Paris is a city that I had read about and seen featured in numerous films, TV shows and in friends vacation photos but had never been to myself. Given the task of choosing our next travel destination I had always chosen locations that offered landscapes that I find irresistible – mountains, fjords, glaciers. But recently I had an urge to finally see the city that has acquired so many famous quotes and nicknames to see what all the fuss was about.
My husband and I chose September to visit the iconic city and from dawn to dusk each day we marvelled at the culture and that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that only Paris can offer.
We were on foot early each morning after a quick coffee and pastry breakfast and enjoyed seeing the changing pace of life in the city as the day took its course. The sun had only been up for a short time when we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe with the early morning traffic just starting to circle around it. From there, we decided to start our day at the centre of it all, on the Ile de la Cité, where Paris’s right and left banks divide. We hopped on a boat cruise to get a view of the city from the Seine and to get our bearings.
Following our Seine cruise we were anxious to see Notre-Dame de Paris, “Our Lady of Paris”, up close to see for ourselves its famed French gothic architecture and stained glass. We walked all around its exterior (taking too many photos) and inevitably started wondering about the origins of Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. But we had too many other sites to fit into our day to linger too long so we took one final shot and headed off.
The sun was high in the sky now. It was noon and time to find a place for lunch and then make our way to Montmartre. Strolling through the right bank we really got a feel for the culture of the area and had a wealth of cafes and small restaurants to choose from for a light lunch.
Montmartre was exactly what we expected. Looking up at the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur at its summit we knew that once we reached it we would also be entrenched in the artistic history of the area. With so many famous artists having had studios in this neighbourhood it’s now a mecca for artists looking to sketch or paint tourist portraits to capitalize on the appeal of the area. We climbed the steps and took in the view over the city with the rest of the tourists but passed on having our portraits done or purchasing any souvenir trinkets.
The day was quickly escaping us now so after we climbed back down the steps of Montmartre we headed to the Eiffel tower in hopes of seeing it in the afternoon light just before sunset.But our day wasn’t over yet. We still had 2 more stops. We changed for the evening and headed out to dinner for a little French cuisine and then took in a show at the infamous Moulin Rouge. The Moulin Rouge is definitely a tourist attraction and I doubt many Parisians frequent it – we saw more than one busload of tourists being herded inside its doors for one of the shows – but they put on quite an entertaining cabaret and visiting the area at night gives you a real sense of the nightlife that is very much alive in the area surrounding it. Besides, where else should one see the can-can performed but in its birthplace?
To end our day we headed back to the Eiffel Tower for one last look. Having seen it in the morning and late afternoon light, we were curious to see if it would be equally alluring at night. We weren’t disappointed.Paris truly is a beautiful city and one that should be seen in all the different lights of the day, from dawn to dusk.