Although we are French, we never really had the opportunity to visit Paris. The few times we went to the capital were primarily to visit family or friends and we didn’t really take the time to walk around the streets of Paris, the City of Light that so many tourists are fond of. Until then, Paris was for us synonymous with a smelly subway, unfriendly
parisians people and extremely high prices, hard to fall in love with Paris under these conditions! When we knew we were coming for the Game of Thrones Exhibition, we decided to take a few days to explore the city hoping to understand why it is so popular. The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Opéra Garnier, let’s start by telling you about all the popular touristic attractions that we had the opportunity to visit in Paris.
Going back in time at the Opéra Garnier
We’ll start with this imposing building that was a favorite of ours during our visit of Paris: the Opéra Garnier. It was a first for us and we were very curious to finally see it after we had taken a guided tour of Montpellier, our hometown. Actually, the guide had told us that the Opéra Comédie was a replica of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. Well, to be honest, we truly love our city but once in front of the Opéra Garnier, we couldn’t really figure out the resemblance, at least from the outside! Although we are proud and chauvinistic regarding Montpellier, we must say that the Opéra Garnier is damn bigger than our small provincial building! And once inside, the wonder continued. Between gilding, high ceilings and colorful frescoes, we didn’t really know where to look because everything was shiny and beautiful ever since going up the imposing entrance staircase. Our little pleasure in that moment was to just lean on one of the balconies of the hall and watch the endless dance of tourists who were madly drawing out their smartphones, imagining ourselves being projected over a century back, to the late 19th century. The noble crowd would be quickly going up the marble staircase, very well dressed with their beautiful dresses and impeccable suits, to attend the latest show in fashion. A building steeped in so much history has a lot to tell! It would be a shame not to listen to it, live it, feel it.
Montmartre, bohemian neighborhood and artists cue
Let’s get into a very different atmosphere in this popular neighborhood of the 18th arrondissement of Paris. After climbing the famous and countless steps that we had often seen in several movies, it almost seemed like we had walked into a quiet village right next to the capital renowned for its frenzy and tall buildings. Again, it was like going back in time thanks to these these pretty storefront cafes and restaurants of another time where waiters were running around dressed with berets and aprons. It is very pleasant to stroll through the streets of Montmartre despite the crowd, it must be said that the place is generally packed with tourists. We admired the works of art exhibited in the street, we lingered over the work of the many cartoonists and we ended up visiting THE nearby monument: the Sacré Coeur.
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It is true that the building is absolutely stunning from the outside. It’s imposing and its whether particular architecture gives to the Sacré Coeur lots of character and charm. However, the visit was particularly disappointing to us. We really expected a beautiful decor made of gilt and frills, somewhat in the same spirit as the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, but it did not happen. The interior is actually very clean but unfortunately didn’t dazzle us, except the ceiling height which is quite exceptional. Be aware that it is possible to get to the dome to enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of Paris but we didn’t try it.
And for an amazing view…
…you’ll have to climb many many steps but frankly it’s worth the effort! We will end this article by telling you about our visit of the 3 most iconic Paris monuments : the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame de Paris that are perfect to enjoy a panoramic view of the city. Despite an undeniable attraction, we deliberately skipped climbing the Eiffel Tower because, of course, being on it implies that it will not be part of the panorama! The Iron Lady is so magical and beautiful that we could not bring ourselves to exclude it from our view! But that didn’t stop us from taking a look at it!
The Arc de Triomphe was our second stop for enjoying a panorama of Paris and even though going up there was pretty tedious (about 300 steps!), the reward once arrived was simply exceptional. Enough to forget all these painful efforts! You should know that the Arc de Triomphe is located on the Place de l’Etoile, a perfectly circular plaza where converge many important Paris arteries (12 to be exact!) such as the famous Champs Elysées Avenue. While on the Arc de Triomphe, you will therefore be at the point of convergence of all these arteries in the center of the Place de l’Etoile giving a very special touch to the panorama seen from the monument. We were very lucky when we were there, it was a beautiful day and the view was very clear. So we enjoyed a 360° view of Paris, at sunset, where we saw both the Arche de la Défense on the northwest side and the Eiffel Tower on the southeast side, really superb!
Eventually we will tell you about our favorite Parisian monument that offers, from our point of view, the most beautiful panoramic view of Paris: the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. It’s impossible not to feel tiny, insignificant while facing this huge cathedral with its intricately carved facade. Again, unfortunately, the visit of the inside disappointed us. Perhaps it was because of the arrowed visit, the modernly displayed exhibition about the history of the Cathedral or maybe it wasn’t the right time of day so the sun’s rays didn’t sublime the cathedral, we don’t really know. Anyway, the magic has not operated. We emerged fairly quickly from there and we went to stand in line for accessing the Towers, a few minutes before closing. While it is true that this is not really fun to hang around for an hour in a line, this place became a must for us during a visit to Paris. The view from up there is simply breathtaking, despite the many security fence, and we loved being able to take a closer look at the famous gargoyles! We almost felt like Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo wandering around these passageways that give access to the bell tower where proudly sit 4 huge bells that are rung every hour. A very nice experience!