A September 2007 trip
to Paris by rufusni
Quote: Quite the city - there is no lack of beautiful and interesting things to see and do.
To experience Paris means walking lots. However, it is a large city and has a fantastic metro system that is fast and efficient with lots of lines and there is nearly always a metro station a short walk away. Lines are numbered and coloured, but you will need to know the direction of travel that is the station at the end of the line, but it is very easy to pick up a metro map. You can buy a carnet of individual tickets or a travel pass which allows unlimited journeys, which you feed into the machine and then is shot out again. Make sure you keep your ticket for the entire journey as often tickets are checked on the way out of metro stations. There is the Paris Visite pass for unlimited journeys for 1, 2, 3, or 5 days and you can choose one of two travel zones either zones 1-3 which covers the city centre and the entire metro system, or zones 1-6 which is the Paris area and includes Charles de Gaulle airport. There is also a children's version of this. Details of transport in Paris can be found on RAPT website: www.ratp.info/informer/anglais.Traffic in Paris is crazy, so if on foot watch out while crossing roads, but if you have a car try keeping driving in Paris to a minimum - it's not worth the hassle if you can avoid it.
Paris has three airports - Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Orly are the main airports and have a variety of links into Paris including trains and buses. The third is Beauvais which is further out of Paris and is used by a few cheap airlines like Ryanair, because of this transport links are limited to a bus link to the city which takes more than an hour.
Paris is the centre of the large French train network with links across the whole of Europe, and the express train services - TGV -are a great way to travel across France as they are comfortable and efficient.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 7, 2007
Citea La Defense Place Charras
1, rue de Bitche
La Defense, France 92400
+33 (1) 56 37 72 00
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 8, 2007
Hotel Moulin Vert
74 rue du Moulin Vert
Paris, France 75014
+33 (1) 45 43 65 38
Attraction | "Sainte-Chapelle (La)"
Tucked into the Palais de Justice on Ile de la Cite, this 13th century church is a gem that many people miss. It was built as a royal chapel for Louis IX to hold various relics he had acquired including Christ's crown of thorns. The chapel has two levels - the lower level was to serve as a parish church for the palace but the upper level was reserved for the royal family. The unknown architect of this Gothic building in the rayonnant style designed the structure as to maximise the size of the windows. The upper chapel seems to have walls of stained glass held up by fine pillars. The rich colour of the stained glass is magnificent and photos cannot convey its splendour as the colour of light splashes across the chapel. The pictures windows is in depicts scenes from the Bible and there are also carved wooden sculptures of the apostles.
This is such an amazing example of Gothic architecture and stained glass - more stunning than its near neighbour, Notre Dame. It is beautiful and worth taking time to admire the stained glass - there are seats around the edge of the chapel to sit and admire in silence. Unfortunately, its difficult to capture the colour of the glass in your own photos unless you are carrying around amazing camera equipment, so its worth picking up some postcards of the chapel. I have to say I spent quite a bit of time sitting and admiring the detail of the windows, which are incredibly elaborate and simply divine.The church is within the Palais de Justice complex and consequently there is a security screening, which I had to queue to get through for a few minutes, but there wasn't a huge queue. Tickets cost 6euro (there are also reduced tickets for students, teachers) but is also part of Paris Museum Pass.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 17, 2007
4 boulevard du Palais
Paris, France 75001
+33 (1) 5340 6080
Attraction | "La Defense"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 17, 2007
Parvis de la Defense
Paris, France 92800
Attraction | "Sacre-Coeur"
This white basilica is visible from its hill perch across Paris and has become a distinctive element of the Paris skyline. Its construction was the result of a private agreement of two businessmen during the Prussian war, that if France was spared they would build a church. Work began in 1875 and was completed in 1914 but the Great War delayed its consecration until 1919. There is a continual adoration of the blessed sacrament in Sacre Coeur that has been going on for over a hundred years.
Entrance into the basilica is free, but they are very strict on dress code, so be careful of what you wear or you maybe refused admission. Equally as there is prayer going on continuously silence is enforced and no photography is permitted. However, there are so many tourists wandering around that the sense of this being a place of prayer is lost. (If you are looking for space to pray in peace try St-Pierre de Montmartre which is just around the corner.) It is possible to climb the dome of the basilica and have great views over Paris, but this costs 5 euros and if you wander round the area you'll get many equally good views if you are trying to save money.
Since this basilica is at the top of Montmartre Hill, its a fairly steep walk up here if you walk up from the metro, but there are buses and funicular which will avoid most of the climb. However, there are steps just in front of the basilica, which to get a good picture of the basilica must be negotiated.
Basilica du Sacre Coeur
35, Rue Du Chevalier-de-la-barre Rue De La Bonne
Paris, France 75018
+33 (1) 53 41 89 00
Attraction | "Place des Abbesses"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 18, 2007
Famed across the world, this museum housed in the former royal palace is incredible - you could spend weeks wandering around this place and still not see everything. Never mind that the building itself is beautiful and some of the rooms that have been restored to their former glories are so elaborate and rich. There was a fortress built here in 1200 by Philippe-Auguste, with some of the walls now visible in the underground part of the Louvre, but the palace was started in mid-15th century by Francois I, and was enlarged many times after this. After the revolution, in 1793, part of the building was opened as a museum exhibiting art work that the royal family had accumulated, including La Giocanda (the Mona Lisa). But in 1981 the Louvre museum was enlarged and a new entrance added - the glass pyramid designed by IM Pei.
There are several entrance - the glass pyramid , but generally the quicker option is the underground access which is accessible from the metro. Details of opening times and the collection are on the museum's website www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home_flash.jsp but note it is closed on Tuesdays.
There are so many exhibits and sections that it's worth planning what you want to see - is seeing the Mona Lisa very important? Or Greek sculpture? There are three wings - Denon, Richelieu, and Sully each with different collections and very large, so don't expect to cover the entire museum in a visit. If you want to see the major tourist draws like the Mona Lisa be prepared for huge crowds, or come early or late in the day to avoid the worst crowds. But don't miss the many other incredible pieces in rushing to see those that are must see- otherwise you'll miss out on see something that you will find that speaks to you. I ended up in medieval artifacts gallery the last time I visited by accident, and saw intricate embroidery that was so fine and beautiful and I fell in love with them quite unexpectedly. Don't just look at pictures, sculpture, and artifacts for their history but take time to just enjoy them, to look closer and discover what you feel about them. Honestly, I remember very little except for items that I took time to reflect on for myself. The Louvre is just so full of exquisite pieces that you'll find something that intrigues you, and that is what makes this museum so special. So take time to enjoy!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 18, 2007
Musée du Louvre
99, rue de Rivoli
Paris, France 75001
+33 (1) 40 20 51 51
This Gothic cathedral is built on Ile de la Cite, on the site of an earlier cathedral. It was started in 1160 and was completed in 1345. It was badly damaged in the Revolution with the Kings Gallery above the doors being mistaken for kings of France rather than kings of the Old Testament. It had major restoration work started in the 1820s after a campaign involving Victor Hugo.
The Gothic design is evident in the flying buttress at the far end of the cathedral, as these allowed larger stained glass windows and the high vaulted ceilings. There are two beautiful rose windows - with the Mary at the centre and Jesus in the other. There is also an intricately carved and painted Chancel screen depicting scenes from Jesus' life.Entrance to the cathedral is free, but you can buy candles to light and there is also a book to include prayer requests. It is open everyday until 7pm. It is also possible to climb the towers - there is a separate entrance outside at the side of the cathedral. It is a long climb up narrow stone spiral staircases, and is quite tough going. However, there are great views of the city and the opportunity to see gargoyles up close and personal. I've been up several buildings in Paris, but this is probably my favourite, the views are great as well as the chance to see the architecture up close. It cost 6 euros and there is often a long wait to go up, but I think its worth it.
The cathedral just has an amazing wow factor with the large square in front of it and the incredible carved stonework especially the fine work around the doors. Yet inside is equally amazing with its soaring ceilings and elaborate and rich decoration. The grand Gothic architecture gives this the sense of being a great cathedral, unfortunately the hordes of tourists snapping photos detract from the atmosphere of prayer in this place. Its definitely worth coming here early before the tour buses descend to miss the crowds.
Just directly behind the cathedral is Square Jean XXIII which is a delightful formal garden with a fountain and rows of trees with good views of the flying buttress of the cathedral. There are lots of benches and it's a pleasant place to take a rest or have a picnic lunch. There is a bandstand and I was lucky to have a jazz band playing the last time I was there.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 18, 2007
6, place du Parvis-de-Notre-Dame
Paris, France 75004
+33 (1) 42 34 56 10
This arch lies at the centre of the east-west axis from Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel to Grande Arche de la Defense. The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 but problems ensued and Napoleon's demise delayed its completion until 1836. The arch is 50m tall and is covered with bas-relief and statues depicting victories. High up is a row of shields which bare the names of victories that Napoleon had in Europe and Africa.
Napoleon after the victory in the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 had promised that his soldiers would return home under triumphal arches - but this was only realised after WW1. And then in 1920 the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed at the base of the arch and also an eternal flame to commemorate the dead of both World Wars. This arch lies in the centre of a very busy roundabout, known originally as Place d'Etoile because there are 12 avenues radiating out from here, (though it is now Place Charles de Gaulle). To reach the arch safely there are several subways under the road. It costs about 8 euros to climb to the top of the arch - but there is a narrow stone staircase to climb. However, there are good 360 degree views around Paris but I think there are better views to be had.
There is a metro station here with 2 lines crossing here. The arc also lies at the top of the Champ Elysees, probable the city's most famous thoroughfare, and as such worth a walk down. The major detraction is that it is a busy road with a lot of noisy traffic. There are plenty of places to have a coffee and say that you did so, however its not exactly the most pleasant atmosphere - and the cheapest option is to do so with one of the fast food restaurant who do have canopied areas at the front.
Arc de Triomphe
Paris, France 75008
+33 (1) 55 37 73 77
On the bank of the Seine is an incredible modern building that houses the Institut du Monde Arabe. The Institut was founded in 1980 by France and 20 Arab countries to foster cultural links between the Islamic world and the West. The building itself was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, and one of the aims of its design was to combine the spirit of traditional Arab architecture with modern materials and technology. One element of this is one side of the building which has an intricate geometrical design of Islamic influence based on moucharabiyahs - carved wooden screens found on the exterior of buildings in many Islamic countries. However, this geometric metal wall is actually made up of panels that are reactive light screens which control the amount of light entering the building. Each panel has 21 irises which open and close dependent on sunshine levels, and so the overall design alters depending on light levels. This feature is quite spectacular!
The building houses several different sections including a library, but there is also a beautiful display of Islamic art work. The display of artwork seems quite unusual to Western eyes because of what the Islamic religion permits to be portrayed, so there is quite an emphasis on geometric designs. There is a wide array of ceramics, sculpture, and rugs.
The top floor of the Institut has two restaurants - Le Ziryab - has panoramic views over the Seine, and a self-service café that with very reasonable prices. My price range meant that Le Ziryab was out of my price range but I tried the self-service café for lunch - which was average - and given that you are in Paris there are better options. Whether or not you eat here, it's possible to come out onto the roof and have great views over the Seine. Back downstairs there is a bookshop and also a shop across the outside courtyard which sells items of Arabic influence. This is an interesting place to visit that may not be on the usual tourist trail but if you want to see something different, then this is a good place to try out. The Institut is open Tuesday- Sunday from 10am to 6pm. Further details can be found on the Institut's website at www.imarabe.org.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 31, 2007
Institut du Monde arabe
1 rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard
Paris, France 75236
+33 (1) 4051-3838
Attraction | "Panthéon"
This is a huge grand building in a neo-classical style that was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. It was intended as the Church of Ste-Genevieve, who is the patron saint of Paris. It was built by Louis XV after he prayed to Sainte Genevieve while ill then he recovered and wished to honour the saint. Work began in 1764, but when it was completed in 1790, the revolution was in full swing and consequently it was named the Pantheon and became the burial place for the great men of Paris. Napoleon did return the building to the Church in 1806, and was handed back and forth several times, until it was finally settled as a civic building in 1885.
The usage of this building is clear from the inscription above the entrance which reads "Aux Grands Hommes la Patrie Reconnaissante" which translated is "To great men the grateful homeland." The crypt under the church is full of tombs of the great men of France. It is covered in marble and consequently it is lovely and cool - and a pleasant break from the stifling heat of Paris in summer. The crypt has tombs of many famed Frenchmen including Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Voltaire, and Alexandre Dumas. However, history was made in 1995 when the first woman was added to the crypt, along with here husband - Marie and Pierre Curie. There was also an exhibit in the crypt about the Curie's lives and work.I was disappointed as the replica of Foucault's pendulum, an experiment that showed that the earth rotated, had been temporarily taken down. It normally hangs from the dome inside the pantheon. The rest of the interior is quite grand but I didn't find it especially interesting.The Pantheon is open daily with times varying on the time of year: from April to September: 10am - 6.30pm and from October to March: 10am - 6.15pm. There is an entrance fee but it is included on the Paris Museum Pass.Considering all the other sights and museums I have seen in Paris, this is probable one of which I would rank low on my priority list of going to visit. If you are in the area, do visit but otherwise think whether this should be on your to-see list or not.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on July 31, 2007
Place Du Panthéon
+33 (1) 44 32 18 00
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 2, 2007
62, Rue De Lille
Paris, France 75343
+33 (1) 4049-4994
Attraction | "Musée Rodin"
77, Rue De Varenne
+33 (1) 44 18 61 10
Attraction | "Jardin du Luxembourg (Le)"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 5, 2007
Jardin du Luxembourg
Paris, France 75006
33 (1) 42 34 20 00
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom