Paris, France

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

by and - last updated on 5/9/2024

Travel Tile The first time we visited Paris our son was 5 and our daughter 13. We flew into London toured around and then took the Chunnel Train to Paris for three full days of sightseeing. We hit all of the high spots. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, toured the city at night on a bus (which was a highlight of our trip), took a sightseeing cruise on the river Seine, hit the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Sacré Cœur. We took hundreds of pictures during our trip with our Canon Elph. For those that don’t know the Canon elph is a tiny camera that takes a decent photo and fits in your pocket...on the last day of our visit our camera was stolen. All of our pictures were gone. We were heartbroken.

That trip was in 2004 and the “cloud” was not what it is today and I hadn't offloaded any images at all. I spent months scouring the internet after we got home expecting our camera to show up for sale. I went on to message boards pleading for the return of our SD card. I realize now how silly it was to think that it would show up somewhere….but I was desperate and desperate people do desperate things.

We still mourn the loss of those images...but the experience taught us a few things. Firstly, pickpockets are very real in Paris and you should always be on the lookout and secure your stuff. Secondly, a bigger camera that doesn’t fit in your pocket is easier to keep track of. After owning three iterations of Elph cameras and having them all stolen or lost, I switched to a much larger Nikon camera. It’s easy to use and is a good cross between an SLR and an automatic. It’s big enough that I can’t put it in my pocket and the camera body is red so it stands out. I’ve had it for years now... never stolen and never lost. Thanks to my husband for realizing that a bigger camera might be a good idea for me.

Despite our loss we fell in love with Paris on that trip. We’ve been back several times since, always finding something new to visit. Once you get the top tourist spots out of the way you can start really exploring the city...finding your favorite restaurants, your favorite parks, your favorite place for pastries and coffee and your favorite place to take in the view with a baguette and a glass of wine. On stressful days we fantasize about sitting on the edge of the River Seine on the Île de la Cité with our feet dangling over the riverbank with a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine. Of all of the cities we’ve been to we could see ourselves living in this vibrant city.

Beyond its beauty and gastronomy, Paris embraces a rich cultural heritage. The city is a hub of artistic expression, with world-class museums, galleries, and theaters. From classical masterpieces to contemporary exhibitions, Paris nurtures creativity and embraces diversity.

In this blog we have pulled some of our images from the different times we’ve been there since we lost our images on that first trip. There are some cities we’ve been to that we have no desire to see again but Paris is a place we plan to visit over and over again.

 
Interesting Paris Facts / Where is Paris Located?       Map
  • The Louvre is huge; over 35,000 pieces of art are on display, and 460,000 in the entire collection.
  • The Eiffel Tower was only meant to be a temporary monument; it was built as an entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair and was originally meant to be removed at the end of the fair.
  • There are no stop signs in the entire City of Paris.
  • There’s a huge sundial in Paris.
  • There are beaches that line the banks of a small section of the River Seine.
  • Paris has it’s Own Statue of Liberty.
  • With 308+ stations and 141 miles in length, the Paris Metro is one of the largest subway systems in the world. There are many metro stations that have been abandoned due to growth or use of the system in various areas.
  • Camouflage clothing in the military was first used by the French. The word “camouflage” roughly translates to "make up for the stage".
  • The oldest house in Paris is located at 51, rue de Montmorency, 3. Arrondissement. It was built in 1407!
  • With over 500 kilometers of bicycle only lanes, Paris is quickly becoming one of the best European cities to ride bicycles in.
  • There are over 40,000 restaurants in Paris and the city contains the largest number of Michelin Star restaurants in the world.
  • There are more dogs in Paris than children.
City of Paris Coat of Arms
City of Paris Coat of ArmsImage is the property of Heraldry of the World

 

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Where to stay in Paris?

Consider the Louvre area; It is in the 1st arrondissement just north of the Seine River. The Tuileries Park is directly next to the Louvre. It is within walking distance to several museums including the Orangerie and Musee D’Orsay. It’s close to the Île de la Cité and Notre Dame and there are convenient metro stops to get you to places like the Eiffel tower and a number of places you will want to visit. Click here for a Google Map of the Louvre.

We stayed at the La Clef Louvre on our first trip with our kids and it was a perfect location (opposite the Comédie-Française theatre and the Grand Louvre museum, and only a few minutes away from the Opéra). During our most recent trip we rented a small apartment in the Le Marais area of Paris. And for a previous trip, we rented (again through VRBO) an apartment near the Les Sablon Metro Station and the Bois de Boulogne park. Hotels in Paris are generally expensive, and using VRBO or AirBnB to find an apartment in a good location is one option to keep costs down. You can cook some of your own meals and keep drinks and snacks in your apartment. Eating in sometimes can save a lot of money and your waistline. We find that after a few days of eating out we are dying to just have something simple. Do your due diligence and read the reviews when renting a place to make sure it will meet your needs. There are a number of reliable apartment rental companies available, you should make sure your selection will be in a good location and would meet your needs & budget. We suggest that you try to find accommodations near a metro station, as that will simplify your trips around the city. See our tips below about where to obtain a Metro ticket.

NOTE: As of this moment (7/17/2023) Google Search shows that there are over 2,934 hotels in the city of Paris. Even more if you include the metropolitan area and my point here is that many of these hotels are expensive. But if your goal is to go to Paris just to enjoy an expensive hotel instead of seeing this beautiful city, then you should go right ahead and do what is right for you & your budget. If your goal is to be comfortable and to be relatively close to a Paris Metro Station, then do yourself a favor and click one of the buttons or links below to do your own search.

 
 
The Louvre Museum
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

It is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as the Louvre Castle in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. As the city of Paris expanded, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function, and in 1546 Francis I converted it into the main residence of the French Kings.
NOTE: Image # 2 is the property of Alvesgaspar via Wikimedia Commons.

How do you get to the Louvre? The closest Paris Metro station to the Louvre Museum is the Louvre Rivoli and Palais Royal Musée du Louvre, both on Line 1 (yellow) which travels underneath Rue de Rivoli. The closest RER station is Chatelet Les Halles on line RER A. See the Paris Metro Maps website for a full map.

 Quick History Lesson 

The Louvre is the world's largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city's 1st arrondissement (district or ward). Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square metres (782,910 square feet). In 2018, the Louvre was the world's most visited art museum, receiving 10.2 million visitors.

If you are looking for more information about the Louvre including; history, art content, interesting facts, architecture, etc then click here to visit the "Live Science" website.

The Louvre Architecture
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

You may not have noticed the interesting architecture of the Louvre roof, so this image is a close-up of one of the roofs (see the larger picture of the Louvre, in particular, the building roof at the right side of the picture).

Fun Fact: The "greyish" area behind the windows, is called a mansard or mansard roof (also called a French roof or curb roof) is a four-sided gambrel-style hip roof characterized by two slopes on each of its sides with the lower slope, punctured by dormer windows, at a steeper angle than the upper. The steep roof with windows creates an additional floor of habitable space (a garret), and reduces the overall height of the roof for a given number of habitable stories. The upper slope of the roof may not be visible from street level when viewed from close proximity to the building.

This mansard roof caught our eye because it was so ornate and unusual to us - you just do not see this kind of architecture in America very often.

 More Info for the Louvre 
Jardins du Trocadero
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
Image is the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
Image is the property of  Ricce using the Public Domain License
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
Image is the property of  H. Grobe using the Creative Commons CC BY 3.0 license

On our way to the Eiffel Tower, we rode the Metro from our apartment in Le Marais to the Trocadero Station because we wanted to walk over to the Tower via the Jardin du Trocadero and then cross the River Seine on the Pont d'Iéna which would place us near the Eiffel Tower entrance. Click here for a map overview of our route.

As we walked through the gardens, we passed by a statue called "La Danse Triomphale a Pallas Athene" (image # 1) work sculpted by Carlo Sarrabezolles. The statue name translates to "The Triumphal Dance to Pallas Athena" in English. This is so typical of Paris, art is everywhere and unless you take the time to notice these things, you might have walked right by it.

 More Info for the Jardins du Trocadero 

Eiffel Tower   3D Map

When one thinks of Paris, a myriad of iconic images come to mind – the enchanting Seine River, the charming streets filled with patisseries, and the city's vibrant culture. However, one structure stands tall and proud, symbolizing the beauty and romance of the French capital like no other – the Eiffel Tower. As one of the most renowned landmarks on the planet, the Eiffel Tower captivates millions of visitors each year, offering an unforgettable experience that leaves an indelible mark on their hearts.

Constructed in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, the Eiffel Tower was initially met with skepticism and mixed reviews. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the tower's unique iron lattice structure was a feat of engineering excellence for its time, soaring to a height of 324 meters (1,063 feet) and surpassing the Great Pyramid of Giza as the tallest man-made structure. Though initially intended as a temporary exhibit, its immense popularity and utility as a communication tower preserved its place in the Parisian skyline for generations to come.

Although the Eiffel Tower is named after Gustave Eiffel and his company constructed the tower, the original idea for the tower came from two engineers who worked for Gustave's company; Emile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin.

What are the Security Requirements at the Tower?

Security controlling access to the Eiffel Tower has become ever more stringent; As is the case for all French facilities open to the public, the Eiffel Tower has implemented a strict security system and checks, which are reinforced by the national “Vigipirate” plan (currently the “increased security – risk of attack” level). All visitors, whether they bought their tickets in advance or want to buy them on site, must undergo two security check steps: the first occurs at the entrance to the site and the second prior to entering the pillar to take the elevator or stairs.

You should visit the Eiffel Tower Visitor's Practical Guide page for all information pertaining to security and visitation of the Eiffel Tower.

How to get to the Eiffel Tower
  1. Metro Line 9, line 8 & line 6.
  2. RER Line C.
  3. Bus Line 82, line 42.
  4. Vélib Free bike loan.
  5. If you are driving, here is a link for parking lots near the tower.
  6. You could travel to the Eiffel Tower by boat along the Seine.
Wikipedia Logo The Bir-Hakeim Metro station serving Metro Line 6 (just 2.5 blocks west of the Eiffel Tower) is (and will probably always be) "pick-pocket central" for all the local thieves. If you use this station, keep your valuables somewhere very safe & don't let anyone stand near to you! The pick-pocket techniques include; Creating a crowd around you to distract you while an accomplice lifts your wallet or phone, holding a map in front of you while their partner picks your pocket, or blocking your view with a fake performance while someone else steals your belongings.
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

See the two pictures above taken from inside the elevator? Yep, they pack em in tightly and the elevator feels like it is as old as the tower (completed in 1889). The elevators are at a slight angle as you board them on one of the tower legs, and then the elevator proceeds upward.

Youtube Video Link

Eiffel Tower Elevator

We took a video of our elevator ride, a rather unusual ride as it shakes & rattles its way up to the observation platform. There isn't much room inside these elevator cars!

If you enjoy our videos click here to subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

 Image Credits 
  • Image # 2 is the property of  Jebulon via Wikipedia using the CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication license.
  • All other images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.
 Eiffel Tower Quick History Lesson 

Constructed from 1887–1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, the Tower was initially criticised by some of France's leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world. The Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.91 million people ascended it in 2015.

If you are not a fan of elevators, there is a 1,710 step staircase that you could walk the entire 324 meters (1,063 feet) to the top. We have walked down from the observation level, and it takes a while to get to the ground level because the views are constantly distracting you!

If you want to read more information about the Eiffel Tower including; history, interesting facts and the Tower today, click here for a good source of information at the "Live Science" website.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

What do you do while you are waiting for your Tower "elevator time slot" to arrive? You could take a stroll around the Tower Park and perhaps even into the Champ de Mars. The grounds in both areas are beautiful and well maintained.

With its 24.5 hectares (60.5 acres), the Champ-de-Mars garden is one of the largest green spaces in Paris.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Tower Observation Deck

However you get to the top observation platform (up the stairs or up the elevator), as you look out from the top of the Eiffel, Paris & the River Seine are below you and on a clear day, you can see for miles.

The image on the left (image # 1) is the view is looking west and the island you see below is L'île aux Cygnes, the first bridge is the Pont du Bir-Hakeim and the second is the Pont du Grenelle. The "small" Statue of Liberty is at the west end of the L'île aux Cygnes. That large expanse of greenery on the north side of the Seine, is the Bois de Boulogne Park - a beautiful park well worth a visit. The Stade Roland Garros (where the French Open takes place) is at the southeast corner of the park.

The image on the right (image # 2) is the view from the Observation Deck looking up at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The first Tower platform is 172 feet from the ground. The second platform is 377 feet from the ground and the third, inner, platform is 905 feet from the ground.

Statue of Liberty on Île aux Cygnes (Isle of the Swans) 

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

The statue is at the west end of the L'île aux Cygnes, which was adjacent to where our Viking Cruise ship was moored. We could see it from the sun deck of the ship, and decided that we should walk over and explore.

 Quick History Lesson 

This quarter-scale Statue of Liberty replica sits at the southern end of Île aux Cygnes, an artificial island built in the Seine in 1827 to separate river traffic from the busy port of Grenelle. Over time, a tree-lined walkway was built that runs the full 850-meter length of the island, and three bridges were built across the island to connect the 15th and 16th arrondissements. Île aux Cygnes is the third-largest island in Paris.

The statue itself was given to the city of Paris in 1889 by the American community in Paris to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. In characteristic American fashion, the statue was officially inaugurated on the Fourth of July (a date not at all associated with the French Revolution) rather than Bastille Day (a mere ten days later, and often described to the uninitiated as the “French Fourth of July”).

Place du Trocadero
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

This is the view of the Place du Trocadero from the first observation deck (57 meters above ground) of the Eiffel Tower. We were looking north, and in the distant background is La Defense.

 Quick History Lesson 

For the Exposition Internationale of 1937, the old Palais du Trocadéro was partially demolished and rebuilt as the Palais de Chaillot which now tops the hill. It was designed in classicizing "moderne" style by architects Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, Jacques Carlu and Léon Azéma. Like the old palais, the Palais de Chaillot features two wings shaped to form a wide arc; reclad and expanded, these wings are the only remaining portion of the former building. However, unlike the old palais, the wings are independent buildings and there is no central element to connect them: instead, a wide esplanade leaves an open view from the place du Trocadéro to the Eiffel Tower and beyond.

Montmartre in the Distance       Map
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

The Basilica is better known by the name "Montmartre", although it's full proper name is the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. This is worth a visit if you have not been there. Easily reached via the Paris Metro, exit at the Abbesses Station. Its 130 meter height (427 feet) when combined with a clear day, provides visitors with really good views of Paris - not to be missed!

For more information about the Sacré Cœur, click here to scroll to that part of this page.

Wikipedia Logo If you are looking for a restaurant close to the Eiffel Tower, there are several on the Avenue de Suffren - just a block west of the tower. We ate lunch at the Le Castel Café prior to our stroll down the River Seine. You will find that the reviews are all over the place, but our experience was reasonable.
 More Info for the Sacré Cœur 

Arc de Triomphe   3D Map

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Towering over the bustling Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe reigns as a majestic icon of Parisian spirit. This triumphal arch, commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, embodies not just architectural elegance but also a fascinating tapestry of French history and cultural significance.

Etched onto the arch's surface are intricate carvings depicting Napoleon's military triumphs, like the Battle of Austerlitz and the Departure of the Volunteers. These sculptures, along with the names of over 500 French generals and victories, whisper tales of a bygone era of ambition and conquest.

Though conceived as a monument to the emperor, the Arc de Triomphe has transcended its original purpose. Beneath its majestic arch, French troops have paraded through centuries, celebrating national holidays and commemorating fallen heroes. It witnessed the jubilation of the Liberation of Paris in 1944 and continues to stand as a symbol of French pride and resilience.

Beyond its historical significance, the Arc de Triomphe is a marvel of Neoclassical architecture. Inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus, it boasts intricate carvings, statues of winged Victories, and a panoramic terrace offering breathtaking views of the Parisian skyline. Climbing its 286 steps to the terrace becomes a rite of passage, rewarding you with unparalleled panoramas of the City of Lights.

 More Info for the Arc de Triomphe 
  • How to get to the Arc de Triomphe: The easiest and fastest way to reach the Arc De Triomphe is via the Paris Metro. The closest railway metro station to the Arc De Triomphe is Charles de Gaulle Etoile. You could use either of the metro lines 1, 2 and 6 or the RER Line A of Charles de Gaulle Etoile station. These will lead you a tunnel from the Wagram exit, which is the safest way to reach Arc De Triomphe.
  • Where to get Tickets: Tickets can be obtained online and you could save the ticket info on your phone, or print it before you go there. You could also purchase tickets once you are there, but there is almost always a line, so that could be a time consuming task.
  • What are the Arc de Triomphe Dimensions: The Arc de Triomphe has an overall height of 164 feet, width of 148 feet and depth of 72 feet, while its large vault is 95.8 feet high and 48.0 feet wide.
  • What are the Arc de Triomphe Inscriptions: The names of 128 battles fought by the French Republic and Napoléon between 1792 and 1814 are engraved on the walls under the vault with the names of the generals who fought them. The Arc de Triomphe and Place Charles de Gaulle, where it stands, are the beautiful hub of twelve radiating avenues including Champs-Elysées.
Strolling the River Seine

The following images were taken during our stroll along the River Seine, beautiful area isn't it? Our destination is now in sight, the Musee D'Orsay. Note to self - the Musee D'Orsay is closed on Mondays.

According to Google Maps, it is a 2.5 kilometer walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Musee D'Orsay. On a beautiful day with these scenic and iconic locations along the River Seine, it is a nice way to get to the museum.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Bistrot Alexandre III
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Pont Alexandre III
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Grand Palais
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Pont des Invalides
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Pont du Carrousel
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Musee D'Orsay
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Sports Area along the River Seine

This is a structure in the Parc Rives de Seine, a new public park on the north side of the River Seine across from the Conciergerie. The interesting thing about this structure is that it was obviously created to contain a game area, but it is still quite artsy isn't it? However, it is also a very practical enclosure for a game, because the ball cannot leave the interior.

Parc Rives de Seine is a captivating urban park located along the banks of the River Seine. This picturesque green space stretches for several kilometers, providing a serene and rejuvenating escape from the bustling city.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Handicap Access to the River Seine

This area (the north side) of the River Seine, had a wheel chair ramp to allow handicapped individuals to be able to access the river walkway. The bridge in the center background is the Pont Notre Dame, and the building on the left is the Conciergerie.

 
Love Locks on the Passerelle des Arts       Map
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Sometime in 2008, people (tourists as well as locals) started attaching padlocks with their first names engraved on them, to the railings and grates of the bridge. By 2012 the number of padlocks had become enormous, estimated to be in excess of 700,000. As of 2015, over a million locks had been attached, weighing approximately 45 tons.

Quick History Lesson: In June 2014, part of the parapet on the bridge collapsed under the weight of all of the padlocks that had been attached to it. On 18 September 2014, the City Hall of Paris replaced three panels of this bridge with a special glass as an experiment as they search for alternative materials for the bridge where locks cannot be attached.

From 1 June 2015, city council workmen from Paris started to cut down & remove all of the locks. Health and Safety officials said "the romantic gestures cause long term Heritage degradation and danger to visitors". Street artists like Jace, El Seed, Brusk or Pantonio have been chosen to paint the new panels that replaces the old railings with locks.

 More Info for the Passerelle des Arts 
  • Passerelle des Arts Wikipedia Article:
  • Passerelle des Arts Google Images Set:
Musée de l'Orangerie       Map
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Originally built in the 1850s as an orangery for the Tuileries Palace, the building was converted into a museum in the early 20th century. It underwent extensive renovations in the 2000s and reopened to the public in 2006.

The Musée de l'Orangerie is an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings located in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens next to the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The museum is most famous as the permanent home of eight large Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet, and also contains works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, Maurice Utrillo, and others.

Unfortunately for us, they were not allowing pictures to be taken the day we were there, it was crowded and that may have led to that situation. For a glimpse at some of the fantastic art to be seen there, click the Google Images link below (there are 43,131 images as of May 4, 2023).

 IMAGE CREDITS
  • Image # 1 above is the property of Homonihilis via Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
  • All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
 More Info for the Musée de l'Orangerie 
  • Musée de l'Orangerie Wikipedia Article:
  • Musée de l'Orangerie Google Images Set:
Musée d'Orsay       Map

The Musée d'Orsay is located on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900 and was later converted into a museum in the 1980s. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and van Gogh.

The museum's collection is housed in a stunning Beaux-Arts building, which features grand galleries and a glass roof that fills the space with natural light. Visitors can explore the museum's extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, which span from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century.

Because the Museum hours are unique to France and not the United States, you should check their website to determine if you will be able to find the museum open on the date & time you want to visit. Click here to visit the Museum website.

 IMAGE CREDITS
  • Image # 1 property of Daniel Vorndran using the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
  • Image # 2 property of Benh using the CC BY 2.5 license.
  • Image # 3 property of Gabriel Fernandes using the CC BY 2.0 license.
  • Image # 4 property of Gabriel Fernandes using the CC BY 2.0 license.
  • All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
 More Info for the Musée d'Orsay 
  • Musée d'Orsay Wikipedia Article:
  • Musée d'Orsay Google Images Set:
Le Marais Area       Map

This is a historic district in Paris that we had not previously visited. Long the aristocratic district of Paris, it hosts many outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance. It spreads across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris (on the Rive Droite, or Right Bank, of the Seine).

If you are interested in reading more depth about the Le Marais ("The Marsh") area of Paris, click here to read a good article about the history & architecture of Le Marais. This article is very good, and you will be surprised to learn about the role the Templar Knights played in the Le Marais.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Saint Paul Metro Station Area

Above the Saint Paul Metro station is an area where you will find several small sidewalk cafes and pubs. So after a full day of exploring, we would stop and have a cold drink before continuing on to the apartment.

And we do mean "above" because most Paris Metro Stations are below ground level.

The escalator in the center right of the second picture is the street level exit from the Metro Station below. To enter the station, one had to take the stairs in the left center of this picture. Clever method to separate the people entering from the people exiting!

 Quick Paris Metro Facts 

The Paris Métro is a symbol of the city, it is known for its density within the city limits, uniform architecture and unique entrances influenced by Art Nouveau. It is mostly underground and 214 kilometres (133 mi) long. It has 302 stations, of which 62 have transfers between lines. There are 16 lines, numbered 1 to 14 with two lines, 3bis and 7bis, which are named because they started out as branches of lines 3 and 7; later they officially became separate lines, but the Metro is still numbered as if these lines were absent. Lines are identified on maps by number and colour, and direction of travel is indicated by the terminus.

Rue Saint-Antoine Cafes
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

The sidewalk cafes on the Rue Saint-Antoine in Le Marais do not waste any space, the tables are kept very close to each other, so that as many customers as possible can be seated.

Sidewalk cafes and restaurants are enormously popular in Paris, and they offer a delightful way for a visitor to have a coffee, a drink & snack or a complete meal while watching Parisians walk by.

Some Interesting Places to dine in Le Marais area

We are not fastidious diners and we do not seek out Michelin rated restaurants, if that is what you are looking for, then you might be looking at the wrong Travel Site! We tend to eat lightly, most often we are not "fast food junkies" and we definitely enjoy "going local". Do we check "Yelp" ? Yes, it is often a good place to get an idea of what is available where you are. The following places came from either Yelp or Google.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
King Falafel Palace 

The King Falafel Palace was one door away from our VRBO rental. This shop might be tiny, but their food offerings were huge. Several competing shops can be found along the Rue des Rosiers which is in the old Jewish quarter of the Marais district.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
  Le Droguerie Crepe shop 

The Le Droguerie Crepe shop was on the same street as our VRBO rental and there was always a crowd waiting to order. We stopped here and had dessert crepes (instead of dinner) one evening, and they were outstanding! You can also tell by the size of the line waiting to order, that this is a very popular place for crepes.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
Cafe La Perle 

The Cafe La Perle was just a few blocks away from our VRBO rental, and we had good food at a decent price (located on Rue de la Perle).

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

At the Cafe La Perle, Celeste had a very good quiche for dinner, we both felt that it was excellent. After I had a bite, I was jealous that I had not ordered it too.

I was in the mood for something "hamburger-ish", mainly because I saw another customer having one and it smelled fantastic! Or maybe I ordered that because we had been walking for hours and I was starved! Hmm, beer & a burger seems very American doesn't it?

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
 
La Defense Area       Map

By French law, the Paris city center area skyline cannot contain tall buildings (although that is about to change), and must retain it's original appearance. So all tall buildings, sky scrapers, modern buildings, etc, only appear outside the area deemed to be the original Paris city area. Therefore, the La Defense area contains an extensive number of very modern and tall buildings, shopping malls, office buildings and apartment complexes.

This 1977 height limit was in place until 2010. It was overturned by former mayor Bertrand Delanoë for a limit of 180 metres for office towers and 50 metres for housing blocks. The ban has been reintroduced as part of mayor Anne Hidalgo's Local Bioclimatic Urban Plan, which is aimed at reducing Paris' carbon emissions.

La Defense Grand Arch       Map
Section Banner Image

This panorama picture was taken as we sat on the steps of the Grande Arch, and it shows just how large this area is; it is Europe's largest purpose-built business district with 560 hectares (1,400 acres) of area, 72 glass and steel buildings (of which 19 are completed skyscrapers), 180,000 daily workers, and 3,500,000 square metres (38,000,000 sq ft) of office space. Around its Grande Arche and esplanade ("le Parvis"), La Défense contains many of the Paris urban area's tallest high-rises. Les Quatre Temps, a large shopping mall in La Défense, has 220 stores, 48 restaurants and 24 movie theaters.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Grande Arche in La Defense

This is the Grande Arche in La Defense looking out from the rear of the building.

The steel apparatus that is attached to the top of the arch, is the original transparent elevators, that used to take passengers from the base of the arch, to the top of the building. They were closed in 2010 after a non-injury accident. The museum and restaurant at the top are now accessible only via interior building elevators.

The Grande Arche comprises the third arch (together with the Arc de Triomphe and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel) on the historical axis of Paris.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

La Defense Statue "Point Growth"

This statue is named "Point Growth" created by Lim Dong-Lak who is a Professor of Fine Arts in South Korea and an ambassador emeritus of Korean sculpture.

There's an outdoor art collection scattered around La Défense that includes works by Calder, Miro, and other world-famous artists like Baldaccini, represented by his iconic sculpture of a 40-foot thumb. On total there are 70 pieces of contemporary artworks found throughout the district. The art route was an ambitious project initiated in 1958, just when the modernization of the area began. Some of the art works are found on the main place of La Défense, others are hidden between skyscrapers.

For a current list of the art that can be found at La Defense, go to this web site: La Defense Art Works

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Walking East from the Grande Arche

As we walked east from the Grande Arche, we found several beautiful water fountains, several shopping malls, coffee shops, and had a very pleasant afternoon walking about this area. The Grande Arche is in the center of this image, as walked beside one of the water fountains.

 More Info for La Defense 
Île de la Cité       Map
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Sainte-Chapelle Holy Chapel

This is a royal chapel in the Gothic style, within the medieval Palais de la Cité, the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century, on the western end of the Île de la Cité in the River Seine.

Construction began sometime after 1238 and the chapel was consecrated on 26 April 1248. The Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion relics, including Christ's Crown of Thorns – one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom, later hosted in the nearby Notre-Dame Cathedral until the 2019 fire, which it survived.

INFO: This is a "living museum", click here to acquire tickets for admission or find more information.

IMAGE CREDITS: Image # 1 is the property of Joan via Flickr. Image # 2 is the property of Uoaei1 via Wikimedia Commons and CC BY-SA 4.0.

Notre Dame Cathedral
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

And at the eastern end of the Île de la Cité, you will find the ever beautiful & iconic Notre Dame cathedral.

The cathedral is once again in need of further restoration(s), this time primarily due to air pollution and the constant pounding of visitors. See this New York Times article for more details.

NOTE: As most of you are aware, the Cathedral suffered a nearly mortal fire and is now being rebuilt. Click here to find out how to contribute to the rebuilding fund.

IMAGE CREDITS: Image # 2 is the property of PEZI via Wikimedia Commons and CC BY-SA 3.0. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

 Quick History Lesson 

The cathedral has had to be restored on several occasions. During the French Revolution, many of the cathedral’s valuables were stolen or destroyed. Statues portraying biblical kings were mistaken for French kings and beheaded, and the 13th-century spire was torn down. An extensive restoration began in 1845 and lasted for 25 years.

More of the cathedral was damaged during World War II. Several of the stained glass windows were also shattered by stray bullets. After the war ended, the windows were replaced, but the bible scenes that had previously been depicted on the panes were exchanged for geometric patterns.

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets

Notre Dame Cathedral Flying Buttresses

This is the eastern end of Notre Dame, and it shows you how they used "flying buttresses" to support the height of the Cathedral. As they were working with only stone and mortar, and did not have the benefit of steel at that time, the only way they knew how to support that kind of height, was to use these flying buttress supports.

You may not be aware, but when construction was first started on Notre Dame, it did not have these flying buttresses. See the history lesson below for an explanation of why they were necessary.

IMAGE CREDITS: Image # 1 is the property of Jean Lemoine via Wikimedia Commons and CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image # 2 has no author information and was downloaded from Wikimedia Commons using CC BY-SA 3.0.

 Quick History Lesson 

The Notre Dame Cathedral Paris didn’t originally have flying buttresses included in its design. But after the construction of the cathedral began in 1163, the thinner walls (popularized in the Gothic style) grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. The cathedral’s architects, in an effort to fix the problem, built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern. The was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports).

On April 15, 2019 Notre Dame was nearly destroyed by a fire that broke out beneath the roof. The reconstruction effort has been ongoing and information about the progress of that effort can be found here.

Notre Dame Cathedral Dimensions

  • The building is 130 meters long, 48 meters wide and 35 meters high.
  • The rose windows have a diameter of 10 meters.
  • The cathedral pillars have a diameter of 5 meters.
  • The twin towers are 69 meters tall, and there are 387 steps to the top.

Notre Dame interesting facts;

  • It was built between 1163 and 1345. Its construction was ordered by the Bishop of Paris named Maurice de Sully in 1160 and died in 1196, long before the cathedral was completed.
  • The largest Notre Dame bell is located in the South Tower & weighs 28,000 pounds. The bell is also known as the Emmanuel Bell and was created in 1681.
  • The magnificent stained glass windows in Notre Dame are original.
  • Approx 13 million people visit Notre Dame every year, which makes it the most popular monument in France. People visit Notre Dame more than the Eiffel Tower.
  • The best part is that it is free to enter the cathedral.
  • In 1804 Napoleon invited Pope Pius VII to come to Notre Dame so that he could be crowned emperor. At the last minute Napoleon crowned himself instead.
  • There are many small statues outside of Notre Dame which were placed there to serve as rain water spouts and to support columns.
  • Based on a 1905 law, Notre Dame is owned by the French State, but the Catholic Church has the right to use it forever.
 More Info for the Notre-Dame de Paris 
  • Notre-Dame de Paris Wikipedia Article:
  • Notre-Dame de Paris Google Images Set:
Sacré Cœur du Montmartre
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
Image roperty of PieterjanDC via Dutch Wikimedia
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets
Image property of Zairon via Wikimedia Commons using the CC BY-SA 4.0 license

We visited the Sacré Cœur du Montmartre, which is easily one of the prettiest churches in Paris. Due to the height of Montmartre, the church can be seen from all over Paris! And of course the reverse is true as well, the views of Paris (read below) from Montmartre are very good on a clear day. Image # 1 is the south facade main entrance.

Word of warning: You can see how the church sits high on the hill? On a hot day, it can be difficult to walk up all those stairs. There is a funicular that you should utilize if you are not comfortable with walking up steep stairs. Be forewarned that the funicular is very popular with the "don't want to walkup the stairs" folks, so the line to use it is always lengthy.

For an excellent list of information about the Sacré Cœur du Montmartre, you should visit the French Moments Website.

Wikipedia Logo Sacré Cœur Métro stops: Anvers Station on the #2 (blue) line that runs between Porte Dauphine and Nation with a stop at Charles De Gaulle/Etoile by the Arc de Triomphe. From Anvers, it's a short walk up the Rue Steinkerque to the hill at the foot of Sacré-Coeur.
The Abbesses Station on line #12 (green) line is approximately a 10 minute walk via Rue Chappe and Rue Yvonne le Tac taking you past some nice shops & restaurants. Which station you arrive at depends solely upon which line you took to get there. Note that the Abbesses is the deepest station in the Paris Métro, at 36 metres (118 feet) below ground.
Warning: There is a long (and steep) spiral staircase from the subway car arrival area to the surface exit at the Abbesses Station, look for the elevators if you are not able to climb steep stairs.
 More Info for the Sacré-Cœur Basilica 
  • Sacré-Cœur Basilica Wikipedia Article:
  • Sacré-Cœur Basilica Google Images Set:
The Paris Catacombs
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Catacomb Bones

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Catacomb Circular Staircase

City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Catacomb more Bones

The Catacombs of Paris are located in the 14th arrondissement quartier Montparnasse. We had our teenage son with us, and we had intentionally looked for something unusual like this to visit. Judging by his reaction to what he saw on the tour, he found it to be very entertaining!

You can see in image # 2 the circular staircase that must be utilized to enter the catacombs, it is steep and very narrow, so if you are claustrophobic, this staircase will affect you.

It is not known just how large the Catacombs actually are, there are estimates that there are over 200 miles of tunnels, however, only a very small area of that is part of the tour and "legal". The other areas are considered to be dangerous and are off limits with police patrols, etc.

Was it spooky? Definitely!! I doubt that anyone could descend into an area like that, where the bones of over six million people are kept from hundreds of years ago and not feel it!

IMAGE CREDIT: Image # 1 is the property of MykReeve via Wikipedia using the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

  • Paris Catacombs Tickets: Click here to go to the official website.
  • Paris Catacombs Tours: There are numerous companies offering tours, click here to see a Google Results list for "paris catacombs tours".
  • Paris Catacombs Map: Click here for a Map of the Catacombs.
  • Paris Catacombs History: Click here to go to the Wikipedia Page for the Paris Catacombs.
  • Paris Catacombs Videos: Click here to view a Youtube Search Results list for "Paris Catacombs".
  • How to get to the Paris Catacombs via Metro: The entrance to the Paris Catacombs is on Place Denfert-Rochereau, a public square in the Montparnasse district. The nearest train station is Denfert-Rochereau. You can take an RER 'B' service here, or jump on a Metro line 4 or 6.
City of Lights, Food, Wine, History and Pickpockets Paris Catacombs Entrance

Once you have entered into the green building entrance, you will immediately descend via a very narrow (and steep) spiral staircase that delivers you into the catacombs. The first thing you'll notice are the very low ceilings - if you're claustrophobic you might want to brace yourself - and for the first three or four minutes you'll be walking through empty corridors with no bones in sight. Once you reach the ossuaries, you will see bones neatly stacked, sometimes to the stone ceiling, frequently stacked all the way back to the stone walls (often a considerable distance) and these bone stacks are everywhere!

There are no elevators at the entrance or exit, you walk down the steep entrance staircase (130 steps) and you will have to walk up the steep exit stairs (83 steps). There are no cloak rooms or bathrooms anywhere, and it is chilly so you should dress appropriately.

IMAGE CREDIT: Image # 1 is the property of MykReeve via Wikipedia using the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

 Quick History Lesson 

The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries in Paris, France, which hold the remains of more than six million people in a small part of a tunnel network built to consolidate Paris' ancient stone mines. Extending south from the Barrière d'Enfer ("Gate of Hell") former city gate, this ossuary was created as part of the effort to eliminate the city's overflowing cemeteries. Preparation work began not long after a 1774 series of gruesome Saint Innocents-cemetery-quarter basement wall collapses added a sense of urgency to the cemetery-eliminating measure, and from 1786, nightly processions of covered wagons transferred remains from most of Paris' cemeteries to a mine shaft opened near the Rue de la Tombe-Issoire.

The municipal ossuary in the Paris Catacombs is one of the world’s largest and one of only a handful located underground.

There are several YouTube videos that can show you the catacombs in detail, click here to view one of them.

 More Info for the Catacombs of Paris 
  • Catacombs of Paris Wikipedia Article:
  • Catacombs of Paris Google Images Set:
  • Paris History on 'Local Histories' site
  • Top 10 Things to do & see in Paris on 'Paris Perfect' site
  • 25 things to do and see in Paris on the "Fodors" site
  • Google Search Results list for restaurants in Paris
  • 29 Best Restaurants in Paris on Conde Naste Website
  • Google Search Results list for accommodations in Paris
  • Google list of Paris Catacombs Websites
  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • Eiffel Tower Tour from the "Get Your Guide" site
  • Youtube Search Results list for "Paris France"
  • Visit our Youtube Channel
  • Our Top Paris Sites List
  • Explore Paris's Medieval Landmarks and Modern Delights on the 'National Geographic' Site
  • 75 Best Things to Do in Paris on the 'Crazy Tourist' Site
  • Exploring Paris on the 'Lonely Planet' Site
  • Explore Paris on the 'Rick Steves' Site
  • What to Do with Three Days in Paris on the 'Destination Tips' Site
  • Paris Tourism on the 'Introducing Paris' Site
  • Google list of things to do & see in Paris
  • Amazon Search Results list for "Paris France"
  • Our Image Gallery for Paris
  • Wikipedia Article for Paris
  • Google Image Gallery for Paris

 

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How not to ride the French Rail System

On one trip to Paris, we took a train to Bordeaux. We rode the metro (very early in the morning) to the Paris Gare Montparnasse train station, and we saw our train listed on the train schedule monitors, so we enjoyed a cold drink while waiting for our train's track location to be announced. When it was finally announced, we walked over with our back packs & luggage, got on the train and sat in our assigned seats. Just as we got relaxed, an English family walked up and said "you are sitting in our seats", so we asked the train car attendant to come over and sort out the situation. He took one look at our tickets and told us "your tickets are for the express train, and you are on the local train to Bordeaux & your train has already departed". So we gathered up our backpacks and exited the train, and as we are standing next to the train car wondering what we do now, the same train car attendant leaned out the car door and told us "hey, you can ride with us, and someone will get off the train and you can have those seats". Since this was much better than waiting in the train station for the next express train to Bordeaux, we hopped back on & spent the majority of the ride in between train cars, sitting on the floor. We eventually got seats as people exited the train.

These things can happen when travelling - keep your cool and have fun along the way.

Some Paris Tips
Wikipedia Logo Eiffel Tower: Be sure to reserve your tickets ahead of time online prior to your trip if you want to go up to the top. If you don’t and try to buy your tickets that day they may be completely booked. They do check ticket times and are pretty strict about not allowing you up to the top in until the time printed. You are allowed to go through security along the perimeter without tickets. The ticket office is behind the security entrance.
Wikipedia Logo Learn some French: A lot of Americans complain about the French being rude. We’ve found the opposite to be true. If you take a little time to learn some French and don’t expect everyone to speak english it’s appreciated. One waiter completely changed his attitude when I asked him to speak more slowly in French. He winked at me and the rest of the meal was perfect. Remember you are in their country. Don’t expect them to be American.
Wikipedia Logo The French Rail System: (including the Metro) in Paris is excellent, and the cost of an RER Train ticket from Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport to the Gare du Nord station is considerably less expensive than a taxi or Uber fare. Be careful of pickpockets on this rail line, they operate here just like everywhere else! You can purchase Metro tickets (or the Paris Visite ticket) at any Metro ticket machine or ticket window, anywhere in Paris, at CDG/Orly airports or at any of the major intercity train stations throughout Paris. A Paris Metro single day ticket is called the Ticket Mobilis which is good for unlimited rides on the Metro system during operating hours for the day it is used. (Not valid for airports) Physically it’s a coupon of about the same size as the Paris Metro Ticket t+. Ticket Mobilis is available in various fare zone coverage from 1-2 zones to 1-5 zones. If you’ll be traveling strictly within central Paris, zones 1 & 2 cover the entire Metro system, and a 1-2 zone Ticket Mobilis is the recommended ticket. Price as of January 1, 2019 is 7.50€.
Metro Warning: The police often check tickets inside Metro Stations; if you are using a single use ticket do not dispose of it until you depart the Station or the police will assume you have cheated and they will fine you.
Wikipedia Logo Cell phones: Cell phones are required these days for maps usage and uber, etc. Roaming can be expensive so have a plan and investigate your options before you go. For those of you using (or needing) cellular phone service, AT&T offers a $10 per day plan (unlimited data) for certain family subscription plans.
Wikipedia Logo Petition Scam: Ignore teens who ask you to read & sign their petitions! Most frequently, once you are distracted, one of their accomplices will attempt to pick your pocket! This type of scam is very common at or near the more iconic Paris landmarks, but you will see them on connecting streets or routes as well. You need to remember that your signature on a French petition is meaningless, because you are not a French citizen.
Wikipedia Logo Pickpocket Safety: If you use a backpack, the best type to use are the types that have a chest strap that interconnects & locks the shoulder straps. Keeping that chest strap connected, precludes a pickpocket (or street thief) from yanking your backpack off your shoulders! It’s best to keep your credit cards and valuables in an inside pocket rather and an outside pocket that could be unzipped while you are in a crowd. Better yet, keep it around your neck under your shirt. Be aware of when people start crowding closer to you because a pickpocket has to be very close to you to be able to rob you. Paris is a true Mecca for pickpockets, you will find them everywhere there are tourists!
Wikipedia Logo Metro Ticket Machine Scam: We almost got ripped off by someone trying to “help” us at a metro ticket machine. He was trying to sell us a ticket for some ungodly amount of money when the metro price is very reasonable. Don’t fall for these scams. Go to the official ticket booth if you have questions.

Consider Paris Passes & Some Other Info

There are a number of companies who offer passes that provide you with various ways to save on Paris attractions & transportation. Their web sites have a complete list of what they offer. Click any of the icons below to be taken to their web site.

  • The Paris "Go City" Card
  • The Paris Turbo Pass Card
  • The Paris Pass Card
  • Our 2013 trip to Paris Image Gallery
  • Our 2018 trip to Paris Image Gallery
  • Credit Card Usage in France - Don’t expect your credit card to always work. Even with the chip embedded there are times when a pin is required. This is especially true at some of the metro ticket machines.
 

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