With all the recent horrid terrorist attacks in our home city of Manchester and then in London, it makes us wonder if city visits are safe. Is anywhere safe as these cruel attacks constantly shock and ruin lives. Just like Manchester and London, 18 months ago, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks shook Paris to its spine. Folding its northern suburb to mass chaos. During a football match three suicide bombers struck. Shortly followed by another mass shooting and hostages situation at a concert. The death toll 130 with hundreds injured. It shook the world. Some 18 months later and Paris continues to stand strong and rebuild its spirit. A slow recovery but as confidence grows, a spirit is rising out of the rubble to shake things for good
So why Paris?
Well, its been nearly 30 years since our last visit and as well as revisit the city, we felt we should support Paris in its recovery. And we are so glad we did. We never felt unsafe or threatened or worried during our whole stay. The relaxed pace of life and romantic atmosphere is just the same now as it was in 1988.
Building works loom across the city and shipping containers act as makeshift offices for construction workers. New cafes, bookstores and shops sprouting up in every district. Winding avenues with street performers and gardens welcoming people back. All around the city, in fact, new life is sprouting in vacant spaces. Paris plans to build 7 new sky scrapers in La Defense district. A turnkey destination with a thriving economic ecosystem in the heart of Europe, offering a level of culture and quality of life.
A diverse population, a burgeoning contemporary art scene, a great number of green spaces for walking and some of the finest restaurants in the country, and an unparalleled nightlife. And yet, in its corners, you can still find small town flavour and local traditions.
What did we do in 5 days?
Indigo Camping is located just 5 kilometres outside the city, ideal for cycling. We cycled everywhere and anywhere with Mac n Tosh in the front baskets. By the time we left Paris we were well and truly saddle sore, as well as shattered. We filled every day and night with the sites and sounds of the city. We are not big city tour fans but Paris certainly grew on us.
Probably The Best Temporary Structure in the World
The Eiffel Tower or as mum says, Ethel Tower is without doubt the best temporary structure the city commissioned. Originally built for the Universal Exhibition of 1889 and to commemorate the centennial of the Revolution. At 1063 feet the tower was the worlds tallest building until 1931 when they completed the Empire State Building. We said hello to the tower every day but the best time is in the evening when the iconic landmark shines bold and bright…and if your lucky enough you get to see it flash!
We never realised Paris has two “Arc de Triomphe’s”. The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel located near the Royal Palace a very pretty with rose marble column crowned with the horses of saint Mark.
The other Arc de Triomphe, the one we know and love is at the other end of the Champs Elysees and is really the centre piece for one manic roundabout. Traffic zooms by, so it sure was a case of peddle power as we cycled around it. The arc stands 50 meters high, and is encrusted with reliefs, shields, and sculptures. Inside the body of an unknown Soldier was placed beneath the arch to commemorate the dead of World War I.
Picnic on the Seine
As well as cycle along the Seine we had enjoyed a picnic too. A mix of fine Lidl hams, freshly baked baguette with handful of slightly salted crisps. Washed down with a refreshing beaker of cool vimto. Nicely presented on Mac n Tosh’s dog blanket. Who needs Michelin stars? And Mac n Tosh, well they had a nice mix of doggy biscuits with a tin of sardines in olive oil, woofed in seconds. Might not sound much but we loved it, perfect family lunch.
The well manicured streets of Champs Elysees offer no shortage of Prada and Gucci but best dressed window goes to Louis Vuitton with their surprise take on Mona Lisa. The long, swooping avenue even attracts all the elite car dealers, so Ferrari test drives are the hot favourite with the chaps.
Les Halles, attracts the younger end all shopping for the latest street fashions. But the further you head away from the centre the more seedy the streets become. Lined with folk selling drugs and lots of people whispering secret codes each other. Good job we were on the bike for a brisk exit.
For the chic and unique boutiques head over to Marais district. A nice feel place with quaint cafes and bistro’s with chairs and tables lining the alleys making it a great place to wander and dream. Its here you will also find plenty large mansions converted in to museums and a jewish quarter.
Under & Over
The bridges of the Seine to historic and iconic archways. The Seine is the meandering romantic river and major reference point to the city. No matter where you go, it follows. Distances are measured from it, street numbers determined by it, and it divides the capital into two distinct areas, the Right Bank and the Left Bank. We crossed it 100’s of times and I still had no idea which bank I was on, so I just went with the flow.
Pont Alexandre III with flamboyant statues decorates Paris’s most ornate bridge.
One morning we jumped on For and zipped over to Chateau de Versailles. It was nice to venture in to the suburbs to see little street markets and a bit of Parisian life styles. It felt like we arrived at Versailles at the same time as everyone else. The crowds were horrendous and the queues were even worse, so we just had a quick toot around the parameter and the gardens. Although the short down pour cut our garden toot rather short. From the outside it did look rather impressive.
Grand Palais and Petit Palais both beautiful buildings. The Grand Palace designed by Charles Girault around 1900 with its elaborate exhibition hall and glass dome. Facing the Grand the Petit, which nows houses the art collections of the city.
Jardins & Madame
Lush parks and gardens surround the city and you are never too far away from a green space with a pew or a river stroll. Whether you wander, sit or cycle its all part of Paris. There are places to rent bikes and boats all across the city be it self serve or tour guide.
Jardin du Luxembourg was OK but not the best garden in Paris but we did like the fountain. Carpeaux’s fountain sculpture made of bronze has four women holding aloft a globe representing six continents. Personally, we liked the little turtles.
Watch out for Madame’s! We did see a lot of ‘elderly’ prostitutes around the edges of parks and gardens. I guess its easy to nip in a bush for a quickie?
Lunch on the ‘spot’
Another memorable lunch at point zero, the spot from which all road distances are measured in France. Its also the square that sits above the oldest part of Paris, as deep underground are remnants dating back 2,000 years.
No visit would be complete without a toot at Notre Dame although it was much small and less impressive than we imagined. Maybe because we couldn’t find quasi modo? But you can find the remains of the first building in the archaeological crypt of the cathedral.
Other churches to admire include the majestic gilded dome church with best views from Alexandre III bridge.
The statue of Liberty given to the city in 1885 certainly catches your attention.
One of Europe’s most magnificent and historic squares in Europe, the Place de la Concorde. The 3,200-year-old obelisk from Luxor stands proud in the middle of a roundabout.
The Museum de L’Armee and domed church is certainly an impressive landmark
Another chic area with the sound of jazz echoing through the allies. In the centre, the impressive Pantheon with the resting souls of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Zola, and the ashes of Pierre and Marie Curie. Just to the rear of the Pantheon the impressive little church of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. Well worth a visit.
Wandering amongst the masterpieces
Paris has endless museums and to see them all would be a challenge, so better to focus on one and do it right. And being Paris, where better to visit than the Louvre. Undoubtably one of the finest art collections in the world. The Louvre is huge and its collections are so immense that you could spend all day doing nothing but masterpiece gazing and still not make a dent. As I walked in each room I didn’t know whether to look at the articles on display or just gawk at the palace rooms. The elaborate ceilings and internal decor of the Royal Palace were just as impressive.
At its centre is the Ile de la Cite, a natural stepping stone across the Seine and the cultural core of medieval Paris. First inhabited around 200BC.
Museum after museum housing some of the worlds greatest pieces of art and largest collections. Originally, the Royal Palace, the largest is Europe.
Palais de Justice with a history spanning over 16 centuries today a massive complex of law courts swarming with police and riot vans.
Song & Dance
National Opera House dating back to 1875, the grandiose opera house has come to symbolise the opulence of the 2nd Empire just a shame they allowed a mobile butty wagon to park right in front of it and spoil the vista.
No evening visit would be complete without a quick stop at Moulin Rouge. Don’t stop too long or the Madame’s of the Night will offer their services. To be fair, we didn’t see many in the district, guess the parks offer better bushes!
Zipping here and there
As well as cycle and walk around the city, we also zipped in our little monkey bike. Craig loved the thrill of weaving in and out of the chaotic traffic. We zoomed up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triumph but I thoroughly enjoyed the romance of holding on to my hubby, as we weaved our way along the Seine.
The Best Until Last
The highlight was certainly our last night as made our way up to Montmartre for sunset. Located on a hill some distance out of the centre with winding alleys and cobbled back streets it is sure a mecca for artists. With painters on every corner and street artists on each lamp post! The buzzing cafes and ambient music all add to a wonderful bohemian atmosphere…and when the sun goes down…wow.
As the name suggests, it is ascribed to martyrs who were tortured and killed in the area. The huge cemetery that runs under the road is the resting place of Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Right at the top of the hill, the white and beautiful Sacre Coeur. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed in with shorts but Craig said it was one of the best churches in Paris with all its colourful mosaics and stained glass.
Did we enjoy Paris, absolutely but now its time for a rest. See you soon x x
Note: we left Paris several days ago before the Notre Dame incident