There is a funny fact about Paris metro – as long as you are underground you can make as many journeys as you wish on one ticket. It means that if you are planning to reach a particular site and must change few times it will cost you exactly the same as when doing just one journey. So, every evening in Paris we were sitting on beds in our hotel with travel guide in hands and a map of Paris Metropolitan to make plans for the next day.
Our trip was a short one, just 4 days for the French capital, but a special one at the same time as Julia, my niece, would be 16 in just few hours. I suppose the travel bug is going round our family since my father was a sailor and my niece chose a trip to Paris rather than party in Berlin with her friends. She was learning French as well, so it was a great opportunity for her to try it out.
Our hotel was situated in La Défense – a rather business like part of the capital. 560 hectares (5.6 million square meters) area, with 72 glass and steel buildings and skyscrapers, 180.000 daily workers, and 3.5 million square meters (37.7 million sq ft) of office space might not appeal too much to the tourists. However it might appeal to the budget traveler as it has some nice pluses – a rather well functioning communications links, cheaper food and cheaper hotels.
Situated near by Bois de Boulogne, second biggest public park in Paris, offered a great opportunity for a goodbye picnic, with French wine and baguette.
Iconic feature of La Défense – La Grande Arche – rises hugely in a distance and when you try to reach the building you are under impression that it is not only growing in size but keeping its distance, almost running from you. We spent our first day chasing its mystical appearance and wandering around visiting shops.
The architecture of this part of Paris is quite different, as it is in comparison to the city center, quite new. The life here has a different pace and you will feel more like being thrown in the middle of quite busy business place. Everything seems polished and smooth, mirroring the faces of ever busy office worker and businessman, careful mothers with their buggies and few tourists lost between shops and squares of La Défense.
Surprisingly this part of Paris is keeping its rush under control, beating in a quite predictable rhythm, as everything was set up before with a delicate but firm precision of living organism, who knows the exact reason for its existence, finding a purpose and never feeling lost. If you jump from there into the city center, between its famous remarks like Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées and Moulin Rouge you are for a different treat entirely – no rhythm there, just a flocks of tourists dominating every space and complaining at the small scale of famous Moulin Rouge mill.
Paris is a city of love and chocolate, ice creams and crème brulee, expensive cloths and smell of cheese and wine, slowly reaching your nose when you stick it out in search for a quick bite. It’s a place where a pyramid of Louvre has gained a brother – Pyramide Inversée – sticking its bottom to the sky and top towards Earth, almost kissing the small stone pyramid nicely inserted into the space of Carrousel du Louvre (the inverted Pyramid was added in 1993 nicely complementing a modern addition to the Louvre).
It’s a city of a river Sane and many bridges, with Art Nouveau entrances to the metro stations and quite a few fairgrounds offering silly laugh, plays and sweet pink cotton candy.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Coeur, Musée d’Orsay, Louvre are putting Paris in a different contexts, making it more friendly for inexperienced tourists, trying to tick all the boxes in the guide book. And Paris would not be the same without them, beautiful and enormous buildings offering unique experience of submerging into Paris lush history.
Paris is not a cheap place to visit, but the Paris Pass can help. The Passes are still quite expansive and you do need to make sure they are worth your while – so check the details and decide if this is something you might be interested in!