After getting minor surgery, the doctor advised against traveling via airplane as the high altitude could cause unwanted swelling. This inserted a minor hiccup into my travel plans but also enabled me to make a trip I had been putting off for some time. That trip was taking the Eurostar train to Paris for the weekend. With all the other places to see and visit in Europe I neglected Paris thus far as it was so easily accessible.
Getting To Paris
Given that Paris is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, getting there is quite simple. Depending on where you’re coming from you’ll either fly into Paris’ airport or take a train into the main Paris train station. Since I was coming from London and couldn’t fly, I took the train. Note that even if I could fly, I would still have taken the train for a couple reasons. First, it’s fast. The train takes two hours from station to station. Second, it’s much more convenient than flying. Since you are going from city center to city center, you are skipping the commute to the London airport and the commute from the Paris airport. Once you depart the train in Paris you’ll be ready to start exploring.
The Louvre, A Museum To See
Admittedly, I am not a museum person. Seeing endless paintings and other pieces of artwork is just not my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy some history and space and technology museums but most of your main city museums have loads of similar artifacts, styles of artwork and exhibits.
However, The Louvre may have changed my perception. As far as museums that I have visited, The Louvre is the clear winner. Impressive is its sheer size, countless artifacts and artwork and numerous exhibits and historical periods. It’s easy to see why this is a must-see for any traveler to Paris. I spent a good couple hours there, mostly in the Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt exhibits. Now, I felt as if I saw everything I would like to see but make no mistake, a person could spend an entire week at the Louvre and not see all that it has to offer.
Of course, no visit to the Louvre would be complete without seeing the most famous piece of art in the world, The Mona Lisa. For not being an art fan I was very much interested in seeing The Mona Lisa as it was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, a person that I enjoy reading about. You’ll know you’ve found the hall for The Mona Lisa when there is a large crowd in front of a massive wall and you’re not quite sure what they are looking at. Upon further examination you’ll see this rather small piece of art that is The Mona Lisa. I won’t lie when I say that I was a little disappointed. Maybe not disappointed, perhaps just confused. Confused as to why this somewhat insignificant piece of art gets more attention than some of the 100 foot pieces of art that sit on the wall opposite. But, this is a debate for the art community and not me.
The Arc De Triumph
Another must-see in Paris is the Arc De Triumph. Styled after the Roman Arches that were primarily built for great campaign victories, the Arc De Triumph is an honorable homage for those that perished in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. If you so choose, you can pay to get to the top of the Arc to get a vantage point of the city. Beneath the Arc lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
Not only is The Arc an impressive architectural site it acts as a comedy show as well. The Arc De Triumph is situated in the middle of a very busy traffic circle without any proper walkway to get there. So for daring souls, they must attempt to dodge and weave their way through the impatient French motorists. Basically, the scene looks like a real life Frogger game and is funny enough.
The Eiffel Tower
One of the most recognizable structures in the world, The Eiffel Tower needs no introduction. Jutting skyward from the Paris streets below, the powers that be have done a nice job not allowing any nearby structures obstruct people’s view of the Eiffel Tower. Built in the 1889 for the World’s Fair, the monument is a testament to its time and an icon of the city of Paris.
Standing at a about 324 meters tall, the Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid monument in the world. It has 3 floors; restaurants on the first and second and a viewing platform at the top.
If you’re looking to skip the lines that you will undoubtedly find when visiting the Eiffel Tower, you will probably be out of luck. For obvious reasons The Eiffel Tower and surrounding area will be crowded throughout the day. It will also be crowded at night as the Tower is lit up and is a site to see.
Church lovers rejoice. Paris has many cathedrals for you to visit but none more popular than Notre Dame. Make sure to add this stop into your walking tour as it’s a must see.
French Sweets and Street Vendor Crepes
Café’s a plenty, you’ll have no issues finding a great local place to have coffee or tea. But for me, the real treasures were the off main street sweets and pastry shops and the crepe selling street vendors. As I was meandering through the Paris streets I stumbled upon a sweet shop that caught my eye. With loads of truffle and dark chocolate items, I settled on the macaroons and they did not disappoint.
The macaroons were good but my favorite fare in Paris was the ham, egg and cheese crepe. Easy to pass by if you’re not the street vendor type; don’t make this mistake as they are both delicious and economical. If you have a sweet tooth, there are many other variations such as the Nutella and banana type. Avoid buying from the typical tourists places (near subway stations and monuments) as they will cost more and in my experience be of lesser quality.
After visiting Paris, it’s easily understandable as to why this city is consistently a top tourist destination. Packed with great monuments, abundant eateries, museums and crepes, Paris should be on the top of everyone’s Europe destination list.