I first visited Paris as an exchange student in Europe in 2005, and fell under it’s spell. I was going to come back. And come back I did, even though it took me seven long years. And the city was as gorgeous as ever.
To me, Paris is a city of magic, and I am happy to be under it’s spell. The Seine cutting across the city, stunning Haussmann architecture, the twinkling lights of the Eiffel, and world class museums, cafes and parks – this is a city that one can never get enough of. This time, we were going to stay for a whole week, in the hope that we could get a taste of Paris.
We started our first day in Paris with a visit to Notre Dame de Paris. This masterpiece of French Gothic architecture is very impressive, and has some of the most intricate stained glass windows I have seen.
After a quick lunch near the cathedral, we set off on a walking tour of the Latin Quarter, on the left bank of the Seine. We chose Discovery Walks – they offer free guided tours in Paris (and other cities) but tips are expected. I like this model because you pay what you think the tour is worth; but it’s nice if you are generous and fair when tipping.
The Latin Quarter is a historic part of the city with old buildings, original cobblestone alleys; and was home to Dante, Hemingway and other artists. Our guide Tomas was energetic, enthusiastic and lots of fun. He was a student at the Sorbonne (which is the heart of the Latin Quarter) so he interspersed historical facts with interesting personal anecdotes. The 90 minute tour ended at the Place de la Sorbonne, and we just sat there and took in the young, fun vibe of the place.
We then walked along the river bank, crossed one of the picturesque bridges, and wandered around the leafy island of Ile St. Louis (there are two islands in the middle of the Seine: the grand Ile de la Cite houses the cathedrals and palaces while the charming Ile St. Louis is more residential).
I bought a mocha ice-cream at the legendary Berthillon, and OHMYGOD, it was the most fabulous ice-cream ever (and yes, I’ve had gelato in Italy). The flavours simply explode in your mouth. DO NOT miss this when you’re in Paris.
We eventually found ourselves at the stunning Hotel de Ville. There was a (free!) exhibition titled “Paris in Hollywood” so we checked it out, and then just sat at the square in front of the building and absorbed the gorgeous views.
Our last stop for the day was the Eiffel Tower. It was a long day so decided to go up the tower another day; but this time we just sat on the lawns and stared up at the tower, and then crossed over and walked along the river bank – the view of the Eiffel Tower across the river was incredible; and just as we were going to leave, the twinkling lights came on, and it was a perfect end to a perfect first day in Paris.