Paris: The City of Love

By Nomadic Matt | Published August 25th, 2008

Lovers by the towerParis. Poets, artists, playwrights, writers, journalists, statesmen, and more have all written about it. All came to Paris and walked away in love.

It’s hard not to fall in love with Paris. It’s a magical place, and I can see why so many flock here. Paris exudes culture, sophistication, and style. And, like millions before me, I too fell in love with the city.

I remember the exact moment. It was about midnight, and I had only been in Paris for two hours. I was meeting friends for a night on the town, and I hadn’t seen much of the city yet since I arrived late. But the second I got out of the metro and stared at the Arc de Triomphe and marveled at the Champs-Élysées, I fell in love. Paris was it—the highlight of my time in Europe.

But with just two days in Paris, I only had time to see the big sights and walk around. Two days does not do this city justice.

Notre Dame

One of the first things that struck me about Paris was how spacious it is. Paris is filled with wide streets, lots of little squares and plazas, and large parks. In European cities, especially ones as old as Paris, you rarely find such openness. It’s usually only in the newly built areas. Old buildings were usually built close together, and any trip to London, Barcelona, Rome, or Prague will have you wondering how people moved about. But Paris is different. There’s a lot of open space here. The space makes the city feel much less busy and far more relaxed. You can walk, you can move, you can dodge that car. It’s refreshing.

With my limited time here, I stuck to the major sites. I walked down to the Louvre and marveled at its size, wondering if Dan Brown would use it again in his books. I didn’t go in, though—the Louvre deserves more time than I could give it on this trip. I stared at the Arc de Triomphe and strolled down the Champs-Élysées. The Champs-Élysées is always busy and always expensive. With so many tourists and expensive shops, though, it’s not surprising. I spent my first night there club-hopping. My Parisian friends showed me the local nightlife, which doesn’t end until 8am. Parisians party hard.

Lovers by the towerThe highlights of the trip came on my second day. I spent six hours wandering the streets of Paris, falling in love with it more and more. The city is beautiful. Stupidly beautiful. All of it. Nothing else can be said, and I’ll let each photo tell you a thousand words.

I enjoyed the Latin Quarter. This historic area is filled with tiny, winding streets that turn at weird angles to open into little café-lined squares. Despite being so close to Notre Dame, there were few tourists wandering around. The streets there were much quieter, and it seemed like a nice area to eat and relax in. I was glad to get lost in it for quite some time.

Another great place was the Jardin du Luxembourg. This huge garden behind the Palais du Luxembourg is a local favorite on a warm summer day. Tree-lined paths zigzag across the area, connecting parks to picnic or nap in and tennis courts to play on. There’s a large central fountain and a little place to race boats. The park is filled with people relaxing and eating. One thing that amazed me about the gardens was the large amount of chairs. In fact, most parks in Paris had chairs. Chairs that were not tied down, because no one takes them. They’re just there. I was surprised because in most other places I’ve been, people would take the chairs and slowly they’d disappear, too costly to replace.

And how could I forget the two biggest sights: the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.

The Eiffel Tower wasn’t that impressive the first time I saw it. It was raining, and the tower seemed to blend into the gray clouds overhead. Yes, it was cool, but it wasn’t breathtaking. Then I saw it a second time. On a clear blue day, the tower stuck out in the sky, reaching high above the surrounding buildings. Walking towards it, I got more excited, and the second time I saw it towering above the Seine, I was impressed. Really impressed. However, I was not impressed with the two-hour wait to get to the top and skipped that. But what a sight! The Eiffel Tower, or the “metal asparagus” as Parisians used to call it, is mesmerizing. It’s the symbol of the city of love, which is evident by the large amount of couples caressing each other on the surrounding grass. (See first photo.)

Notre Dame was cleaner than I thought it would be. I expected a grim structure giving the Gothic architecture an even more dark and mystical feel. Sadly, it seems the building has been cleaned over the last few years. I think it takes away from the history and foreboding of the structure. C’est la vie, right? The inside was pretty standard, and the front reminded me of the duomos in Italy. The real beauty of Notre Dame is its buttressed oval rear. This part is breathtaking, and the Gothic art here is very intricate and well designed. The downside to Notre Dame is the sea of tourists who crowd this place each day. They swarm around like flies to honey, and I quickly decided to leave. It was nice, but not worth the annoyance. Instead, I marveled at it from afar—away from the crowds.

The top of Notre Dame, a famous cathedral in Paris

Paris was amazing. I loved it all and will come back as soon as I possibly can. It’s everything I thought it would be and more. My next post will give tips for traveling around the city and offer more practical advice. But this is my Paris love story. So many of us have one.

 

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comments 24 Comments

I loved Paris too and so much so I went back 3 times.
I rate Venice a close second and Edinburgh after that

Cuckoo

Yes, I agree. Paris is just amazing. The Champs Elysees.. expensive but one can not miss it.
Did you try metro ? I had fallen in love with that too !

You must go back! Paris is not all wide boulevards and spacious parks. Some of my favorite neighbourhoods have narrow cobbled streets and wonderful little sidewalk cafes and bars. You need to tell us which bars and clubs you liked on your night out. The thing I love about Paris’ nightlife is that it’s so laidback. Despite their reputation as fashion plates, young Parisians are pretty scruffy in an endearing kind of way and the bars are therefore fairly casual. We had one of our most memorable nights out in Paris (although admittedly it was pretty hazy toward the end), where the bar staff were dancing on the bars and pouring spirits down people’s throats. It was surprisingly a rather bohemian bar too! Not what you’d expect. Lots of fun!

You know, it’s funny; I went to Paris when I was 17 and I hardly remember anything about it. But I’m very eager to go back.

Ant

Just curious, what did you eat in your time there? For me, gay Paris is the city of bon appetit (though to be honest, I’m just as partial to my good ol’ English chippies!) Well written post though mate, where’s next?

NomadicMatt

@cuckoo: I thought the paris metro was a little old, which i found odd considering how modern france’s rail system is.

@lara: The Latin Quarter was like that. Little streets and cafes. I loved it. Had lunch at some place. mmmm so good. I went out to World Place and Buzz on my big night out. Amazing time, although Buzz was very expensive. Parisians were very funny and I agree- despite their reputation as fashionistas, they were dressed very casual and scruffy.

@Julie: Let’s go!

@Ant: I ate out at various cafes I came across. The food was excellent. I had amazing food in Bordeaux. I’m in Germany now waiting to get to Bangkok.

Ant

@ Lara: I had a memorable night there too, I was there for the Champions League Final, drinking in the bars around the Moulin Rouge when an unprovoked gang of young Parisians sought to test the reputation of the English football fans abroad and striking out with metal stools and throwing glass bottles into the fray. The only thing the succeeded in was being arrested! Still, I wouldn’t condemn the city’s people on a few idiots.

Its truly a dreamy city. I missed going to Paris narrowly last year ..must go there soon

wow… I really want to go to Paris too! It’s been a goal of mine to visit the lovely city and stroll the streets, do people-watching at cafes, or admire the masterpieces!

how many days do you think would be appropriate to tour Paris alone?

When I was Paris, we took the stairs to the top. Best work out of my life! Didn’t come down for a while after that….

I’ve been to Paris twice now…and I would LOVE to go back for a third. Each time I go I find new things that capture my attention and attract me to this lovely city.

I find le Tour Eiffel to be extremely breathtaking, and seeing it sparkle at night from a distance is something to remember. I walked my way to the Tower, and the entire time, as the sight got closer and closer, bigger and bigger, my emotions grew stronger for it! It’s so pretty!

I must admit, as I was only in Paris for 2 days the first time, that it does take more than that to truly see everything and explore the amount of culture the city has to offer.

My favourite city (marginally ahead of Prague and Florence) and a great review for your short visit. I think the broad variety of emotions from walking down the Champs to narrow little laneways, from the Louvre to small local galleries and from chic expensive cafes to homely suburban coffee shops. Most importantly, the French have left the centre unspoiled – I assume by strong planning rules. And you are correct, the tower does work in Paris and I have no idea why.

Love it! I never thought about how open Paris is – lot’s of open spaces. Nicely put. I’m so glad you got to see this fabulous city!

Monna

Paris was my first European city. I read about Paris and the French incessantly; I researched for the trip for six months. We went for my birthday. Oooh la la!
I loved Paris from the moment that our taxi pulled out of Charles de Gaule and started flying towards the city. I was practically vibrating with happiness as we got out in front of our hotel on Rue Cler.
Eight days later (yes… eight days!) we were in yet another taxi headed back to the airport… and, ultimately, North America. I started to cry because I wanted to stay.
It’s true. I am hopelessly in love with Paris. (Florence too.)

Never been to Paris and this was very beautiful :)

NomadicMatt

@yankee: you’re welcome!!

@lakshmi: you must!!

@jenny: Paris is like london huge- I would give it at least 5 days to really see it. you’ll need a full day for the louvre and a full day to head out to Versailles.

@jessica: I only had two days too and so will have to go back to really explore it.

@monna: I too love florence, even more than Paris but Paris is great and I only wish I got to spend eight days there. It must have been an amazing time.

@mark: thanks!

@tanya: after reading your stories from paris, I knew I would love it. Your city is amazing. let’s go back together!

I think the reason the chairs aren’t tied down at the Jardin du Luxemborg is because they close (and lock up) the park at sundown – just like most of the other big parks. It was always a little heartbreaking to get kicked out just at nighttime was getting started.

Since you’re only allowed to sit on the grass in very specific spots in that park, it is really nice that they have thousands of chairs all over the place. The jardin du luxemborg was absolutely one of my favorite spots in that city!

C K

Thanks for sharing your Paris experience in this post.

As London is just a 2hrs Eurostar trip to Paris, it’s rather convenient for us to hop on south for a weekend getaway.

You hit the nail right on the head when you described Paris as a magical city because that was exactly what I felt on my way up Eiffel Tower. Needless to say, I didn’t mange to cover all the sights during my 4 day stay so I’m looking forward to my next trip to Paris in Nov.

Looking at your photos makes me feel that I’m in the city already.

Have added your link to my blogroll and will be dropping by more regularly now. Cheers!

Charlotte

I went to Paris in December and I can certainly say it didn’t look anything like as bright as your photos. I stupidly did the Eiffel Tower with a friend in -3 weather and walked up it instead of taking the lift! Needless to say I froze to death but it also meant I had the best chocolate chaud of my life at the top.

I work for Open House Spain and found your blog when I was looking for travel information.

If its ok by you I may make the odd comment or two on your blog in the future and tell my readers about your articles, as I also write a blog; oh-holidays.com/travel-blog, feel free to comment on mine!

Thanks

Charlotte

The City of Love and the most beautiful place in the World.
I just remembering the fabulace place of Paris (France) when i’m watching the tamil movie “ENGEYUM KADAL” on SUN TV, Directed by “PRABHU DEVA” A famous “INDIAN” Dancer, Choriographer, Actor, And Director.
That’s the reason önly i wld like to sharing my feelings. I didn’t see dis place. I dnt knw i came to see this place or not. And its one my future dream. Let us see what will happen fate will decide my luck.

NomadicMatt

I’ll be there Saturday and i’m really looking forward to it!

Adorable Post ! I like very much city of love “Paris”.Thanks for sharing your beautiful moment with us.

I just got back to London from 2 weeks in Paris; it was my first visit, indeed it is fantastique in some respects!

The French know what style is, no question. In terms of food, art, culture, sheer beauty, Paris can’t be beat. Certain parts of the city are without question, gloriously stylish and beautiful. Even the language is beautiful.

Food and cafe culture is BIG there. You will see endless eateries, patisseries (pastry stores) and boulangeries (bakeries), chocolatiers and all manner of cafes and eateries. There’s a great emphasis on enjoying life, style and aesthetics.

However, there are some negatives. Precisely because it conjures such a romatic image in the minds of people everywhere, its a HUGE tourist magnet. In fact, there are hordes and hordes and hordes and HORDES of tourists (in the summer at least). The sheer volume of tourists mean waiting lines of hours at places like the Louvre and Eiffiel Tower in the summer. Even in the winter, when I was there, I was struck by the sheer volume of tourists. The sheer numbers attract some undesirable things, like pickpockers, professional beggars , scam artists and tourist-trap businesses charging exorbitant prices.

The Paris metro system does get you where you want to go, but its definitely run-down, and not as clean or efficient as the London one.

Finally, the culture is somewhat unfriendly to outsiders. French is spoken obviously, so you really need to learn some French if you want to stay there. I think you need to know some locals, otherwise Paris can be a very lonely place to an outsider. I’m back in London because I just got a bit tired of the language/cultural barrier in the end. If you are not French, you are an outsider. If you went back for subsequent visits Mat, I’d be interested in hearing your updated (circa 2012) views on the city.

Ah Paris <3 And I thought I got bored of it. No wait, you can never get bored of the Eiffel tower. The first sight I had of it was after climbing the Arc de Triomphe. I was scanning the horizon for it and suddenly it was there in front of me, much closer and much bigger than I'd thought. My fave angle (I took all my visitors that way when they came to visit) is still getting off at Trocadero metro and walking that few metres till it is there in front of you, huge and massive and beyond impressive.

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