A June 2001 trip
to Paris by Red Mezz
Quote: Paris, whether you love it or hate it, leaves an impression on everyone who's seen it. It's uniqueness is something to be experienced.
Paris is indeed a city of wonders. There is an awful lot of hype around this European city, and I suspect if you know where to look, it is there to find. I must admit, of all the places in Europe I went, Paris did not stand out the most for me. There were a lot of things that made the trip less than satisfactory, which I will share in this journal so that you might avoid them on your own venture here.
But there were also a lot of really sublime moments where I sat down my camera and enjoyed the atmosphere around me. My trip to Paris was only about 3 days long, and despite the fact that I was ready to go at the end of that time--I highly suspect that a trip to Paris is something that should be done at a leisurely pace, with plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere, and visit all the little out of the way places that make this city special. I don't recommend this as a city to rush through, and it's probably not the best one to do on a very tight budget. As most shoestring travellers will know, you can pretty much do anywhere on a small budget if you do it smartly--but my own personal recommendation is that if Paris is on your list, you save it until it's one you can do with a little extra cash in your pocket. There were many things I missed out on there, that I would have loved to have seen, had I had a few extra Euros to get in and see it.
As I said at the start, the highlights of Paris are indeed very high. I'll be reviewing them all, but the two I will quickly mention are the two any traveller going to Paris should not miss. The first is the boat ride leaving the Eiffel Tower going down the Seine. My favourite bit of all of my trip to France. And Versailles is another stunning bit and well worth the trip out to see it.
My first tip is to have a well laid out map, and familiarize yourself with Paris as much as possible before you arrive. The buses I found in Paris were not as easy to navigate, and on arrival I was taken to the wrong side of town and ended up lugging my bags about an hour across town. (Leaving me with a shoulder that plays up to this day.) The underground is efficient, but as a young female, I wouldn't have enjoyed being on it alone. Luckily on this trip I had several friends with me, and I recommend other female travellers do the same--particularly if you are going to be on the underground at night.
The city can get incredibly crowded in the summertime (especially in hot spots like the Eiffel Tower) so stay close to those you travel with.
And lastly, I highly suggest you visit the Louvre. Even if your not bothered all that much, or can't really afford it. Of all the things I couldn't do while in Europe, I regret that one the most.
As with most European cities, walking will get you where you want to go. If you are coming in from London, I do recommend the Eurostar. It was a great bit of the trip--takes you quickly into the centre of Paris, and you get to tell people you rode it. (It is, after all, very cool.)
I had a tour coach for part of my stay in Paris, and it was the only one I ever had who was over an hour late and drove us to the wrong hotel. So if you go that route, be prepared.
The underground is very good, but be watchful of very bold French men and keep your bags close. And do take the stunning boat down the Seine.
Attraction | "The Eiffel Tower"
As most people probably do, I came into Paris with one eye looking for the Eiffel Tower. Not only is it something to see from a photographic point of view (I mean, let's face it, you can't come home from Paris with out some shots of the Eiffel Tower), but even for a non-Parisian there is something special about this sight. For me, as a traveller, there was something special about finally getting to see it. But there were also some mishaps involved, so I will write about both the highs and lows of this activity so that it can be enjoyed to the fullest.
There are many places in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, but for photographs, there is one place in particular it should be seen. On the south side of the tower is the Champs de Mars, a stunning park with the best view of it I could find. It makes a great afternoon to wander the park and see some of the local artists selling drawings of the Eiffel Tower for really good prices. But Paris gets incredibly crowded in summertime, particularly near the Eiffel Tower. If you plan on going up to the top, you will likely want a sunset view, but so will everyone else. If you do go in the summer, I recommend that you go at another time of day. It is open from 9am to midnight, and though the view at sunset is stunning, it loses something when you cannot stand still a moment without someone pushing past or into you. It was literally so crowded that they were shoving us into the elevator until it could not fit another person. I managed to get separated from my friends, and I HIGHLY recommend that you have a very specific meeting place arranged if you get separated. (Simply meeting at one of the legs isn't sufficient, as they are very hard to tell apart and you can easily get mixed up as to what side you are on coming back down.) But the views are stunning and worth the 10,70 euros to go to the top.
And be sure to see the Eiffel Tower at night. I was completely unaware of how it would look lit up and completely in awe when I saw it. After my fiasco getting down and finding my friends again, I sat down on the boat going down the Seine and looked up to suddenly see the Eiffel Tower looming over me, all lit up and sparkling over Paris. It isn't often that I completely set down my camera to enjoy a scene, but in that moment, my entire trip to Paris became a memorable event I will never forget.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 4, 2005
Champ De Mars
Attraction | "Versailles"
This is one of the well-known sights of Paris and one that I found the most awe-inspiring in all of France. For some, the bustle and hurry you find in a city the size of Paris can be a bit much and make a trip less than relaxing. But an afternoon at the palace of Versailles will restore all of your calm and reawaken the awe that brought you to the City of Lights. And if you love the atmosphere of Paris, you can't help but be entranced by the calming and really beautiful gardens of Versailles.
It's 14 miles outside of Paris, easily reached by bus, train, or car. By car, head down the Motorway A13 from Paris to the exit Versailles-Château. This is a sight that really is worth the drive. I was on a two-week hard-core sightseeing trip around Europe and was expecting just another tourist stop. But there is a beauty and serenity there that was one of the nicest parts of Europe.
The costs to go into the palace vary depending on the kind of tour you take, but the average admission price is 7.50 euros. The chateau is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and for most of the year from 9 am to 6:30 pm. This is a beautiful and photographic place to see in Paris.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 3, 2006
Palace of Versailles (Chateau de Versailles)
20 Km Sw Of Paris
01 30 83 78 00
Attraction | "Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris"
No trip to Paris would be complete without a stop at Notre Dame, and rightly so. In my experience, some of the great monuments and buildings in Europe have been so built up and seen so many times that by the time you actually see them, it can be a bit of a letdown. But that is certainly not the case with Notre Dame.
It leaps out of the surrounding scenery and immediately pulls you in. I do remember thinking it looked smaller than I had imagined, but that was just in driving up to it. Once you are standing in front of the cathedral, staring up in awe at the extremely intricate carvings above the entrance, all thoughts of it being small evaporate.
I remember that the weather was bad the day I stood before the cathedral, built between the 12th and 14th centuries, and even without the light that would have made it so stunning, I still found myself in awe. I think the real majesty of Notre Dame is in its stained glass. Some of the windows inside the cathedral were unlike anything I've seen before or since. I remember pulling out my best slide film to put in my camera and sending out a small wish I'd be able to capture something of them with out the benefit of good lighting. All indoor shots of cathedrals are inevitable letdowns, but to this day, the best ones I have came from Notre Dame. I recommend that you double-check on opening times, as they are a little tricky in being arranged around the mass schedule, as it is still a cathedral. Guided tours are available, though I recommend a quiet wander yourself around the inside. Even if you're not snapping photos (which you will certainly want to), it's a peaceful and stunning place that leaves a quiet impression on you. If you can go in the off-season, I would recommend it---I need to revisit Paris if for no other reason than to sit alone in the sanctuary of Notre Dame without a tour group calling out the next itinerary. If you're in Paris, make time for this. You won't regret it.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 2, 2006
6, place du Parvis-de-Notre-Dame
Paris, France 75004
+33 (1) 42 34 56 10
Attraction | "Seine Boat Tours"
Paris is a place that really is dependent on your tastes. I went on this particular trip with a large group of people--about half of them leaving the city telling everyone it was the best place they'd ever been, and the other half saying they hated it and wished they could have spent more of that time in another city.
But whichever side of that argument they fell on, pretty much all of them agreed on one thing: the boat ride down the Seine was one of the best, if not the best, things they did while in Europe. I think that Paris is a city like Barcelona, where you really need your own time and pace to appreciate the city as you see fit. If you get rushed through to all the museums and the sights, you really do miss something, and as it's a busy and crowded city anyway, it begins to become a hassle rather than an adventure. But whatever kind of trip you do find yourself on when you reach Paris, this one bit is something you can enjoy at your leisure.
There are lots of boats and tours to choose from; I would recommend checking the Paris Tourist website for prices and times. The one we took left just after sunset across from the Eiffel Tower. I rushed onto the boat after taking a frantic roll of film at the Eiffel Tower, sat down with a sigh, and realized I'd not sat down in almost 20 hours. And then I looked up as the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower began to light up and the lights began to glow on the water up and down the river, with soft French music playing softly while people loaded onto the boat, and then I did something I almost never do: I put the lens cap back on my camera, put it in my bag, and leaned my head on my hands to enjoy the ride. Some of my friends came back from that trip with stunning photos from that boat ride, but I don't regret my stopping to enjoy it for a moment.
It's a quiet 1-hour ride where you get to set yourself apart from the bustle of the city for a moment and watch it in luxuriant passing. The buildings you pass along the way are stunning, with what could only be French architecture; the music plays softly; and you get to see the locals walking arm-in-arm along the water's edge without having to edge past them. It was stunning, and something that a simple 500-word review could never do justice. If you're in Paris, don't miss this bit. It's something you won't ever forget.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 3, 2006
Seine Boat Tours / Dinner Cruise
Inverness, United Kingdom