Top 5 for a lazy romantic getaway in Paris
Paris – City of Love & A lazy getaway
I had visited Paris on several occasions, but these visits were mainly dedicated to what my kids wanted to do. It was not until March 2015, when I made a solo trip to Paris for a few days that I understood why Paris bridges were covered with Love Locks and is regarded as the City of Love. For me, it was here, that I met my significant other, went on our first date and have been together ever since. Though it has been a little over three years, I want to share with you my experiences of a lazy getaway to Paris.
Making my way to the heart of Paris’ Latin Quarter, Saint-Germaine-des-Pres from Charles de Gaulle airport was a short cab ride. Set on the outskirts of the City, Saint Germain used to be a poor village, but just like Montmartre, artists and writers came here, giving it a young population and creating a reputation as a party hub.
I chose an apart-hotel in Saint Germain for accommodation as I wanted the luxury of a hotel and the flexibility to make my own meals with fresh ingredients from the market which was just around the corner. The apart-hotel overlooked River Seine because I wanted my quiet moments along the River, and not far from here were also some touristic spots such as the Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Pont des Arts bridge. Across the River and a good 40-minute walk was the Eiffel Tower.
Saint Germain is a perfect place to experience the city’s bohemian culture and the many hidden gems of Paris. The vibrancy of a traditional market street was just around the corner at Rue de Buci where you can pick fresh fruits and vegetables delivered daily, buy freshly baked baguettes and sandwiches made to perfection! The streets of Saint Germaine are dotted with bookshops, cafes, bars and tourist inspired gift shops. The iconic café, Café de Flore, one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris, which was and still is, a popular hub for writers, is here, in the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue Saint-Benoit. You can taste French coffee for 5 Euros here!
Many blogs and travel sites have often noted the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and other iconic places as the top places to visit. Indeed, they are! I certainly spent time at the Eiffel Tower and half-a-day at the Musee de Louvre amidst the rain and the gloomy weather. However, for me and my need at that time was to experience some ‘me time’ – not rushing to complete a must-see do-list. So, my top 5 things to do on a lazy getaway in Paris are listed below and you can read more by clicking on the links:
Paris: Top 5
River Seine is an important commercial getaway, the hub of Paris and France since the Middle Ages. River Seine is an important commercial getaway, the hub of Paris and France since the Middle Ages. It runs through the heart of Paris, separating the Left and Right banks of Paris and is about 777 kilometres long. The River Banks of Paris have been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1991. The River’s waterway flows gently and has captured the imagination around the world as one of Europe’s most romantic rivers.
I think, sometime, when one travels alone, you want to take the day in your stride, enjoy in the quiet pleasantness of sitting on a bench along a river or be lost in your own world of imagination when reading a book at a French café. This helps, certainly helped me to understand some of the many pieces that made up my life, either to hold on to or let go. So, if you are ever in a place in your life needing time and space to think, go to Paris and do the Parisian thing – take-in the magic of the River. Stroll along the River’s edge and embrace the seductiveness of the surrounds of the River.
You can always get a drink and something to eat, sit on a bench and watch the sun set, or read a novel and feel involved in the romantic settings that surrounds you or just sip on your cup of French coffee and people-watch! Whatever you do to relax, make time to try the local made French macarons from the nearby Laduree shop on the Left Bank.
There are 37 bridges across the Seine, with just 3 for pedestrian use only. My favourite is the Pont des Arts. This footbridge connects the French Institute and the Musee de Louvre, offering one of the most romantic views of Paris. It is from here that you can see the Notre Dame in the distance and Pont-Neuf bridge, which connects the Right and Left banks.
Pont des Arts is also popular for another reason. It was here, since late 2008, couples took to attaching padlocks to the railings of the bridge. They either wrote or engraved their names/initials on the ‘love locks’, attach them to the railings and toss away the key into the Seine River as a romantic gesture, sealing their love forever. This is not a French tradition, but it is believed that ‘love locks’ originated in Asia over 100 years ago. For a while, attaching love locks to Pont des Arts, and locks on locks became a new iconic image of Paris, the City of Romance.
The dramatic increase of love-locks on this bridge made space scarce and couples started attaching love-locks on other bridges around Paris. [photo]. The increasing weight of the padlocks triggered a major safety issue, fearing the weight would damage the structure of Pont des Arts. These locks were removed in 2015 by the City of Paris. The footbridge now serves as a temporary place for art exhibitions.
Standing on the Pont des Arts gave me an idea of how Paris had evolved through its history. In the distance was the Cathedral of Notre Dame, an architectural masterpiece.
Construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345, a little under 200 years. Visiting the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages and one that retains 3 great rose windows which was made in 13th century glass was an awe moment. Standing on the Ile de la Cite, Notre-Dame suffered damage and deterioration through the centuries and underwent major restorations in the 19th century. It was made famous by that book, a French romantic/gothic novel by Victor Hugo in 1831, turning it into a tourist attraction today. Recently, the Cathedral has embarked on a sponsorship programme.
I recall watching the Disney movie with my kids and remembering the song about Notre Dame and its tolling bells:
“Morning in Paris, the city awakes, to the bells of Notre Dame. The fisherman fishes, the bakerman bakes, to the bells of Notre Dame. To the big bells as loud as the thunder, to the little bells soft as a psalm. And some say the soul of the city is the toll of the bells. The bells of Notre Dame.” — Disney, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
My initial visit to Notre Dame was during the day and the place was thronging with people, spilling over the sidewalk, with queues waiting to get up the tower. We were fortunate enough to hear the bells of Notre Dame sing and we all stood still when it did. Afterwards, we made our way into the Cathedral. There were lots of people here too, sitting on the pews or lighting the candles and some waiting for the mass to begin.
There was silence, a certain quietness and calmness around us. We decided to stay for a little while for the mass which was in Latin. I thought that I would feel the same as other Latin masses I have listened to at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London , but it was not! The atmosphere, the feel of the Cathedral and the sun shining through the rose windows was all too different an experience, one which I will treasure for a very long time.
(Notre Dame is a beautiful Cathedral which is well worth your visit if you are in Paris. No visit here is complete without the experience of hearing its tolling bells, so plan your visit well. It is really busy during the day and you may wish to capture the magic of Notre Dame at night).
(You will probably need 1-2 hours to visit this landmark, but you can spend many more hours exploring every detail of its uniqueness, statutes, carvings and masonry. It is open everyday of the year and admission is free)
Update June 2019: Notre Dame – Currently Closed
Cathedral of Notre Dame is currently closed indefinitely for visitors. Fire broke out beneath the roof of Notre–Dame Cathedral on the evening of 15 April 2019. The cathedral’s two pipe organs, and its three 13th-century rose windows, suffered little to no damage.
For more information, click here
The Musee de Louvre is located on the Right Bank of River Seine. It is the world’s largest and diverse of museums. It is famous for being the home of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, priceless antiquities and the Napoleon III apartments. It is a beautiful piece of architecture which spans over 4 floors and 3 wings, Sully, Denon and Richelieu.
When we visited the Louvre, it was a rainy and gloomy day. We waited in the queue for half-an-hour and I couldn’t wait to get inside. I absolutely loved this courtyard and there was a sense of misty-magic-coolness after the rain.
Once in, I was a little overwhelmed by the crowd and the sheer size of it, its ‘hugeness’ took me by surprise. Even with the maps, we were lost wandering around the hallways, but we were focused on finding her! There she was, the infamous painting of Mona Lisa, amusing the crowds that gathered around her, the one which intrigued millions around the world in 2003, depicted in the Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown.
Walking along the wing, there is an incredible collection of classical, neoclassical and renaissance paintings of simple beauty and bold colours coupled with impressive colours. There are also collections of sculptures, artefacts from ancient Greece, Egypt and Persia.
The Louvre is a place that should not be missed. Although it is huge, and you will leave tired, you will not be disappointed! You may want to spend at least half a day but even this may not be enough. You may wish to consider the following useful information when planning a visit here:
- Buy tickets in advance, online.
- Consider an evening visit as the crowd would have thinned out
- Consider returning – half day or even a full day is not enough.
- Bring a bottle of water with you as you will be walking for hours and you would not want to leave for the cafes every couple of hours.
There are 3 cafes inside and audio guides are available. For prices and opening hours, please click here.
This iconic steel tower needs no introduction.
No visit to Paris is complete without visiting this iconic Parisian landmark. This amazing steel tower which was constructed in 1889 is worth making time for. No matter the season, the views from the top are spectacular and not to be missed. There are 2 levels, the midpoint which is slightly cheaper, and the other, at the top. If you are there, then you might as well pay a little extra and make it to the top.
When planning a visit to the Eiffel Tower, you may wish to consider the following useful information:
- Pre-book your tickets, as the queues are so much shorter.
- Regardless of the season, take a light jacket or coat with you as the temperature drops slightly at the top.
- You can take the stairs up to midpoint, but it is quite high. I took the elevator because I did not want to feel tired when I reached the top.
- The Eiffel Tower is open everyday but opening times vary according to season, so you may want to check before you get there.
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