Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Trip to Paris, France (July 2016)

"Paris est toujours une bonne idée" It means "Paris is always a good idea."

Audrey Hepburn said in her movie "Sabrina."

Nicolas Barreau wrote a book with the same title and published it in 2014.

Indeed, Paris is a great place to visit, at least. No wonder Paris is attracting 32-35 million tourists a year.

France has a population of 66 million of which 2.2 million call Paris home. Its land size is 644K sq. km including overseas departments and territories, ranking the third in Europe. France is proud of its rich history and background in so many areas, including foods, art, music, culture, architecture, agriculture, and even technology. Recent slowdown in its economy may have humbled a bit, but France stands quite tall in many areas.

I have been to Paris a few times, but only briefly. So my experience of Paris has been partial and sketchy. Moreover, I had my wallet picked and Kristin got her purse almost snatched away in 1997 when we came with our two daughters. So I have a mixed feeling towards Paris.

This summer, Kristin and I visited this City of Light again. This time, we came prepared for the unexpected.

Usually we love to use the Hop-on, Hop-off bus to explore a new city. It is cost-effective and convenient. But I found it ineffective in Paris due mainly to heavy traffic jams all over the city. Instead, we used the metro for unlimited rides with a day pass and walked whenever possible.

The first place we visited was Notredam of Paris. This is where I got my pocket picked. So we were a little weary, but it was early in the morning. The line was far too long to enter the cathedral. We settled for walking around the cathedral and by the Seine River.

The iconic symbol for Paris is the Eiffel Tower. This structure was overly crowded with not only tourists but also Parisians who were excited about the Europe Cup soccer or football that makes more sense. France was hosting the games and the final game was between France and Portugal. There was a giant ball hanging within the tower and a giant screen was set up for the crowd to watch the game. Portugal ended up winning the cup and I am sure many Parisians felt heart-broken.

The next iconic place for Paris is Palais Royal du Louvre and Museum. It is one of the world's three largest museums along with British Museum in London, U.K. and Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Obviously, you would need several months to explore the museum meaningfully. So we focused on the highlights, including the Mona Lisa. But the actual Mona Lisa was far too small and there were so many people standing in front of the paining, keeping us from taking any good photo. We took it but I think it is better to have one from else where for this blog.

After the Museum, we walked through the Garden of Louvre. There were amusement facilities for children and family in the garden. Many people were strolling or enjoying their rest time in the shade. We joined those who strolled around.

We passed by the statue of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc). She helped Charles VII of France turn around from continuing defeats in the final years of the 100 years' war against England and eventually win. She died at the age of 19. She was declared a heroine by Napoleon and remains as such. Also, she was beatified and canonized by the Vatican as a saint. What a life she lived!

When we reached the other end of the Garden, we found a ferris wheel, called Rue du Paris, It looked like London Eye, except that this was smaller than London counterpart. We felt it would be a good idea to have a bird's eye view of the city from above, probably better than from the top of Arc de Triomphe. It was panoramic and fascinating.

Place de la Concorde was right outside the Garden of Louvre. At the center was an obelisk. Facing the obelisk, you can find twin buildings on the right hand side and on the left hand side you can see the Parliament Building in distance. Beyond the obelisk, you can see the Champs Elysees stretch all the way to Arc de Triomphe.

The most exotic shopping district in Paris is Champs Elysees and it goes without saying. We are not shoppers, particularly expensive stuff, so walked only a blog from George V station to Arc de Triomphe that overlooks the street. For obvious reasons, people were all over to take better pictures of and with the Arc.

We also visited L'Opera that is located in Palais Garnier. We took au audio guided tour. Its grandeur of the architecture, sculptures well coordinated with marble stones and velvet colors was splendid.

We also visited La Madeleine Church that looked like Pantheon. It was under renovation.

We took the metro to get off at Pussy Station and walked on a bridge that is slightly away from the Eiffel Tower so that we can have a better view. It was a wonderful decision because that bridge was not crowded at all and we were able to stroll and enjoyed the majestic view of the Tower without being pushed by the crowd. We found several newly wed couples who were trying to take the photos with the Tower. Interestingly, most of them were Asian. Huh...

We walked over to the dock where we took the Seine River cruise that departed from the Eiffel Tower to Norte Dame de Paris and returned. The Seine River... It sounded so romantic when I was a high school student. Later when I first visited and saw it, I was deeply disappointed by its small size and unclean-looking water. It became dis-romantic. This time, however, I found the Seine River quite attractive again. The water was not as bad as the water I saw in Venice and other rivers, such as the Danube River. Also, I saw so many people sitting down at the river banks, sunbathing and walking on the banks. It was peaceful and relaxing.

On the way, the cruise boat passed under the famous Lovers Bridge. There were far too many love-locks at the bridge. So the city government removed all the locks and kept people from placing the locks again. On another bridge, part of the locks was moved as the mark of the history. Too bad.

Without counting all the metros we took and the boat cruise we sat down, we walked more than 25,000 steps after all. It was quite a full day, but we felt there were still a lot more to explore. To name a few, Montmarte, Moulin Rouge, Ecole Militaire, Champ de Mars, Jardin du Champ de Mars, Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. Well, we never plan to master the city. Perhaps next time.

Paris is always a good idea. Indeed. - Jeffrey

No comments: