Paris in the springtime

Actually, we weren’t supposed to go to Paris in the springtime. We were supposed to go in autumn, but exactly one week before our trip we were checking the news before going to sleep at night and read, to our shock, about the terror attacks that had occurred. In the wake of the sad events, it did not seem the appropriate time to visit the city. So, we postponed our trip to April. Then at the end of March, there were more terrorist attacks in Brussels. It was therefore with a slight feeling of unease that I set out for Paris, hoping we would have an uneventful trip. Well, luckily we did, and once you are in Paris you start to forget about what happened, because everyone is just going on about their daily lives, enjoying life. The city is huge and there must be only a handful of people who would go so far as to harm others. I did feel a bit uneasy traveling on the metro, but otherwise enjoyed walking around the city, eating in cafes and mingling with the locals.

Like this local

Like this local

Some years ago I visited Paris with a friend and we had a list of places to visit that his friend had given him. In just two days we did a pretty good job of working our way down the list, visiting places such as Notre Dame, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Sainte-Chapelle, Musée Rodin, Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel tower, the Arch di Triumphe, the river Seine and more. What we didn’t do, however, is just wander around, eat our own weight in pastries (as a friend advised me to do before I went there this time), drink wine and sit at cafes, which is, after all, a great deal of the experience of being in Paris! Since we have both visited Paris before, this time we decided to do exactly that: just wander around (taking in some sights of course), try some food and visit some gardens I had read about on this blog.

We arrived pretty late on a Friday evening and headed to the hotel, then popped out to a nearby cafe for some red wine and a cheese and meat platter, a relaxing start to our Paris trip. By the way, if you’re planning on bringing lots of luggage when you travel to Paris, don’t forget that the likelihood that you’ll have to lug it up a couple of flights of stairs like these is pretty high.

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The next morning we headed off for a walk to get some breakfast. It was surprisingly difficult in our neighbourhood as many places seemed to be closed, but we didn’t mind exploring the streets because we were excited to be in Paris, especially when we came across quite a few people with long baguettes peeping out of their shopping bags.

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After we found some breakfast near the Bastille, we went for a walk along the Seine.

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Next to the river are some nice spots where you can sit and relax, with lots of flowers, especially in spring.

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Soon we had our first sighting of Notre Dame. It’s truly a beautiful building. Last time my friend and I were in Paris, we climbed to the top to visit the gargoyles, which is well worth the queue. This time we just admired the building from the outside.

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One thing you will always observe in Paris is people enjoying hanging out at the side of the Seine. We spotted people picnicking, playing guitar or just relaxing on the riverbanks.

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In Germany they say “April, April, macht was er will.” meaning that the weather in April does whatever it likes and is very changeable. Well, it was the same in Paris in April, we had all the seasons in a day. One moment it was raining and the next the sun would come out and we’d have glorious blue skies, all the better for viewing Notre Dame!

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And around the back of Notre Dame, the insect hotel 🙂

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Due to the sudden sunny weather, everyone was out enjoying themselves in the parks.

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Last time, I don’t think I noticed all the interesting expressions of the gargoyles on the outside from down below, we were so excited to get up on top. Since the last time I visited Paris I’ve also read The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which gave a new dimension to the city.

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We enjoyed looking at all the plants for sale, if we were living in Paris it’d be time to get something for the balcony! Just strolling around Paris is interesting in itself, without even going into all of the museums (although they are worth it of course, if you have time!).

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In true April style, the sun had disappeared by the time we got to the Louvre and there was a sudden downpour. This was a good time for a lunch break.

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By the the time we’d finished lunch, the sun had come out again and we could continue our stroll.

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This statue had a bird on his head right before I took this photo (and did not look very pleased about that).

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I liked this custom of pulling up a chair and relaxing by the fountains.

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And of course eventually on our walk we came across the Eiffel tower, that landmark of Paris.

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It was especially pretty when it got darker and they switched on the lights. A French friend of mine had told me that the boat ride was particularly pretty at night, so we took her advice and it was definitely worth it! Although it was chilly, as boat rides always are, the buildings looked lovely all lit up.

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Afterwards we took a walk to the Eiffel tower, which looks surprisingly bigger close up. We were freezing after the boat ride however, and soon hot-footed it back to the area of our hotel to have dinner and go to bed.

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The next morning, we set out to La Coulée Verte, an elevated garden along the path of an old railway line. The path is 4.7km and we walked almost all of it. It seems to be exceptionally popular with joggers and I’ve never seen so many joggers on one day in my life.

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La Coulée Verte is a good place from which to view some of the buildings of Paris. The buildings of Paris have a very particular style, and are mostly in shades of cream or beige, giving a very specific look to the city. Apparently 60% of the buildings in Paris are in Haussmann style. Haussmann was given the job of renovating  Paris by Napolean III in the mid to late 1800’s, and he demolished many of the crowded buildings from the medieval times (described by Victor Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and built the wide, leafy boulevards, parks and squares for which Paris is known today. Other styles of building still apparent in Paris include Baroque and Gothic.

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If you pack your bat and ball, you could even play some table tennis.

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At the end of the walk we popped out near the intriguing-looking Museum of Immigration. We didn’t go inside, but the museum facade certainly conjured up the feeling of being in exotic lands. You can find out more about the museum here.

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After a stop for lunch, we decided to go to the neighbourhood of Montemarte, as I remembered liking it from my previous trip to Paris. The Sacre Coeur was as beautiful as I remembered it, and from the top of the hill there is a nice view of the city. It is however quite a crowded area, but watching other people can also be fun. If you watched the movie Amelie (which has a great soundtrack!), you might recognize some of the places in  Montemarte.

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Montemarte used to be known as an area for cabaret, entertainment and courtesans, and is the location of the famous Moulin Rouge, where the can-can dance originated.

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Finally, we took a train to the other side of the city to visit the the gardens of Musée Albert-Kahn, a French philanthropist. The garden has elements from different countries and was lovely to wander around, although also quite busy.

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