Monday, April 23, 2012

...and it was springtime in Paris

     For those of you who read my blog, you know I'm pretty obsessed with Europe. I love Europe! I'm a history geek of the highest degree and there's no shortage of things for me to obsess over there. There is one glaring exception, and that's Paris. I have no issue going to France per se, I'm just not enamored of Paris itself. It's just not my gig. I was never seduced by the romance of that city as so many are. However, I do respect that many really are and I would be doing a huge disservice if I didn't write about it. So without further ado....
     I took the liberty of interviewing some friends who have been there to get their take on Paris. One is a twice-time visitor, another a veteran visitor, and the third my go-to gal on foods since she's a complete foodie.
    MK just got back last week and warns that while April in Paris might be gorgeous, bring a coat because the average temp can be about 45 degrees (F). Occasional showers might occur but don't let that stop you from visiting all the wonderful monuments. MK and LC (the Paris vet) both recommend the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. For those of you not bothered by heights, there's an observation deck halfway up the Tower where you can see all of Paris for miles on a good day. Take a minute to enjoy a coffee while you survey the people, the sites, and all the movement around this busy city.

Photos of Eiffel Tower, Paris

This photo of Eiffel Tower is courtesy of TripAdvisor

     The Louvre is obviously another favorite. It's so big though, that it can take you days just to go through it all. Lucky for you, sites like Viator offer skip the line trips to the major headliners: the Mona Lisa, the Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo. This tour is $65 and you get your own guide!
     No trip to Paris would be complete without a sampling of infamous French goodies (the bakery kind, get your mind out of the gutter people!). Weemo, my foodie friend, says a visit to Laduree is an absolute must. Don't even argue with her, just put it on your list of places to visit. Laduree has macarons so good, Weemo cried in the shop when she ate one. Click on the Laduree link for more info on locations and hours. This is a can't miss! For more macaron fun, Viator is now offering an activity where you can learn to make macarons with a French pastry chef. The classes are small, no more than 8 people, you get to take 20 macarons with you and the recipe afterwards. Click the link for more info! Making macarons in Paris
     Mom and Dad with a Suitcase will be visiting Paris with Godparents with a Suitcase. My dad and godfather are very into guy stuff and I started to get worried that maybe they'd be lacking things to enjoy while tooling around the city. Never fear, LC comes to the rescue with a great suggestion: Les Invalides.  Les Invalides started as a home for old and unwell soldiers in the late 17th century. It is now home to many different museums, including the Army and Artillery museums. LC says among the collections is the first bow and the first gun. Hmmm... me thinks my dad will like this!

Images of Les Invalides, Paris

This photo of Les Invalides is courtesy of TripAdvisor

    How can you go to Paris and not visit Versailles? The Palace of Versailles became the defacto capital of France in 1682 when Louis XIV, the Sun King, moved his entire court there. A symbol of the opulent indulgence of the French Court and the absolute control of the King, Versailles managed to survive the following French revolution 100 years later that ended the French monarchy. You can now tour Versailles with its breathtaking interior and marvelous gardens, to get a glimpse of how Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lived. LC mentioned not waiting in line for the free public tour, but buying the private tour. It's only about $20 and they offer more specialized tours, such as "A Day in the Life of the King". LC said he thought it would be a piece of cake until he discovered how the Kings were pestered from the moment they woke up to the moment they went to sleep! As a splurge, he suggests renting a carriage to take you around the gardens, for about $100. Versailles is a big place with lots to see, so make sure you leave a whole day just for this.
       If you're into architecture, the old churches of Paris will be especially to your liking. Notre Dame, with its spectacular Rose Window, sits on an island on the Siene like a sentinel of times long past. It has all the fixings of a classic 12th century gothic cathedral, complete with gargoyles guarding the spires which overlook the city. Sacre-Coeur in the Montmarte district is also another gaze worthy church, albeit a different style of building. It sits on top of the hill and has a bit more Byzantine influence with it's many domes and towers.

Photos of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

This photo of Notre Dame Cathedral is courtesy of TripAdvisor

     Last but not least is an important place in France during recent history. It's about two hours outside Paris near Bayeux. I'm speaking of course, of the coast of Normandy. The scene of one of the biggest battles in the 20th century, the Normandy coastline is home to the cemeteries and beaches where the Allied forces came ashore during World War II. Many brave men are forever remembered here for giving their lives in service to their countries, far from home, to free France and the rest of Europe from the grip of a tyrannical regime. Many tours leave out of Bayeux to the Normandy beaches, but since it's a bit far from Paris, it would probably be easier to spend the night in Bayeux so you don't miss your tour.

Bayeux Photos
This photo of Bayeux is courtesy of TripAdvisor

     Both LC and MK say Paris is wonderful just for strolling. There are cafes all over the place, where people linger just to watch life pass by. LC says there's a view from the Tuileries Gardens where you can look through the Arc d'Triomphe and see straight down the middle of the city. Paris has a great Metro and many of the people in the tourism industry speak English. Weemo splurged on a couple of restaurants requiring a jacket, and says it was a great opportunity. She suggests asking the concierge at your hotel for a recommendation if you want to eat someplace special.

Flight from Los Angeles are as little as $2100 for two people, so jump on Kayak and book your flight now! Travelers from the UK and other Europeans countries have the awesome opportunity to fly to Paris for less than 100 euro. You lucky travelers! We Americans are jealous of your proximity to great deals!  =)