M and I travelled to Europe in May 2014 for a 10 day vacation visiting Paris, Venice and Rome. Our flight from San Francisco was delayed and on landing at Chicago, we ran to the Paris bound plane’s gate and made a very last minute (reopening-the-doors-to-let- us-in-kinda) Bollywood movie style entry on the flight.
If this was a movie, the credits would roll in now introducing the cast and crew
. After a pretty uneventful flight, we landed in Paris at around 9 am local time.Customs and immigration were quick, but our bag did not make it to the flight as quickly as we did. Travel Tip
: Always pack two pairs of clothes and a night dress in your cabin luggage.
Big Bus Paris
We checked in to our hotel – Best Western Hotel Le Jardin de Cluny, which is centrally located in the 5/6 arrondissement in the Latin Quarter and is literally walking distance from a number of must see attractions.We took this opportunity to walk around the city as much as we could. After a quick shower and a power nap, we set out to explore Paris.
First stop was the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a beautiful French gothic church with stained glass windows and flying buttresses
. It served as my first introduction to the European architecture. This cathedral is also famous for it’s gargoyles(tiny statues designed for water run off, having angelical as well demoniacal appearances), which can be seen closely from the viewing galleries at the top.This steep, circular and narrow climb consists of 387 steps and may make you feel dizzy. Equally beautiful from the interior as well as the exterior, this church should definitely be on your must see list in Paris.The top of Notre Dame offers spectacular and breathtaking views of Paris. You can also go up a level and enjoy 360 degree views.
While waiting in the queue to the top of the cathedral, we noticed hundreds of crepe shops lining the streets. Not kidding, there were creperies right next to each other on that block. I could have happily survived on Nutella banana-strawberry crepes for my entire stay in Paris 🙂
Eastern Facade of Notre Dame
Beautiful Stained Glass Windows at Notre Dame
Stairway to the top of Notre Dame
Pretty views of Paris from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Eiffel Tower from the Notre Dame
The beautiful Sacre-Couer Church.
That is the queue to get into the Cathedral. We decided to skip it and return later!
Gargoyles at the top of the Cathedral
Located right across the cathedral is a book store called Shakespeare and Company. This is an old time bookstore with a stupendous wall to wall collection of new and second-hand books. This store also serves as a publishing house and provides temporary boarding for aspiring writers and their staff. I purchased a couple of books (Pablo Naruda’s Love Poems for my cousin), the Anne Frank Diary and a tote as souvenirs.This store has a unique approach to make your purchases special. You can get a “Shakespeare and Co” stamp on your book and turn it into a souvenir.
We passed the university of La Sorbonne on our way to the Pantheon. Another architectural wonder ,was originally built as a church but later converted to a civil structure.Its facade is modeled on the Pantheon of Rome. This gigantic structure with huge Corinthian columns
, beautiful carvings and frescoes of scenes depicting St. Geneviève’s life along with other art serves as a mausoleum for Voltaire, Victor Hugo and many other famous French people and honorable military men. The dome was undergoing renovations and we missed the pendulum on display.It was still worth a visit.
Located on the corner of the Rue Soufflot is a restaurant called Soufflot Pantheon where I ate the best ravioli I have ever eaten in my life.
Victor Hugo Rests Here
Beautifully Carved Ceilings -Corinthian Columns – Exterior – Pantheon
After walking around for almost half a day, it was time to sit back and enjoy the evening cruise on the Siene.Paris has around 37 bridges connecting the two banks of the Siene. We went under atleast fifteen of those on our cruise.Some of those bridges are architecture marvels and had real gold sculptures embedded on them(Pont Alexandre III). This hour long, informative cruise started from the Pont Neuf and went all the way to the Eiffel and back. I was in awe of the majestic historical buildings and felt dwarfed by them. Paris exudes a beautiful vibe, and there is something about the combination of the culture, history and architecture that makes it a fun place to be. This is also when I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Talk about dreams coming true :D.I highly recommend taking the Siene river cruise in the evening or at around sunset time to get great/lit up views of the buildings and also some great photo ops. The setting sun lighting up the Pont Alexandre III is a sight to behold. After being dropped off at Pont Neuf, we walked back in the direction of the hotel and realized that we were lost. With both our phones dead, we had to rely on locals and shopkeepers to guide us to our hotel.
Finally, after almost missing our flight, without our luggage(and the pretty dresses I had dreamed of wearing in Paris), and literally using a paper map to navigate Paris, we had a successful day 1 in the city of love!