To follow along our journey in Paris from the beginning, click HERE.
Paris is a very walkable city. In fact, I’m a staunch advocate of walking as much as humanly possible while in Paris because it’s one of the best, if not the best, ways to absorb the city’s incredible beauty and charm. However, it’s quite big at the same time so your legs could take a beating if you’re not strategic about places to go. We tried to adhere by this rule during our stay which made life so much easier, physically and economically. For example, after Notre Dame Cathedral we crossed the street and visited Sainte-Chapelle, an astoundingly spectacular royal medieval Gothic chapel.
Here’s an important tip: If you stay in Paris for several days and plan to visit different churches and museums, do yourself a favor by buying Paris Museum Pass. Just like in Italy, the lines at museums, churches and sightseeing sites in Paris are crazy long. Always. Waiting in lines will cost you a lot of your precious time. That omnipotent pass let you skip the lines most of the times. (Château de Versailles is among the few that doesn’t grant you direct access.) We stayed in Paris for a total of 5 days, so as soon as I landed, I bought the 4-day pass for 54 euros. (My sister is under 18, so the entry is free for her at the vast majority of places.) We visited 6 churches, museums and history sites, whose tickets would have added up to 65.5 euros if we hadn’t used the pass. As you can see, we were able to save 11.5 euros, and it could have been a lot more if we had tried harder to squeeze in visits to some other fantastic places such as Centre Pompidou and Musee Rodin. Bottom line is buy the pass based on the number of days you spend in the city 😉
Back to Sainte-Chapelle. It was literally just 3 minutes walking from Notre Dame, but I was quite surprised, pleasantly so though, to find the line much shorter and the crowd much less chaotic. Any guidebook or tour that omits this chapel, one of the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture, from its Paris must-visits list should be boycotted because it really is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Compared to Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle is smaller in scale but the interior is just equally impressive, in my opinion.
Its most salient feature, as you might know, is the massive stained glass windows (6,458 square feet to be exact) surrounded by exquisite painted stonework. Word of mouth has it that it’s best to pay the chapel a visit on sunny days as the sunlight will light up the stained glass windows, giving visitors a surreal sort of experience. Well, I’m here to validate that advice. We were lucky enough to be there early in the afternoon on a clear, beautiful day and got to see how majestic the windows looked. Words or pictures simply don’t do its beauty justice. Approximately 15 minutes away from Sainte-Chapelle is Place Dauphine, a very charming public square of the Île de la Cité. If Sainte-Chapelle welcome fewer tourists on a daily basis than Notre Dame, Place Dauphine receives even fewer tourists than Sainte-Chapelle. Which is obviously comprehensible because it’s first and foremost a square with a couple of cafes, restaurants and galleries. Nevertheless, it’s one of my absolute favorite places because it’s rather sequestered with beautiful architectural style. An ideal place for a little rendezvous away from the city’s hustle and bustle. We didn’t have a fixed schedule in the afternoon, so we lingered around Place Dauphine for a while, then kept strolling along Pont Neuf and finally took a turn towards Pont des Arts. I still remember that afternoon very vividly because everything was just perfect. It might sound cheesy to you, but we did sit under the bridge (the name of the location is Quai de Seine, I believe) for a good half an hour to let the fact that after so many years of daydreaming we were finally in Paris sink in. Sorry New York, I love you more than I can say but Paris truly is the most beautiful and romantic city that I have ever been to. While soaking in the sceneries, I suddenly remembered that my cousin had asked me to drop by the Louis Vuitton store on Champs-Élysées before the trip to pick something up for her. It was a long walk from Pont Des Arts, but thanks to all the compulsive running and squatting we made it in no time.(Shout-out to my 16 years old sister who was such a trooper during the trip. She walked even faster than I did at times.) The iconic, one and only, grandiose Champs-Élysées is nice and all, but in all honesty it was my least favorite part of Paris. Too touristy and commercial. From Place Dauphine and Quai de Seine to Champs-Élysées, it was nothing short of an unwanted cultural shock. And don’t even get me started on the mise-en-scène outside the Vuitton store. I had to pinch myself several times to make sure that my feet was still standing on the Parisian pavement, not that of China. No offense, but that was what happened.
Anyway, it was an in-and-out sort of date between me and Vuitton. I went in, showed the sales associate the picture of the item my cousin wanted, waited for her to get it, paid and then went out. I love Vuitton with all my heart, but by then my tummy was literally screaming loudly for food and since I was no Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t eat Vuitton for dinner. LOL. We walked around trying to look for a good restaurant for a while but eventually had to reluctantly settle for a touristy-looking restaurant named Le Victoria on Rue Pierre Charron.
However, the meals turned out better than we had anticipated. And the waiter was very nice to boot. In the morning, I lost my Tartar Salmon virginity, and in the evening I lost my Tartare de Boeuf virginity. (The 64-million dollars question is how many times can a person lose his/her food virginity? Whatever the number is, gotta admit that I love losing it :D) Overall, we had a positive dining experience at Le Victoria with one important takeaway: sometimes don’t judge a book by its cover 🙂It was about 9-ish when we were done with dinner. As we stepped outside the restaurant and headed back to Champs-Élysées, we witnessed the strangest yet most amazing sunset since the beginning of our trip. Imagine how it would look like from the top of Arc de Triomphe. To the top of Arc de Triomphe we went. Despite the unholy hour, the line was still obscenely long. Here, the Paris pass really wielded its power and saved our life even though I’d to say that I felt rather bad for all the people who had to wait in line and saw some others get ahead of them. Their patience might have easily been flushed down the drain because the site is close before 10.30PM. To get to the top, you have to climb over 280 steps. By the time we were in Paris, we had been trained well in Italy how to handle corkscrew stairs with composure. However, the stairs at L’Arc de Triomphe must be a different kind of animal or something because I was slightly scared at times. Do you think they are really steeper?
As soon as we set feet on the top floor, we were overwhelmed. The view was so worth it. Everybody has to go there to appreciate the city’s brilliant architectural layout. We went around and took pictures like madmen. And the best part of it all? Seeing the Eiffel Tower in the distance gradually lighten up before darkness took over. It truly was an indescribable feeling. We stayed until the guard informed us that the site was closing in a couple of minutes. Goodbye Arc de Triomphe, thank you for the unforgettable memory that I will forever treasure.