Our first full day in Paris we decided to renew our connection with the city. Both Boris and I have visited many times, even before we met. Although we recommend the hop-on/hop-off buses in whatever city they are offered, we have never taken this tour in Paris. We tend to take the metro (Underground to my British friends, the subway for my American ones) to a specific location and tour that part of town on foot. This time we wanted an overall view of the city. It was a beautiful, sunny, but not too hot late spring day. The open-air top deck of the bus was very appealing.
Our hotel in the 8th Arondessment near the Paris Opera was within walking distance of Open Tour Paris‘s main office, an intersection point of two of their routes. There are also several other companies that offer a similar service. (The article connected to the attached link gives you a comparison of the routes.) We pre-purchased the tickets at our hotel (for the same price) and got right on as soon as we got to the stop. The company offers 4 intersecting routes to provide the greatest coverage of the city. The price is inclusive of all routes. Discounted multi-day tickets are also available. Its a great deal. You can get off and hop on another bus on the route later or just take the grand tour. Plug in your headphones and the adjust the station and you can tour in one of 10 languages.
A word about arrondissements, the municipal districts within the city of Paris. There are currently 20 arrondissements in the city of Paris, arranged in a clockwise spiral. You’ll note I refer to them when I try to give you my placement within the city. They are a common reference for addresses and an important reference to have when visiting Paris.
Photo ©Jean Janssen. We are staying in a major Paris shopping district.
Our hotel, the Hilton Paris Opera House, is located near the Opera in one of the major shopping districts of the city. We traveled first through Montmartre, a “unique village within the metropolis”. It is also the name of the large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement. We were unable to really see Basilica of Sacre-Coeur (just a quick peek between buildings) and the amazing steps leading you up to the crest of the hill. You have to get off the bus for this attraction. Its really all about that photo of you on the steps with the Basilica in the background.
We stopped at one of the major train stations, where day-trippers joined us for a tour. We went by the Moulin Rouge, quiet in the morning hours. We’ll be back tomorrow night for the show. This Montmartre used to be very seedy and dangerous. Although somewhat sanitized, you will still see the sex shops and peep shows. While it has been cleaned up substantially, I still recommend a visit during the day. The areas around Montmartre can be rough at night.
After switching routes, we headed to the 1st arrondissement passing through the Place du Palais Royal to reach the Louve Museum. There are always major lines at the Museum; we decided to stay onboard the bus. Across from the glass pyramid that serves as the museum entrance, is our second arc de triomphe, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Place du Carrousel. Going through you will find the Tuileries Garden and the Place de la Concorde.
Leaving the walled Palais and Museum behind, we crossed the Seine to see the facade of Paris’ second most popular museum, the Musee d’ Orsay, on the river’s left bank. The Orsay in housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a beaux-arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The building was declared a historic monument in 1978 and opened as a museum in 1986. The Musee d’ Orsay is one of the largest art museums in Europe, with mostly French art from 1848-1914. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the world. I have toured the museum; it is well worth a visit.
Before crossing the Seine again to reach the Place de la Concorde, we passed the Palais Bourbon, a government building which is the seat of the French National Assembly. There is currently construction around the building. A large photograph outside showed the detail of the impressive interior.
The Place de la Concorde is on the right bank of the Seine and is Paris’ largest public square. It was designed in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon. It sits between the Tuileries Garden and the Champs Elysees. During the French Revolution, the statute of Louis XV of France was removed and a guillotine set up on the square. It was here that King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barry, and Maximilien Robespierre (among others) were executed. The name of the square has changed many times, but since 1830 has been known as the Place de la Concorde.
In the center of the Place de la Concorde sits the Luxor Obelisk given to the French in the 19th century by the Egyptian government. The Obelisk is decorated with hieroglyphics related to Egyptian Paraoh Ramesses II. Because of the place’s proximity to the Navy headquarters and the Seine River, the two famous fountains on the Place de la Concorde celebrate the rivers and the seas.
Leaving the Place de la Concorde we enjoyed the tree-lined view along the Champs Elysees headed toward the Arc de Triomphe des Champs Elysees. Circling the arc, we next headed to the Paris des Libertes et des Droits de l’Homme near the Place du Trocadero for one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The currently named Place de Trocadero in the 16th arrondissement of Paris sits on a hill, the site of the former village of Chaillot. There have been several palaces on this site. It offers the best view in the city of the Eiffel Tower. Years ago when Rocky was much younger we spent a News Years Eve here. It was winter and very cold, but we saw the tower all lit up and enjoyed watching the skateboarders who had taken over the area.
Crossing the Seine yet again we are headed to the Tower itself where many visitors will get off to take the elevator up. I have been several times. Our first visit with Rocky when he was only 5 years old (also a winter visit) was probably my favorite trip up the tower. We went up at night and saw all the lights of the city. I recommend both a daytime and night visit.
Our full day tour of Paris continues in the next post.