The Eiffel Tower was never my very first visit while in Paris, but since it’s so famous and an important landmark it seems appropriate to start with it. The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 to celebrate the French Revolution at the World Fair. In modern times the Eiffel Tower is still an impressive building, which shows what incredible achievement it was when it was built back in 1889. At the time it was the world’s tallest building, and almost doubled the height of the Washington Monument in the United States which was the previous record holder.
The Eiffel Tower is the most paid visited monument in the world, with over a quarter of a billion visitors reached in 2010! There are two different floors that you can take elevators to and get some great views of the city. The lines weren’t too bad when I visited, but it was still at the end of winter and a bit chilly outside, so I can imagine some long lines in the spring or summer.
There’s no better view of Paris than the top of the Eiffel Tower! Both times I visited the Eiffel Tower I reached the top of it at night, so I’d love to see how Paris looks from the day. Like most of Europe, the downtown areas are where all the historic buildings and areas are while the outskirts generally have pooer neighborhoods living in high rise buildings. There are several prominent buildings and places of interest to be seen from the Eiffel Tower. The large park above is the Champ De Mars city park.
Something that I don’t remember the first time around was this room at the third highest floor on the tower. This was an apartment or office that the designer Gustav Eiffel made for himself. The room was used to host important meetings with others that he respected, such as Thomas Edison for example rather than elegant parties or political uses.
Lastly, on the way down I couldn’t help but notice this woman’s hair caught between an elevator shaft and the floor. It would seem like somehow it got caught and ripped out, ouch!
The Seine river winds the Paris and is where most visitors will spend most of their time. The amount of interesting places built along the river is extensive, and taking a cruise is something I probably should have tried. There are hundreds of bridges that go back and forth the river, and some beautiful buildings along it as well. Below shows a picture of a nice neighborhood I saw in the city center.
It’s so hard to believe, but in my early travel days nearly 15 years ago I visited the Lourve Museum, one of the most famous museums in the world. I’ve learned to like museums as I’ve gotten older, but during my first visit it was more about seeing what the hype was about rather than actually wanting to go. During my second trip to Paris I didn’t return to the museum so these photos are from my first digital camera ever, and all I have to offer. I’d definitely like to go back and see such famous artifacts such as the Code of Hammurabi, the medieval parts of the original Louvre fortress, and countless other artifacts from ancient Egypt, Middle East, and beyond. I was at least smart enough on my first trip to take a picture of the famous Venus statue and the Mona Lisa!
I don’t have many respectable photos from my first trip to Paris, since I wasn’t interested in photography back then. I did decide to post this one though, which shows my best friend Chavez whom I served five years in the Marines with. In the photo above, he was pretending to be attacked by a local inside one of the bars we visited. To be honest, we visited at a very low point in French-American relations so it seemed most French people we talked to at the time actually wanted to do this. When we I returned it was completely different and everyone was so welcoming. It’s amazing what can change in 15 years!
My second time around I visited the city’s main botanical garden, known as Jardin des Plantes in French. Since it was the end of winter it wasn’t too pretty outside. Above you can see how large the park is, although nothing will compare to Champ De Mars of course! The statue is of Jean Carlus, who created the Buffon Monument located in the gardens.
While I generally dislike visiting places in North America or Europe during the winter when there isn’t any snow, I ended up in Paris after taking advantage of being in the continent for work. Although the trees were all dead still, and the weather wasn’t as warm as I’d like, there were plenty of signs of spring in the city!
Fortunately there are several buildings in the botantical gardens that have tropical plants, so not only can you find some nice greenery all year around but also some warm temperatures. There was a large building that maintains a hot and humid tropical environment. The back of the building even has a few floors you can climb to get a view of the upper canopy.
There are some birds flying around, and even a few lizards and bugs inside the rainforest building. None of them wanted to be photographed however, so I had to stick to the plants. It was really nice to get away from the winter outside and see some color. Above are some dark green tropical ferns, while below shows the colors of a polished section of a petrified tree.
Another famous location in Paris is the Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the best known churches in the world and a prime example of French Gothic architecture. The church began construction way back in 1163 and nearly 200 years later it was finished in 1345. As the building today is impressive and beautiful, you could only imagine what people thought when they viewed the Notre Dame over 600 years ago. I regret not going inside, but there was an insanely long line which probably would have taken up half my day!
I can’t say Notre Dame is the most beautiful cathedral I’ve seen in Europe, I think the Duomo in Milan or the Dom cathedral in Cologne are much more impressive. What makes the Notre Dame so special though is its massive size, and its history. Above is a photograph of one of the Gothic gargoyles that line the outside of the cathedral.
With all the people visiting Notre Dame, the pigeons in the area have gotten use to people and being fed by them. You can feed the pigeons here who will nearly attack you trying to get food like the girl above. Unlike the square in Venice, Italy where you can also feed the pigeons, the ones by the Notre Dame are few in numbers and not as overwhelming.
With terrorist attacks happening more often in Europe, armed soldiers and police were everywhere unlike my visit above. The two soldiers above were standing by the entrance to Notre Dame.
Speaking of attacks, something I did was visit the location of the Charlie Hebdo attacks just weeks after the even took place. It seems like this attack might be lost in memory in the future, but at the time it was a significant event that raised questions about freedom of speech in the western world versus offending religons. Islamic militants who were angry about the way Charlie Hebdo had drawn and insulted the Prophet Mohammed took matters into their own hands with a violent attack that left several dead. The picture above shows some of the artists who were killed in the attack. This was recent enough that when I visited there was still a heavy police presence in the area and recent graffiti supporting the artists on the walls of the surrounding buildings. The photo below shows some of the magazine covers from Charlie Hebdo.
On to happier subjects! So I didn’t appreciate French food until the second time I visited Paris. The first time I went to France I was probably too young to care about quality food and pay attention to all the great cuisine around me. While I’m still not a fan of some of the more unique French food such as Escargo or duck liver, I don’t think anyone can deny how great their breakfast is! The photo above is of my breakfast taken the first morning in Paris. Below is a photo of a bakery, where I couldn’t resist stocking up on some chocolate and pastries.
While walking down the street I saw these in a store window and was certain they were macaroons. I’m sure they were designed to resemble them, but these are actually little bars of soap. I regret not buying some!
The market is always another interesting place to check out. This one seemed to be a smaller random market in one of the downtown neighborhoods. They have some fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and a large amount of seafood. Since I dislike seafood, most of the market didn’t smell too great for me!
This random photo I took was of some divers combing one of the small canals in the city. I’m not sure what they were looking for, but I can’t imagine it was something minor like a lost item. I could be completely wrong, but I’d assume they were looking for a body. Otherwise I can’t imagine what would be so important that they’d need to go diving in the canals in this cold weather.
I’m also equally not sure what this guy was doing. For some reason lots of city workers would come by random places and open up a valve and let water rush into the street.
One of Paris’s most unique places is their catacombs that sprawl underneath most of the city. The catacombs in Paris are the world’s largest ossuary, which is a place where the dead are moved to when populated areas have run out of space. Supposedly there are hundreds of entrances to the catacombs throughout the city, but to enter on your own is illegal. Above shows a long hallway leading underground after I descended a spiraling staircase.
Inside the catacombs there are a few monuments and sanctuaries built out of the stone. I’m not sure the purpose of this castle above, but it was one of many types of art work I came across underground.
Once you enter the catacombs you’ll be surrounded by millions of skeletal remains. There are roughly six million remains here, so some go on to say that there are more dead underground in Paris than living above!
Some of the skeletal remains are organized into works of art like this strange column on the upper right. Most of the skeletal remains seemed to be skulls and leg bones. Despite the millions of bones down here, I don’t recall seeing a single hand or pelvis bone. Perhaps when they created the ossuary they intentionally left behind certain bones. I had once mistakenly thought that the catacombs in France were the result of some medieval horror such as the plague, but they actually have a more recent history from the 1800’s, when the country was simply running out of space for the dead.