Trip date 26th to 30th December 2010 from London
It’s the Christmas holidays and what other better way to spend it after a nice Christmas dinner but to head across the channel to France for some frosty magic? Together with my backpacking friends, my trip to Paris starts off with a high speed train ride on the Eurostar from the London St Pancras railway station to Paris Gare du Nord.
Such high speed trains had been the backbone of the long distance travel in Europe, you should be familiar with the TGV high speed trains which serve the region since 1981. And whoa, do these trains had evolved over the years. These high speed trains now span at least 20 carriages long at a go and travels at speeds at least 200kmph and averaging 300kmph, with the cross channel ones blazing through these speeds 2000ft under the English channel.
We stayed at a mid range budget inn at the Cluny district, which is located just off the Le Seine by the Notre Dame at an intersection, offering a rather nice overview of the streets at night with the Eiffel tower in the background. This view just beckons us on what awaits us in the city.
The Le seine is a river running through the heart of the city and splits the into 2 separate northern and southern regions. The first part of my tour in this blog post will not cover all the specific attractions in the city, such as the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame and so on, which will be covered in a following blog post on the sights and attractions section of my Paris trip written specifically on them. This post however will touch mainly on the heart of Paris itself from my walks around the city and miscellaneous locations of interest on my walkabout explorations.
Starting off with my visit to the Louvre, the Carousel Garden by the museum is a manicured garden leading up to the Jardin des Tuileries, it’s essentially a Tuileries garden and pedestrian garden boulevard linking sections of the city, almost like the National Mall in Washington. The Arc de Triomphe stands west of the Louvre and marks the start of the gardens towards the west.
Heading west along the garden boulevard will bestow you with nicely planted trees which line the whole length of the Tuileries, with little smaller gardens on each side complete with mini fountains and sculptures. Though not much of the greenery remains in winter, it offers unique snow-only views of a garden completed blanketed by a white sheen, like as if a scene from a movie.
A ferris wheel sits at the end of the gardens where one of the most famous streets here in Paris reside, the Place de la Concorde. Here we can find the nearby Hotel Be La Marine and the Le Médiateur de la République across the street. The Obelisk of Luxor sits as a centerpiece in the middle of the square and as a matter of fact is an authentic Egyptian obelisk taken from well, where else but Egypt! The Allae Marcel Proust is another garden area across the Luxor and is known for it’s holiday food stalls during festive seasons, particularly in winter. No wonder it’s exceptionally busy with endless rows of food and winter gift stalls lining the whole street.
This street we are on is known as the avenue des Champs Elysees, which is Paris most iconic shopping destination. Have a walk on the Paris fashion avenue, peer into the many vitrines lined along the street or stroll through the countless boutique stores located in the grands magasins, this is after all where most of the world’s current clothing fashion find their start from. The Grand Palais (palace) can be seen along here as well, with the Le dôme rutilant des invalides (aka the Emperor Napoleon’s Tomb and the war museum) sitting right in front of the intersection from the avenue too.
Paris is a buzzing city of tradition, fashion glitz and glamor. This is after all where the global Fashion avenue is. Moving on the des Champs Elysees will bring you deeper into the main fashion and shopping district, it is a high end shopping area decked out with plenty of stores which all seem to be bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The streets here are buzzing and complete with street performers which goes with the young crowds here in the posh shopping arcade.
At the center stage and the end of the des Champs Elysees is the famous roundabout and the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, complete with it’s burning flame sits beneath the Arc. The arc offers a high vantage point over the city and sights of the Place de la defense 5km further west.
Our next stop will be the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens. it is situated a short walk away along Rue Soufflot street towards the Edmond Rostand circle. The palace overlooking a vast garden and the Paris observatory (Observatoire de Paris) was built for Marie de Medicis mother of king Louis XIII of France. The garden is home to over a hundred statues, monuments, and fountains, scattered throughout the grounds, just from the Senate of France, you can already make up few of the elaborate fountain lined terraces flanking the public gardens here, which is a popular spot for both tourists and the locals alike for exercising and jogging.
You can catch nicely framed views of the Pantheon from the Luxembourg Palace gardens. The Medici Fountain here as well as the smaller Fontaine de Léda are one of the few historical fountains here. The Medici was built in 1630 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France and regent of King Louis XIII of France.
The Pantheon (meaning “Every god” in Greek) is a mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. Built with an early example of neoclassicism architecture, it sits on a highland portion of the city with the nearby Saint-Etienne-du-mont behind it.
Paris is home to a wide variant of street-side restaurant, especially around the Cluny area where you can pamper yourself with many street side stores hawkers and restaurants which will appeal to all budgets. Escargots is a must try! In ending, there is just that much I can say here on this blog post about the city of the Paris, there is just so much on the city which I can cover here. You can check out more of the city by navigating below or heading directly to the Paris photo album here.
- The city of Paris at Christmas (Album: Paris City Photos)
- The Louvre museum (Album: The Louvre gallery)
- Paris Eiffel, Notre Dame & Sainte Chapelle (Album: Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle)
- Disneyland Paris (Album: Paris Disneyland Resort)
- Paris Disneyland Hollywood Studios (Album: Paris Hollywood Studios)