Tag Archive: Paris


Versailles

I thought that Schönbrunn was the largest palace anyone could possibly want or need. How wrong I was.

Versailles is by far much larger and grander than Schönbrunn, both in the size of the gardens and in the size of the palace itself. However, like Schönbrunn it started as a hunting lodge and was slowly expanded and built into what we see today. Once it was transformed into a palace, the seat of the French government was moved here and the kings of France had their homes in the palace. It was only after the French Revolution that it was no longer occupied.

There are a few different sections of the palace that can be explored. We took a tour of the King and Queen’s Grand Apartments, which are set off to the right of the palace. They built this section, because the king and queen wanted an area where they could live separate lives from the court and have some peace and quiet. The King’s Apartment was very impressive, although the rooms were smaller than I thought they would be. Many of the rooms had hidden doors that led into secret sections of the apartments where the king could spend his time alone and working on official business.

The rest of the palace has been transformed into a museum. Below is a model of the palace when it was in the first stages of its construction. Although it is large, this little place is nothing compared to the vast palace today.
Versailles Model

The palace and the gardens today. The two buildings in the very front of the model are the stables.

Model Today

The front gates.

Versailles Front Gates

Inside the front square.

Inside the Gates

The Queen’s bed. The queen never actually slept in this bed, but simply received her guests in this room.

The Queen's Room

The Hall of Mirrors.

Hall of Mirrors

Even more impressive than the palace were the gardens. The garden itself could hold a small town, with enough space for people to live comfortably. My family and I decided it was worth the money, and we became the ultimate tourists by renting a golf cart and touring the gardens that way. It was a good thing we did, because it would have taken us well over an hour just to get to the Grand Trianon, which sits on the other side of the garden from the palace.

The Gardens from behind the Latona Fountain. The large lake in the center is called the Grand Canal, after the canal in Venice. There used to be two gondolas floating in the lake as well.

Latona Fountain

The Apollo Fountain

Apollo Fountain

Advertisements

Notre Dame

We were in Paris, so of course we had to visit Notre Dame. Thanks to Disney, my sister and I had a number of songs to sing about the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The front of Notre Dame is actually rather plain, the two towers hide the back of the tower making the church look smaller than it really is. It was the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame while we were visiting, so there was some sort of exhibit in front of the church, plus some bleachers for people to sit on and admire the architecture.
Front of ND

We climbed the left side of the tower first. The entire tour takes you up through the left tower across the small bridge and then up again to the very top of the right tower. From there we were allowed to walk around the small tower and see the city from various angles. The only disappointing thing was that the bells were being worked on, so we had no luck seeing them.

The steps up to the lookout.

The steps were worn down by so many feet that they were more like bowls that steps.

Stairs up to ND

The back of Notre Dame.

From the top of ND

The famous gargoyles of Notre Dame.

The church is said to be one of the better examples of Gothic architecture both in France and in Europe as a whole. I’ve seen a lot of churches on this trip, and I have to admit that these were probably some of the most beautiful and creepy gargoyles I’ve seen. Each and every one was different in shape and character. Some were just sitting looking over the city, while others held smaller creatures in their hands and enjoying a meal.

Gargoyles

Over Paris

After descending the right tower, we visited the inside of the church, which really put into perspective just how huge the cathedral really was. Once we exited the church we headed towards the back and it took on a completely different look. I actually like the back of Notre Dame the most. It has huge arches that shoot out from the main building and form into sturdy pillars, making the building look like a creature, ready to lift its massive body from the earth.

From the Back of Notre Dame.

A typical street in Paris.

The streets of Paris are just plain dirty. There are unpleasant things all over the streets and sidewalks, but despite this I felt like Paris streets had a certain charm and character that I hadn’t yet found in any other European city. There was always a small restaurant to stop at on every corner and the buildings were smashed together creating small alleys, each of which seemed to hold its own special secret.

Paris Streets

I was told by a friend that I needed to visit a bookstore not too far from Notre Dame. After not much searching at all, we arrived at Shakespeare & Company. It is a very unassuming shop, just off the main street and somewhat hidden behind a wall, but despite this it was my favorite place in Paris. True, I was born to love books, but even one who reads only one book a year would appreciate the charm of S&C.

Even before entering the store you have travel through thick curtains to see inside. As I pushed them aside, I felt like I was entering another world. The rooms of the store hardly fit together. It was almost a game to try to discover all the different nooks and crannies the store was hiding. Books covered the ceiling from top to bottom, they were piled on tables and overflowing in customer’s arms (especially mine).

S & C

The first floor of the building is a store, while the second floor is a living space, but also holds a number of books not for sale. There was a small living space, a cubby for writing, a small nook for reading and a bedroom with a piano. Basically, I want to this place as my home.

WIndow Seat

A small cubby filled with notes and a simple red typewriter.

Writing Corner

Typewriter

After buying the store out, we headed back to the apartment as the sun set. Every hour after the sun sets, the Eiffel Tower puts on a light show and sparkles in the sky. We were barely able to catch the show and ended up watching the beautiful sight from the side of the tower.

The Eiffel Tower at night.

Orange Sky

Under the Tower at Night

Eiffel Tower

The following morning my father and I went to the Eiffel Tower early to try and reach the top before it got too crowded. Even though I had seen the Moulin Rouge the day before, I still wasn’t really convinced that I was in Paris. Walking along the streets felt different than any other city I’d been to so far, but it still hadn’t really hit me that I was in Paris.

We came from the northwest side of the city and rounded the Palais de Chaillot, which provided a dramatic lead-up to the tower’s unveiling. It was only after I was standing in front of the tower that I truly felt like I was in Paris. It was an impressive view and a site I had never really imagined seeing in person. I’ve seen Paris in movies, read about it in books and seen it in pictures, but there’s nothing like actually standing in front of the Eiffel Tower to put in perspective how lucky I am.

The Eiffel Tower from the Palais de Chaillot. The sun was just rising, but already the entire place was covered in tourists!

Eiffel Tower from the Palais de Chaillot

Tower in the Morning

As we walked towards the Eiffel Tower, I couldn’t stop thinking, “I’m in Paris!”. It was really surreal and I almost couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Eiffel Tower Silhouet

The tower from below.

Under the Tower

We reached the tower and then frantically searched for the quickest way to the top. Maybe I’m spoiling the secret, although I feel like it’s really not that huge of a secret, but the Eiffel Tower can be climbed! That one or two-hour long line that you’re waiting in, well just go around the corner and it takes a minute to buy a ticket and start the climb. This is what we did and it was actually really nice. There was no line, the staircase has a number of informational posters and along the way you get to admire the incredible infrastructure of the tower. I can’t even imagine how Eiffel (the tower is named after its architect, he also built the Statue of Liberty) could conceive such a massive tower of steel.

Some fun facts about the Eiffel Tower. It was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1889. It was finished in only a little over 2 years and it reaches the height of 324 meters or 1,063 feet. There are 704 steps to the second floor.

Steel

Almost there!

Climbing Up

As far as I know no one is allowed to climb to the very top of the tower, but we were able to make it to the first and second levels. It really wasn’t that bad of a climb and once we reached the top we were able to snag some tickets to ride the final elevator to the summit.

The view from the summit looking out over Paris and the park, Champ de Mars.

Lookout

Paris from Above

The Sacred Heart Basilica, which we visited the other day.

Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre

The L’hôtel des Invalides really stands out on the Paris skyline. It sparkles among all the short grey buildings.

L'hôtel des Invalides

The metro station in the vicinity of our apartment. The entrances to the stations are done in the Art Nouveau style, painted green with swirling arches and curves. It’s really beautiful, but sometimes makes it difficult to find the station entrances among the busy streets and buildings.

Metro

After visiting the Eiffel Tower we picked up my mother and sister at the apartment and then headed to the Arc de Triomphe. This arch is surrounded by the world’s largest roundabout. We witnessed a few daring (or stupid) people running across the roundabout, but there is of course a safer way in an underground tunnel.

The Arc was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon to celebrate his victories, but it was not finished until 1836. The Germans and Allies took turns marching through this arch at different periods in time. First the Germans marched through in 1871, then the Allies in 1919. During World War II the Germans marched through the arch again in 1940 and at the end of the war in 1944 the Allies marched through.

Arc de Triomphe

Looking out over the tomb of an unknown soldier from WW I. The flame burns for the lives lost during WW I and WW II.

Eternal Flame

The ceiling of the arch.

Under the Arc

After touring the arch we turned towards the Avenue Des Champs-Élysées, which lines up perfectly with the tomb of the unknown soldier and the arch. This avenue is full of big-name stores, Christmas stalls, people and cars.

Champ Elysee

At the opposite end of the Champs-Élysées is the Place de la Concorde, one of the larger squares in Paris. Situated in the center of it is the Grande Roue de Paris, the ferris wheel, and the Luxor Obelisk. The Obelisk used to be at the Luxor Temple in Egypt, but was offered to France as a gift.

Grande Roue de Paris and Luxor Obelisk

One of the fountains on the Place de la Concorde.

Place de la Concorde

From the Concorde we headed towards the river Seine so that we could walk back towards the Eiffel Tower along the river. We crossed the Seine on the famous Pont Alexandre III bridge, which is decorated with a number of statues, some completely gold and also intricate lamps. The view of the Eiffel Tower from the bridge is beautiful.

Pont Alexandre III

As we headed back to our apartment the sun was beginning to set and the Eiffel Tower was lit.

Eiffel Tower at Night

First Day In Paris

We left Vienna early in the morning, taking a two-hour flight across Europe to Paris. When we landed the sun hadn’t even brightened the sky, so we got to the see the twinkling lights of the city below. Once we had gotten all our luggage we jumped on a train to get to the Guard du Nord (one of the train stations). It was nice arriving early in the morning, but we were not allowed to check in to our apartment until four in the afternoon. Despite this setback we found a locker room after some searching and left our bags at the station for the day.

The Guard du Nord.

The Train Station

Our first view of the streets of Paris.

We ate at a little cafe just across from the train station. The food was amazing and the waiter served us our meal with a “voilà!”

Arriving in Paris

After eating we made our way to the Basilika Sacré-Cœur, which sits on a hill overlooking Paris. It’s actually a lot larger than it looks, because the dome blocks the rest of the church. While we made our way up to the top, we had to dodge these men who were trying to sell something. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it looked like a basic piece of string. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone would give them money, but their tactic was one of intimidation. They would surround one or two people and talk and even grab them to try to get their money. I’ve never seen so many scammers in one place before. In reality, I think it’s a shame that they choose to stand outside a church and hassle people, but what can you do?

Basilika Sacré-Cœur from A Distance

Basilika Sacré-Cœur

After walking through the church we headed back down the hill. Most of the streets were quiet except for one in particular, which was packed with tourists and cheesy shops.

Tourist Shops

The Moulin Rouge was also in the vicinity. It is not the original one, which burnt down, but it was still exciting to see.

The Moulin Rouge

Eventually, we made our way back to the train station and the next few hours were spent hauling our bags all over Paris. The company we booked with decided it was a good idea to switch our apartment and not tell us, so instead of being where we had planned, we were actually another two or three major streets away. Lucky for us there was a nice taxi driver who was willing to flag down a van, which was the only vehicle that could fit all our luggage. We all made it to the newly assigned apartment in one piece, although we were all a little frazzled.

It was a long, but exciting day. My first time in Paris will be an exciting experience. I can already tell that it has a different feel from the other cities that I’ve been to.