My First Impression of Europe: Paris

Sensational View from the Tower

Sensational View from the Tower

My first trip to Europe did not happen till 2003 so I had a long time to build up the anticipation and expectation but Europe still rise above and beyond my imagination.

Since the college days in China, during which I started getting exposed to European classic music, arts and literature, I’ve found it easy and natural to resonate with its romantic culture, elegant architecture and fascinating art. This trip allowed me to see all these close up and opened my eyes to more, its interesting history, beautiful landscape and fantastic cuisine, so on. It was all at once personal, real, intriguing and enticing and whetted my appetite for more.

I made the trip with my friend Cici. We designed our own itinerary that accommodated our choice of destinations, scheduling and budget. Our itinerary looked like this:
Fly US Airways to Paris, stay in Paris for four nights/days.
Fly Alitalia to Rome from Paris, stay in Rome for four nights/three days.
Take the train to Napoli and then boat to Isle of Capri, stay in Capri Island three full days/two nights.
Take the boat to Napoli from Capri, stay in Napoli for two nights/days.
Fly Alitalia back to Paris from Napoli, stayed in Paris for two nights/one day.
Fly US Airways back home.

We booked our round trip to Paris and all our hotels on the website. We had AAA booked the flights with Alitalia between France and Italy and Metro passes for Paris. Train tickets from Rome to Napoli and boat rides to Capri were purchased the same day on the station and the pier. The late boat ride from Capri to Napoli was purchase near the marina one day in advance.

While jauntily trotting destinations catering to our preconceptions, we had the serendipity of having gorgeous weather the entire two weeks. I took more than seven hundred photos, thanks to digital camera. I can’t upload them all but some that will epitomize this wonderful trip.

Paris
Is there any wonder that we picked Paris? The special promotion from US Airways was available for London and Paris. Either one was equally attractive but I picked Paris because of Capri Island, which I had long craved to see. You’ll find out what got me hooked to Isle Capri in the Capri post coming soon.

It was July and days were sunny and comfortable in Paris. We spent four nights/days there before flying to Rome and another 2 nights/1 day before we left for home. Paris is everything that its fame prevails. It has so much to offer that we barely called on the tip of iceberg, leaving many reasons to go back.

Evergreen Laurel

Evergreen Laurel


Evergreen Laurel was where we stayed the first four nights, located in north west of Paris in Levallois Perret, a bit out of the city but a very nice hotel in a quiet residential area and close to the metro station. The hotel offers a great breakfast buffet, which, to my surprise, included items of Chinese flair. It turned out it is a Taiwanese owned Hotel. There is also a nice Chinese restaurant at the hotel.
First Meal in Paris

First Meal in Paris


We had lunch at one of the places at the horse shoe shaped market around the hotel.
Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower


The most significant monuments and tallest structure in Paris, views of Paris from the top of the tower were sensational and my respect for the tower elevated up there.
Seine Form the Top of Eiffel Tower

Seine Form the Top of Eiffel Tower


At the foot of the tower, Seine, meandering visibly from the west, to the north and through the east, emanated replenishing freshness on that warm summer day.
Sacre-Coeur Form the Top of Eiffel Tower

Sacre-Coeur Form the Top of Eiffel Tower


On the far east Sacre-Coeur could be seen on top of Montmartre.
Modern Skyline Seen Form the Top of Eiffel Tower

Modern Skyline Seen Form the Top of Eiffel Tower


On the far west and north end, the modern sky scrapes made an interesting contrast to the rest of the city.
See more info about Eiffel Tower at: http://www.tour-eiffel.fr/teiffel/uk/
Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur


We arrived at Sacre-Coeur or Sacred Heart, at dusk. Many people were sitting out side. Perched on top of the butte Montmartre, it is a great spot to cool down and take in the sweeping views of Paris.
Paris from Sacre-Coeur

Paris from Sacre-Coeur


See more info about Sacred Heart at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilique_du_Sacr%C3%A9-C%C5%93ur,_Paris/
I. M. Pei’s glass Pyramid at the Louvre

I. M. Pei’s glass Pyramid at the Louvre


I. M. Pei’s glass Pyramid, a prominent structure erected at Cour Napolean, is an entrance to the Louvre.
The Louvre, the largest museum in the world with 35,000 pieces of art housed in a 60,000 square foot building, is located along the banks of the Seine. It is enormous and overwhelming. It took most of our second day, still we barely had enough time to browse through but we made it to some of the most celebrated pieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo.
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel at the Louvre

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel at the Louvre

Ornate Decorations on the Ceiling

Ornate Decorations on the Ceiling

Winged Victory

Winged Victory


“Winged Victory of Samothrace was found on an island in the Aegean Sea. It is believed to have been created by the Greeks during the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. It was discovered broken and scattered in 118 pieces in 1863 and reassembled at the Louvre.”
Venus de Milo

Venus de Milo


“This statue of the Greek goddess of love, discovered on the island of Melos in 1820 but Created at some time between 130 and 100 B.C., is justly famous for its skilled rendering of the female form, imbued with sensuality and nobility. The twisting torso and raised left leg reveal a new interest in the sculptural representation of movement.”
The Occult Sphinxes

The Occult Sphinxes


The Egyptian Antiquities is an amazing collection. The magnitude and quality of the items are unparalleled.
Pharaohic Statue

Pharaohic Statue

Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden

Sculptures in Garden

Sculptures in Garden

Former Royal Palace

Former Royal Palace


Before the Louvre became a national museum in August 1793, it was a royal palace with a history dating back to 12 century. It was begun as a fortress by Philip II, expanded into beautiful palace overtime and was home to Louis XIV before he moved to Versailles in 1674. A gigantic and handsome building, it’s been home to some of the world’s most wonderful artistic masterpieces.
Former Royal Apartment

Former Royal Apartment


Find more info about the Louvre at: http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp
A Spectacular Building Alongside Seine

A Spectacular Building Alongside Seine

Splendid View with Notre Dame Looming in the Background

Splendid View with Notre Dame Looming in the Background

Notre Dame’s Facade

Notre Dame’s Facade


Notre Dame sits on a small island in the middle of the Seine river, lle-de-la-Cit. A Gothic styled cathedral started from twelfth century, Our Lady, which is what Notre Dame means in French, embodies centuries of glory, destruction during French Revolution and miraculous restoration in the nineteenth century, a history as dramatic and sensational as Victor Hugo’s renowned novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The Towers

The Towers

Stunning interior of the Church

Stunning interior of the Church

Apse from the Back of the Church

Apse from the Back of the Church

Two of the Many Gargoyles

Two of the Many Gargoyles

Sensational View from the Tower

Sensational View from the Tower


It was free to enter the cathedral but a fee was required to get up to the tower. The climb to the tower took some effort but it was worth every bit of it. After about 250 steps, we reached the gigantic thirteen ton bell. I could not imagine how it was hauled up there. Another 140 steps later, we reached the peak and were instantly rewarded by the sensational panoramic view.
Find more info about Notre Dame at: http://www.monum.fr
Main Hall at Musee d’Orsay

Main Hall at Musee d’Orsay


Musee d’Orsay is, after we had seen the Louvre, a smaller museum situated by the Seine River. It was built as a train station in 1900, escaped demolition, and converted in 1986 into the museum that it is today. The building is beautiful and houses an impressive collection of sculptures and paintings, also to my delight, a wonderful collection of the impressionists including Monet, Manet, Renoir and Van Gogh. The restaurant at the museum is gorgeous and serves dainty pastries, where we had a break with tea and refreshment.
One of the Renowned Paintings

One of the Renowned Paintings


Find more info about Museum d’Orsay at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mus%C3%A9e_d%27Orsay
The Extraordinary Arc de Triomphe

The Extraordinary Arc de Triomphe


Arch de Triumph was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories but he did not see its completion 30 years later and the momentum of the arch has transformed during the years.
The Peace Sculpture

The Peace Sculpture


There are four relief sculptures on the base of the pillars commemorating The Triumph of 1810 (by Cortot), Resistance, Peace (both by Etex) and The Departure of the Volunteers, more commonly known by the name La Marseillaise (by Rude).
Underneath the arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Solider commemorating soldier who died during the two world wars. There is also a small museum about the history of the arch. Find more info about Arch de Triumph at: http://www.fodors.com/.
Dinner on Champs-Elysees

Dinner on Champs-Elysees


After some shopping or window shopping rather on Champs-Elysees, the most famous avenue in the world, embelished by numerous stores and street side cafes and restaurants, we sat down for dinner at this alluring restaurant. And owing to Cici’s irresistible charm and art, I benefited as well from some free desert.
The Thinker

The Thinker


Musee Rodin is situated on lot of about 7 acres enclosed by tall wall. It was first built as a hotel in 1730 and turned into a museum of Auguste Rodin’s work in 1919. Rodin lived and worked his last years there from 1908 to 1917. A great number of Rodin’s masterpieces are showcased either inside the splendid mansion house or out in the lovely garden. The famous Thinker is set outside on a tall base amidst flowers and shrubberies in front of the house, where the gilded dome of Les Invalides rising behind and above the wall.
The Kiss

The Kiss

Court Yard at the Back of the House Museum

Court Yard at the Back of the House Museum

Ugolino

Ugolino

Église du Dôme at Les Invalides

Église du Dôme at Les Invalides


Les Invalides, within walking distance from Musee Rodin, is a large complex of various buildings that is now museum of Army. It was originally built in 17th century as a home and hospital for wounded, aged and unwell soldiers. The building with the dome was added later as a royal chapel, known as the Église du Dôme, which is a splendid building and ornately decorated inside.
Parterre at Les Invalides

Parterre at Les Invalides


The sky scrape in far right of this photo is Eiffel Tower.
Gilded Decoration

Gilded Decoration

Napoleon’s Tomb

Napoleon’s Tomb


Napoleon’s tomb is a grandiloquent sarcophagus of red porphyry containing 6 concentric wooden boxes. For more info, see: http://www.invalides.org/
Les Invalides’ North Gate

Les Invalides’ North Gate


Beyond the north gate of Les Invalides, there lay a grand square surrounded by handsome buildings, esplanade and neatly clipped shrubberies. Some of the buildings house embassies of Austria and Germany and the office of French Foreign Affair.
Buildings on the Square

Buildings on the Square

Coming back from Napoli, we stayed at Paris Bastille on Rue De Lyon for the last two nights in Paris, right in the heart of the Bastille neighborhood, minutes away to the famous square, la Place de la Bastille, the site of the prison Bastille. At the center of the square, is Colonne de Juillet. The modern opera house, Opera Bastille, sits across the street. Despite that the hotel has tiny rooms and serves a cold breakfast of cereal and canned fruits, skimpy comparing to the other places that we had stayed, I appreciate the lovely residential neighborhood. It is not touristy so food and shopping there is more reasonably priced, and cafes serve tap water automatically, unlike some other places where only bottle water is served, which cost as much as wine in some instances.
Galeries LaFayette

Galeries LaFayette


Last day in Paris was shopping and shopping, including at LaFayette. A fancy, haute department store for sure but it also carries a variety of affordable choices. I found the perfect keepsakes for my son and niece right there. They asked for Eiffel Tower and they got gilded Eiffel Tower embedded in transparent Acrylic pyramid in blue and pink, respectively.
Home Store at LaFayette

Home Store at LaFayette

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