On our second day in Paris we had planned to do a free walking tour. I've previously talked about the New Europe Free Walking tours as I've now done them in numerous cities & think they are great. At the end of the day it doesn't actually wind up being free since they ask for tips if you think it was worth it, but it let's you decide how much you want to pay. If you didn't like the tour - leave nothing. If you thought it was great - leave what you think is reasonable. I've always found the tours are great since they won't be getting paid if they aren't.
Unfortunately, we got a little turned around in the morning & missed the first tour, so we decided to try our luck at touring the catacombs. This was my first trip to Europe during anything close to peak time, so I had no idea what to expect in terms of lines. That's one of the nice things about travelling outside of busy season - you rarely wait long in a line. We arrived at the entrance to the catacombs & the queue snacked all the way around the square. I think we laughed out loud - we certainly didn't have time to waste hours in a line up, so instead we walked back towards Place St Michel & the Jardin du Luxembourg.
This is one of my favourite things to do in a city like Paris. Just wander. Take in the neighbourhoods & the buildings & enjoy a walk. You miss so much taking the metro from sight to sight. The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of my favourite parks in Paris. It's huge, for one. It's also got some great people watching & a pond in the centre where kids run around pushing these little rented boats. It's a cool spot.
|Always a sucker for these kinds of buildings|
|Gas Station, Central Paris|
We hung out there for a bit before continuing on back to Place St Michel for the tour. We arrived just in time to start the tour with a British girl named Harriet (or Harry as she preferred to be called). That day there were actually two English-speaking tours running, another reminder of what season we were travelling in. Both tours took off at the same time but we almost never crossed paths with one another. (Another perk of these free walking tours - they're always different.) So although I'd done this Paris tour before, it wouldn't be the same as last time. It wasn't exactly a recent experience either (as I'd already proven by getting lost earlier).
From Place St Michel we headed over the Notre-Dame de Paris. This church is such an iconic sight for many when they visit Paris that it's shocking to think it was almost demolished. Luckily for us, Victor Hugo was interested in saving much of Paris' gothic architecture & began writing a book to raise awareness of its importance. In 1831, he penned Notre-Dame de Paris (or as you probably know it better - The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).
Next, we walked along the banks of the Seine to Pont Neuf - the oldest bridge in Paris. The many amusing faces mounted on this bridge are said to be King Henry's friends at the end of a particularly unruly night of partying. I'm not sure if this story is actually true, but it certainly makes these faces even more entertaining. Up the stairs & around the corner stands a statue of Henri-Quatre (Good King Henry), who was murdered. Apparently, you can tell because one of his horse's front legs & one of his hind legs are raised.
We wandered further along the banks of the Seine towards Pont des Arts (another bridge filled with lover's padlocks) for an incredible view of Île de la Cité. Pont des Arts also joins the Institut de France (home of the Académie Française) to the Louvre, which was our next stop. We stopped in the Cour Carré, one third of the whole Louvre Museum & originally the King's Palace, before crossing over into the iconic square with the glass pyramid.
|Institut de France|
|Île de la Cité & Pont Neuf|
We took a quick bathroom & snack break just off Rue du Rivoli (where you'll find great shopping if you're ever in Paris) before continuing on to the Jardin des Tuileries. This was originally the Queen's garden as their Palace once stood there. Our final stop was one of the largest square's in Europe - Place de la Concorde. From here you can see the Eiffel Tower & the start of the Champs-Elysées.
We decided to walk the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe, with a little stop in at Ladurée for some macarons. I know Ladurée is one of the more touristy spots for macarons, but they are still truly delicious. We picked up a little box of six & continued on to the Arc.
In 2005, I had met my parents in Paris for a weekend & we had stayed at the beautiful Hôtel Prince de Galles on Avenue George V. The afternoon they arrived, we ventured out for a glass of wine at a little bar around the corner. Before moving to France, I strictly drank cocktails & coolers. I quickly found out that's a very expensive way to drink in France & within my first month in Rennes, learned how great wine could be.
We all cherish the memory of that afternoon in Paris very much so I convinced N to see if we could find the little bar again. We did (it's called Rival) & proceeded to enjoy a glass of wine, & nibble our macarons as I told him about that very first trip to Paris, nine years prior.
|Pretty little box of colourful macarons|