Paris began as a fortified Celtic (also known as Gallic) settlement on the Ile de la Cite in the 3rd century BC. It was called Parisii, after the name of the Celtic tribe known as the Parisii. In 52 BC, the Romans conquered it to build a city called Lutetia, which had a population of less than 10,000 people. The Lutecians left an arena and Roman baths for us to visit today. Paris' name today was adopted in the 5th century AD, after the first Celtic peoples who lived there, the Parisii.
Paris Museums and Cathedrals
The Louvre is a major museum in France, and the world. It has many wings and many exhibits. There is a huge Egyptian exhibit, some Syrian and some Greek exhibits. There are some sculptures and lots of paintings. The exhibit downstairs features the Medieval wall of the fortress that the Louvre started life as, in the 1200s. After that, it was expanded and continued life as a royal palace until 1678 when the king moved his court to Versailles. In the 1793, it was turned into the famous museum that we know of today.
By the pyramid in front of Le Louvre, Paris, France
We got reserved time stamped tickets for 9:30am, got in line at the Pyramid entrance at 8:53am, got through the doors when they opened at 9am, and got pictures of Mona Lisa by 9:15am. The Mona Lisa, was a smallish frame in a large room, which filled up about quarter full 15 minutes after museum opening. We waited our turn to take her picture, then moved along. Mona Lisa (Lady Lisa in Italian), was a rich Italian merchant's wife, whose painting was commissioned by her husband Francesco del Gicondo, painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The Mona Lisa is also known as La Gioconda.
As close as we could get to Mona Lisa before the crowds descended, Louvre, Paris
The line to get into the Louvre was much longer for those withOut tickets, and that line was not moving when the Louvre opened at 9am. There is a much shorter line in the middle for the disabled, those with baby strollers or the heavily pregnant. Have your tickets printed and available to show in line as there is a ticket checker that firmly requests seeing your ticket in your hand in order for you to stay in the ticket-holders line. Hold on to to your tickets once you get in, because you'll need to present it at every wing entrance.
The room containing the French crown jewels, Louvre, Paris
We could have spent many more hours at the Louvre but left after 2.5 hours as the boys were getting grumpy. On our way out to escape the crowds, we escaped into the mall entrance, only to find a very very long line for the security check to enter the Louvre. The line was so long in fact that it snaked from the entrance of the museum all the way to the entrance of the mall going out to the street level. We were really glad we had tickets and had already enjoyed the museum. The crowd inside the museum was busy, but Not shoulder to shoulder that early July Monday morning.
Look out for Arago Medallions on the pavement near the Louvre pyramid and a couple within the Louvre itself. Arago medallions mark the Paris Meridian Line, once a marker for the prime meridian or “zero” degree longitude. Unfortunately it lost out to the Greenwich Meridian line in 1884 to be the prime meridian line to be recognized by the International Meridian Conference. There are 135 Arago medallions throughout Paris, running north to south from the hills of Montmartre to Gentilly, if you are looking to do a scavenger hunt. Unfortunately we did not come across any, but did go by Boulevard Arago and saw a medallion marking it's GPS position.
|Louvre address:||Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France|
|Entrance Fee:||$Adults 17 EU, kids under 18 free (though if you purchase online, you may get free tickets for them)|
|Website:||Louvre (Online pre-purchased reservations are highly recommended to avoid lines)|
Musee d'Orsay is housed in a former train station which was beautifully restored for the museum today. There were many sculptures and art including Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir and a Picasso. The fifth floor has a cafe in the shadow of a clock with a large window overlooking the city with prices of entrees under 20 EU for lunch, though the menu is limited.
A sculpture in Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France
Entry into the Orsay was fairly quick at Entrance C (line with those with pre-purchased tickets) on a Sunday morning at 10am. We purchased our tickets online; it was date stamped, but not time stamped. Kids under 18 get in for free as in all if not most French museums. We spent about 2.5 hours there before boys got restless. Only bags under 60 x 40cm will be allowed in the museum, all others must be left in the cloakroom, subject to space.
|Fees:||Day entry: 12 EU per adult (+1.50 EU online reservation fee), kids under 18 y.o. free; Night Entry (after 6pm): 9 EU per adult (+1.50 EU online fee)|
|Hours:||Tues-Sun 9:30am-6pm, except Thurs open until 9pm, closed on Mondays|
|Address:||1 rue de la Légion d'Honneur 75007 Paris France|
First completed in the 1200's, Notre Dame is a 800 year old Roman Catholic cathedral located on the Ile de la cite, where Paris origins began before the time of the Romans. Two temples/places of worship were erected here before Notre Dame started it's construction which lasted a hundred years. There was a very very long line to get in, but I found an entrance adjacent to the very long line with no one in line. I took that line to be the prayer line, and went in to attend mass. We took some pictures of the stained glass window of Notre Dame, famous as the setting of the Hunchback of Notre Dame from the 1800's.
Inside the entrance of Notre Dame, Paris, France
Paris Gardens, Monuments and Ruins
Jardin de Tuileries is located between the Louvre and the Obelisk. It was created in the 1660’s by the gardener of King Louis XIV. It was previously a royal garden commissioned by Catherine de Medici, the widow of King Henri II. Prior to that, it was occupied by tile factories, hence its name Jardin de Tuileries. It was opened to be the public in the 1700s. Today Jardin de Tuileries has a pedestrian walkway with green gardens on both sides of a very wide (and dusty) walkway. There were many chairs and a few fountains along the way. The walk was not terribly remarkable, just a walk, somewhat ugly one thanks to the construction for the preparation of the Tour du France the next week. We walked through this garden to get to the Obelisk. This garden, like many French gardens make good alternatives to walking on the city street.
At the end of Jardin de Tuileries with the Obelisk in the background, Paris
The Obelisk, called the Luxor Obelisk, is a 3000 year old, 23m (about 70 ft) high monument originating from the Luxor Temple in Egypt, where it's twin obelisk still stands today. Weighing in at 227 tonnes, these two obelisks are believed to be the largest in the world created by Ramses II. It was gifted to France in the 1800s by the ruler of Ottoman Egypt of the time. The golden pyramid atop it's summit was a 1998 replacement of it's stolen original pyramidal cap (believed to have been stolen in 6th century BC).
View of Arc de Triomphe from Champ d'Elysees, Paris
Arc de Triomphe was a sight to see at the end of Champs d’Elysees. Grand and imposing, it definitely had its share of fanfare. It is the biggest triumphal arch in world (165 ft x 130ft) with 12 roads converging on it. It was built in 1806 by Napoleon I to honor the French Army of the time. We did not climb to the top but opted instead to go to the Eiffel Tower.
Though it started as a attraction for an expo over 100 years ago, the Eiffel Tower has become somewhat of a symbol of France and Paris in the time since. Named after Gustave Eiffel whose company designed the tower, it is another grand and imposing monument that takes your breath away by sheer size. It is currently the tallest building in the European Union.
Eiffel Tower from below, Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower consists of 3 floors; the first and second floors can be accessed by stairs or a lift, the third only by lift. We took the stairs to the second floor. Ticket purchase for the stairs are at the South tower. Though most reviews I read indicated no lines, we did wait in line for 30 to 45 minutes on a July Sunday evening about 6pm. The lines for the elevator were a lot longer. Online reservations are possible for lift tickets but not for the stairs. The views from the second floor were nice and gave us a good perspective of the layout of Parisian streets. It was a hot July day, but the winds on the first, then second floors made it comfortably cool.
Website: Eiffel Tower
The Latin Quarter dates back to before the Roman era when it was settled by a village of Celts. In 52 BC, the Romans conquered it, building the city of Lutetia. There are Roman ruins in the Latin Quarter such as the Roman arena and Roman baths. In 1250's, Robert de Sorbon built a theology college called La Sorbonne. La Sorbonne is one of the oldest universities in Paris and the world. Latin Quarter got its name by the Latin spoken by the many students of the Sorbonne and other colleges in the area. Latin was the only language of instruction in universities until the 17th century. Today, it is still a place that students hang out in. It was in the Latin Quarter that we got some Bretagne cookies for friends back home, some macarons, and some kebabs.
Arene de Lutece, a ruin of an ancient Roman arena found behind apartment buildings near Latin Quarter, Paris
Arene de Lutece is a ruin of a Roman arena located in the Latin Quarter built in the first century AD. It is designated as a free neighborhood square now, and found behind an apartment building. Parts of the arena were lost to the construction of the apartment building that currently stands adjacent to it. Arene de Lutece (originally called Lutetia) can hold up to 10,000 people when hosting gladiatorial combats, nautical shows and dramas of the Roman era. Today, the stadium seating is visible as is the center stage. Subsequent to its use as an arena, its rocks were taken away to reinforce the city wall. It was used as a cemetery at one point, then filled in completely. There was a time when the area was called Les Arenes, but no one knew where the arena was. It was only discovered when the construction of Rue Monge was underway in the 1860s. Construction crews discovered it's remains behind the buildings that line Rue Monge. Address: 10, rue des Arènes, Paris, France
The River Seine is the third largest river in France and it flows right through Paris. It is the river that the Ile de la Cite sits on. The River Seine flows over 700 km, starting in the Burgundy region, making its way north through Paris, then Rouen, and eventually to the English Channel. There is evidence of Neanderthal habitation as long as 200,000 years ago along the banks of the River Seine. We walked along the River Seine at street level a few times on our walk to Le Louvre, the Orsay and Notre Dame. There is a walkway at river level and sign indicating that cruises start at 14 EU for an hour boat ride. I’ve read that there is sand brought in to the shores of the Seine to make it a “beach”(plage) during summer months. I saw a sign for it but we didn't explore further.
The River Seine, Paris
Named after its original owner, the Duke of Luxemberg, the Jardin de Luxemburg is a beautifully landscaped garden in front of Palais du Luxemburg. There is an octagonal pond where little boys (and girls) sailed their rented toy boats. We walked through Jardin de Luxemburg to get to our destination for a peaceful walk away from city streets. There were many people resting on the grass in these gardens (and most gardens we were in), with bottles of alcoholic beverages closeby. Parisian streets in general seems to come alive at about 8-9pm, more alive than it is at 9am.
Jardin de Luxemberg, with Palais de Luxemberg in the background, Paris, France
Getting in and out of Paris
We got in and out of Paris by RER, Paris interurban train system. We purchased tickets at ticket booth at 12.50 EU from Airport CDG to Gentilly where our apartment was, 8.25 EU for kids 4-9 years old, each way. I'm not sure if I would recommend Gentilly as a place to stay, it looks like an-up-and-coming neighbourhood whose residents look OK, but the graffiti on walls and trash on the streets make you think otherwise. It was a 3-4 mile hike into the Gare du Nord area or a fairly inexpensive less than 2EU per trip per person/15 min ride into town, I learned. We walked in, opting to feel the beat of Paris on foot, and we did. From the tree lined boulevards, to the grey sidewalks and impatient drivers, to the jardins, our legs walked us 12 miles each day we were in Paris. I reminded the kids that elevation change was minimal. A taxi ride was about 90 EU one way from the airport to Gentilly. The RER train ride was supposed to be 50 minutes long but with a few delays along the way, it took about 1.25-1.5 hours, each time we took the train.
When heading back to the airport, passport control took about an hour to get through for anyone carrying a passport not belonging to France or one of its neighbouring countries. At the front of the line, the French police stamped our passports and waived us through. Security checks before heading to the gate took about 15 minutes.
We spent 2 full days in Paris. I opted to only spend 2 days in Paris, since Paris is very accessible as a stopover (or otherwise) whereas the other regions in France requires more time to access. Since we rented a car during this trip, we chose to spend more time in the rest of France. Here are some places that are definitely on my list for our next trip to the City of Love.
Other Places to visit in Paris:
- Palace of residence for the French royalty, we did not visit due to lack of time and similarity to a palace we saw in Munich, Germany
- Cluny Museum
- Ruins of Roman baths, closed for renovations during our visit
- Bones of dead people scare me, but seems interesting if you don't have that issue.
- French National Library
- Holds everthing that has been published in France, houses 5000 ancient Greek manuscripts, closed on the Sunday of our visit
- Grand Mosque of France
- One of the largest mosques in France, we did not visit due to grumpy kids at the end of the day
- Currie Museum
- The laboratories researching radium run by the Curries, closed during our visit