I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since our trip to Paris! Just looking through our photos I miss the city. In our time there, Paris truly won my heart. I though that since its been a year I would share some of my favorite images of the city. Perhaps it will inspire you to visit the city of lights.
The Louvre at night is a breathtaking sight.
Some of my favorite images from this entire trip come from inside the Notre Dame Cathedral. I’ve never experienced a more stunning place.
On our last full day in Paris we went to the Eiffel Tower. You can’t go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel tower. The tower was opened in 1889 and has become one of the most visited landmarks in the world. We spend a lot of time walking around the bottom of the tower and the grassy areas in front of the tower. If you plan on visiting the eiffel tower I suggest you purchasing your ticket in advance. Even if you purchase the tickets ahead of time you will still probably end up waiting in line for awhile. There are 1720 stairs to the top of the Eiffel tower, we opted to take the elevator. You can stop at different levels of the tower. On the first levels you can get some really great views of Sacre Coeur and Champs de Mars. We shared a glass of champagne on the first floor and toasted to many more great adventures. You’re allowed to to spend as much time here as you want, we spend a lot time looking at the tiny ant people below and snapping pictures. After a while we ventured up to the next level. The views from this level take your breath away. We ate crepes for supper, right under the tower. When the sunset we waited to watch the tower sparkle, it was the most romantic and magical moment, one we will cherish for the rest of our lives. This was the perfect way to end an amazing trip.
Our apartment was in the district called the Marais. We decided to take some time to explore this area. Its know as being a district with lots of beautiful historical buildings. It’s also the Parisian Centre for the Jewish community in Paris so you can find a lot excellent food here. This district is also known for its amazing shopping! We stumbled upon a store called Merci. It was an awesome store. It was a little bit of a tourist shop but it’s very hip. In the Courtyard of the store there’s a cute old red car that you have to take a selfie with! The store is really big, it has everything from clothes and jewelry to home decor. It also has a wonderful cafe filled with books and beautiful big windows. This is an awesome hidden gem of Paris, one I would highly recommend.
One of our favorite places we visited was Sainte Chapelle. This church is much smaller than its neighbor, Notre Dame but is just as breathtaking. What is really spectacular about the church is the stained glass windows. The windows are 15 feet tall and let in the most magical light. The pictures we took don’t do the place justice.
When you’re in Paris you must eat all the crepes you can. They’re the guilty pleasure of Paris. I highly recommend getting a nutella crepe. In the afternoon we took the train out to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur. When we first got off the train we loved the feel of this part of the city. It was very touristy and there were lots of artists around. Upon arriving we walked towards the monument. There are two staircases leading up and we arbitrarily selected the right one.
When we were about half way up we saw a group of men standing by two people who were obviously tourists. They were engaged in what looked like an argument before we saw one of the tourists go for his backpack, presumably for money. We decided to take the other staircase. About halfway up there was a literal barricade of men across the staircase. They were standing no more than arm’s length apart. We decided to try and push past them. When we approached one of the men moved to intercept us. I was able to sneak past, but the man stopped my husband. The man grabbed my husband’s hand and tried to wrap a string around it. He jerked his hand away and he tried again, saying, “Just to look.” Not wanting to interact, my husband decided to respond in Chinese. He repeatedly asked, “What country are you from, really?” Brian tried to break away a couple times, but he kept pushing him back, trying to get the string on my finger. After a few minutes of responding in Chinese, he got frustrated and waved him by. Both my husband and I have traveled abroad quite a bit, and are used to dealing with aggressive vendors, but I have never experienced anything like this. In my opinion, the encounter road the line between con attempt and getting shaken down for money. When we returned to our apartment we did some research, wondering if this was common. Apparently the men are called “string men”. The con is that they tie a string to your finger, and then refuse to let go of it until you pay them. We found several accounts from other travelers describing the men demanding between 3 euro and 60 euro. One article claimed they would keep the string tied around your finger and lead you to an ATM and force you to empty your accounts for them. Apparently there are variations on this scam depending on the number of “string men” and the targets. Sometimes the string men are friendly, telling jokes to keep you standing still while they tie the string around your finger and weave the bracelet, and will disengage if you say “non merci” firmly enough. On the other extreme, the men will create a barricade and claim the bracelets are a part of their religious convictions and that you can’t visit the church without them. If travelers refuse or try to push, 10 or more men will surround them and demand payment. Thankfully, our experience was somewhere in the middle. We were shocked that these men are allowed to shake down tourists for money in this fashion in a modern country like France. Vendors selling trinkets or souvenirs is completely expected and acceptable. This was significantly more aggressive, physical, and not acceptable. I hope the French government takes the time to clean up this area, but as it stands I would have a hard time recommending this area.
The next day we went back to Notre Dame to tour the bell tours. The views from up top were spectacular. The gothic architecture was amazing and the gargoyles were quite frightening. Here are a few favorite images from atop the bell tower.
After touring the bell tower we made our down to the bottom of Notre Dame. Not too far away from Notre Dame is Shakespeare Book Company. This bookstore is famous for housing famous authors like: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. As a book lover walking to this place is like heaven! This place has books piled high to the ceiling, in every corridor of the house. Its a great place to pick up a souvenir. I bought a biography on Coco Chanel.
To end this day in Paris we wandered into a little cafe and had the most delicious french meal of lamb and duck. One thing we had been told about Paris was sometimes the wait staff could be a little rude. This was never our experience in our time in Paris. We found people helpful, friendly, and funny. After we finished our delicious meal we went to Hotel de Ville, in front of this beautiful building there’s a large ice skating rink. We had fun people watching and enjoyed a cup of vin chaud.
Growing up one of my favorite movies was Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. In one of the musical numbers they sing, “I want to step out down the Champs-Elysees.” Brian and I figured we should take half a day to explore this beautiful tree lined street, home to some of the best shopping in the world.
One can not visit Paris without enjoying some of the most delicious pastries in the world. The most famous french dessert would probably be the macaroon. You can find thousands of stores all over Paris that sell macarons but for our macaron experience we wanted to go to the place they were invented: Laudree. Laudree is located along the champs-elysees.
After filling our stomachs with sweet treats we decided to walk across the Pont Alexandre bridge. This bridge was beautiful, we walked over it a couple times to take pictures and look and the fine details of it. We ended our time at pont de l’alma to see the site where Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident in 1997. You can see the place where her car struck the bridge. There is a statue of a flame there that since her death and been turned into a memorial. People from all over the world have gathered there to write messages saying goodbye to their princess.
Later in the day we walked to Ile de la cite. This is one of the islands on the seine river, it is also where Notre Dame Cathedral is located. Before visiting Paris my only knowledge was from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The cathedral was started in 1163. The cathedral was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my whole life. The stained glass windows were breath taking and the whole thing was very majestic. We were lucky enough to be able to stay for a vespers service that evening. The choir sang along with the organ and the whole experience was very moving and spiritual although we are not catholic and hardly know enough French to understand much of the service. If you ever have the opportunity to attend services here I would highly recommend it. Here are some pictures we took of the inside of the cathedral that day.
We gave up a day in Paris to go out to Versailles to see the Palace of Versailles. We’re so glad we did. Our pictures can’t do this place justice in showing the sheer grandness and luxury of the palace. We spend hours wandering through the gardens, taking pictures and talking about the history of this amazing place. Seeing the palace also gave us a lot of understanding about the history of France and the buildup to the time of the French Revolution.
The Palace of Versailles is a huge tourist attraction most people spend all day in the main palace or only go to the apollo fountain. My favorite part of Versailles is actually a twenty minute walk beyond the palace. My favorite part of Versailles is the Queen’s Hamlet it is located in the back of the gardens. It looks like a place straight out of a fairytale. It was build for Marie Antoinette as a retreat from palace life.
We took the bus back into the city and decided to go up the Arc de Triomphe to see the sun go down. Walking up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe is an experience in itself. You walk up a winding 300 stair staircase. After making it to the top I made a resolution to start adding more cardio into my workout routine. After resting to catch my breath, we headed out to the viewing deck.
This is the most stunning view in all of Paris. Many people will say go to the Eiffel Tower to see night views of the city but my advice is to come here instead because you get amazing views of the eiffel tower. You also get great views of the Champs-Elysees. The price to go up the Arc is about 9.50 euros per person, which in my opinion is a little steep. We purchased the 6 day Paris which let us into a number of different attractions for one set price. If your going to be in Paris for more than 2 days and plan on doing a number of different museums and attractions, I recommend purchasing the Paris Pass.
We finally had a chance to sleep in on our fourth day in Paris. When we woke up we could hear the sounds of the city all around us. We found a delicious breakfast in a little cafe. We had croissants, coffee and fresh pressed orange juice. One of our favorite times in Paris was the time we spent in little cafes in the mornings. We would see old friends meeting, kids running off to school, and beautifully dressed business men off to work. Since we went to Paris in the off season (January) we didn’t have to worry about places being too crowded. At each cafe we took our time to eat and people watch, like real Parisians.
A little ways down from the cafe was Musee de L’Armee. Brian and I are both history buffs so this was a must see for both of us. The museum contains military relics from before the middle ages through the 20th century. The primary reason people visit here though is to see Napoleon’s Tomb. The most interesting part of the museum for Brian and I was the exhibit on WWII. It was interesting seeing things from American on display. Brian and I both enjoyed seeing WWII through another country’s perspective. After touring the museum we took a break for lunch before we went to another museum. At this point you’d think we’d be sick of touring museums but the museums here are all amazing.
The next place we went was Musee d’Orsay. A friend told us about this museum and said it was the hidden gem of Paris museums. He may have been right. This art museum is not as big a the Louvre but still has many famous works of art. Until the 1930’s the building operated as a train station, it sits right along the Seine River offering amazing views. I would highly recommend adding this museum to your list of stops.
On our third day in Paris we went to the Louvre. On our way to the Louvre we stopped at one of Paris’s most famous tea salons: Angelina’s. This salon was a favorite of one of my fashion icons: Miss Coco Chanel. We stopped into the shop for her favorite breakfast of pain au chocolat (chocolate filled croissants) and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). If you want the best hot chocolate in all of Paris and probably in the whole world you must visit Angelina’s.
After breakfast we continued in the the Louvre. This museum is the most famous and well visited in the world. It contains some of the world’s most famous works of art but one thing that blew me away was how beautiful the building was itself. I would get caught up looking at each individual painting that I would forget to look at the room the painting was in. Often the rooms had beautiful murals painted on the ceilings, it truly blew me away. My advice if you visit the louvre is make sure you look all around you because it is all a work of art.
I won’t bore you by writing the history of every piece of art that we saw but I do have a few specific things at the Louvre that I fell in love with. You can’t go to the Louvre without seeing its most famous resident: the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa is a painting done by the italian painter Leonardo da Vinci. It was most likely painted between 1503 and 1506. It has become known as the most famous work of art of all time. I was very surprised at how small the painting was, especially compared to some of the other painting in the same room. It was fun watching everyone’s reaction to this famous painting. It was also very funny watching all the tourists with their selfie sticks trying to get the perfect shot to share with their friends and family. I was able to snag a great selfie with her!
My favorite work of art in the Louvre was a sculpture by Antonio Canova in 1793. The name of it is Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. If you don’t know the story of Cupid and Psyche, I suggest you go read some greek mythology, it’s fascinating. The story goes that psyche had been warned by Venus to not open a jar she was given to collect a scrap of beauty from Proserpina for Venus. Psyche’s curiosity gets the best of her and she opens the jar and it kills her. The moment that is shown in this sculpture is cupid finds Psyche and strikes her with an arrow to awaken her. She wakes up and embraces Cupid. If you walk around the sculpture you can see little details on the back like the broken jar and Cupid’s arrow. It really is a phenomenal piece of work that depicts an amazing story.
The next morning we woke up before sunrise and navigated the streets of Paris in the early light of morning. It was weird how quiet the streets of Paris could be. We made our way to the courtyard of the Louvre where we met up with Elena Usacheva from Better Travel Photos. She guided us around the city teaching us more about photography and how to use our cameras. For Brian and I this was one of the highlights of the trips. Here are a few favorite photos from our tour:
The rest of the day we spend exploring the streets of Paris. I was astonished by the beauty of the city. Everything is very chic and elegant from the buildings to the people inside of them. When we returned from our wanderings we went to the grocery store and picked up our groceries for that night. We enjoyed a simple meal at our apartment that night and went to bed early, the jetlag was really hitting us at this point.