Monday, January 21, 2013

What to do in Paris - Notre Dame to La Defense

If you remember, I visited Paris with my parents over the holidays and wrote about it here and here. We had just under two days of visiting so we tried to make the best of it. This post is the second part of Day 2, after visiting the Marais district we head to the Notre Dame on Ile de la Cite.

This is a typical tourist spot so we could barely get a decent photo from in front of the Cathedral, especially since some stairs had been built in front, for the people to watch the show of lights which takes place at night.
Another queue of people was waiting to get on top of the towers. I never went up the Notre Dame but I imagine the view must be spectacular, sitting in the middle of the whole city.

I suggested to go around the back of the Cathedral, this is one of the overlooked spots of Paris, behind the Notre Dame there is a beautiful and quiet park which unfortunately was closed but here is a picture, below. The bridge just next to the park is a favourite of lovers who put chains on the rail, something I've also seen on the Pont des Arts.

At this point we were already quite hungry and wanted to eat in a Parisian bistro. I already told you that Marais is a good place to eat, but maybe the best known area for eating out in Paris is the Quartier Latin. So we went towards the Sorbonne, but not before we stopped by the book sellers for a souvenir.
The Area around the Boulevard St Michel and St Germain de Pres is full of restaurants so we chose one and sat down for a late lunch and a coffee. If you feel like walking some more, you can continue to Jardin de Luxembourg, where the Senate is located in a beautiful Palace or you can visit the church of St Sulpice, as well in the area.
We decided to go towards the Louvre instead, passing by rue Mazarine which had commemorative medals on almost every house, one being the house where Champollion lived when he deciphered the hieroglyphs. Crossing the Pont des Arts, we had yet another beautiful view of Paris.
The Louvre is just in front and it seems as huge as it is.  We crossed the courtyards and saw the magic line of Paris, from the Arc de Triomphe du Carousel to the Arc de Triomphe to the Grande Arche in Defense, one straight line. This is how I got the idea to go to Defense.

Tip: if you visit the Tuilleries gardens and would like to visit a museum but think The Louvre is too big, try the Orangerie which houses some paintings by Monet, the Nympheas as well as some Cezanne, Modigliani, Picasso.
The metro line 1 which we took from Concorde to la Defense is fully automated, you can sit in front of the wagon and see when the train goes out of the tunnel, quite impressive.  But what is more impressive is this area of sky scrapers which the Parisians did not want so they built it far from the center.
And this is the end of the journey for us because after some shopping in the big shopping center close to the Arche, we headed to the hotel to again drink some cidre, watch tv and get ready for an early wake up because my parents had a flight to catch.

I think I've showed you you can see and do a lot in just 2 days in Paris. My advice is to take more time than that but if you only have 2 days, follow my tips and you will not be disappointed.

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