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louis Paris - A travel report by Rafal
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Paris,  France - flag France -  Ile-de-France
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louis's travel reports


  9 votes
Paris is probably one of the three best-known cities in the world (together with London and New York). There are so many things to do that a week isn't enough. Paris delights and exhausts. But who wouldn´t like to feel exhausted in such a place...

The French capital is a melting pot. Everything is in there. History mixes with present, old with new, monuments with modern vanguard buildings. It is also a cultural crucible. Many years of French colonialism caused a steady immigration. The culture brought by the immigrants mixed perfectly with the French one. Today, Paris has more than 2.2 million inhabitants (Great Paris area is inhabited by more than 10 million). French people call it "l´escargot" as its 20 districts are divided in a shape of the snail. The city avoided destruction during WWII and, as such, nowadays is filled with historical buildings.

Paris was lucky throughout history because of its brave people. For many years, it was leader in innovative and controversial buildings. Their authors were often banned and ridiculed by the public and their ideas triggered vivid discussions. But it is because of their courage that the city today has structures like: the Eiffel Tower (G. Eiffel), the Pompidou Centre (A. Malraux), The Grande Arch of La Defense, the Pyramid in Louvre Museum and many others.

The floods of tourists changed the city. Prices went up, some places lost their charm and the service is often simply unpleasant (as they know that another tourist will always come).

The city has an extensive and well-developed urban communication system, the subway being its backbone. Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais are the main airports. Eurostar train connects it with London, Brussels and Amsterdam.

But Paris is not only its bright side. Uncontrolled urban development, excessive immigration and a lack of ideas on how to integrate them in society have created huge problems. Many areas are simply dangerous and are almost "an explosive powder barrel". One of the saddest examples were the riots in 2005, during which 2 people died, 126 got wounded and more than 200 million euro of loss were caused. A high rate of unemployment among the youth (especially immigrants) and poverty do not help to solve the problem.

Favourite spots:
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower, once the most criticized and mocked building in Paris, became its icon over the years. The tower was erected for the 1889 World´s Fair. During its construction, a group of artists published protests in the newspapers claiming that the tower would spoil the untouched beauty of the urban skyline. Eiffel resisted and the tower received its 250th million visitor in 2010. It is also the tallest building in Europe accessible to the public. The tower is 320 metres high (together with its radio antenna), but the last platform view is at 279 metres. To built it, the constructor used 18.038 metal pieces, 2.5 millions of rivets and its weight, together with the concrete pillars, exceeds 10.000 tonnes. The height of the tower changes up to 18 centimetres depending on the temperature and, with the wind, it sways 6-7 centimetres each side. Lately, the tower has received a stunning illumination. There are two ways to go up: stairs and the lift. The view from the top is unforgettable

What's really great:
Cobbled street in Montmartre
Cobbled street in Montmartre
Montmartre is the most artistic quartier of the city. Together with the basilica of the Sacre Coeur, it is a very popular tourist spot. This part of the XVIII arrondissement of the city is built up with old houses and narrow cobbled streets, packed with stairs and, in the middle of XIX century, became a favourite spot for bohemia. Le place du Tertre is the heart of Montmartre: located near the Sacre Coeur and cabaret Lapin Agile, it has been in possession of artists for many years (even Pablo Picasso lived here). The artists are still here but now mostly for tourist purposes (painting their portraits). During the calmer season, however, it is still possible to see the ephermal charm of this place. A few steps from Terte is located the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur (built 1876-1914). Its cupolas are 79 and 83 metres high. It also posseses the heaviest bell in Paris. The Basilica terrace offers an amazing view which, in good weather, has a visibility of more than 30 kilometres.

Basilica de Notre Damme
Basilica de Notre Damme
The Cathedral of the Notre Dame is another landmark of Paris. The church is located in the heart of the city, on the "Île de la Cité" near the river Seine. The construction of the church lasted 180 years (1163-1345). Nowadays, it is considered the finest example of French Gothic style and is one of the best-known churches in the World. Surprisingly the Cathedral´s interior has a very light look and the stained glass windows add a mysterious look to it. The organs have 7.800 pipes, 900 being classified as historical. The exterior is famous for it precious figures. Different saints as well as the gargoyles are an inseparable image of the building. Although entrance tickets are expensive (8,5 euro per visit), there is always a long queue in front of the Cathedral to visit it. It is also possible to enter into the crypts and climb to its towers. Twice a week, there are night shows; operas composed of sounds and images projected on a transparent tulle screen.

Hotel de Ville in Paris
Hotel de Ville in Paris
It is not a problem to find a place to sleep in Paris. Everything depends on how much you can afford. There are many top class (with top prices) hotels, medium range hotels, as well as many hostels. As the city has an extensive subway system, places to sleep located further from the centre can also be an interesting option. Last time I stayed in Hotel Caron. It is a good 3 star hotel located in the Le Marais district, near Place des Vosges, within a short distance to the metro station. The price is around 200€ for a double room (breakfast not included). The hotel was very nice, but I must admit that for 200€ I would rather expect a bigger room.

I remember one of the biggest confusions always I made in French. I thought that "Hôtel de Ville" was the most luxurious hotel in town, as those buildings are usually very beautiful. How big my surprise was when I found out that "Hôtel de Ville" is not a place to sleep in. It is the name of the city hall headquarters :).

Le Moulin Rouge
Le Moulin Rouge
There are many nightlife options in Paris. Bars, pubs and discos are on every corner. I chose the cabaret. The Moulin Rouge is probably one of the most famous in the world. It opened on the 5th of October 1889 by the hands of J. Oller. It is located in the red district (boulevard de Clichy) near Montmartre. The name refers to the big red mill on the top of the roof. The selection of performers is very demanding and tough. During their contracts, artists are under strict rules and I heard that if someone gains 2 kilograms she/he may be fired. There are two ways to see the show: one includes dinner and the other one is only the show itself. During the show, even accompanied live animals take the stage (small horses, a snake in an aquarium with an artist), etc. Artists change few times their outfits and the feathers and glitters are, undoubtedly, the kings on stage. Naturally, the famous French cancan is performed at every show. Since 1963, show titles start only with the letter F.

The way of sightseeing the city depends only on us. It can be done with a guide, on a tourist bus or just walking without a particular aim. There is one way which is particulary pleasant and useful: as a birthday gift I received a photo tour through Paris. We spent an entire afternoon with a professional photographer (Randy), who taught me how to use my camera in a more effcient way, and revealed me the secrets of the art of good photography. Randy had an itinerary that somehow avoided tourist crowds (which is difficult). Paris is such a fabulous city that, even though with bad weather, we were still able to find great spots for good pictures. Although such adventure is quite pricey (80€ for the tour), it is well worth it. More details can be found on his website I learnt that the best aerial views of the city are from the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnasse tower, but Montparnasse has the advantage of offering a great panoramic view including the Eiffel Tower.

Sweet France
Sweet France
"La vie parisienne" would mean nothing without food. French people have an adorable daily rythm. Food and eating are particularly important. Everything starts with the "petit dejeneur". Breakfast is usually very light and consists of croissant, jam, yogurt and, of course, coffee. Lunch starts around midday and many restaurants have a special menu, allowing staff to serve great number of customers. I am always stunned by their speed of service. They are quick, efficient and have a great memory, just don´t expect to have a chat with them. After lunch, most restaurants close for a few hours, for what it is very difficult to find anything to eat between 4-6pm. Only small eateries and international chains of fast food remain open. Dinner is the most important meal of the day. It can last for a few hours and is mostly spent with family or friends. In addition to its taste, the way of presenting food is also very important. That is why very often we receive a piece of art on a plate.

Other recommendations:
Musee de Louvre
Musee de Louvre
The Musée de Louvre is an example of a brave combination of old and new. When, in 1984, President Francois Mitterrand presented the plans for renovation, controversy and discussions raised. All because of the glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei. The pyramid is located in front of the museum, creating a great composition with the classical architecture of the building. The museum was established in 1793 and it is one of the oldest in the world. It contains works of art from across several centuries, from the ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece to modern times. Paintings and sculptures are an important part of the art collection. The painting of the Mona Lisa (by Leonardo Da Vinci) is the most recognized object from the entire collection. The pyramid is beautifully illuminated during the night. The Louvre Museum has recently decided to grow and open few branches. The first will open in the city of Lens and the second one is under construction in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates).

Published on Monday February 22th, 2016

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Thu, Mar 10 2016 - 12:53 PM rating by wojtekd

Great report indeed! Thank you for your work and congratulations Mr Rafal.
Also because I love Paris so much and like to be there again and again -
like in those lovely song: ...Toi Paris, je suis bien dans tes bras... Bravo!

Mon, Mar 07 2016 - 12:59 AM rating by aufgehts

Excellent report, Rafal! No wonder your photos were so good! I would love to have a photo tour in any city but especially Paris. Great details, bravo!

Sun, Mar 06 2016 - 02:51 PM rating by eirekay

Marvelous Report! Great photos and wonderful details. I experienced rioting when I lived there in 1976.

Sun, Mar 06 2016 - 01:12 PM rating by bineba

I have to go back sometime soon. It has been far too long.

Wed, Feb 24 2016 - 09:15 PM rating by mistybleu

A wonderful report all the favourites and highlights of Paris. A lovely city for the weekend.

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