We’ve got one post up about Paris, but I thought it time for another. I do know, however, that Ana has more in the works as it was her first time to Paris.
It was the first time I’d been back to Paris in, well I’m not sure how long, but over a decade. And boy was it both the same and even better!
Traveling on a shoestring as a college kid has lots of appeal and it can be exciting, but I gotta say I enjoyed even more being in Paris as an adult with a job and the ability to afford decent Parisian food (read: wine) and all the museums I wanted!
All in all, we spent approximately 10 days in Paris this time around opting for an Airbnb instead of a hotel/hostel to help with social distancing. While I do enjoy hostels, mostly because you get to meet such interesting people, I’m also a fan of having a private bathroom and not sleeping in a dorm (though private rooms are often available in hostels for extra $$$).
We ended up in an Airbnb in the 11th Arrondissment near the Place de la Bastille.
We were near to plenty of wonderful cafes and restaurants, but became particularly fond of one just outside our place called Bar de la Fontaine (Ana does a great job of talking about in here post – Winter Break 2021 – Our Paris Home base, Bastille). If you’re in Paris, definitely check it out!
As I said, traveling as an adult (by adult I simply mean not being a broke college student) meant we got to do more of what we wanted to do!
Let’s start with some of the bucket list items we had set out. Since Ana had never been to Paris, we of course wanted to see and visit a few place.
You can’t really go to Paris and NOT go to the Louvre. Having been there before, I was really excited to go again and while Ana and I had a few different tastes in what interested us, we found some pretty awesome common ground.
I won’t get too much into detail here, but we spent an entire day at the Louvre, essentially from opening to closing. The sore feet were absolutely worth it!
Highlights included, as you might expect:
- Mona Lisa (a short wait in a line to get a close up view)
- French Crown Jewels
- Venus de Milo
- Da Vinci’s “Madonna on the Rocks” (a favorite of mine)
- Statue of the Goddess Nike
- Hammurabi’s Code
I’m sure Ana has others, but these were my top takeaways. I did not realize the first time I was there that Hammurabi’s code was present. I tend (and so does Ana) to gravitate towards historical artifacts over artwork and Hammurabi did not disappoint. Having seen the Ishtar Gate in Berlin and the Rosetta Stone in London, I was ecstatic to be able to see this as well. Not sure if Hammurabi had a code for doing good deeds in there somewhere, but if so, then I owe him something as it was a sight to behold.
Next on our list of top sights to see?
This is such a gorgeous building and has a long history in Paris as a mausoleum and a church (once or twice). As a mausoleum, it serves as the resting place for many of France’s most influential people (Rousseau, Hugo, Voltaire, Madam Curie, etc.).
We also visited as Josephine Baker was being (or had just been) given a spot in the crypt making her the first Black woman to be interred. The had her whole life story around the outside of the pantheon which was incredible to read through.
Another bucket list item? Le Jardin des Tuileries and the Arc de Triomphe.
Jardin des Tuileries & Arc de Triomphe
The gardens were a spot Ana did not want to miss and we made sure she did not. Unfortunately, as is to be expected, December/January isn’t the best time of year to see gardens flourishing. Still, we strolled through on a lovely afternoon that was neither hot nor cold. We took in the tourists and Parisians alike enjoying their day. We got great views of the Louvre and I think we maybe even picked up some churros? (There was a carnival just next door).
From the gardens, we strolled up the Champs-Elysees, looking at all the stores we couldn’t afford, until we reached the Arc de Triomphe. There was a time you could go up inside and to the top (if I’m remembering correctly), but you could not this time around and so we chose to walk around and get the best views we could.
A beautiful monument, the Arc de Triomphe is probably the second or third best recognized monument in Paris, after the…..
Along with Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty, Christ the Redeemer, the Eiffel Tower is perhaps the world’s best know piece of architecture, instantly recognizable in virtually every part of the world.
We hadn’t initially planned to go up the Eiffel Tower (lit up in blue as France…Macron) became the President of the EU. The colors offered amazing unique photos of the Eiffel Tower and we decided at the last minute to make the trek up the stairs.
It’s not the most stairs we’ve ever climbed (I think that particular award goes to the Fushimi Imari Shrine in Kyoto), but it was still quite a few. It was worth it though! Seeing how it was January and not warm and after dark, it was emptier than I expected. Not empty, but…emptier.
You can see so much of the city from the Eiffel Tower including our next location.
This Gothic church is something I missed the first time round, but knew I wanted to make it to on my second trip. Sainte Chappelle is a small church (in terms of space indoors compared to say Notre Dame) of light with stained glass windows adorning all sides. It was originally built to house Christian relics, specifically Christ’s Crown of Thorns (now part of Notre Dame), but also, apparently, bits of the cross.
It is one the most stunningly beautiful edifices I have ever seen, inside and out. My words will not do it justice, so please see for yourself.
Lastly, at least for me, was an opportunity to see the Paris Catacombs. Built in the late 18th century to make room for the overflowing cemeteries, these catacombs cover 11,000 sq. meters and house the remains of over 6 million people. It is a sight to behold and it’s easy to see how someone who enters the catacombs at unofficial entrances, could easily get lost and stuck forever. The catacombs were certainly eerie, but also a cause for reflection.
There were many other sites to see that I won’t list here, from museums (like the Musee d’Orsay) to churches and historic landmarks. You’ll notice I notably left off Notre Dame de Paris, but as it’s currently under construction, you can’t see much aside from the outside facade and Rose window. The sites in Paris are seemingly endless and when you feel you’ve run out of things to do or see, it’s simple enough to find yourself just wandering down a side street, getting lost in the architecture, the food, or stumbling upon some overlooked piece of history.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this post and keep an eye as we’ll slowly start to issue some city guides of must sees and short itineraries!