Oh Paris, Paris…… I’ve came back to continue the love affair that started 4 years ago…
It’s a bizarre feeling to walk around the Latin Quarter where my beloved Hemingway and Fitzgerald used to live and socialise. Or sit in a small cafe in Montmartre and think of Van Gogh and Monet sitting at the next table or in the park and getting their inspiration from surrounding atmosphere.
Yes, it sounds super romantic and charming, but not everyone knows that until 1860s Paris used to be a rather disgusting place full of reek and dirt. Extremely narrow streets didn’t help making the diseases spread like cockroaches and limiting the transportation in the city.
Along came Baron Haussmann, who was determined to “fix” the city and demolished almost 80% of old Paris creating space for wider roads and better connectivity and infrastructure. Even the most famous gothic church of Middle Ages, Notre Dame du Paris, was meant to become a subject to demolition.
After the French Revolution of 1789 the church stood in ruins and was not so appealing to the eye. Imagine this: the mere power of words saved this beauty from being destroyed. The words came from a single man. What can be more romantic than this? The man’s name was Victor Hugo and after the release of his book Hunchback of Notre Dame, people were united in protecting the living space of Quasimodo.
A little bit about Notre Dame church itself. It took almost 200 years (!!!) for this church to be erected. Why so long you ask? The architects actually tried 5 times, but the church kept falling down collapsing under its huge weight until they finally thought of a solution. Maybe if they would add additional structures that would provide extra support and distribute the weight more evenly, then the church wouldn’t fall… and voilà! Nowadays, the flying buttresses are a typical feature of the Gothic period style architecture. And thanks to Hugo, Notre Dame du Paris is alive and well and remains the most visited tourist attraction in Paris.
Now back to the Paris rebuilding story. People who used to live in houses that were to be destroyed were compensated for moving out. The rich and wealthy started to populate the centre of Paris raising the prices in the housing market. Even after the compensation, the working class were no longer able to buy a place in the “new Paris” and were forced to move to the outskirts like Montmartre (that actually wasn’t even part of Paris at that time). Eventually, Montmartre became the place of artists, philosophers and free thinkers to create new art forms and inspiring them to start an “impressionistic” movement.
Impressionists painted on the streets, sometimes, the same buildings over and over again – during various parts of the day-under different light. Monet developed the whole series of such paintings that still evoke deep philosophical ideas attempting to find explanation for their creation by the artist. You can find these painting series among other fantastic impressionistic works in Musée d’Orsay, which I highly recommend for you to visit.
Tip #1: Buy your tickets for Louvre Museum online and get the “skip the queue” ticket. The extra bit only costs 3.5 euros but you are saving yourself 2-3 hours in the queue. You can thank me later.
Tip #2: Please, please, please beware of pick-pockets. The gypsy looking girls that come up to you on the street with some paper to sign can block your vision beyond your chest down meanwhile getting out the contents of your pockets/bags. I actually saw it in action but the victim got out just in time and the girl’s hand left his pocket empty. Be vigilant at all times!
Tip #3: Try to wake up early as you can save lots of time by not waiting in the queue for some free attractions like Notre Dame du Paris (opens at 7.45am) plus you spend precious time wondering around almost empty streets of Paris that could be the most romantic thing from your trip.
Tip #4: You can save in metro by purchasing a booklet of 10 single tickets (1.45 each as opposed to 1.90), but always remember that you have to retain your ticket until the end of your trip! We were fined 35 euros each for not providing a validated ticket (that we unfortunately threw out as soon as we validated it). If you don’t even have an invalidated ticket on you, your fine would be 50 euros. Learn from our mistakes guys! 🙂
Tip #5: If you want to get just some free tap water for your table at any cafe / restaurant, ask for un carafe d’eau.
Tip #6: For inexpensive menu sets and home-like dining, head to Rue Mouffetard or Rue du Pot de Fer, situated in the 5th arrondissement. Some menu sets start as low as 12 euros and offer a starter and a main.
Tip #7: One of the best views in my opinion is on top of Arc de Triomphe. If you come a bit later (around 5pm-6pm), the queue is not so long and the views are spectacular! But you will have to climb a lot of spiralling stairs in spiral – it can get dizzy and uncomfortable, so if you are suffering from vertigo I wouldn’t recommend it.
Really you can’t deny that Paris is perhaps the heart of culture in Europe. I hope to be back soon to continue my love affair with this amazing city!