Pardon me for the delay in getting these Paris posts out. I have doing the most and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to go to New York the week after returning from Paris (more on that later). I am now back, rested and ready to share with you lovely folks the rest of the details from my trip!!
So since my last post one of my friends bought a ticket to Paris and has been picking my brain about my trip. Oh and best of all, she got a deal on her flight! I used some of her questions to help me frame my remaining Paris posts. I gave you all the food details, but now it is time for the where to go and what to see info! Here are my favorite spots and a few tips :).
Sacre Coeur and Montmartre
I recognized the Sacre Coeur as the beautiful white basilica which also serves as the highest point in Paris. Knowing I would get great photos here, this was a must see for me. Once there, we spent a few moments inside of the church touring the beautiful structure.
So the funny thing here is I did not really research this area so we just walked around like we were from there. We first encountered a great band right outside of the church then continued walking down a picturesque street. I later learned that this area is called Montmartre, made famous by artists such as Picasso and Dali who took up residence here. For me, the streets immediately reminded me of the village in Beauty and the Beast. I felt like I was on a movie set. SO beautiful.
As soon as we left the church a man with a sketchpad approached my sister asking to draw her portrait for $20 euros. She obliged and he quickly drew THE worst picture I have ever seen. I think he spent more time drawing the Eiffel Tower in the background. Down the same street there were many other charlatans just like him with varying artistic skill. After the first scam, we told the rest no and focused on grabbing the AMAZING food that lined the street.
What we soon learned is, the real artists take up camp in a town square just up the road. They charge significantly more, but also provide great work. After being tricked out of $20 euro we paid another artist $100 for a picture of my sister and I. While I do not think this picture looks too much like us per se, it is undeniably great artwork so we were pleased. The lesson here is keep walking past the portrait pushers until you get to the REAL artists in the square.
We all have seen the Eiffel Tower in magazines, books and television, but lord to see it in person is a whole different experience. We were in awe. Even by the last day we still would point out when the Eiffel Tower came into view. What makes it even more exciting is it looks different throughout the day. Once it’s lit up, your pictures take on a whole new meaning. Then at night on the hour the lights sparkle!
I took a million pictures of the Eiffel Tower, so y’all are gonna get these photos!!!
Prior to arriving in Paris I thought I would be fine with just seeing the Eiffel Tower from afar, but once we were there we conceded that we had to go up to the top! We waited till night time when it was FREEZING and the lines were shorter. So there are levels to this situation. To head to the first level, you pay one fee, but if you are a brave soul you pay a little extra to make your way all the way to the top!
My mom and aunt immediately said nah to the very top. My sister, ever the daredevil, demanded that we go to the top. We made it to the first stop via an elevator and walked out to the platform area. You can literally see everything from this spot! I took a million pictures and then made my way to the second elevator for my ride to the very top.
Now here is where even my little sister punked out. This elevator has windows and gives you a view of JUST how high you are going. The more the elevator climbed, the more excited I became and the more freaked out she got. She literally had a mini panic attack on the elevator and refused to leave the safety of the indoor waiting area! So I left her and went out on my own and it was truly worth it!!!
Once at the top I ordered champagne from the Champagne Bar. With champagne in hand I was able to coax my sister to come outside for a quick photo op. Yes, champagne made her forget her fear of heights. Even she had to admit how amazing the view was. I also want to note, do not be dissuaded by the popularity of this tourist attraction. It really is deserving of all of the praise and adoration. It is an incredibly beautiful structure and a worthwhile experience!
*Youtube and iMovie hate me so the trip to the top is at the end but you get the idea!*
Our tour on the first day introduced us to the Petit Palais museum. We circled back to see what the museum had to offer and were happy to see that much of it is free and open to the public. So back home in Washington DC you can go to so many museums for FREE, but that is not the case in Paris. The costs were not outrageous at all, I am just used to great museums being tax payer supported and open to the public.
Anywho, out of the two art museums I visited, Petit Palais was my favorite. The artwork caught my attention and was from more modern areas that I could appreciate. Oh and the highlight of this museum? The Kehinde Wiley exhibit! So we are walking through all of this turn of the century art work and happen upon a room with several large paintings of a black Jesus. And not just any black Jesus. This man is rocking a diamond encrusted cross like your favorite rapper!
Upstairs we found the second part of Wiley’s exhibit which displayed your typical religious stained glass pictures, but with modern black folks posing as Biblical figures. I had to take a moment to look around and see how the Parisians were taking this in. Everything about his exhibit was so BLACK and so AMERICAN right here in the middle of Paris. People seemed intrigued and respectful of his exhibit though so kudos to him!!
Oh and just for a point of reference, a few days after we left Victoria Secret hosted their annual runway show at the Grand Palais across the street from the Petit Palais. Let me tell how cultured I felt when I knew what they were referencing before the show
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
This is the avenue that Rodeo Drive aspires to be yet it falls short. WAY short. What makes it even cuter is there is even a catchy song named after the street. Does Rodeo drive have that? I think not! But for real, the Champs-Élysées is larger than Rodeo and has huge sidewalks making it even easier to peruse and window shop.
As you would imagine, the street has your typical high end shops and then is also lined with beautiful cafes. Each cafe had sidewalk seating despite how cold it was, plus all of the chairs inside face the outside. People watching must be a sport in this city. Oh and the final plus, the whole street has wifi!!!
Musée du Quai Branly- The Color Line, African American Artists and Segregation
One night we headed towards the Eiffel Tower for more nighttime pictures when a sign written in French caught my eye. “The Color Line- Les artistes africains-américains et la ségrégation.” So I do not know French but I can clearly identify a sign about black folks in any language. I double backed and went in to explore.
Turns out, there was an exhibit right plop in the middle of Paris highlighting art that explores the struggle of African Americans. In a word, this was AMAZING. My undergrad degree is in History and I toiled away in a many of African American history classes, so this was right up my alley. Watching people the world over appreciating our struggle really warmed my heart.
I walked through a section about lynching, where Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” served as background music. I listened as a French woman explained in English to her peer what Strange Fruit meant. We walked through the white rooms and took in the art, understanding the background while missing the details because it was all written in French.
Another remarkable thing to me was the different areas this exhibit focused on. Angela Davis was revered here. Her name placed next to the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Americans do not give her the same level of respect in this context. Then the symbol for the exhibit was the black liberation flag, proudly hung at the start of the exhibit and placed on all the marketing materials. For example, I doubt our new National Museum of African American History displays this flag prominently.
I loved every bit of this exhibit y’all. I try to find blackness in the places that I visit. It is function of the work that I do in real life and my educational background. To stumble upon this in the middle of Paris was such a treat.
I saw no hunchbacks and did not make it up top for a closeup of the gargoyles, but I toured the lower level of the church (for free) and it really is beautiful! Here, you get a good view of the architecture and can read up on the rich history of the church too. A lot of the beauty of the Notre Dame is from the outside too. We took a million pictures there too before leaving.
Also of note, the swindlers are all over Notre Dame trying to convince you to sign a petition about disability rights. It’s a scam! Run! My first thought was, now why would my foreign signature carry any weight in France?? Well they try to convince you to sign and donate to their cause, i.e. their pockets. They are also skilled in the art of pickpocketing and will use the “petition” clipboard to block your view of your wallet or purse as you pull out funds to provide to them. In short avoid them at all costs.
Honestly, we went to the Louvre because that is what you are supposed to do in Paris. I think I enjoyed the other museums more as they were less overwhelming and more appealing because of their smaller crowds. We basically went to see the Mona Lisa and rolled out. Another plus to visiting in the fall/winter, the crowds around the Mona Lisa are smaller enabling you to get pretty close. Not Beyonce and JayZ close, but average folks close!
I do wish that we visited Napoleon’s apartments inside of the Louvre! I only learned of them after I returned, so next time!
This place reminded me of our NYC Macy’s but better! Before arriving I heard some refer to Galeries Lafayette as a mall and others called it a department store. It seemed to be an interesting hybrid of the two. Like most department stores, it had it’s own clothing lines that you can only purchase there. Then there were sections encompassing brands that I am used to seeing in stand alone stores. For example, Urban Outfitters and Zara had dedicated sections within the department store.
This place took up several blocks and had several buildings. I imagine with an endless budget I could have spent all day there. Shopping aside, the other major draw are the Christmas decorations! Inside the doomed building there is a large Christmas tree that everyone stopped and gawked at. It was so pretty. Then outside, there were elaborate Christmas themed window displays. As cold as it was people filled the sidewalks to take in all of the details of these beautiful displays!.
Random Paris Shops
After visiting Angelina on Rue de Rivoli, we stopped in a few of the shops on this street. While this block isn’t Champs-Élysées it still has great shops and smaller crowds. We stopped a perfume shop that fit what I always imagined a Paris perfume shop would be. I also nerded out in a beautiful Paris bookstore.
The green stands along the Seine are similar to second hand book stores at home. They had original copies of amazing books, all in French of course.
Arc De Triomphe
On one end of the Champs-Élysées you find the seasonal Christmas Market and at the other end is the Arc De Triomphe which is one of Paris’ most famous moments. Created to honor fallen soldiers, the Arc is the center of a huge roundabout. Beneath the arc rests the Tomb of the Unknown solider. Out of respect to the tomb, parades do not go under the Arc. Shockingly, even Hitler respected this tradition when he marched through Paris during the German occupation of France. I took a lot of pictures in Paris with my fancy new iPhone 7 and I must say this was one of my favorite sites to photograph. It easy to get to and really a must see.
Whew this post is long! But what good is having a blog if you cannot use it to share all of your vacation photos?!
If you recall, I suggested a hop on and off tour for the first day in Paris. We booked through Viator and everything went smoothly! Best of all, they constantly have coupons. The benefit of these tours is you can get a “buffet” of all of the hot spots and then decide which spots are worth coming back to the rest of your trips.
What did you love when you visited Paris? Make sure to comment below