Bidding farewell to London, we boarded the Eurostar to cross the English Channel and exactly 135 min later, we set foot on Parisian soil!
Paris, here I come!!!
First stop on my itinerary was Musée du Louvre, though I made a detour to Angelina and La Maison du Chocolat for my daily sugar fix. Originally a royal palace, this is now the largest museum in the world. To see it all in one day is next to impossible, and I wasn’t interested to do so anyway. All I wanted was to gawk at the most famous works which include Winged Victory of Samothrace (top right) and Venus de Milo (bottom left).
And if anyone tells me that he went to the Louvre without seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, I’ll laugh and think he’s either lying or an idiot. Let me tell you, Miss Lisa is like a celebrity in the Louvre! Cameras were flashing and all the tourists were jostling to get up close and personal to her famous and enigmatic smile. And of course, I had to join in the fun! Though I must say I was highly amused by the mob scene.
Exiting the Louvre via the controversial glass pyramid entrance, we walked south toward the Seine river and then headed east for a leisurely stroll along the riverbank. Crossing the Pont Neuf, Paris’s oldest standing bridge, brought us to the heart of the city, the Ile de la Cité.
Inhabited since the Roman empire, the Ile de la Cité is one of the two natural islands in the Seine within the city (the other being Île Saint-Louis where I had my ice cream marathon on the very last day in Paris). It houses Sainte-Chapelle (beautiful on the inside!) and the towering mass of La Conciergerie, two of the last three Middle-Aged buildings left on the island.
What about the last? It’s actually the Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of Paris’ most famous tourist attractions. The queue was long but luckily, it moved fast. The interior is not as spectacular as its exterior facade and there was a service going on while we were there. Something interesting to note is the bronze plaque on the ground marked “Point Zero”—the center of France and the point from which all distances are measured in the entire country.
Saint-Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris after Notre-Dame and it has a very impressive pipe organ (bottom right) which is one of the finest and largest in the world. Thanks to Dan Brown’s novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’, it only became more popular with tourists than usual cuz it’s one of the crucial settings in the book.
There are many chic boutiques surrounding the church and more importantly, Pierre Hermé and Sadaharu Aoki are nearby!!!
One of Paris’s most recognizable landmarks, the Arc de Triomphe is the world’s largest triumphal arch. Nearby is the Champs-Elysées and we wandered down the famous avenue to Tuileries Garden. Along the way, we popped into Ladurée (#75) and by the end of the walk, I was the proud owner of two gorgeous bags (Louis Vuitton at #101 and Chanel at #42 Avenue Montaigne), yay!
For more serious retail therapy, we spent almost the entire day at Galeries Lafayette (amazing glass dome!) and it wasn’t enough! Please please please remember to do your tax refund earlier cuz the queue gets insanely long near closing time (I speak from personal experience). Down the street is the Opéra Garnier, the hiding place of the ‘Phantom of the Opera‘ in Paul Leroux’s famous play.
To the north of Paris is the charming neighbourhood district of Montmartre. It was a long and steep climb (I lost count of the number of steps) to “the top of Paris” where Sacré-Coeur is located. Surrounding the church is the extremely touristy square, place du Tertre, where painters abound to draw your portraits. Lots of tourists sit on the steps leading to the basilica and just hang out to enjoy the grand view.
At the foot of the butte Montmartre (the hill on which Sacre Coeur stands) is Paris’s red light district and a photograph of the distinctive Moulin Rouge (“The Red Windmill”) is a must! Haha, I still remember watching that movie (starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman) in 2001 when I was just in sec 1!
Many guidebooks tell me to get out of Paris by or before 8am and that’s what I did. But still, there was already a crowd at Chateau de Versailles, one of the largest and most opulent castles in the world. The Hall of Mirrors (top left) is truly a stunning masterpiece and while the sprawling immaculate gardens are lovely, it’s a chore to walk from one end to the other cuz it’s so huge.
No trip to Paris is complete without going to the Eiffel Tower! Otherwise, it’d be like coming to Singapore without seeing the Merlion, right? The panoramic view was worth 10mins of battling the cold strong wind and slight drizzle. Can you spot the Arc de Triomphe (bottom left)? At the top of the hour, there’s a lighting display, best viewed from the ground on the long grassy field, Parc du Champ de Mars (top right).
Frankly speaking, I’m glad that I’m not going to be a cliché and declare “I LOVE PARIS~”. It’s indeed overrated. The sights are kind of underwhelming in reality and somehow, they look so much more magnificant on paper. Too much photoshop by guidebooks/magazines, hmm?
My sis went “Waaa, why does the metro station look so bright??” when I showed her the photo below. Truth is, Paris’s metro stations are dark and gloomy, and most of the Parisians I saw on the trains looked tired and weary all the time. It’s like a grey, grey world in Paris -_-
That said, I still adore the food (yes, ESPECIALLY the food!) and shopping in Paris! Keep a lookout for the next post where I’ll share what yummy eats I had there =)
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