Returning To Iconic Paris Sights
Paris was the first stop on our 3 week tour of France. Both David and I had been there before so we planned a mix of new things and a return to some of our iconic Paris sights.
We had planned to take the subway into the city but this idea was quickly discarded after my suitcase handle broke when we were juggling bags. Up and down multiple stairs would not be easy. But we didn’t factor in Paris rush hour and a driver who had no clue where we were going. When he almost hit the car in front, in stop and go traffic, I knew we had picked the wrong cab – never mind it wasn’t the Mercedes David wanted to choose instead of this cab. More than an hour and 70€ later, having travelled the most roundabout route possible, we arrived at Hotel Montparnasse.
Having arrived at the hotel at 9:30, we expected to just drop bags but there was a room available so they let us check in early. Of course, it turned out that this was the “room of last resorts” or maybe just the room they started you with if you didn’t book directly with the hotel. It reminded me a lot of the very first hotel room I ever had in Paris – just enough room to walk around the bed. Aside from size, it was shabby in all regards, from the peeling wallpaper and stained rug, to the cracking paint and missing shelves in the bathroom – certainly not the 4 stars proclaimed on the front door. When David valiantly tried to get a less rock hard mattress, the clerk hid behind his language skills to avoid addressing our concerns. The only redeeming point was the location – close to a metro, shopping and various cafe options.
Despite a short nap, jet lag pills and a trying few acupressure points, we were still exhausted when we hit our room but since we had a bed we decided to take a short refresher nap. Three hours later we felt as refreshed as our bed would ever get us and we headed out starved to find lunch.
The walking strassa by the hotel had lots of options for lunch. Drawn in by the promise of moules (mussels), we discovered that 3pm left us with almost no options for lunch. When the waiter discovered the “egg guy” had not yet left, we settled for omelettes for a little protein. The next morning when we tried this same spot for breakfast, we would be less successful at finding the “egg guy” working.
Tranquility at Luxembourg Gardens
Refuelled we decided to go for a “little” walk. Passing on the catacombs and the nunnery, we wandered in the direction of the Luxembourg gardens. While cool in the shade, the garden offered lots of sun and was quite busy with families, teens and older folks playing or just enjoying the sun, the flowers or the fountains. This was one of the iconic Paris sights meant just to rejuvenate!
We were amused when the ever-present guards shooed the teens off the grass – for being on the grass but not for the bottle of wine they each were sipping from. I took my turn lounging in the sun while David snapped pics. It was a peaceful break. We recalled our last visit to the Luxembourg gardens at sunset when the gendarmes chased everyone out at sunset.
Opting for a quiet night, David headed to the market for picnic supplies – bread, ham, cheese, wine, peaches and unique creme brûlée Magnum bars. We ate while watching an iPad movie.
Sightseeing Iconic Paris Sights
After a fitful night on our rock hard bed, we started our days assessing the “to see” list. Having not planned in advance, we found tickets to the burlesque show La Ferie to be limited except for expensive dinner and show tickets. Ultimately not wanting to spend over $500 for tickets, we passed on this on yet another trip. This would allow David to avoid any risk of being dragged into a live sex club.
David still owed me a hop-on-hop-off tour to refresh us on all the iconic Paris sights, so we headed to the closest pickup point. After waiting for over 20 minutes, with the line growing steadily, we decided that this transport option may not be the smartest idea for a sunny day in Paris. Since I came equipped with a handful of unused metro tickets from a previous trip, we changed plans and headed to the metro. Five stops later we exited at the base of the Tour Eiffel for our first stop and the obligatory pic of the two lovers in Paris to post for our friends back home. We would go back past the Tour Eiffel at different times of day, walking and on the water. There we no shortage of views to capture at one of the most iconic Paris sights!
Not surprisingly, the lines were long for both the elevator and stair options up the tower. David decided to pass on a trip up the tower on yet another visit. This is why we can keep coming back to Paris with unfinished “to do” lists. We walked in the park behind the tower, stopping at a few pic spots.
Exiting at Champs de Mars we found our cafe in the sun for a leisurely stop. The large cappuccino needed two hands and the chocolate crepe came with two forks, resulting in a 28€ coffee break.
Refreshed, we debated the path to the next spot. I picked the short walk but David got his way and we headed for the longer more scenic walk along the Seine. I regretted not paying attention when I was walking when I fell off the curb and went for a roll. The old French guy came to my rescue with his cigar dangling and sat me in a chair to catch my breath. I didn’t stay put long once I realized he had sat me on the road. While my feet protested, it was a much nicer walk with a stop at the tranquil floating gardens and a meander through the market stalls. We passed on the chocolate but couldn’t pass on the fresh caramels. Thinking the hammock-like spot might be relaxing, I plopped down but needed two hands from David to get back up. The dual loungers proved to be much easier to exit.
We finally crossed the Seine by the palace, stopping to look back at the Tour Eiffel silhouetted against the bridge art. We were not the only ones stopping to admire from a distance. Along the river we could see artists set up to capture their view of this iconic Paris site. I will always think of street artists as one of the iconic Paris sights!
We picked up a picnic lunch and meandered towards the Stravinsky fountains. We had never been to this part of Paris on previous visits. The collection of whimsical artistic fountains, coupled with local street performers, drew a large crowd but we managed to find a spot beside the fountain to picnic. The young boy sailing his wooden sailboat was cute but the two kids beside me splashing in the fountain with no parental intervention weren’t. Posing for several cute pics with fountain sculptures let David practice his artistic shots.
The Pompidou centre was an interesting building and looked like it offered an escalator ride to a view. But after walking around the entire building looking for the entrance to end up back to where we started, I no longer had the energy to enjoy the exhibits if we paid for entrance.
Almost every trip to Paris includes a visit Notre Dame to shoot “toutes les photos” – only to return again and again for more pics – from every angle, in every light, with every imaginable artistic effect. It would quickly become Notre Damn as I attempted to haul David past yet one more time. For us, Notre Dame is one of the most photographed iconic Paris sights!
We tried on several days to visit St. Chappelle – located close to Notre Dame and recommended by a friend. The guide book said to visit at sunset – but we found it closed at 5:30. This early closing time would unfortunately defeat us every time.
From Notre Dame it is an easy walk to Le Louvre. You can wander around the pyramid entrance, taking pics in the reflecting pool, with a juxtaposition of new on old. Everyone recognized the pyramid as one of the iconic Paris sights.
We strolled through the Tuilerie Gardens and resisted the urge to mimic the naked nymph statues, although we did lie down in the grass finally to rest. Rested a little, we headed back for the long walk home along the left bank – tiredly counting bridges and the unique bridge ornamentation along the way. It would be another picnic dinner at the hotel – baguettes, salmon pita, a bottle of wine and a box of Maximum chocolate chocolate ice cream bars.
One day we headed by Metro up to Sacre Coeur. When you get off of the Metro you can either walk up a series of stairs or take “le funiculaire” to get up to the church. Once you get to the church there are yet more stairs to get to the front door of the church. Many people tour the church and hang out on the stairs getting their view of Paris from this most beautiful of the iconic Paris sights.
But of course, we hauled our butts up the tiny circulate stairs to the top of the dome for the full panoramic view of Paris (and yet one more angle of the Eiffel Tour).
We stopped for “moules” in the outdoor market at Montmartre, watched the local characters and artists and resisted the entreaties to have our portrait done.
Walking down thru the “sex streets”, we stopped to look at the Moulin Rouge and declined the entreaties to go into the live sex show. The Moulin Rouge red windmill is included in any list of the iconic Paris sights.
David conceded to take the Metro to head to the Arc du Triomphe and Champs Elysees.
Our last tourist stop on this trip was the Musee d’Orsay. Instead of walking we got a day pass for the “hop on hop off” boat – the “BatoBus” and used it to get along the Seine.
While you go to Musee d’Orsay for the art, the building itself – with lots of remnants of the old train station it had been – will capture your attention.
We wandered high to look out yet a different clock face and far off in the distance we could see Sacre Coeur high on the hill. Many people would say that the clocks of Musee d’Orsay go on the list of the iconic Paris sights!
We spent a few hours visiting the Impressionist artwork that I like so much. It was interesting to view the massive private collections on display. The statues lined the halls, some small, intricate and calming while others towered in angry, graphic displays.
We visited many of the iconic Paris tourist spots. Finding new things to see in even the sights we have visited more than once. You can’t possibly do Paris or even a single attraction in just one visit!
Feeding the Chocoholic
Still not really adjusted to the time change, I was often not ready to get up and head right out. Luckily David was often anxious to check out the morning light for photos, so he would head off for something to tempt me out of bed. Le petit dejeuner was often a quick visit to the local patisserie – which quickly created an addictive desire for “pain au chocolat”. We tried pastries in many spots but the ones close to the hotel were always the best.
With regular drooling, we did have to indulge David’s chocolate addiction on a daily basis once he discovered how good the local chocolate shop was. We carried one bag of dark chocolate raisins and one 85% chocolate chunk around for several days. Several times we indulged in hot chocolate with real whipped cream. And of course, a chocolate dessert offering would cause David to have the plat du jour with dessert, rather than the plat du jour with salad.
Paris At Night
You can’t miss exploring Paris at night.
One night we headed right up in the elevator at Tour Montparnasse and at the top went straight for more stairs to go even higher. We had missed sunset but the sky was red and the views in all directions got better as the sky darkened. We had a great view of the Tour Eiffel all lit up and just as we were ready to leave the sparkly lights came on. A great nighttime view of Paris and a good way to say “au revoir” to the iconic Paris sights!
If you get a hop on hop off boat pass, you can opt to also have a “romantic” night ride. After dinner, we headed to Notre Dame to pick up our boat ride for our illumination tour of the river. I was ready to leave the boat after a few stops so I knew this would not be the romantic cruise we had been seeking. We constantly fought for knee room with two sour faced rude Irish women. And while the first Italian woman breast feeding in front of us was quaint, as 3 full Italian families with screaming kids crowded our corner, it quickly lost its appeal. Pas de romantic, despite the nice light sights and an occasional stolen kiss, but it was really just floating public transit.
We would leave Paris having taste tested just a little more of the iconic Paris sights. It was a great start to our tour of France. From the bustle of Paris we would head into the mountains and the little town of Annecy.
What is your favourite place to return to in Paris? What was the last new discovery you made? What goes on your list of iconic Paris sights?