Claude Monet among others.

On the surface, Montmarte is known for the Romanesque revival styled Sacre Couer, built in the late 19th century as a way to appease the public following France’s defeat to the Prussian army. It was completed in 1912 and has since become the single most recognizable structure in Montmarte.

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Funicular Going Up The Sacre Couer

The best way to reach the Sacre Couer is through the many steps up the hill, but visitors who have weaker knees and stamina can always take the funicular up the church complex. But honestly, where is the the fun in that?

A breathtaking view of Montmarte awaits you when you finally reach the foot of the basilica. If you want an ever higher vista, you can go up the dome, for 5 euros, and see the city from one of the city’s highest points.

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Montmartre is also famous as the humble address of aspiring artists who flock to Paris to find their muse and own artistic identity. But as I’ve said earlier, the number of artists who stay permanently declines each passing year as the district continues to shed its artsy image, and embraces commercial establishments to welcome more tourists.

If you dig deeper, however, you will realize that Montmarte is so much more.

Boulevard de Clichy is the area situated at the foot of the Montmarte hill. Here, you will find a smorgasbord of bars, souvenir shops, kebab shops, sex shops and peep shows that gives the district a more playful, and accessible ambiance.

moulin rouge

Photo by Wikipedia.org

The famed Moulin Rouge, established at the fin de siecle 1900s, and is considered by many as the birthplace of the can-can dance style of performance, is one of the most recognizable and visited structures in Boulevard de Clichy with its familiar windmill design. Up until now, moulin rouge continues to provide can can revues, and it also offers dancing classes for tourists.

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Anvers Metro station

Montmartre can be reached by foot from the Blanche and Anvers metro stations.

If you choose to pass by Anvers, you will see the seedier section of Montmartre with the sex shops and neon lights. Choose to walk via Blanche and you will experience the more sanitized section with the quiet cobbled streets.

A word of caution. While Montmarte is indeed a tourist friendly district, there are pockets that are not friendly and not very safe, especially at night, such as the Barbes Rochechouart. I was told that the ethnic immigrants of Paris frequent this area.

Rue de Steinkerque is another interesting strip in Montmarte. her eyou can get great bargains for shirts sporting Paris signs, along with keychains, ref magnets, and other Parisian memorabilia. You can also get French brands such as Esprit, Naf Naf etc here at way lower prices. This is indeed a true heaven for bargain hunters.

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Montmartre is definitely not the prettiest part of Paris but it gets my vote as the most complex and interesting.

No matter if you are after spiritual enlightenment or more earthly pursuits, there is something for you in Montmartre.

Montmartre has been called many things: a pigstyle, a hell hole, a stunning hill, depending on the preference and orientation of the person who pays a visit.

On the other hand, a person who’s more open minded and accepting of things outside of the ordinary, like me, will find it a fun, quirky but charming place.

One thing though is for sure, Montmarte is never boring and this fact alone, is enough reason to consider an afternoon, or a day in its warm embrace.

Up Close and Personal With The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Europe, France

April 7, 2015

Paris, France

It is barely 9am, but the busy Charles de Gaulle Etoile station at the heart of  Ile de France, is pulsing with life and energy. At both ends of the station, Parisians clad in the latest fashionable winter/spring clothes, march hurriedly along a silent but frantic beat.

This is Paris, the most visited city in the world and if you are to judge with the throngs of people shuttling back and forth the metro, you will see that this day is not an exception. It seems like tourists and travelers alike from virtually all points of the planet have come to adore and explore the city of lights.

What makes Paris, the destination of choice the world over, I never really understood until I set foot in the city, barely 24 hours ago.

With only my heavy backpack as my companion,and after spending an exorbitant amount of money, 23 euros to be exact, for a 24-hour whole-day transport pass that gives me access to all of Paris’ transport systems, I arrived in central Paris near midnight.

I wanted to explore the city at nighttime but my body simply shut down after a few nights of running after buses, trains and airplanes.

Today, After a good night’s sleep however, I am fully ready to discover Paris and all her beauty.

My first stop? The Eiffel of course.

All my life, I’ve been staring at postcards and wallpapers of Paris and its most recognizable landmark.

In the silence of my childhood room, I imagined myself dancing under Eiffel’s shadows on a cold autumn day, while dressed in the latest Parisian garb. I would bow in front of the mirror, as if addressing high-born monsieurs and mademoiselles.

It took me three decades before I managed to do it. When I got my schengen Visa, I made a hasty decision to come to Paris, throwing a wrench to my already set European journey. I just had to come and visit the city and come face to face with the Eiffel.

Now I am about to realize one of my lifelong wishes and I’m beginning to unravel.

I took a few tentative steps outside the Bir Hakeim Metro station (Line 6) metro towards the Champs de Mars. All the while, my hands are sweaty and my heartbeat is racing.

As soon as I got out of the metro’s tunnels, the Eiffel materialized, standing mightily over the Parisian skyline.

Standing 324 metres, it is literally the latest structure in all of Paris. Erected in 1889 for the World Fair, the Eiffel tower has become the most visited paid monument in the world. In 2010, it welcomed its 250 millionth visitor.

It has been a global icon, and with a good reason.

Looking at the lattice steel tower, one cannot begin to imagine how such a structure can stand. Tons of steel, held together by mere nuts and bolts, and it defies the law of gravity. It is freakin amazing.

It has three levels with dining establishments in the first and second. At the third and upprmost level, you can get the most breathtaking view of Paris. Both stairs and elevators are available to ascend the tower.

There are a lot of good vantage points in Paris to view the Eiffel, with a majority of people judging that is the Trocadero across the river Seine which has the best view. But to be honest, for me, any view is just as spectacular.

The Eiffel is just larger than life and I just stood there frozen, with mouth agape, as I admire its beauty and grandeur. I looked around and I was comforted to know that there are hundreds of other people from all over the world, also standing completely still as they gaze up the tower. Admiration and wonder reflected in their eyes.

Truth be told, I teared up a bit, in honor of this moment.

I knew since childhood that I wanted to come visit Paris and see the Eiffel. But for someone who hails from a middle-class family, it was a bit difficult and unrealistic to prioritize travels over education costs, groceries and other more pressing needs.

There were a lot of challenges and hurdles along the way but I endured and pressed on with my dream.

Now, after traveling 20,000 kilometers across oceans and continents, here I am, standing at Eiffel’s feet and the feeling is just indescribable.

It’s like Christmas morning. It’s like seeing the dear friend for the very first time after years of being apart. It’s like breathing after struggling with the current deep under a dark perilous ocean.

And I wanna feel it over, and over and over again.

Still admiring its beauty, I made a silent promise, a vow really, that I will come back again someday.