Sightseeing in Paris: Notre Dame, Louvre and other spots

Paris Travel Blog

 › entry 13 of 19 › view all entries
Petit Dejeuner should always be CREPES!

And so, another day in Paris, and another day of walking (I was praying my legs don't hurt too much today, and thankfully the left ankle held up quite well!). It was fairly sunny and the weather seemed good, so off I got ready, walked down to my favourite creperie right outside the metro and ordered myself a nice chocolate and almond crepe. I love crepes! Thank God I don't permanently live in France, it's unhealthy. LOL! Anyway with fuel for the tummy taken care of, my first stop of the day was going to be the Pantheon, but I thought why not visit the much talked about but less hyped Jardin du Luxembourg.

I really have to say this was a quiet star attraction of my visit so far.

With lots of Nutella, and almonds
This place was the first royal garden built on the Left Bank, and was the home of one of the queens of Henri IV. There really isn't much to say here other than the gardens themselves. They're beautiful. Lush. And in that morning light, with lots of people jogging, etc was a perfect atmosphere. I also particularly loved how organised the trees looked, well cut out and all in a single line, with lines next to lines making for a very well arranged premonade.

After spending about 1 hour here, I made my way through blvd St.Michel looking for a bookstore to buy some FLE books. Boy - this road is huge. Call it the Oxford Street of London (or wait, is that the Champs Elysses?). In any case, this is a place where I finally got to see the real Paris - the chains, the stores, the people, the rush, the everyday life.

...et voila!
It didn't look touristy, but it sure looked pretty! I was hoping I would shop at a bookstore Gibert Joseph but it doesn't open till 11am (why do French stores open when they like?!) so I thought might as well use that time and walk down all the way to..... one of Paris' most visited spots after the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

Notre Dame de Paris - this church here is SIX centuries old. Yep, SIX. It's  been the hallmark of all things Gothic and although I've seen tons of "similar" churches, I have to say this one is huge. And the way it's been built, with plenty of space around means you can actually walk around it and appreciate it better. The classic flying buttresses, the trio of sculpted portals - one of the Virgin, one of the Last Judgement and one of Sainte Anne.

Fountain @ Jardin du Luxembourg/Palais du Luxembourg
Highly appreciative piece of sculpture, this. And, the best was the wide open square overlooking the cathedral. You can tell this is a tourist spot. From the moment I got there, you could see hoardes of tourists arriving  - buses, taxis, by walk, you name it. The inside of the Cathedral is nice. Lovely stained glasses and all, although I'd be lying if I said it was spectacular. It really was, in right earnest, like any other cathedral I've seen. So I decided to spend time outside - aka, the top.

There's a huge huge huge queue that starts forming here so go early! The narrow staircase leads up to a bookstore where they let you wander around for about 10 mins (talk about smart!), but then you walk up to the top and it all seems worth it. The Gargoyles popularised by Victor Hugo are present in all shapes and forms, originally created to ward off evil spirits from the Church.

Jardin du Luxembourg
And the views of Paris are magnificent. Almost everyone here manages to get pictures of the town with the Gargoyles 'bordering' the picture. Well guess what, I did too! LOL!

I really was enjoying myself - walked around the touristy roads, bought some souvenirs and a cheese crepe (again!), and walked my way to Sainte Chapelle. Loved the stained glass windows here again, but other than that, nothing else to write home about unfortunately. Very average.

From here, I started walking back blvd St.Michel and first stop was Gibert Joseph where I picked up a few books, before heading to the Museum of Middle Ages. I didn't care much for this place, other than the highlight - the room with 6 tapestries, 5 of which each highlight a sense.

Palais du Luxembourg
Very impressive, kept in a dark room and trying to preserve its origins. Other than that, the museum was a bit of a drag, and I left after about 30 mins or so.

Hunger struck again, I actually ate a Nutella-banana panini (yes!), and then finally made my way past the Latin Quartier to the Pantheon. From afar, you would say "St.Pauls" part 2? Close up, it looks even more like a clone. And guess what, you're right! The Pantheon houses the dead bodies of some notalble soldiers and rulers of France. It was originally "just" a church, until Louis XV had it rebuilt on the same lines as London's St.Paul's. The jury is still out on this one though, I don't know if I was thoroughly impressed. I have to say though, I really really like the idea of a Museum Pass which allows you to just walk in without doing any kind of research, and if you don't like the museum, big deal - you can walk out and feel happy you didn't waste too much of money!

I was feeling really tired, and this was one of those days where, as much I was appreciating Paris for what it is, I ended up comparing it to London at times and could feel my disappointment.

Jardin du Luxembourg/Palais du Luxembourg
In Paris, the Metro signs are not clearly earmarked, not to mention that the signs themselves are different. Some of them have an M, some have the word "Metropolitan" written in the horror movie font, and it's virtually hard to trace given the overall flamboyance of the town. I've never had this kind of problem in the years of London Underground I've been using. What I'm trying to get at is, I wanted to take the Metro which was close to the Pantheon (there were THREE), but I ended up walking and walking and finally walked about a good mile before I finally found one (and after asking a dozen people who were all clueless - and no, they weren't tourists). Anyway, I took the Metro to perhaps, the ultimate Mecca in terms of art and culture, and ironically was a Palace itself, once upon a time.
Early morning joggers at Jardin du Luxembourg
..

Musee de Louvre - You can find all the technical information and stuff on Wikipedia, but from personal experience, I can safely say that this place really really lives up to its hype. It's massive, which isn't surprising considering it was originally a royal residence converted into an Art showroom only after the King relo'ed to Versailles. And this was in the late 17th century. So imagine how much of art has been collected over the years. It was officially opened as a museum a decade later to the public, of course you didn't have a website those days.. ;-) but it's really magnificent. Everything sets the tone - the fancy palace courtyard with the state of the art pyramid in front of it, the halls.... my God the architecture of the place.

Look at the trees! So well "cut" and lined up
.. you have Paris, a big city and this is like a City within a city. It's huge. So obviously, for the 4-5 hours I had here, it would be impossible for me to get through everything. I wanted to hit the big ticket items first - obviously the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Fortunately for me, the guide pamphlet said that they are in the same "area". I hurried through the lower floor of Denon before making my way up to the 1st floor to not only see the Mona Lisa, but the fine fine collection of European art on that floor. It really is beautiful. I never considered myself much of a museum junkie but this is one place which just effortlessly attracts you and keeps you there, and flows you through room after room after room, painting after sculpture after painting.... just too good for words.
On St.Michel blvd
I stayed here till... duh.... closing hours.

By this time, my legs had completely given up on me (who'd have thunk browsing museums were this tiring!) although I did keep thinking that I have to come back here to see more, both on this and in future trips. I headed back to the hotel, had a shower and rested my feet for a bit, before taking off around sunset time to 2 other places on my checklist - Centre Pompidou, an ostentatious piece of colour thrown in the middle of classique Paris, the bright escalators, the pipes, the transparent buildings, it really is a sight to behold. I sadly couldn't spend much time inside, although some books say that this is Tate Modern of France. I sadly can't comment as I didn't see much, but a 5 min stroll definitely showed similarities.

Notre Dame Cathedrale
Paris really looks good at night, I must say that though... really does! the whole town comes alive. People love to eat and drink and just be together.

My final, final stop in an otherwise long, long, long day was, well perhaps the 2nd most recognised symbol in Paris after the Eiffel Tower, namely the Arc de Triomphe. Fact-wise, this is the largest arch in the world, commissioned by Napoleon. And from a history point of view, this has witnessed some of France's proudest and most humiliating moments. I reached around 9pm, right at the start of sunset and I was told to visit that time to see Paris in dusk and in the dark. Getting to the arch is interesting, you can't cross it - obviously - with so many roads and traffic... so you take the underground walkway to it.

and the famed stained glass windows
This place look really nice and has lots of photo opp's, but the actual visit to the place was so-so. The so-called view of Paris from the top is average seeing as it's erm...not that tall. I did take pix of Eiffel tower, but again, nothing to write home about. The weather was good though, so I  stayed here till about 10pm before heading back to the hotel. Met my friend for dinner (he'd had a long day at Mt. Saint Michel), and we went to the usual rsnt next door (sad I even forgot what it's called!) for 4 cheese pizza and dessert - tiramasu (which was more cream than cake). I couldn't wait that night to go to bed - I was dog tired, the leg pain only made it worse. But I was still happy - today was so much better than y'day, probably because I not only got a good idea of Paris but I visited the top attractions and it felt good just walking about.

Onto another busy day....!

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Petit Dejeuner should always be CR…
Petit Dejeuner should always be C…
With lots of Nutella, and almonds
With lots of Nutella, and almonds
...et voila!
...et voila!
Fountain @ Jardin du Luxembourg/Pa…
Fountain @ Jardin du Luxembourg/P…
Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg
Palais du Luxembourg
Palais du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg/Palais du Lux…
Jardin du Luxembourg/Palais du Lu…
Early morning joggers at Jardin du…
Early morning joggers at Jardin d…
Look at the trees! So well cut a…
Look at the trees! So well "cut" …
On St.Michel blvd
On St.Michel blvd
Notre Dame Cathedrale
Notre Dame Cathedrale
and the famed stained glass windows
and the famed stained glass windows
Atop the Notre Dame
Atop the Notre Dame
Kodak moment - the gargoyle with S…
Kodak moment - the gargoyle with …
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Didnt believe that autumn colours…
Didn't believe that autumn colour…
my cheese crepe being made
my cheese crepe being made
Palais du Justice
Palais du Justice
Sainte Chapelle
Sainte Chapelle
The famed stained glass inside
The famed stained glass inside
Conciergerie
Conciergerie
Random shot of a rsnt near Notre D…
Random shot of a rsnt near Notre …
Notre Dame from the south
Notre Dame from the south
Musée de Cluny/ Musée National d…
Musée de Cluny/ Musée National …
The 6 famed tapestries inside the …
The 6 famed tapestries inside the…
Pantheon
Pantheon
Main hall inside the Pantheon
Main hall inside the Pantheon
Pendulum inside the Pantheon (alth…
Pendulum inside the Pantheon (alt…
Gibert Joseph - prime book outlet …
Gibert Joseph - prime book outlet…
The Louvre
The Louvre
Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo
The Nike of Samothrace (winged Vic…
The Nike of Samothrace (winged Vi…
The Halls of Denon
The Halls of Denon
The crowd for La Joconde
The crowd for La Joconde
La Gioconda (Italian) / La Joconde…
La Gioconda (Italian) / La Jocond…
The rich red walls of Denon
The rich red walls of Denon
Side view of the Louvre - not sure…
Side view of the Louvre - not sur…
The pyramid near the entrance of t…
The pyramid near the entrance of …
This was taken at the Metro!
This was taken at the Metro!
Paris nightlife readies itself...
Paris nightlife readies itself...
Centre Pompidou - unashamedly bash!
Centre Pompidou - unashamedly bash!
Inside the Centre Pompidou
Inside the Centre Pompidou
View from Arc de Triomphe
View from Arc de Triomphe
OK, OK, OK...! :)
OK, OK, OK...! :)
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
dessert - Tiramasu (which sadly wa…
dessert - Tiramasu (which sadly w…
Paris
photo by: Sweetski