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Monday, January 5, 2009

Top Ten Things to See in Paris

My husband and I loved our recent trip to Paris. It is such a romantic city, perhaps even the most romantic in the world. We'll have to visit a few more cities to make that a definite statement. In any case, here's our list of Top Ten Things to See and Do in Paris:

  1. Eiffel Tower - this is a MUST - how can you go to Paris and not see this incredible tower. This is a globally recognized icon created by Gustave Eiffel. It was completed in 1889, and is the most visited paid-monument in the world. You can purchase various types of tickets; adults and children over 12 pay up to 12 Euros to go all the way to the top. Children under 3 are free. You can take the stairs or you can take the elevator, or combination. Don't forget to bring your postcards, there is a post office on the 1st floor that will show the Eiffel Postal Stamp to your friends and relatives. The post office amazingly enough is open year round, but closes early on holidays. We were able to get our postcards sent from the Eiffel on Christmas Day, the office closed at 7 pm. There are also cafes and restaurants in the Eiffel Tower, some pricey, some for the family on the go. You can make reservations on line - but will need a credit card to do so.

  2. The Louvre - this is the most incredible museum, with relics that would take weeks to see in their entirety. The winter is probably one of the slowest, therefore best times to go, but it was still packed. Children under 18 are free, which is a cost savings to families traveling on a budget. If you are there the first Sunday of the month, it is free admission. I highly recommend going to their website to plan your visit (or visits in case you go more than one time as you cannot see it all in one day). Check out this link to get details about special exhibits during your stay. There are two entrances to the Lourve, try the Rivoli entrance as it is often less crowded than the Pyramid entrance. Click on this link for an interactive map of the museum to plan what hall you want to visit first, especially if the Mona Lisa is something you want to check off your list.

  3. Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle Cathedral. Both are located on the Ile de la Cité, or one of several natural islands on the Seine River. The Ile de la Cité is often referred to as the epicenter of Paris, and in fact, Point Zero is located just a few meters from the front door of the Notre Dame and refers to the center of Paris. The Sainte Chapelle, or Holy Chapel, is located within the Palais de Justice complex. The chapel was completed in 1248, there is an upper chapel and a lower chapel. The majority of the stained glass is original 12th century craftsmanship, it is astonishing that is has survived fires and other catastrophes. The Notre Dame Cathedral was constructed in the late 11th century, taking near 100 years to complete. It's interesting to note that from a bird's eye view, many European churches erected during this period are in the shape of a cross with the longer axis aligned east-west. The main alter is normally in the east section with the entrance to the west. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a famous French novel written by Victor Hugo, the famous novelist and poet. The book was set in 1482, and written as Victor's statement to preserve the cathedral and not to modernize it. Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame are within an easy walking distance to the Latin Quater, another must see that I combine with these two cathedrals. I recommend going there to at least grab a chocolate crepe or two, they are heavenly!
  4. Jardin des Tuileries are the garden grounds around the Louvre. On a sunny day, you should take the time to stroll the grounds where you can view many outdoor sculptures and beautiful landscape design which was important to the palaces of Paris.

  5. The Metro - though this isn't a monument, it is a great way to travel in and around Paris. Be careful of pick-pocketers, keep your valuables close to you with a money belt. You can buy tickets in groups of ten, or in 1, 3 or 5 day increments. So depending on how many days you are there, you can figure out what you need. It's definitely an inexpensive way to get from point A to point B. Taxi cabs are available, but much more expensive. We traveled with our 3 daughter by metro from the Gare du Nord train station, up and down flights of stairs (which, by the way, means the metro is NOT handicap friendly, no elevators, and often no working escalators) to get to our destination. We'd often have to walk 5 to 10 mintues from the metro to our hotel, and they were all troopers. It gave us the sense of seeing parts of residential sections of town.
  6. The Champs Elysees - this is the boulevard of all boulevards - the most beautiful especially during the holidays when all the trees that line up this street are lit up and night. Up scale stores and restaurants (and then there's McDonald's) line this street, it's a great place to grab a quick bite, have a cup of coffee or tea and just people-watch.
  7. The Arch de Triomphe - at the west end of the Champs Elysees, is the Arch de Triomphe. This monument honors those that fought for France particularly during the Napoleonic wars. Underneath is the tomb of the unknown soldier. The monument was started in 1806 on the orders of Napoleon I in honour of the French army, and finished thirty years later under the reign of Louis Philippe. The Arc de Triomphe combines the commemorative with the symbolic. Beautiful during the day, but extremely impressive at night.

  8. Marchés de Noël - this is something you'll only find during the winter holidays, it means Christmas Markets. Google on Marches de Noel, and you'll find a list of where they are located that particular year. These are often handmade items, not just made in China. You'll also find what I particularly love, the wonderful home-made crepes of ham and cheese or chocolat and banane. Delicious!

  9. Paris Opéra is a grand landmark designed by Charles Garnier. It was built in 1875, and designed as part of the great Parisian reconstruction initiated by Emporor Napolean III. It is an oppulent theater, seating 2,200 under a central chandalier which weights a massive six tons.

  10. Sacre Coeur - on the butte of Montmartre is the basilica knows as Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart. This is one of the highest peaks in Paris, and from the top of the dome is one of the most impressive views of all of Paris, where you can see a panoramic 360 view up to 30 kilometers. It is worth going just before sunset, so you can see the sights while daylight, tour the inside of the basilica, then view the scene at night when the monuments and other parts of Paris are lit up.

What are your favorite sights to see in Paris? Write a comment so we can track the feedback.

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