International Escape: Paris

The Delights of the City of Lights

What is more amazing than a trip to Paris in the springtime? Paris is generally recognized as one of the world’s most beautiful cities; however, as giddy tulips and daffodils burst forth, laughing off winter’s grime and gloom, everything takes on a fresh and new feel. The excitement and energy of spring in Paris is palpable.

There are numerous incredible places to visit in Paris and you’ll want to allow several days to discover the history and ambiance of the city. Skip the rental car and familiarize yourself with the Métro (rapid transit system) and other public transportation. You will be amazed at how efficiently you can move about within the city.

SIGHTSEEING

Paris is steeped in history and there are so many impressive sights to visit, that you could live in Paris for an extended period and still not see everything of interest. Therefore, I will mention only a few highlights of a visit to Paris.

No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. The eternal symbol of romance, the Eiffel Tower, or Tour Eiffel as it is known in France, is extraordinary. I propose visiting during the day and again in the evening as the two experiences will be completely different. I also highly recommend an evening River Seine boat tour. This romantic tour takes visitors past many well-known sights making for a spectacular view of Paris’ famous landmarks.

You’ll definitely want to stroll along the Champs-Elysees, the grandest tree-lined shopping avenue in all of Europe. Be sure to visit the Arc de Triomphe which honors those soldiers who fought in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Beneath the vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. While there, take in the breathtaking view of the Champs-Elysees from atop the Arc de Triomphe. Cycling fans will recognize the Champs-Elysees as the site of the celebrated eight-lap dramatic cobblestone finish of the Tour de France which takes place there every July.

A visit to Sacré-Coeur and Montmartre is not to be missed. The Basilica du Sacré-Coeur is perched on a hill and its white domes can be seen from all over Paris. Situated in the Montmartre neighborhood, once popularized by artists such as Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh, the area has retained its bohemian charms. The neighborhood, bursting with cafés and museums, remains a haven for artists and art-lovers.

If you enjoy art, you’ll want to visit two of the most famous museums in the world: The Louvre and Musèe d’Orsay. The Louvre is massive and you could spend several full days visiting the museum. Therefore, you may want to determine which exhibits (like the Mona Lisa) that you want to see and plan to return on a future visit to the City of Lights. The much smaller Musèe d’Orsay, housed in a converted railway station, is known for its superior collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. You’ll find works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and many more of the great masters sprinkled throughout this breathtaking museum.

PEOPLE WATCHING

Cafés in Paris are places to see and be seen. People watching at a café, observing Parisians in their day to day lives, is one of the great highlights of a visit to Paris. Linger over lunch or dinner or simply enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, but either way, relax and soak in the moment. The French have a way of living, being in the moment and enjoying life which they refer to as joie de vivre.

DAY TRIPPIN’

If you have enough time, take a day trip outside of Paris. The countryside surrounding Paris is beautiful and it will be a nice change of pace from the huge city. My all-time favorite day trip from Paris is a day in Chartres with a visit to the incredible Chartres Cathedral, one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in the entire world.  Another option is a visit to the gorgeous Loire Valley, resplendent with castles, châteaux, and vineyards.

Paris, and all of France for that matter, holds an unforgettable and indelible place in the hearts of folks who have had the pleasure of visiting. If you’ve never been to Paris, you may want to plan a visit and find out for yourself the true meaning of joie de vivre. Create your own precious memories of the most beautiful and romantic city on the planet!