After a train ride to Milan and running around like crazy cat ladies, we eventually made our way out of Italy (who thought it would be so hard!) and spent a good part of the day travelling through Switzerland (oh yeah we did get to visit here – kind of). One thing I can say just from passing through and our stopover in Zurich is that it’s a country that I would LOVE to come back to when I have a tiny bit more money. The countryside is picturesque and it just looks like a place that I’d like to spend a bit more time in. Anywhooooo… We made our way to Paris and we were lucky enough to be able to stay with one of Renee’s cousins (thank you again!). Firstly I’d just like to say that Paris has a certain something that you can’t quite put your finger on but it makes you want to stay just that little bit longer… It could be the charm of decades past that still linger or just the to-die-for pastries but in saying that the charm comes from the city itself and not so much from the people in it (sorry Frenchies but most of you are quite rude). Cuz was kind enough to show us around the city he now calls home and we saw the bad and the good sights of Paris and I think that’s why we fell in love with the city and it’s pastries (seriously, my mouth is watering thinking about them right now!). Oh and the second thing is that we were tempted to try frog legs but some other food looked slightly more appealing… Thai curry appealing, which reminds me if you are ever in Paris find this restaurant called Bien Bien! It has insanely good Thai food at a reasonable price and the staff will take care of you – so make sure you find it!
Okay so after those ramblings I suppose I should let you guys know what we got up to in Paris. Well in our old age of travelling we have started to slow down a bit and take our time in places so we spent about 5 nights in Paris which I think gave us a really good feel of the city. Now what visit to Paris would be complete without a trip to the Eiffel Tower! The Eiffel Tower is quite impressive and until you actually see it in person you don’t really have a full grasp of just how big it is. I highly recommend either climbing it or taking the elevator to the viewing platforms as the views are just stunning. As we are on a ridiculously small budget we opted for the cheaper option of climbing the stairs and I think this is the best way to do it because you kind of get a sense of accomplishment AND you can say that you literally climbed the Eiffel Tower! Now the climb isn’t for everyone as it is 669 steps you have to climb to get up to the second level viewing platform which I think is the best level to get to. For any exercise fanatics out there and non-exercise fanatics, this will get your butt super toned so do it!
Our next stop was the Notre Dame Cathedral or Notre Dame de Paris if we want to get technical. The cathedral was one of the first Gothic cathedrals and it is considered to be one of the finest examples of French architecture plus it’s just plain cool. Now it is free to enter the cathedral and in my books definitely worth a visit (come on its free!). You can also climb the towers to get a nice view of the area and see the famous gargoyles up close and personal but it does cost money to climb the towers so unfortunately we didn’t get to kiss a gargoyle.
Okay there is way too much to see in Paris! What was next? We took a nice stroll down the city’s most famous avenue – the Champs Elysees to see the oh so famous Arc de Triomphe! This is kind of cool to check off your list of sights to see in Paris, but when it comes down to it – it is just an arch. Because I’m in a bit of a history mode and I’m only talking about one city I’ll give you a little info here. So the Arc de Triomphe is Napoleon’s most notable legacy to Paris and was planned by Napoleon to commemorate all of his military successes. This was completed in 1836 and the names of generals were carved in the top and inside of the arch. Now you can access the arch via an underground passage and then climb up to the platform or you can decide to be lazy and take the lift instead. We did neither but we have had people say it is kind of cool to check out so it will be on my list of things to do when I visit Paris again – I’m optimistic that it will be sometime soon!
Something that I think should be on everyone’s list is Montmarte and Sacre Coeur Basilica. Montmarte is a large hill and is the highest point in the city. It is a bit of a climb to get up the hill but it is well worth it as you are met by the famous Sacre Coeur Basilica! If you climb to the top of the dome you will get some breathtaking views of Paris and this little gem is definitely worth the visit. Around the area you will also find a lot of coffee shops and artists selling their art and it’s actually a kind of funky area to visit.
I do apologise this is starting to sound like a “top sights to see blog” but we only went to Paris so I have to fill the empty space somehow right? 🙂
ANYWAY! So to get our museum fix we decided to go to the Musee d’Orsay instead of the Musee du Louvre. I know a lot of you out there are probably going to say that it’s a crime we didn’t visit the Louvre, but from what we heard we thought d’Orsay would be more to our liking. If it makes you feel any better, we did walk to the Louvre and wandered around outside for a bit and visited the Pei Pyramids which in itself is kind of cool. For me the Musee d’Orsay is a MUST to see! It will probably take you a good half a day or more to see everything this museum has to offer and I’ll say it now, it is totally worth the money! D’Orsay houses the largest collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative objects produced between 1848-1914 and the artworks alone are just amazing. There is literally no way to describe some of the paintings they are just magnificent!
Another cool place that we went to (because we only go to the “cool” places) was the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. In your mind you are probably thinking of a creepy little cemetery where zombies will attack you but no. It’s classed as one of the world’s most poetic cemeteries and it actually feels like you are walking through a park almost but you do get a very calm feel about the place so trust me there are no zombies here (at least I’m 98% sure). For all of those Doors fans out there this is where Jim Morrison was buried. His tomb is covered in song lyrics from fans and you are bound to get a small crowd around his tomb every day paying their respects. Some other famous people that have been buried here are Moliere, Edith Piaf and Richard Wright. The other most notable person is Oscar Wilde where they have had to put up a plastic barrier around his tomb for fans to write on. You can’t miss Morrison’s or Wilde’s tombs though because they are the only two that have actual barriers around them to try and stop fans going in.
A definite must must MUST see would have to be the Catacombs of Paris. We waited in line for about 2 hours (we would never usually wait this long but we were told we HAD to do it) and honestly once you get down there you completely forget you were in line for that long so please persevere if it is busy! The Catacombs are an underground ossuary which are located south of the former city gates and holds the remains of 6 million people. It’s actually really quite interesting how they came about so I’d recommend reading up on them but it’s not for the faint hearted. The walk through the catacombs is about an hour depending how fast or slow you go and for most of the time you are walking through tunnels filled to the brim with bones that are hundreds of years old. If you are walking by yourself (like what I did) you do get a little creeped out when no one else is around as you are walking underground in the dark with millions of dead bodies and the sound of dripping water but at the same time it is insanely cool (I say that in a non-morbid way).
So I’m not ending on a dreary note a oh so romantic thing to check out is the Seine River (well you would see it anyway if you walk around Paris) but also the bridges over the river. There are a few bridges scattered with the locks of love where couples put a padlock on the bridge and throw the key into the river to show their everlasting love (I know, mushy right). The most well-known of these bridges is the Pont Des Art bridge which is located near the Notre Dame Cathedral but make sure you take your time to check them out because you will see some unusual locks as well as some really old ones.
One more thing. For any Australians going to Paris, you must find a Café Oz! You will not find a more Australian place yet you will probably be the only Aussie there (in off peak season anyway). This place is really cool and they have the true blue Aussie thing going on with toilets called ‘dunnies’ which I’m sure would confuse a few people, John Howard in heels playing footy on the walls and a lot of other cool Aussie stuff but don’t be put off by the name as it actually turns into a club/bar at night which is very popular in Paris.
Of course with great sightseeing comes a great amount of wine! We immersed ourselves in the French culture of baguettes, cheese, saucisson and wine – a diet that I could happily live on. Oh and did I mention the pastries?
Well if you have read this far I congratulate you and hopefully you will stay tuned for our next instalment – AMSTERDAM!!!