Paris: First Experience, A Dream Realized

I’ve always believed that travel is good for the mind and soul. It exposes us to culture, language, food and surroundings beyond the familiar setting of our everyday. On one such trip to France with my husband, I worked to capture the allure of this culture in photos as my eye could capture. Among the beauty are numerous iconic monuments as well as some not-so-familiar, yet beautiful structures.

Our first stop in Paris…the Eiffel Tower. Not yet adjusted to Parisian time, we woke up very early on our first day to the city. We decided to brave the metro during rush-hour and head across town to see the tower that we’d only ever seen in photos and movies.

Eiffel Tower at Sunrise

One of the most famed towers in the world was, at the time it was constructed, very controversial. Built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the World’s Fair, it was received with much criticism. Many saw it as an eye-sore against the traditional French style of architecture seen throughout the city.

The lace-like texture of the structure is created by the intricate ironwork and archways.

The views from above were spectacular. You can see most of the other famous monuments throughout the city from the top observation deck. The Arc de Triomphe is off in the distance…

On the mid-level deck, the tower casts a shadow on the embracing wings of the Palais de Chaillot. Beyond is La Défense, the business district of Paris.

We headed off on, what turned out to be a full-day journey on foot. We strolled through the streets taking in the distinctly French apartment buildings. This one displayed example of the interesting parking job common in Paris.

And one can’t mention Paris without talking about Art Nouveau. This style of art and architecture peaked at the turn of the 20th century between 1890-1905. Classic examples are widely displayed among Parisian metro signs.

We walked through the narrow streets toward Boulevard Saint Germain. Apon arriving, we found bustling intersections filled with energy and activity. There, towering before us, contrasting against this modern-day commotion, was the 6th century church of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Seated around the plaza, we found art students from the École des Beaux-Arts, sketching their day’s lesson. It was inspiring just to experience.

Across from the church plaza is the famed café Les Deux Magots, known to have attracted such inspired patrons as Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Pablo Picasso. The scene was so typical of French cafés. Small tables positioned tightly around the exterior of the entrance, beneath the awning, all facing the street.

A favorite French past-time is to people-watch while enjoying mouth-watering delights. French onion soup, quiche, baguette, tarte tatin, and of course, le café. Coffee in France is typically served strong and black in petite demi-tasse cups with cubed sugar. Once you’ve acquired its taste, however, there’s no comparison to its aroma or body…

Pulling ourselves away from the temptation of gluttony, we continued down Rue Boneparte, passing the École des Beaux-Arts. This famous school has trained some of the world’s most renowned artists and architects. American architect Julia Morgan, best known for her work on the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, was the first female to gratuate from their architecture program.

At last, we reached the stone-walled bank of the beautiful Seine river. Its numerous Batobus tours were running up and down the waterway. On the opposite bank, the Louvre stood majestic and vast. Originally the royal palace, it is now the world’s most visited art museum. And housing 35,000 objects, is one of the largest.

photo credit: Benh LIEU SONG

The leaves were beginning to turn autumn shades. The air was crisp and clean, warming as the day progressed. We followed the river bank path, passing the Institut de France, best captured from the Pont des Arts.

From there we could see Pont Neuf, Paris’ oldest standing bridge. From this arch bridge, the eastern side of the Île de la Cité connects to the city’s two banks. The Île de la Cité is one of two naturally formed island in the city, along with the Île Saint-Louis. Here is the heart of the city from which all roads are calculated and its medieval birthplace.

Historically, a small Gallic tribe, the Parisii, are thought to have lived on this island from the 3rd century BC-the Roman era during the Iron Age. It remained an important military and political center throughout the Middle Ages.

These projecting curved elements topping each abutment are bench seats, accessed from the walkway above. Lovers can cozy up, embraced by its curve and the knowledge that the city surrounds them.

It’s no wonder that this city is known for its romance.

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