Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Lunch in the park

After spending ages standing in line to Notre Dame and thereafter spending hours exploring everything there is to see in the cathedral, you can use a moment or ten of relaxation.

One idea can be to buy one of the delicious lunch menus in a bakery (boullangerie). You can often find an offer with sandwich (half a baguette with filling, ham & cheese, smoked salmon or egg and salad), a drink (a juice, half a litre of water or a coke) and a desert (a small berry pie, a piece of chocolate cake or flan). The price is often no more than 5-8 Euro, which is the lunch budget for many office employed. It is common that the companies give "Ticket Restaurant" to their employees as a benefit along with their pay. They can be used in restaurants, at the bakery and in some grocery shops.

When the lunch is secured, then go to the side of the great cathedral and find the park located to the right of the main entrance. The park is located between Notre Dame and the Seine. It's a nice park, which extends all the way to the tip of Ile de la Cité. There are playgrounds for the kids, tall shadowcasting trees, benches and wonderful green grass.

It is a nice spot in the middle of Paris where you can relax for a while and enjoy the bright sun and warm summer weather, while you're free of the noise and smog from the cars. You'll notice that many local go to the parks when the weather is warm and have a little lunch picnic before they return to work.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Notre Dame de Paris

Thick books has been written about Notre Dame and there's a lot of history connected with the building. Notra Dame is perhaps one of the most well known buildings in the world, and that is not without reason.

It is an impressive construction. The architecture is unique in the world and many has used it as inspiration. From the outside you can enjoy all the fascinating and amazing details. Saints and kings, prophets and religious figures, devils and gargoyles. The details are overwhelming and even if you don't feel like lining up to come inside, it's worth a visit just to see it from the outside.

Once you've entered you should remember that it is a cathedral and place of worship. Since it's a catholic church, you'll find a lot of small altars and niches with saints and often find people in pray before an icon with lit candles. In several places you'll find small boxes where you can buy candles, which you then can light and place before the saint of your choice. Jesus and Virgin Mary are the two most visited, but you'll find that other more local saints will have candles lit before them as well.

A good piece of advice is to show respect for the worshippers. Cover shoulders and legs, don't wear shorts and short skirts. Many French women still wear a scarf and long skirts when attending mass on Sundays. Speak softly and walk calmly and quietly while absorbing all the impressions. There's a unique mood in the building, which is destroyed somewhat by the many tourists.

Practical information:
There are masses several times a day every single day, though most on Sundays. More information can be found at the official website:
Notre Dame is open all days from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm, though until 7:15 pm on Sundays and holidays.
Since it's a functioning place of worship access is free.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The Seine

The Seine invites for long walks and charming evenings. There's always lief around the river in Paris. Not only can you see the old buildings and riverboats, but also easily find a tour-boat or a boat-restaurant and spend your entire evening by the river. It is an open invitation to romance and summer evenings.

The river separates Paris into two parts; Rive Droite and Rive Gauche. On both sides of the river are paths where you can walk along the river. Sometimes they are all the way down by the water's edge, at others high up on the embankment. The old trails where the horses pulled the riverboats back in the day are still present. Here you can find some wonderfull and peaceful spots, where you can enjoy your lunch or relax a bit in the sun.

A walk along the Seine will certainly provide a bunch of good experiences. There are promenades, long rows of stalls where books and other things are sold and several bridges of all styles and ages. On the river is a constant flow of boats. Especially the courier boats from the various ministries can be interesting to observe. There's also talk about creating a new metro-line as a riverboat instead of a train. Compared with the traffic in Paris, the Seine is a study in peace and calm.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Romance and street musicians - Pont Saint-Louis

You owe yourself to walk from Ile de la Cité to Ile Saint-Louis if you're into romantic strolls and real Parisian mood. The two ilands are connected with the bridge Pont Saint-Louis and what it's lacking of historical touch (the current bridge was completed in 1970) is plenty made up with charm and soul.

The current bridge is the 7th to connect the two islands since 1630 and there's a wonderful view over the Seine and Paris when you stand on it. Since the bridge is closed for traffic it's inviting for romantic strolls and walking arm in arm. Both tourists and locals use this little gem of peace and romance in the middle of Paris.

That the cars are absent is an open invitation for street musicians and other street performers. You can always find at least one who plays music or performs when you cross the bridge. Take the time to enjoy the special mood which is only found in Paris by the Seine. It's certainly worth it.

I clearly remember the first romantic dinner I had in Paris at a charming little restaurant on Ile Saint-Louis. Afterwards we walked closely arm in arm towards the metro and crossed the bridge. It was a cool autumn evening and yet an older man sat there and played the accordian. The music was perfect for the evening and the romance, and it touched me so much that I got tears in my eyes. See, that's the real paris, don't cheat yourself from it.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Ile de la Cité

Ile de la Cité is one of two natural islands in the Seine in Paris. The place has great historical importance for the city and has been settled since before Christ. There was a Roman fortress on the island and it has held a significant role throughout the history of the area. The Romans has defeated the Huns, Viking attacks has been pushed back and the eastern part has always been location for religious worship. The island is in the middle of Paris and it was here the city was located during the middle-ages.

The island hosts many sights. It's easy to spend several hours slowly walking around and embrace the special feel of Paris. With a bit of fantasy it's easy to be transported back in time. Here you can find the Notre Dame cathedral which is renowned all over the world for it's architecture and the story about the hunchback. The place has been the seat of religious worship for more than 2000 years. Another middle-age bulding is Louis IXs Sainte-Chapelle from 1245 with an extraordinary interior. The Conciergerie prison, where Marie-Antoinette awaited her beheading, is part of Palais de la Cité which is also found on the island.

The oldest bridge in Paris, Pont Neuf connects the island with the rest of Paris. When the bridge was built it only touched the top if Ile de la Cité. Now there's a beautiful park, Parc Vert Gallant down to the river, where a natural sandbar formed after the bridge was built. The island is also home for the flower and birdt market, Prefecture de police de Paris, Palais de Justice, Hôtel Dieu (a hospital) and many other interesting things.

Practical information:
Metro line 4, stop Cité
RER B & C, stop St-Michel - Notre-Dame