Trip To Paris France - Day 1
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Day 1: In and around Île de la Cité
We arrived Paris early in the morning. Not being a morning person, it was a bit difficult for me to be active with very little sleep. But, we did not want to waste any time. So we directly went to the nearest information center and picked up as much tourist information as we could grab. Language could be a barrier in Paris. English is not very widely spoken. Knowing key words help a lot. In our case, my husband knew and understands a bit of French. Being vegetarian, it made a huge difference.
Travelling in Paris using public transport is comfortable as well as affordable (Taxies are available but they are unnecessary and expensive). We can buy a 3-day or 5-day Metro pass. Paris is very well connected by subway system and the pass is valid on any number of subway/tram travels. Since we had plans to live in Paris for just 4 days, we decided to buy a 3-day pass (Zone 1- 5) and pay for travel on the fourth day. Paris Metro gives a lot of information on travel rates, metro map, deals around Paris, guides and more!
Paris subway is one of the oldest subway systems in the world, which began its operation in 1900 A.D. They are very ‘tunnelly’, unique and surprisingly smelly and not in a good way (I was not expecting this at all!).
Subway tile art @ Porte de Versailles subway station:
We had booked ourselves a walking tour at 1:30 in the afternoon. So we took a quick shower at our hotel in Paris and left to Cité via subway of course. When we reached there, we still had some time to look around and have something to eat.
That is when we observed this:
If you observe, you will see that all the seats at the table face the street. Who knew Paris is also a place where people gossip. It is said that, please like to relax and eat at a patio in good weather and spend time with friend, gossiping about people who pass by. Well its fun to sit facing the street and have a good bite observing people.
During research, we came across a few walking tours, where guides (mostly students) guide a limited number of people around the city walking. Some are free (guides depend on tips) and some are paid (tips are excluded). We had extensively used Sandemans. We took the free day tour (group of 8 people) at 1:30 p.m and paid night tour (group of 4) in the evening. The afternoon tour started at the center of Paris - Île de la Cité or Cité island.
An old map of Paris with Cité at the centre.
If you see the map, you will find that Paris almost looks like a circle. The city of Paris is built around river Seine and looks like string of concentric circles.
At the center of Cité island is “Point Zero”. This is considered the center of Paris and apparently center of the universe according to legends.
Point Zero, Center of Cité island , Paris
Just in front of point zero, Cité is home to Notre-Dame Cathedral well know for its Architecture and stained glasses.
There was a huge line-up to get in. We decided to explore later (But we could not due to lack of time).
Cité is also home to Hôtel-Dieu de Paris – considered the oldest hospital(not hotel in Paris as I initially assumed) established in early 16th century, just a few steps away from the cathedral.
There were talks of converting this to a Paris hotel by the government as maintain this building was costing the government a lot of money. A small garden inside the hospital with protest flags:
Hôtel-Dieu de Paris - oldest hospital
Behind Hôtel-Dieu de Paris , you will find Palais de Justice – center for Justice
Palais de Justice – center for Justice
You will see a lot of ruins around Cité mainly destroyed during French Revolution.
Across Paris you will see a lot of signs changed giving it a humorous twist by French artist Clet Abraham just like the one below. This was right across 10, Rue de Seine (residential building featured in a few movies like Julie and Julia), just around the corner from the Pont des Arts and the Academie des Beaux Arts.
Humurous Signs by French Artist Clet Abraham
The walk tour lasted about 2 hours. By the end of the walk tour we were thoroughly hungry, as we had already digested the most delicious 3-cheese Panini that I ever had. We had booked another walking tour at night, which was supposed to start at 7:00 p.m. We had ample time to roam around and have some food. Using my mobile downloaded app, I located the next tour starting point and started to casually walk towards the spot passing past the beautiful river Seine and Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre).
A few shots of River Seine facing Cité:
Facing South of Cité – You can see Eiffel Tower in the skyline – That was the first view of Eiffel Tower for us.
A random building on our way:
Map of Louvre Museum outside the museum:
Entrance to Louvre Museum. Just a teaser. Not going inside there yet:
Food can be a bit tricky for vegetarians in Paris. There are hardly any vegetarian French cuisines. However, the Tomato-Basil Panini and 3-Cheese Panini that I had here were the best Paninis that I ever had! If you eat egg, you must try the street-food: Crêpes(Yes, it is a street food here!). But, for vegetarians, the safe bet are Indian restaurants, Italian (Pasta / Pizza) and Panini.
As we were starving, we started looking places for food and were hoping to have something good. And what do we see in one of the restaurant menu! The restaurant name is Framboise near Louvre.
Food Menu @ Framboise near Louvre
We spent a little bit of time here as we had a lot of time until our next meeting point: Musée du Louvre station. This place was mainly chosen because the guide wanted to introduce us to this art: “Kiosque des noctambules” by Jean-Michel Othoniel to mark Paris Metro centenary in the year 2000.
Kiosque des noctambules,
Art by Jean-Michel Othoniel to mark Paris Metro centenary
While we were waiting to meet the guide, we enjoyed the street performance by a group of students.
The next spot the guide took us was right beside the subway station to see Les Deux Plateaux – a controversial art installation – basically different heights of black and white striped columns.
Les Deux Plateaux , Paris
The next destination was Louvre Museum. This according to me is the most beautiful and romantic part of Paris! Especially at night, when the whole courtyard is lit, it’s just breathtaking. This is my favorite place in Paris.
Louvre Museum, Paris
The guide brought us here to show us the “Arago Medallion”. This is an art containing 135 bronze Medallions which are placed along a longitude known as the Paris Meridian Line.
From Louvre, we could also see the Historic axis of Paris: A line of famous monuments that can be seen on a single axis.
Coming out of Louvre, we walked up to Latin Quarter and few other areas which were buzzing with life and to the very quiet areas of Paris where life seemed to have come to a stand still.
After the long walk, we came back near Louvre where we walked towards river Seine facing Love Lock Bridge (Pont des Arts): This bridge is portrayed in many films and advertisements as a symbol of love. Is it said that if a couple write their name on the lock, attach it to the bridge and throw the key in the river, their love would be undying, a symbol of commitment towards each other. There is a similar bridge (Pont de l'Archevêché), which is filled with similar locks. There are controversies regarding which is the actual lovelock bridge. However, people just fill the bridge up to show their undying love.
The guide informed us that since the bridge gets too heavy, the government has decided o replace the grills time to time giving more space for people to fill and the bridge to be safer for pedestrian use. I must confess, I was very tempted to add a lock of our own, but felt it was too cheesy to do so.
River Seine facing Love Lock Bridge (Pont des Arts)
Right across Louvre Museum crossing Pont des Arts we came across Institut de France, basically an institute that safeguards French language, art, literature and sciences
Walking non-stop we were completely tired and waiting to go back when the guide bid farewell to us at this institute by singing a very sweet French song (Don’t ask what it was. Her voice was sweet and we were being nice). We just went to the Hotel room and slept like a pair of logs. It was a very fulfilling day with lots of sight seeing on a single day.
Hope you enjoyed pics of the first day of trip to paris france.
There is more to come about our family trip to paris france. Keep watching this space.
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Guest Post by Akhila