Frenchless in Paris

Eiffel Tower lit up at night
Eiffel Tower lit up at night

Paris can be a frustrating city to navigate through if you are not familiar with the streets or metro system. I couldn’t tell you how many times I got lost trying to find something because the streets intersect in a way I don’t usually see. You might find yourself on one street and before you know it the street name has changed to something else. If you backtrack to the street you were on and follow a different path that you have somehow managed to stay on that street. It can be annoying until you figure out the logistics of navigating through the city. After you have figured it out then you only need to figure out the metro system which can be frustrating as well. It is set up in a way that it has more than one line and you need to know which metro you will need to get on and off of to get you to other parts of Paris. After working through the metro then it becomes easier to use with each passing day you are here.

Since I love to walk then my suggestion for seeing Paris is to put on your walking shoes and forget the metro and walk. Take that walk to the Eiffel Tower, Pere Lachaise Cemetery or to Sacre-Couer. It can be done. If I can do it then I know anyone can. I am not saying don’t take the metro anywhere in the city but to truly experience any place then it is best done with your own two feet. You miss way more if you are taking transportation everywhere you need to go though at times it is a must. For me, I took the metro to some places and other places I walked to see them so I got to experience Paris through the eyes of someone who wanted to get to where they needed to be and someone who wanted to get lost other times.

No trip to Paris is complete without visiting these places:

Champs Elysees – This is the place to be if you want to do some serious shopping out of the norm of purchasing souvenirs to take home. This is the place to go to if you want to buy clothes, make-up or even people watch as you sit outside one of the many cafes you’ll find along either side of the street sipping on a cappuccino or eating a sandwich. If you walk further down Champs Elysees, you will run into the Arc de Triomphe that is perched at the end of the shopping district of Champs Elysees. To better see the Arc, there is a passageway that runs underneath the street that you will need to walk through to get up close to the Arc. The reason you can’t take the usual pedestrian crosswalk to get to the other side of the street is that this road consists of at least 12 lanes. I don’t think anyone would want to try and stop traffic to see anything that close. Take a walk underneath the city and you will be standing underneath the Arc de Triomphe before you know it.

Eiffel Tower – I have seen the Eiffel Tower twice in my travels to Paris but seeing it at night is something to behold. As soon as night falls, the tower lights up and you might even see the light show from where you are standing. Yes, there is a light show. Or at least there was one when I was there in June. One thing you should be aware of if you are scared of heights but still want to see the tower is that there are three levels to it. I wouldn’t suggest the top level to anyone who has this fear because it doesn’t leave as much room to move around in as the second floor. It will continue spiraling up and become smaller as you move closer to the top of the tower itself. If you feel you can make it to the top level you will not be disappointed. The views are amazing and you literally feel like you are on top of the world. If you feel the fear of heights or closed in spaces will be an issue than this floor is not for you. I suggest stopping at the second floor. This floor will give you more room and enable you to move closer to the middle of the tower if you don’t want to look over the side of it because even though the views are amazing, you will be looking down and the fear of heights could be a problem at this point. If you are like me, you will push your fear of heights in the back of your mind and trudge all the way up to the top level to say you did it and to experience all the views of the city that the tower has to offer.

Notre Dame Cathedral – I have yet to make it to the top of one of the towers. Not even the 387 steps to the top would deter me but the hordes of people waiting in line for the tower has deterred me from walking up all those steps. Now if you like shorter lines or did not prepare for a Notre Dame Cathedral visit than standing in line to get inside the Cathedral will be a breeze. It didn’t take long to get through the line to get inside and once inside you can walk around but you need to remember this is a church.  Being respectful of the people around you is a must. Talking softly and walking quietly as you take in the art and the statues is one way to remain respectful of the church. Taking photos are allowed but you should turn off the flash especially in the area where mass is held.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery  Why would anyone want to visit the cemetery while traveling? Cemeteries hold history of the people before us. They tell a story about the people who are no longer here. Did you know that Jim Morrison, the lead singer of ‘The Doors’ is buried here? Oscar Wilde and Chopin are buried here as well. Upon entering the cemetery, you will find a map that will help you find the graves you might want to see. One thing to remember is that cemeteries can be hard to navigate through if you are not familiar with where certain sections are located. I had been here once before to visit Jim Morrison’s grave and this time around, it took longer to locate as I would end up in one section of the cemetery and realize I wasn’t even close to where I needed to be. Sometimes you need a map of a map to find your way around! If you do decide to visit then one thing to note is that of the graves I visited, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, will have a wired fence around them. This is to help keep the vandals from spraying graffiti on the tombstones. Another thing about cemeteries is the quietness of the place. Obviously, you don’t have anyone to talk back to you. One thing you could do and yes I have done this is bring your lunch with you and find one of the many benches throughout Pere Lachaise to sit and enjoy your meal while you are enjoying the quiet around you.

Sacre-Couer I have never seen the inside of the Sacre-Couer and haven’t had any desire to do so when visiting Paris. Still, it is my favorite place to see in the city. Why you ask when you haven’t been inside? All you have to do is walk up all the steps to the top and see the city below you. Doing this at night with a bottle of wine and a baguette is a must! Not sure if you are supposed to do this but sitting on the steps, drinking a glass of wine and eating from a fresh baguette is one of the things that made me fall in love with the city when I first visited it. But be prepared to walk up a lot of steps to get to the Sacre-Couer because there isn’t an escalator or elevator that will take you to the top. The building isn’t located on lower ground but atop of a hill overlooking the city.

Louvre – One word, Mona Lisa, another word, art. One thing you will notice when you see the Mona Lisa is that it isn’t as big as you might have thought. Another thing is that it is enclosed in glass. And another thing is that you can indeed take photos of the Mona Lisa or any of the artwork that the Louvre houses. Just remember to turn the flash off so that you don’t get photos that are hard to detect what they are because the flash was turned on when you took the photos. You will need to decide if visiting the Louvre is on your agenda of places to see if you only want to see the Mona Lisa but aren’t interested in any other art work. I don’t think it is worth seeing the Louvre if only to see it for one thing. Just my opinion on the matter …..

Is Paris in your plans for the future? Have you visited Paris and what were your impressions of the city? I would love to hear your thoughts on the City of Light (La Ville-Lumiere).