A Weekend in Paris #2 : From the Eiffel Tower to the Jardins du Luxembourg
After a spot of breakfast we embarked on our second day of city sightseeing and caught the metro to Trocadero. It was obviously our lucky day (?) because due to high levels of pollution all public transport was declared free, meaning no money had to be spent on travel around the city.
Top Tip: the most cost effective way of travelling around the city is either by metro or bus. Buy a ‘carnet’ of 10 tickets at a discounted rate of 13,70 euros (a little under 20% off the usual fare) or if you are planning on jumping on and off several times, the day ticket, ‘Ticket Mobilis’ is perhaps even better, offering unlimited rides on the metro and bus – for zones 1 and 2, which cover central Paris, the price is 6,80 euros.
Once at Trocadero, named in honour of the Battle of Trocadero in southern Spain and nowadays home to two museums, we ambled down through the Jardins where at the bottom we found an array of luxury cars. Naturally this impressed Dom, so we stopped for a while to watch the extravagant rides pull up and take their place with the rest of those already at the gathering.
From here we crossed the River Seine and found ourselves beneath the mighty ‘La Dame de Fer’ (the Iron Lady), in other words the huge Eiffel Tower.
We decided not to climb it this time due to the thick layer of smog that lay over the city, but we opted to continue to walk through the picturesque Champ Mars park, in the direction of the École Militaire.
Spring had definitely arrived in Paris, with an abundance of blossoming trees and flowers, and as it approached midday it was even warm enough to take our jackets off!
The stunning École Militaire, at the end of the Park, looks straight up past the Eiffel tower to Trocadero and provides a wonderful place to take photos back at the iron giant.
From here it is only a short walk along the Avenue de Tourville to Les Invalides, a number of buildings containing museums and monuments, all concerning the military history of France. Les Invalides also houses the burial sites of numerous French war heroes, notably that belonging to Napoleon.
Walking through the cluster of buildings towards the main entrance, we could see straight down the street to the beautifully ornate Pont Alexandre III crossing over the Seine. This is perhaps the most elegant bridge in Paris not only due to the fact that it is smothered with lashings of gold and fine sculpture work, but also due to its superior location connecting the Champs Elysees and Les Invalides.
Turning right we strolled along the river until we reached the capital’s largest square, the Place de la Conorde, with the striking obelisk.
This giant Egyptian obelisk, which once marked the entrance to the temple of Luxor, was given as a gift by the Egyptian government to the French in the 19th century. Along with the Obelisk, two eye catching fountains can be found in the centre of the square. Both had themes related to rivers and seas, and, with their proximity to the Seine, featured tritons or naiads as well as other mythical characters. The North fountain is devoted to the rivers (the Rhine and the Rhone), and the South fountain to the seas and oceans (the Atlantic and the Mediterranean).
To the right of Place de la Concorde are the chocolate-box gardens of the Tuilleries, popular with Parisians and tourists alike. These gardens provide a peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by, be that on the luscious green grass or on one of the green chairs scattered around the park’s water basins. As expected the park was packed out with picnickers, others just soaking up the delightful Spring sunshine and of course the lines of tourists making a pilgrimage through to the gardens to the Louvre.
However, with our busy agenda there was not much time to stop and sunbathe and so we continued our stroll along with the many others up through the park, under the Arc de triomphe du Carrousel until we reached the Louvre with its two tremendous glass pyramids. Stopping for a shameless photo is obligatory – here’s Dom!
As a visit to the museum was not planned, we continued onwards and after passing through the buildings themselves we exited on to the Rue de Rivoli and decided it was time for lunch and began our search. We ended up in the area of Les Halles (the old covered marketplace) and found a cosy looking restaurant offering a delicious lunchtime menu (Le Bistrot d’Eustache).
Top Tip: Restaurants typically offer a lunchtime menu (Formule) where you can pick between a starter and main course or a main course and dessert (sometimes all 3 courses) for a set price. For each course a small choice is offered. For example in Le Bistrot d’Eustache we opted for a 2 course menu (main course and dessert) which checked in at 16,80 each. This may still seem rather pricey but believe me, for Paris, this is rather good value!
After a tasty lunch and feeling set and ready for more exploring, we headed back in the direction of the river, passing the old department store, La Samaritaine, which is currently being redeveloped as the site for some very expensive apartments.
From there we walked a little way along the Seine, admiring the captivating Bouquinistes – pop up stalls of second hand books, artwork and nowadays, the many and varied Parisian souvenirs.
Crossing over the Pont du Notre Dame, we made our way onto the Île de la Cité in search of the beautiful cathedral. The classic gothic style of pointed spires and flying buttress are common to many ecclesiastical monuments built in this architectural style but the Notre Dame is set apart from these with its smaller details such as the statues, carvings and sculptures which together retell the church’s history.
centre of education …
Behind the Notre Dame is the place for all hopeless romantics out there – the one and only ‘ Love Lock’ Bridge.
Whilst crossing this lovely bridge, it brought a smile to my face thinking of all the people in love who have locked their own padlocks onto this bridge. We didn’t stop to attach ours, as typically I had left ours behind and we didn’t have time to buy another, but we did find this one.. it’ll have to count for now..
Leaving the island and the padlocks behind us, we entered the Quartier Latin and kept walking until we reached the area of Saint Germain. This is another of my favourite areas of Paris and is known as the left bank’s answer to the artistic haven of Montmartre. St Germain is said to have been Medieval Europe’s centre of education back when Latin was still the Lingua Franca. Nowadays this area remains youthful with its charming narrow streets and an atmosphere that reflects the vast numbers of students living and studying in this area. Something I also noticed on the walk through this endearing quarter were the countless florists, offering flowers of both vivid colour and attractive scent.
As the weather was so nice, we took a break and wandered through the Jardin du Luxembourg, an ideal place for an afternoon picnic, or even just for lounging in the sunshine.
After an hour or so of strolling through the park, viewing the various statues, gardens and people enjoying the warm Spring sunshine we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. We had experienced a lot of what Paris had to offer, the world-famous monuments, bridges, gardens and culture and had immersed ourselves in the romantic atmosphere of one of the most romantic cities on the surface of the globe. The various places of interest had evoked a sense of history, of culture, and of the Arts and a desire to explore further in the future.
A weekend in Paris #1 : Montmarte (click here) A weekend in Paris #3 (click here) – coming soon