Tina’s Travels: Paris Express
by Tina Louise on
France lends you to think of Vineyards and fine dining. Paris is shopping with exclusivity and the Eiffel Tower and people with bad attitudes but wonderful culture also come to mind. This could be an interesting trip. When I told my mother I was going to Paris she asked me to find a Frenchman with a Ferrari to bring home. Who has the heart to tell her that Ferrari is Italian? Not me.
I love the express trips. They are economical and give you a ‘taste bite’ of the city. This is how I decide if I want to visit more fully later or if this is a one-time event. Paris by night bus for an express trip is one of the best ways to be introduced. Will I love it or will I only visit once? Do you really want to know? Well, follow me and let us see.
Oh, Paris! I am in love with Paris. You have heard me say this before but there are a few cities that peak your imagination and make you want to see them again and again. My love for this city is not the architecture as most of it is fairly new by European standards. It is not the paved roads and walkways; although that is wonderful after all the cobblestone streets I have traversed. It is the museums. It is the people. It is the food.
After the extremely insightful city tour that was part bus and part walking, we visited the Louvre and spent four hours wandering through Italian, Islamic, African, Napoleon, and Greek history. The Mona Lisa seems to be the main attraction but it is not the most impressive piece in the place. The building and the entire collective works astound one’s mind. I did not meander through the halls but still only saw about 1/3 of the pieces. This venue is the largest in the world. Words do not do justice to the art found here. I want to take my mother. Forget the Frenchman with a car. Bring me ART!
Once my art fix was complete, it was time for food. Yes, we have established that I like to eat. It is part of life and it is one of my favorite pastimes. Europeans take meals to a new level that Americans do not understand. It is physical. It is social. It is visceral. You enjoy the time spent around the table with good company and fabulous food. We are in Paris after all. The food should be amazing.
During a trip to the Latin Quarter for a reasonably priced meal, we became confused about north, south, east and west. Even now, our location is not clear but I was hungry and my feet hurt. We had walked a long way and ridden the subway system with a long trip from station to station. My feet said, “Rest me”, and my stomach said, “Feed ME”! A little café with a menu outside was the ticket. We sat and ordered whatever was available. (Did you know that restaurants do not serve food all day? They serve at meal times.)
With my customary request for a recommendation, I received the house special of stuffed vegetables and rice. The tomato sauce was heavenly, the stuffing was enchanting, and the overall flavor was adored. If this is what you find at small cafés, imagine what you would get from a Michelin starred restaurant.
During our walks we viewed the Parthenon and the river banks, city streets and universities that ranged all over the city. As I have said, the city is not new due to construction to widen the streets during Napoleon III’s rule. He decided he didn’t like being attacked by potential assassins on the narrow streets. I can’t say as I blame him but he had the city torn down and rebuilt to suit his fears. Seems a little over the top but then again, I am not the one with my life on the line.
Notre Dame is as important to see as the Eiffel Tower. Sitting in all its glory on a little island in the Sein River this magnificent architectural accomplishment is just waiting for you to walk through and enjoy it inside and out. Flying buttresses and amazing sculptures of saints are to be seen at every turn. I was lucky enough to walk through the cathedral and enjoy the stained glass windows. It was a reverent moment or two. At the back of the church sits a small garden with gravel walkways, park benches and locals enjoying feeding the pigeons. Square shaped trees lined the walkways and a water fountain graced the center. This was what I thought of when I think Parisian thoughts.
Our day wound to a close with a ride on the hop on hop off boat down the Seine and ended at the Eiffel Tower, our pick up point. It was relaxing and the breeze was amazing. Cities have the potential to be beautiful from street level but you do not know a city until you have cruised the waterways. We floated past monuments and statues, buildings and gardens. Groups of people were dancing at parks along the bank with music in the air. It was almost surreal as this seemed to be everything Paris appears to be on paper, in art, and in life.
The Eiffel Tower was impressive during the daylight but at night it is a work of art. Lit up to be seen for miles it is simple and beautiful. The base of the tower is alive with people sitting, walking, and talking. There was laughter and excitement just to be in such an iconic location. Friendships were made with other travelers and our entire group had a great time.
- Paris is too large to walk. Plan to use public transit systems. The subway is older but runs with efficiency. Look at it in advance and plan your route if possible. It can be overwhelming if you are not prepared.
- Visit the museums. It can be a free one or the Louvre. See art and enjoy it.
- If you plan to visit the larger sites such as the Eiffel Tower and rise to the third floor, buy your tickets in advance. Aim for a month if possible but at least two weeks or you will not find yourself anywhere but at the bottom looking up.
- The Louvre has several entrances. Some are hidden and much easier to use than the main one. You can skip long lines if you research your planned stops before going.
- Look into the Paris Pass if you are in the city for at least two days. You have fast pass entrance as well as included public transport.
- See the city from the river. Choose a tour that stops and starts in the same place or use the Hop on Hop off boat.