- 25 Nov - 01 Dec, 2023
- 18 Jul - 24 Jul, 2020
- Travel Diaries
Paris is the most exciting place in the world. No other city has so much to offer in such a relatively small area, all the important sights can easily be reached on foot, or else by bus or metro. Paris is a world of colourful cafes, bustling restaurants, delicious food and wine, as well as of elegant fashions, chic boutiques and famous designer names. Broad, tree-lined boulevards stretch out from the heart, the Etoile, in all directions towards the Louvre Museum with its controversial glass La Defense, the new ‘second’ city of Paris, with its skyscraper buildings and gleaming white Arc, completed in 1989 as a symbol of the city’s modern achievements and its future.
MUSEUMS, GALLERIES & MONUMENTS
The Carte Musees et Monuments (museum card) gives free admission to 70 museums and monuments in Paris, and the surrounding area with unlimited number of visits without the need to queue.
The Louvre allows plenty of time to view the wonderful collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewellery, etc. in this massive museum (formerly the largest royal palace in France). Enter by the glass pyramid, which stands in the courtyard. Free admission on the first Sunday of each month. The Carrousel shopping gallery is under the museum.
The Musee d’Orsay houses 2,300 works of art – half of which are on permanent display – paintings, sculptures, furniture, photographs and a wonderful model of the Paris Opera House. The paintings include a breathtaking collection of Impressionist works formerly displayed at the Jeu de Paume.
The Georges Pompidou Centre is immediately to the East of the old Les Halles market and is a multi-purpose cultural centre, designed in 1977 by Richard Rodgers. Following extensive renovations, the Museum of Modern Art is now housed on the 4th and 5th floors, the public library on the 2nd and 3rd floors and on the 6th floor, an extremely trendy restaurant (Georges).
Take the metro to Cite on the Ile de la Cite to view the Gothic splendour of this beautiful church is one of the supreme masterpieces of French art and took 182 years to build (1163-1345), without the original plans being modified in any way. The design of the Great Rose Window nearly 30 feet across is so perfect that it has remained unmoved in over 700 years. You can climb the north tower of the cathedral for a lovely view between 10 am-6 pm (closed major holidays).
Designed by Charles Garnier and completed in 1875, this magnificent building has undergone extensive renovations and is the home of the ballet, although some opera is still staged here. The Great Staircase, main foyer and auditorium (ceiling painted by Chagall) are normally open to visitors from 11 am-5 pm unless rehearsals are in progress. There is also a library and museum. The controversial new, modern Opera Bastille in the Place de la Bastille seats 3,000 and continues to be the main opera house.
The Eiffel Tower (designed by Gustave Eiffel and constructed for the 1889 Universal Exhibition) is 300 metres high and has 2.5 million rivets. The view depends on the clarity of the atmosphere and the best light is often an hour before sunset (the lifts operate from 10 am-11 pm in winter and 9:30 am-12 am in summer).
Parks and Gardens
Paris has lovely parks and gardens. Amongst these are the recently restored Tuileries Gardens, which stretch from Place de la Concorde to the Louvre, the Jardin lu Luxembourg – part of the Palais du Luxembourg, the Parc du Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower and, of course, the Bois de Boulogne, where you can hire a rowing boat on the lake or attend the races at Longchamp if you are in Paris in May, September or October.
A very pleasant way to see Paris is by boat: the Bateaux Parisiens leave from the Port de la Bourdonais, Iena Bridge on the Left Bank at regular intervals throughout the day. There are also lunch or dinner cruises and it is a delightful way to spend an afternoon or evening. Paris takes on a different magic when reflected in the Seine.
PONT DE L'ALMA
Pont de l'alma (English: Alma Bridge) is a road bridge in Paris, France across the Seine. It was named to commemorate the Battle of Alma during the Crimean War, in which the Ottoman-Franco-British alliance achieved victory over the Russian army, on September 20, 1854. It was designed by Paul-Martin Gallocher de Lagalisserie and was inaugurated by Napoleon III. Each side of both of the two piers was decorated with a statue of military nature: a Zouave and a grenadier by Georges Diébolt, and a skirmisher and an artilleryman by Arnaud.
The general public took the original bridge as a measuring instrument for water levels in times of flooding on the Seine. The bridge underwent complete reconstruction as a girder bridge between 1970 and 1974, as it had been too narrow to accommodate the increasing traffic both, on and below it. Pont de l'Alma has a length of 153 meters (502 ft) and a width of 42 meters (138 ft). The Metro station Alma – Marceau is near the north end of the bridge, RER station Pont de l'Alma near the south end.
The bridge is close to the Pont de l'Alma tunnel where Diana, Princess of Wales was involved in a fatal car crash on 31 August 1997. The Flame of Liberty (completed in 1987), at the bridge's north end has become an unofficial memorial to Diana.
The temptation is not easy to resist! If you are shopping for something in particular, some of the Paris quarters have kept their association with their original craft or trade. Rue de la Paix and Place Vendome are known for their jewellers shops, rue de Paradis (10e) for porcelain and glass, rue de Rome for stringed instruments, the Odeon for books, rues Bonaparte, Faubourg St Honore, Avenue Montaigne and rue Francois for their fashion houses.
BARS AND CAFÉS
You will find your own favourites, but two of the most famous are the Café de Flore, and, next door, Les Deux Magots, both open from 7:30 am to 1:30 am.
Indulge yourselves with dinner at one of the most recommended restaurants, followed by the midnight show at the Lido or Moulin Rouge. There are two brasseries in Les Halles, which are open all night: Pied de Cochon and Les Alsaces aux Halles, both in the rue Coquilliere; also the Grand Café Capucines in the bd des Capucines.
A cliché maybe, but the shows at the Lido and the Moulin Rouge are slick, professional, totally over the top and enormously enjoyable. The Crazy Horse is also popular, as is dinner on the Bateaux Mouches whilst cruising along the Siene.
Montmartre buzzes at night and it is a fun place to spend the evening with numerous bars and restaurants. If you haven’t already been up to Montmartre try to arrive whilst it is still light in order to take advantage of the view over Paris from the terrace in front of the Sacre Coeur.
Paris has a very efficient underground system, consisting of the Metro and RER (express metro) and this is by far the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get around the city. It is generally clean and has some impressive stations, many of which were renovated to celebrate the metro’s centenary in 2000. If you are changing from one metro or RER line to another, look for the correspondence sign on the platform, showing you which way to go. Use your carnet of 10 tickets. You will only need one ticket for the majority of journeys and there is no date restriction (additional carnets can be purchased from any metro station). If travelling on the RER express metro outside the centre of the city, separate tickets must be purchased. Buses stop running at around 8:30 pm, but the metro operates from 5:30 am until around midnight.
Paris is a gourmets’ paradise with wonderful restaurants generally offering better value and quality.
Le Grand Véfour: This beautiful restaurant was founded at the end of the 18th century by Jean Véfour and has continued to serve wonderful food to the rich and famous of Paris ever since! It has three Michelin stars and is located at the northern and of the Palais Royal gardens.
Au Pied de Cochon: Famous and a very popular 1930s brasserie, serving a wide variety of meat and excellent fish, and shellfish dishes.
Jules Verne, 2nd floor, Eiffel Tower: Arguably the most romantic restaurant in Paris with its stunning views of the river and the city, the Jules Verne also serves excellent food.
La Tour d’Argent (Terrail):
One of the most famous restaurants in Paris situated on the top floor with magnificent views of Notre Dame and across the roof tops to the Sacre Coeur, it offers delicious food and impeccable service. Their famous speciality is pressed duck.
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