How You Say... Le Paris?

How to find the strongest beer, the weirdest bar, the best steak frittes, the coolest park, and the most unexpected buildings in Paris

Hotel les Argonautes

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by chaseshishorse on March 15, 2006

Staying in the Latin Quarter isn’t for everyone. If you require peace and quiet in order to sleep, specifically, it’s not for you. But if you like energy, restaurants, bars, people, and being in the middle of things, it should be right up your alley.

Hotel les Argonautes is an older hotel right in the thick of the Latin Quarter, a block off the Seine, so close to Notre Dame you can hear the bells. If you’re coming from Charles de Gaulle, hop on the RER Blue line and take it straight to St. Michel-Notre Dame station, less than 2 blocks from the hotel. The RER is MUCH cheaper than a cab (which is €30 to €50). A return trip on the RER is more difficult, since you’re starting in the middle of the line at a popular stop, rather than at the end of the line with a deserted train. If you’re going during peak travel times (morning and evening rush hours), you’ll probably have trouble squashing yourself and your luggage into the train, and can probably kiss any chance of finding a seat goodbye. Give yourself 45 to 60 minutes if traveling during peak times, 30 to 45 minutes otherwise (about the same for a cab).

If you’re coming from Place St. Michel, head towards Notre Dame on rue de la Huchette. The hotel is on your left, a couple of blocks down. At the end of the street is a bar called Le Petit Pont: if you get there, you’ve gone too far and it’s a block behind you. If you come up the Notre Dame exit stairs from the station, you’ll see Notre Dame straight ahead. Go right away from the river and turn right onto rue de la Huchette: the hotel is about a block down on your right (between rue de la Huchette and the river).

On the first floor is a Greek (I believe it’s Greek–we never ate there) restaurant and bar. Reception is upstairs, via a stairway to the right of the restaurant, along with a lounge with TV and unique furniture: the lampshades are made of teabags.

Singles, doubles, and triples are available (triples have a queen bed and a cot). Showers and sinks in the rooms, toilets down the hall. Some upper rooms have a view of Notre Dame and the Seine, so ask when you make a reservation. Rooms are clean and well-maintained. A triple costs a mere €80.

The main drawback to such a great location is that it’s quite loud. It’s worst on weekends and we never had all that much trouble sleeping, unless the Greek restaurant across the street started throwing plates out front. Luckily, there are plenty of bars where you can get pleasantly tanked before returning home to fall straight asleep with no trouble at all.

Within walking distance: Notre Dame, internet, pharmacies, restaurants, bars, shops, Place St. Michel, St. Chapelle, Luxemborg Gardens, St. Germain, the Pantheon.
Hotel les Argonautes
12 rue de la Huchette
Paris, France
+33 1 43 54 09 82

Sacrè Coeur

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by chaseshishorse on March 14, 2006

Sacrè Coeur is in the Montmartre district of Paris, famous for the Moulin Rouge, among other things. It's accessible from the Abbesses station on the 12 line, just after the Pigalle station—follow the signs (a warning: you might be tempted to take the stairs up from the station instead of waiting for the elevator. You might not even notice the elevator is there. Unless you hike up mountains a lot, THIS IS A MISTAKE. It is a whole lot of steps, several stories worth. Wait for the elevator. Seriously!).

The neighborhood is a good bit out of the central area, namely Ile de la Cite, but it's worth the trek, and is easy to get to by Metro.

The Basilica is up on top of the hill. You can either walk up the many stairs (stairs are big in this neighborhood), or take the funicular for a few Euro. My personal preference is funicular up, stairs down. The funicular is kind of cool in its own right, so don't be afraid of being a wuss and not taking the stairs.

Before going in you should take a moment to appreciate the view. You won't be able to help it, it's pretty spectacular. You can see all of Paris.

A few more steps (well, more than a few) and you're at the entrance of the Basilica. I've gotten differing reports on whether you can take pictures. I've taken them myself, as have some of my friends, but others have said they were scolded and told not to. My advice: take your chances and take them quickly before someone gets angry and makes you put your camera away. At least you can get a few good shots in.

The Basilica itself is lovely, particularly the mosaic ceilings and alcoves off the nave, one of which includes a detailed model of the Basilica. If you come on a weekend, you're bound to end up in the middle of a service. Unfortunately, tourists tend to ruin the atmosphere, so if you're hoping for a quiet, reverent experience, you'll probably be out of luck.

The neighborhood surrounding the Basilica is also worth a good chunk of time. Artists, pubs, and funky stores are in good supply. Specifically, Place du Tertre is usually packed with artists selling paintings and doing caricatures.
Basilica du Sacre Coeur
35, Rue Du Chevalier-de-la-barre Rue De La Bonne
Paris, France, 75018
+33 (1) 53 41 89 00

St. Chapelle

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by chaseshishorse on March 19, 2006

Want to find God? This is the place to do it. With a cozily dark lower chapel and a breathtaking upper chapel, St. Chapelle is the place to go to become a believer in the power of the church, or at least in the power of churches.

First off, it's not all that easy to find. If you're expecting it to be out in the open and obvious from wherever you look like Notre Dame, you're out of luck. It's tucked away in the Palais de Justice on Ile de la Cite (Metro stop is Cite). Find Boulevard du Palais (turns into Blvd. St. Michel when it crosses over the river). On this street is the Palais de Justice. St. Chapelle is inside the Palais; there is a door on Blvd de Palais (on the right if you're facing Place St. Michel). You can just see St. Chapelle over the roof if you're looking from the right place.

You'll have to have your bag searched and go through a metal detector on your way in. It's a government building, after all. Once you get into the courtyard, you can actually see the cathedral. The most impressive part is inside, don't worry. Discounted ticket if you're under 25.

St. Chapelle was built in the 1240s by Louis IX to house the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the true cross, recently acquired in Constantinople (not Istanbul... sing if you know the words!); the Crown was moved to Notre Dame, where is it trotted out every Friday to see its adoring fans during Lent or something.

You enter into the lower cathedral, a charming little space with groin vaults and fleur de lis painted on the dark blue ceiling. It is only slightly ruined by the souvenir stand in the middle. It is very ruined, however, by the yappy tourists making flattened pennies and calling out to each other about which postcards they should buy. Sadly they're upstairs too. Get used to them.

So the lower chapel is nice and all, but you start wondering what the big deal is, until you realize people are going upstairs, via spiral staircases tucked into the corners on either side of the entrance.

The stair deposits you in a corner of the upper chapel, looking up into a cocoon of pure, colorful light. Now I don't know about you, but the first thing I said upon entering was "God," so obviously it worked. Organized religion 1, Heathens 0.

The upper chapel is almost entirely stained glass in shades of blue, purple, and red. The columns are clustered and appear to be much smaller than they actually are, making the walls look wafer thin and the ceiling seem like it's floating above. Statues of the apostles look down from the walls. 600 square meters of stained glass provide a visual form of the bible, each window representing a book, from Genesis on through the History of Relics.

Find it. Visit it. It's worth it. I promise.
4 boulevard du Palais
Paris, France, 75001
+33 (1) 5340 6080

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