September 21, 2011

Bonjour Paris Part 2

Two of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world (in my opinion) are found in Paris, France.

The first and more famous is the Notre Dame cathedral.  As usual the biggest problem is not getting to the place but lining up to go inside. I had to wait an hour before getting in.  Since there were too many people going up the towers to see the gargoyles up close plus challenging themselves to a really long and steep walk up, we decided to just stay downstairs.   The cathedral is Majestic.  Apart from being huge, everything inside was old and beautiful.  The sculptures, the stained glass windows, everything.  The pews were cordoned off for people who want to say a prayer, or gawk at the interiors, or both.  I took a few moments to pray for my family among the awed visitors. 

Saint Chapelle 
 A few minutes away from Notre Dame is the less popular, yet equally beautiful, Saint Chapelle Cathedral.  It’s inside the compound of the Palais de justice (Hall of Justice)  which meant that for safety reasons, everything we brought had to pass through metal detectors, so the line going in was long.  We went there early hoping to be first in line, only to fall in the middle of a long one, half an hour before it opened at 10am.   After getting in the compound though, everything else was a breeze.  The first floor of Saint Chapelle is inconsequential.  The beauty was on the second floor.  Going up I had to pass through a short and tight winding staircase then voila! I was in heaven. Beautiful stained glass windows, most of which were preserved from the 12th century, surround the whole place.  My senses were pleasantly bombarded by vibrant colors.  It’s especially stunning when the morning sun shines through.   What’s unusual though is that every pane of those windows tells stories from the Bible, from Creation to Revelation. Searching for a particular pane is difficult as there are just too many, but if you have the time and patience, why not.

The Arc du Triomphe is hard to miss as it’s right smack in the middle of Paris with 12 boulevards converging in one circle that surrounds it.  From Champs Elysee, all we had to do was walk through the underground tunnel to get to the arc.  Crossing the street is not advised unless of course, one has a death wish.  The arc is an imposing structure.  I had to stand under it for a few minutes just to be able to properly appreciate its entirety.  The arc has names of generals and battles etched on its walls, and underneath is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I by which the eternal flame is placed.  The view of Paris from the top of the Arc is great.  But to get there I’d have had to walk up more than 200 steps, something which my under exercised self wasn’t ready for again (I went up there on an earlier trip with my husband and by the time i reached the top i thought i had developed instant asthma :-)). So I stayed downstairs with other tourists who were either too old or too young.  I was neither (shame on me!).  then it was on to Champs Elysee. 

The most famous avenue in the world is long and wide, lined up with stores ranging from car dealerships to designer brands and fastfood chains.  Seeing McDonalds and Quick (the French equivalent of McDonalds) was jarring.  It felt out of place.  But when hunger pangs hit me, I made a beeline for Quick.  It was easy, convenient and quite cheap.  Perfect for penny pinching tourists like me. 
Also I had to pay respect to the mother ship that was the LOUIS VUITTON main store.  The line outside was long.  What surprised me though was this Chinese lady who spoke to me in the mother tongue (mandarin… she just assumed I could speak, which I couldn’t…well, at least),  asking if I was going inside the store as she wanted me to buy her a bag.  I turned her down saying I wanted to buy for myself.  I ended up not getting anything at all since I wasn’t in the mood to spend big moohla, that’s when I realized I could have made an extra 100 euros easily had I become her temporary bag mule!  Sad but true.

QUICK eating
Shopping in Paris is fun as it is where big French labels are at their cheapest.  But more so at the La Vallee Village outlet right outside Paris.  Via RER-A, we reached the outlet as soon as it opened at 10am and went straight for my favorite store, Longchamp.  The prices there are about 40 to 60% cheaper compared to retail stores so I had a field day.  The most saleable item there is the Le Pliage but unfortunately they have a new rule which limits a buyer to just 3 of these items per person (That’s because some buyers tend to hoard them  which leaves none for others).  Lucky me though since it was a slow day, I got away with buying an extra.  Aside from Longchamp, other notable stores I loved were Burberry, Givenchy, Armani, Ferragamo and Tod’s. 

Tip#1:  Before going to Paris, try downloading French language applications with audio options on your phone.  I did this a month ahead so I was able to practice speaking french.  At the very least, I was able to order my favorite Crepe Nutella easily.
With my partner in crime Nino

Tip#2:  Consider buying the Paris Museum Pass which gives you access to almost all the major sights in paris.  They have a special line for pass holders which can cut down waiting time considerably.

Tip#3:  If you only have 2 days in Paris then you may want to take the very convenient loop tour.  I took the 2 day Le Rouge bus tour which has only 9 stops, almost all of which are at major sights.

Tip#4:  Eat, Drink and Be Merry.  Enjoy the beautiful city of lights!

1 comment:

  1. great stuff! looking forward to your next travel! (=