We arrived into Paris in the afternoon & went right to our hostel, which was located within a block of the train station we arrived into. We actually were not staying at the hostel that evening as we were going to Normandy that night, so we put our bags in storage lockers and headed off to take one of the free walking tours around the city. Even though it is not very accessible, I find the Paris Metro one of the easiest subway systems to navigate in the world. We left our hostel & seemed to be at the starting point of the tour within minutes. We were so early that we had a chance to visit one of my favorite churches in the world before the tour even started, Sainte-Chapelle. I went there for the first time when I was studying abroad and an art major that studied at my school told me that I absolutely needed to see it during my time in Paris. Now, every time I return to Paris I make sure I stop by. It is one of the most beautiful churches in the world as the stained glass is breathtaking. Words and photos can’t do it justice, but I’ve included a few of my favorite photos I took below:
After visiting the chapel, we headed to the starting point for our tour which was about a 2 minute walk away. Our first main stop was the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris. We did not go in, but learned that the main square in front of the cathedral was not always there. As a matter of fact, the cathedral was in the middle of a bustling part of town where houses and shops were right next it!
We then walked through some of the town surrounding the Cathedral and saw the Palace of Justice which is where Marie Antoinette was held during the French Revolution before heading to cross the River Seine over what used to be the “Bridge of Love” where couples used to take a lock, write their names on it, lock it to the side of the bridge and throw the key into the river to symbolize that their love would last forever. Of course, French authorities would come through every once in a while and cut all the locks off. Unfortunately, the railings on the bridge kept failing under the weight of the locks so everything was cut off and plastic was added to the railings to prohibit people from adding locks anymore. That being said, people did manage to add a few locks to other parts of the bridge like lamposts.
We then continued our walk past the Institut de France, which is charged with protecting the French language from outside linguistic influences. We kept walking towards the famous Louvre museum. The Louvre actually used to be a palace for French kings before being converted to a museum by Napoleon. The Louvre is the largest art museum in the world.
After our brief stop, we continued walking towards the Tuileries Gardens where our tour concluded.
After the tour, we stopped for lunch at an open Parisian café to relax and people watch. I decided to try beef tartare which was pretty good. I had had it before, in small doses, but the amount the restaurant gave me was enough food to feed an army.
We then swung by the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and a few other pieces of art. I had been to the Louvre many times before, so we saw a few things that Eric wanted to see before leaving to catch the subway back to the hostel to grab our day bags for the overnight trip to Normandy!