“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” -Thomas Jefferson
Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice but it happened to me, what a blessing being in Paris once again, I just can’t get enough of this marvellous city.
We arrived in the afternoon and a sophisticated French lady with a bag of Chanel boarded our tour bus and started talking about Paris. The drive started along Champs Elysee and halted at Arc de Triomphe where our chic travel guide discussed about the monument. The drive continues to Avenue of Paradise, Place de la Concorde, Louvre Museum and its famous Glass Pyramid and the Opera house. When we passed by this broad LV shop people in our bus stared in awe of the long queue and our cultured escort made this remark ‘They are done and they know it!’ clearly she’s not a fan. This tour introduced me to Galleries La Fayette, Mona Lisa, Moulin Rouge to Montmartre, and a scenic river cruise to see Paris after dark.
This trip bombarded me with signature labels, no thanks! To our tour manager who kept promoting Monte Blanc for pen, Rolex for watches, Rimowa for luggage’s, and Prada for wallets and bags like he is a stock holder of these high end brands. In each city he knows where he should bring us for those bits and pieces of signature items. In Paris, he introduced us to Galleries La Fayette to shop without pressing for time. The tourist tax refund will urge you to splurge but it does not mean that all tax will be refunded but currently, TVA rate of most goods is 19.6% in France, but tax refund rate is normally 12%. Friends who know you are going to Europe will asked you to buy Prada for a cheaper price and you can keep the tax refund for yourself.
Galleries La Fayette
Galleries La Fayette dated back to 1895, when Albert Kahn rented a shop in Paris at the corner of Chaussée-d’Antin and rue Lafayette to sell gloves, ribbons, veils, and other goods. The shop was small, but sales were good. Now it’s an upmarket French department store located on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris and a billion euro company. If Paris is the capital of French fashion, Les Galleries Lafayette Boulevard Haussmann is its window displays, this mall is not just a mall you see everywhere, they didn’t received about 100,000 visitors a day just because of their products deluxe, shoppers come from all around the world to admire the décor and the ambience produced by this mall empire . The department spreads over three floors and proposes the best and most original collections from around the world both from top designers. My friend bought her Prada bag here and I was forced to buy Havaianas espadrilles just for the heck of it.
We have 2 days to ditch our tour group and go to wherever we felt like going. We decided to go back to the Louvre and see this enigmatic facial expression of the woman in the painting that is priceless and cannot be insured – The Mona Lisa, which was the result of a spelling error. The original name of the painting was Monna Lisa. Monna in Italian is a short form of Madonna, meaning ‘My Lady’.
This most popular and talked about art piece in the world, painted by the most celebrated painter, Leonardo Da Vinci where people flocked in huge numbers to its home in the Louvre has a room of its own. It is protected in a climate controlled environment and encased in bullet proof glass. The room was built exclusively for the painting for a whopping over seven million dollars. An x-ray image taken of the Mona Lisa in the laboratories of the Louvre, suggests that when Leonard Da Vinci first sketched out his portrait of a Florentine merchant’s wife in 1503 she did not smile at all. The smile, in other words, emerged as he reworked the painting over several years.
As a kid a kept hearing her name in history books, songs, TV, movies, etc. I’m so curious why one very old painting of an eyebrow-less lady whose eyes look a bit skewed with a smirk on her face can be that legendary. When I finally came face to face with it, I somehow reckoned what’s the fuss all about. Everything about the painting was richly worked and the rest I leave to the expert.
Moulin Rouge to Montmartre
Yeah I saw the movie and now I want to experience the champagne while watching can-can dance that originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans from this famous cabaret across Europe. So face palm when our benevolent tour guide said he can no longer secure the tickets for us to gain Entry in Moulin Rounge boo hoo!
So we are back with the tour group as we start our walk at Moulin Rouge, and slowly climb our way through back alleys and secluded gardens all the way to Sacre Coeur cathedral. The walking tour takes you to the nooks and crannies of the most bohemian, artistic district of Paris, the center of good-living in Paris and once the home and the artistic muse to Renoir, Picasso, Edith Piaf and others.
A hill in the north of Paris, France – Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district. The other, older, church on the hill is Saint Pierre de Montmartre, at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded. Topped by the Sacre Coeur Basilica, Montmartre is the highest Paris hill and became famous in late 1800’s with the arrival of artists such as Renoir, Van Gogh, and Picasso. Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, built in 1147, is the oldest church in Paris. It was the church of the powerful Montmartre Abbey until the revolution in 1790. We made use of the cable car up the hill to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre and found our way to a group of cultural restaurant converge in one area on the top of that hill and had a very hearty dinner.
Montmartre to Seine River Cruise
The walked down from Montmartre at twilight was such a delight; heaps of shops were finally opened for business like the day has just begun. It was such an active area of Paris. We passed by Moulin Rouge bar and saw the long queue so we rode our tour bus to join the River Seine cruise instead. The boat was big and you don’t have to be confined in your seat for the rest of tour, you can walk around or outside to have a better view of the city of lights. The Seine flows through Paris, the capital city of France where according to history this is where the ashes of Joan of Arc were scattered at Rouen. It’s a relaxing way to see the city and major sights from water-level and sighting those beautiful old bridges on the river but the highlight of the show was the Eiffel itself. The French did not content themselves to just light up the Eiffel Tower at night; they had to make it sparkle on the hour by the hour starting at 8pm every night. Bright white flashes sparkle all up and down the tower from top to bottom, making it sizzle like a sparkler. This show of gaudiness continues for five minutes and then shuts off, waiting for another hour to arrive and will last up to 1am and I can’t believe I missed this in my first visit, duh! If you didn’t get star struck by Eiffel tower wait til you see it illuminating at night. I can’t find the words to describe the awesomeness but this quote from Moulin Rouge should suffice—“A magnificent, opulent, tremendous, stupendous, gargantuan, bedazzlement, a sensual ravishment. It will be: Spectacular, Spectacular! No words in the vernacular can describe this great event you’ll be dumb with wonderment!’