Trip on a Jet Tank: Paris offers chic experience


Aug. 29, 2013
(clockwise from top left): Notre Dame Cathedral; La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur; Entrance to Versailles; Statue of King Louis XIV in Versailles; Eiffel Tower; Musical fountains on the grounds of Versailles; Claude Monet’s home in Giverny.
Photos by Katelyn Gendron
By Katelyn Gendron

katelyn@thereminder.com

Editor’s Note: The Reminder Newsroom is excited to bring you a new series this summer – Trip on a Jet Tank. Our reporters will feature a variety of locations they’ve visited, which will help you plan future getaways to locations such as Paris, France – our fifth destination in the series – Seattle, Wash., Cape Town, South Africa, and Asia.

Parisians, all too often, get a bad rap. Many refer to them as snooty and arrogant people, unwilling to converse with tourists, especially in English. It has been my experience that though the latter may be true – make sure you brush up on your conversational French – Parisians are chic, sophisticated Europeans who’re willing to share their cultural heritage with outsiders; after all, they have much to be proud of.

Sure, every tourist stops at the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre, and while those destinations have merit, there is much to experience both within and outside of the city’s limits.

Getting to the heart of Paris is a short 14-mile ride by taxi, shuttle or rental car from Charles de Gaulle Airport. Once you’re in Paris the Metro is the easiest and most cost-effective way to get around. Those who’ve traveled the subway in any American metropolitan area will have no problem navigating this system. You can buy a pass (www.parispass.com) that allows for unlimited travel via Metro, above ground train or bus within the city for 9.75 euros per day.

Those who’d rather seek the calm of the River Seine can tour the city by boat. Le Bateau Mouche (www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en) offers the ride at a cost of 12.5 euros. Lunch and dinner cruises are also available for an additional cost.

One of the first stops on your tour of Paris should be for an espresso at any café along the Champs Elysées (what I equate to New York City’s Fifth Avenue or Broadway). Pick a café, it doesn’t matter which one, and people watch as you sip your espresso and take in the hustle and bustle of the city’s most famous avenue.

Once you’re finished your refreshments, you should walk up to the Arc de Triomphe (www.arcdetriompheparis.com) to pay homage to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The cost to climb the 40 stairs to the top of the Arc is 8 euros and the sweat you incur while climbing will be well worth the views of the Champs Elyseés and the busy traffic circle surrounding it.

Another great location for viewing the city is, of course, the Eiffel Tower (www.tour-eiffel.fr). You can take the stairs to the second floor for 5 euros or the elevator for 8.50 euros. The lift to the top costs 14.50 euros. I scaled the tower during the daylight and at night and the views are, in a word, majestic.

I highly recommend making your next destination La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre (www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com). The Roman Catholic church, which is located on the top of Montmartre is the highest point in the city, providing some amazing views of the urban-scape. The best part of this area, for me, was the abundance of local artisans painting and sculpting the scenery for a very reasonable price. Buying a painting here is preferred to purchasing a print at some random souvenir shop.

Museum-lovers – and even those who aren’t – would be remiss if they didn’t spend some time in the Louvre (www.louvre.fr/en) for 12 euros. Like any major museum, you could spend your entire vacation within its walls and still not see everything. For those on a tight schedule, I recommend hitting what I like to call “The Big Three” – Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Greek sculptures Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo. It may take a bit to get close to “The Big Three” as they’re the most popular artifacts in the museum, however, they’re worth the wait to get a closer view of da Vinci’s intricate brush strokes and the sculptors’ attention to detail given such an unforgiving medium.

Another museum, which is not nearly as popular as the Louvre but of equal merit, is the Musée d’Orsay (www.musee-orsay.fr/en). For 9 euros you can experience this scintillating museum – located directly alongside the bank of the Seine River – that boasts the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world, including Manet, Monet, Renior and Van Gogh.

For those who love Impressionism as much as I do should take the 45-minute train ride to Giverny, birthplace of Monet’s “Water Lilies.” The Claude Monet Foundation (http://fondation-monet.com) has restored the artist’s home and gardens, where he lived and worked from 1883 to 1926. The tour costs 9 euros. Walking throughout the grounds, which is abundant with a plethora of vegetation, wraps around his pink crushed brick house, which you can also tour. His home, like the artist himself, is quite eccentric. The gardens provide you with a tranquil glimpse of paradise that only few were privy to during his time there.

A closer trip – approximately 12 miles – beyond the walls of Paris and one that is also rich in artistic innovation and historical significance is the Palace at Versailles (http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage). For 25 euros you can tour the opulent home of King Louis XVI, along with the extensive grounds and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chateau de Versailles had humble beginnings as King Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before being transformed in the mammoth 2,300-room complex it was by the time of the French Revolution in 1789. A sight not to be missed is the Musical Fountains Show – a seasonal event – that activates the fountains on the grounds to the rhythm of classical music.

Truth be told there is much more to see both within Paris and throughout France as a whole but I invite you to use my suggestions as a building block to plan your trip to Europe.

Bon voyage!


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