Aimez-vous Paris

Alright, it's been a month since my Paris visit but since I've been so caught up, weedays and weekends alike, it is only now that I've got the opportunity to share my first Paris trip and experience with you. Hope you forgive me for the delay...

Me and Eiffel

 So, I came to Paris Disneyland on my birthday, 12th September, with 5 other girlfriends and one guy (poor or lucky him?). Read all about it here. The next day, we spent the whole day in the city of Paris. "City of light" as they call it, Paris is beautiful and a very popular tourist destination famous for being quite romanticized by all. And why not? Where else can you find the love bridge, Pont des Arts, filled with millions of love locks? Where else can you find the Eiffel tower, the one spot where millions have popped the question and begun a new journey of la familia!

 Okay, now here is a bubble to burst... The city is a pretty decent major city, with all the props and qualities all the major cities in the world have. Which means, it is also PACKED with tourists and gypsy street-venders. Yes, it can be extremely romantic if you are there with your lover on a holiday or honeymoon. But many a times, tourists have been dissappointed, having a preconcept of the city being extremely romantic, expecting to fall in love in the city. Did you know there is a psychological disorder called "Paris syndrome" that engulf especially Japanese tourists due to cultural shock and the dissappointed of Paris being just a big city, far from their idealised romantic image? Japanese embassy even has a 24-7 help line for the Japanese tourists suffering from it.

Anyway, Paris is indeed a lovely city with 100s of things to do and enjoy... It truly has a lot to offer even if not with a romantic partner, a plus for me and my gang ;) We were there just for a day (and a bit the day after), so it was a limited choice. However, we did manage to cover many important grounds. Here are the few places I had the priviledge to see:

Notre Dame de Paris

On 13th September, we started from Disneyland train station at 10Am. First stop - the most famous historic catholic cathedral, made extra famous by Disney, Notre Dame de Paris.

Did you know Notre Dame de Paris literally means "our lady of Paris" in french?

Notre Dame
And no, there was no hunch back in there hanging around the ceiling...

Wow! the Cathedral was excuisite. The exterior was breathtakingly beautiful. An excellent example of french gothic architecture. I love sculptures and intrinsically detailed engraving on buildings. One reason I can't get enough of Europe... I was already smitten... Such craftmanship, such detailing, there is no word to explain the beauty of it all. The interion was equally exquisite with beautiful stained glasses and large frech windows. As in all sacred places, clicking of picture was not allowed as preaching was going on at the time we entred the cathedral hall.

Detailed engraving of the entrance archway of Notre dame

The cathedral is a located on the eastern half of the natural island Île de la Cité in the river Seine in the 4th arrondissement (administrative district) of Paris. Apparently, the cathedral treasury is notable for housing many an important first-class relics including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails

The little river island itself is quite beautiful too situated at the centre of Paris, connected by several bridges, both north and south sides, to the mainland Paris.

A hotel in Île de la Cité
Quite historic, it's a definite must see place.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel tower from Trocadéro
  Who hasn't heard about it? And who doesn't wish to see it at least once? Love it or hate it, this is a monument symbolic to Paris. Not only is it architecturally a masterpiece, it also is a history in the making.

Situated on the Champ de Mars, Eiffel Tower is a marvelous structure designed and made by Gustave Eiffel, this tower has seen its fare share of admiration, being the most-visited paid monument in the world, and also criticism with enough controversies and protests surrounding during the early construction stages. The most famous being the "Artists protest," a protest by many a great french artist including literary genius Guy de Maupassant, composer Jules Massenet, painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, etc. who just couldn't phathom the feasibility of the project or morally accept engineering combined with architecture as a work of art, accusing Eiffel of "trying to create something artistic without regard to engineering".

According to them:

"We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal."

Well, I'm sure we all know who won the battle in the end...

The Eiffel tower from Trocadéro

The Eiffel tower
 Here is a timeline of the whole construction:
 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_Tower
 Construction timeline from 1887-1889

Now, a little about the tower: 

The tower is 324 metres tall and is the tallest building in Paris, made mostly from wrought iron. The design of the Eiffel Tower was originated by Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier.

First draft design of the tower
The tower has three floors, the first and second have restaurants and are accessible both by steps and by lifts. The top floor is the tallest publicly accessible observatory in Europe and is only accessible by lift for the general public.

Underneath the tower, there is a humungous queue, with up to 2 hours waiting time or longer... So, owing to that fact that I didn't have so much time to spare, we decided not to go up this time. And anyway, not saying as a consolation, I don't know about others but my main attraction is to see the tower itself, if I go on it, I wouldn't see it now would I? Lol!

Also, when you go to the Eiffel tower, do not forget to try the sorbet from the stall underneath. THE BEST SORBETS EVERRRR!

Arc De Triomphe

Full name: Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile meaning "Arc of triumph of the star".

Erected in honour of  the soldiers who fought and died during French Revolution and the Nepoleonic wars,
the Arc de Triomphe is the linchpin of the historic axis – a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which runs from the courtyard of the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the fanciest street of Paris, Champs-Élysées. From the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triomphe is a couple miles away towards north east.
 
Arc de Triomphe
We walked our way to the Place Charles de Gaulle before making our way to Champs-Élysées.

Champs-Élysées

The dandy street of fashion, Tiffany's, and chic, urban taste! "Champs-Élysées" is French for the paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology, Elysium. Famous for its theatres, luxury cafés and shops, the boulevard also host the annual military parade on 14 July celebrating Bastille Day. It is a boulevard in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, 1.9 kilometres long and 70 metres wide. At one end of the avenue is the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located, and other end is demarkated by the Place de la Concorde.

 Here we spent a good few hours rumaging through shops, perfume stores, and even indulged ourselves to luxury french confectioneries. Some of us even did some souvenir shopping (which I'll come to in a bit). From there on, we proceeded towards Place de la Concorde.

Arc de Triomphe from Champ-Élysées
Place de la Concorde is adorned with many an interesting and impressive structures including the two famous and wonderful monuments, the Fontaines de la Concorde and the Obelisk of Luxor. To the other side of Place de la Concorde is the Louvre Museum just beyond a colosal statue-studded 17th century garden, Tulleries garden.
 
  The Fontaines de la Concorde

The Fontaines de la Concorde (fountain of River commerce and navigation) are two monumental fountains located in the Place de la Concorde. The two fountains are: the Maritime fountain to the south, which commemorates the maritime commerce and industry of France, and the fountain of the Rivers to the north commemorates navigation, agriculture and commerce on the rivers of France.

The Obelisk of Luxor

The Obelisk of Luxor  is an Egyptian obelisk standing at the center of the Place de la Concorde in Paris which originally came from the entrance to Luxor Temple in Egypt. It is decorated with hieroglyphs (ancient egyptian pictographial scripts) exalting the reign of the king Ramses II.

Louvre

The last stop - TO THE GLASS PYRAMIDS!

But before getting to the most coveted museum in the world, we walked across the massive 17th century Tulleries garden and even sat by a large octagonal pond in the garden. As the sun set in the horizon we made our way towards shimmering lights reflected from the glassy pyramids of the Louvre

I don't care what people say, I love the pyramid. There is a lot of Egyptian influence in France than people know. We already know that the Obelisk of Luxor directly came all the way from Egypt, but very few know that Gustave Eiffel considered his Eiffel tower as a pyramid too, inspired from the Great pyramids of Gaza itself. So, it is not a big surprise that the french government and artists were inspired to have the grand structure somewhere they could proudly display it to millions. And to be honest, the inverted pyramid is both artistic and quite technological.

Anyway, coming to the grand museum itself, now which art fanatic does not want to visit it at least once in their lifetime? I have been dreaming of going in to the Louve since I was 15, always wanted to see the Mona Lisa, but alas, it was all the time I had and by the time we got there the museum had closed. Sooo close but so far... But, well, there is always next time...

Louvre with La Pyramide Inversée
La Pyramide Inversée
There is a LOT to see in the museum, and trust me when I say, a day is also not enough. There are historic paintings, sculptures and even real mummies to behold. There are special tours like the Da vinci code package tour that takes one to all the paintings and sculptures mentioned in the book. The entry is free for students under 25 and about 12 euro for rest.

I am planning another trip to Paris just for Louvre...

Honourary mention of other cool places that you can definitely visit (which we had to pass owing to the 1 day limit we had):

1. Moulin Rouge - the ever famous cabaret.
2. Sacré-Cœur Basilica church - a very famous church in north Paris.
3. Pére Lachaise cemetery - a very impressive garden cemetary, first of its kind with equally impressive scultures and roster of famous people now resting there, including Oscar Wilde.

FRENCH CUISINE

France boasts its sophistication with fine winig, dining and its delectable cuisine. Well, I am glad to say I agree, well, for the most part. Again, the thing about the food is you can never say that the certain cuisine is the best in certain place because we ALL have different choices and different taste palette... Some people don't like eggs, some love raw meat, some people can't stand nutella, some people don't like chocolates, others like oranges with salt, or feast on stiltons. I mean, I've been pretty happy with my meals at Paris, but my friends weren't as fortunate. 

According to our experience, here's what to eat and what to try out:

France is famous for its confectionaries. But there are still places you should specifically visit to get the best of it. We chose Ladurée at Champs Elysées.


Ladurée is one of the high street sweet and dessert shops. Although expensive they truely have the best confectionaries and sweet treats I have ever tasted. From chocolate drinks and coffees to the fabulous sweet ensemble... the cool ambience and decor to the impressive presentation all make it a commendable experience.

They even do International deliveries to Europe, not UK though, but worry not my fellow UK residents, if you want a taste there are 4 Ladurée houses in London!

Here are the two things to must try when at Ladurée:

1. Hot chocolate: it was most devine. I have never ever tasted such rich, heavy and chocolaty deliciousness ever. 


2. Macaroons: the horrible coconuty ones that you get in the UK supermarkets have NOTHING on the real french ones... They are the real deals, the bee's knees… Crispy flavourful biscuits in more than 10 amazing flavours with creamy soft fillings... Try either the normal macaroons, or the special rose and rasberry jumbo macaroon, ispahan!


Bon Appatite!


3. French Onion Soup

Hot sensational onion soup covered in crust and topped with melted cheese
 I love soups, warm ones especially. Long ago, before I had travelled outside India, I came across a travel and food show. That day it was on french cuisine where the cook had prepared the french onion soup. It looked so delicious that I just had to try it out. And sure enough I was in love with the flavour, onion being one of my most favourite vegetable, and the rich taste. So, when I was in Paris, I just had to try it out. Mmmm... I could live on it!

4. Fresh clams...

 and other such fresh sea food platters... I had never tried raw clams before, not because I never got the opportunity, more like I don't like the idea of eating raw meat of any sort. But once I unwound with Sushi couple of years ago, I am now slowly opening up to other raw dishes. I was kind of skeptical since sea food like clams and oyesters tend to be slimy when raw, and that is one thing I am a bit uncomfortable with... But I braved myself to try one, so I ordered some cherry clams and boy was it good. Yes, a bit toooooooo mucousy (sorry for the gross comparison but it's true) but it has a special flavour of its own and does bot require any seasoning. I sprinkled a bit of lemon juice from half a lemon served with the clams. And indeed, the lemon flavour compliments the clams just right. I'd say, go ahead and try it for sure.

Cherry clams
My lunch

5. And then there are the usuals: 
  • Croissants, 
  • Wide assortments of cheese, 
  • Fabulous crepes and 
  • Fresh baguettes.
You can find them anywhere and everywhere in Paris, from street trucks to coffee shops. What is a Paris trip without one of these pleasantries???

My hotel breakfast

6. Boeuf Tartare

Okay, this is the one you need to be slightly careful of. Ordered by my friends, it is basically raw minced beef mixed with raw egg, and seasonings. It is cold and it is slimy... Might sound appetizing to some, and not so much to others. To each its own. However, I must tell you, two out of three friends of mine who ordered the dish and who enjoy eating blue (rare) steak and beef carpachio, could not go on beyond two spoons of the dish. 
I personally did not try for the fact that I am still getting used to eating raw meat and have just started with sea food and kind of plan to stick with it for a while. Plus, I avoid eating beef where I can. My suggestion is, if you like raw beef, do try it by all means, I will not decide for you...

Boeuf tartare
Not clicked is the picture of my dinner, two tender roasted lamb chops with sauteed stringed beans. It was D.E.licious!


Anyway, tips time!

Tip no. 1: This is a basic one, depending on the season, pack the right clothes, september was fairly warm so a summer dress or pair  of shorts with a pretty top for a day would do just fine. Spring till end of summer should be pleasant. The winters can get chilly so do stay warm.
 
Tip no. 2: Souvenirs! Guess you can buy some fancy posters, postcards, prototype paintings of famous paintings in Louvre, or a small statue of Eiffel tower. I bought myself all of them and a pretty little key ring with the word "PARIS" and an Eiffel tower in it for keep sake. A bottle of french wine would work just as fine too ;)

 Tip no. 3: Watch out for the gypsies... They are known for being pretty notorious at knicking wallets and bags. Do not indulge with them AT ALL!

Tip no. 4: Yup, what you heard about motorists in France is true! Reckless and careless. I'm sure they are lovely people and will definitely bring flowers to your grave but you for sure cannot trust them while crossing the roads!

Tip no. 5: Train tickets and tube tickets were slightly confusing for us non-french speakers but apparently, for those of you under 25, you can get discount train + tube tickets from Disney to Paris and around Paris for a whole day, and for price cheaper than chips.


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That's all for now folks, see you later with more globe-trotting!

With Love,



aJBcj