Highlights of Paris

Paris is such a huge city with an estimated population of more than two million and a metropolitan population of over 12 million, covering about 105 square kilometres, we could barely do it justice in the short period of time we had.  Chris and I had a full week, but the kids only had five days.  Still, I think we saw enough to give us a good overview of the city.  I definitely saw enough to conclude this is my most favourite city in the world – at least so far.

It seems our first night in Paris with the kids, on my birthday, set the schedule for the rest of the week where we went to bed late and slept in later than normal in the morning.  We still managed to cram a lot into each day, often returning to the apartment in the late afternoon for a rest before heading out for another late night.

The first few days in Paris were cool and wet although it rained on and off so we could time things to avoid the rain most of the time.  I was surprised at how cool it was, especially in the evenings.  But the last three days warmed up significantly and it finally felt like summer.  The warm weather seemed to bring the crowds so it was a mixed blessing.

July 14 is Bastille Day in France, the equivalent of Canada Day (July 1st) in Canada.  It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. Many events are planned for the day including a large military parade in the morning along the Champs-Elysées.  Unfortunately, by the time we got ourselves organized, it was pretty much over.  However, we did watch the spectacular fireworks held that night in front of the Eiffel Tower.  There must have been close to half a million people crammed onto the Champs de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower.  In keeping with the “disco” theme, a large disco ball was suspended from the Eiffel Tower and music from the 70′s and 80′s accompanied the 30-minute fireworks display.  It was an incredible experience.

Alyssa captured the fireworks and the twinkling
lights that go on every hour on the hour. 

 Andrew’s perspective of the fireworks.

Each day we explored a new neighbourhood, usually on foot, sometimes by metro (especially when it was raining) and often using the public bicycles.  In fact, this was our favourite mode of transportation.  It was a great way to cover some distance while at the same time going slow enough to really enjoy the scenery.  Mind you the traffic was a bit crazy at times so you had to be very alert and cautious especially on large promenades like the Champs-Elysées. We saw many locals using these bikes – men in business suits coming home from work during rush hour traffic and many women in high heels and short skirts or dresses.  The most memorable sight Chris and I saw before the kids arrived was that of a young woman on a bike wearing a see-through dress and super high heels.  As she passed by, we got a great view of her thong bikini.  Oh-la-la!

Food was another highlight of our visit.  We ate breakfast at the apartment each day and usually enjoyed a late afternoon snack when we returned for our little breaks.  The rest of the time we enjoyed the French culinary experience and had many delicious meals.

(Food photos courtesy of Alyssa)

It wasn’t all fine dining though.  Of course a visit to Paris would not be complete without eating chocolate crêpes and croissants which were readily available on just about every street corner.  And some of us enjoyed the food in the amusement park too.

(Photo courtesy of Andrew)

(Photo courtesy of Alyssa)

(Photo courtesy of Andrew)

(Photo courtesy of Alyssa)

Andrew, Alyssa and I took every opportunity to practice our French and I was impressed with how well we managed.  Alyssa probably hasn’t spoken French since high school yet she conversed quite easily, especially when we were shopping.  Andrew has been learning French at work and is very conversational.  Poor Chris was often left in the dark as we sometimes forgot his language skills were far more basic.  We did not experience any rudeness when we spoke in French as I have heard is often the case.  To the contrary, most people were patient and very helpful, even if they could speak English, they often continued in French.

Andrew’s Parisian look – the hat was bought from a street vendor.

We did, however, experience plenty of French rudeness in other situations.  For example, one afternoon Chris, Alyssa and I were standing on the sidewalk waiting for Andrew to catch up.  Alyssa and I were on one side, and Chris on the other.  We were not blocking the sidewalk in any way; there was plenty of room to pass between us, and several people did with the exception of one woman.  This woman walked along the outside edge of the sidewalk where Chris was standing and when she reached him, she stopped abruptly in front of him, so close that their noses were practically touching.  At first we thought somehow she recognized us from somewhere and we all stared at her, puzzled.  She just stood there expectantly for a moment and when nobody moved,  she said curtly (in French), “I would like to pass, if you don’t mind”.  Chris didn’t understand what she said, so I translated.  Chris was so taken aback.  There was plenty of room on the sidewalk to walk by, but this women felt she had the right to walk where Chris was standing.  Chris stepped aside and the woman haughtily continued on her way like we had been such an inconvenience to her.  There were plenty of other situations where we encountered what we perceived to be an arrogant and condescending attitude towards us.

On our last day, we planned to visit the Louvre and ride the Ferris Wheel in the amusement park next to the Tuileries Garden.  Almost every day we passed by these attractions but for one reason or another didn’t visit either.  We couldn’t believe it when we arrived at the Louvre early Tuesday morning to find out it was closed on Tuesdays!  Similarly, we arrived at 11:00 on Tuesday night to ride the Ferris Wheel only to find they had just closed it down early because a film crew was setting up to shoot a film.  We accepted that it just wasn’t meant to be.  And all the more reason to return to Paris one day.

Alyssa in front of the old-fashioned carousel.

Big kids on the swing.  It was actually quite scary.

The elusive ferris wheel as seen from Tuileries Garden.

At the amusement park – a family of shutter bugs.

Another perspective of the ferris wheel.

Tuileries Garden with the Louvre.

There were plenty of chairs throughout the Tuileries Garden 
offering many places to take a break.
(Photo courtesy of Andrew) 

 (Photo courtesy of Alyssa)

The photos below are in front of the Louvre….
the closest we got!  (Photos courtesy of Andrew)

On the way to Sacre Coeur Cathedral, we passed through the neighbourhood where the famed Moulin Rouge was located, close to Montmartre in the Paris district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement.  We were surprised to find ourselves in the middle of a sex district.   Montmartre was a charming neighbourhood with steep streets filled with lots of little boutiques and restaurants geared very much to the tourist crowd.

(Photo courtesy of Andrew)

(Photo courtesy of Alyssa)

(Photo courtesy of Andrew)

Sacre Coeur Cathedral stood high on a hill.

An expansive view of Paris from atop Sacre Coeur Cathedral.
Notice the Eiffel Tower in the far distance. 

Climbing the exterior stairs to the roof top of Sacre Coeur Cathedral.

Laughing at Chris’ jokes on the way to the top.

The interior staircase to the rooftop.
(Photo courtesy of Andrew) 

The Eiffel Tower as seen through Alyssa’s telescopic lens
from atop Sacre Coeur Cathedral. 

The shadow of Sacre Coeur over the city landscape.
(Photo courtesy of Alyssa) 

On our way to the Eiffel Tower by bike, we paused to take this photo.  Across the street we saw the monument that is a tribute to Princess Diana, marking the place where she died in a car crash fifteen years ago.

We enjoyed more great views of the city from the second level of the Eiffel Tower that we reached via the staircase.  Surprisingly, it was a relatively short wait (about 30 minutes) to purchase our tickets.  The climb to the first and second levels didn’t take that long either.

A night time cruise along the Seine offered a different perspective of the city.

(Above photos courtesy of Alyssa)

 

We crammed so much more into our few days in Paris including a visit to the famous flea market, Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, lots of shopping wherever we went, listening to street musicians the highlight of which was a group playing classical music, a visit to the Latin Quarter, and a walk through St. Germain de Pres.  By the end of our trip, we were pretty tired but satisfied with all that we saw and did.  As we headed back to England via the train through the chunnel, there was a lot more fun still in store for this family vacation.

Category: Europe, France
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2 Responses
  1. sonja says:

    hey Chris and Chris…..reading your paris posts and seeing your pictures brought back lots of memories of when I was in Paris….it truly is a wonderful city!

    Cheers!

    • christina says:

      Hi Son,
      I remember when you went to Paris and the long days of walking that you did…..I now understand why! There is so much more to see, so I think we’ll definitely go back one day. Who knows, maybe we’d even live there for a year. I would love to do that.
      Chris