I had not been to Paris, France for 18 years but finally returned in early June 2012. I am pleased to say nothing much has changed and it remains one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
History, majestic buildings, old palaces, museums, classic city icons such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomph, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacre Coeur Basilica along with so much more from shopping to food (although I participated more in the latter than the former!). Paris has it all!
I had been in the Normandy region of France and when driving into Paris my plan was to avoid the Arc de Triomph completely. The story is that no car insurance is valid on the roundabout at the Arc. I soon found out why, I had to get fuel for the rental car, I saw a fuel sign and left the freeway. OH NO…….ahead I saw the Arc, I went to take the next left….car accident blocked it……no escape I was going around the Arc! Madness! Cars going in all directions, horns honking, it seemed to be complete chaos but I kept going forward, dodging and weaving through the insanity! I made it without a scratch! That would have to be the most exhilarating yet somewhat terrifying “normal” driving experience you can have in any Western city. I came out of it in a cold sweat but also a big smile on my face, thinking “well I have done that, but I will never go through there again”! I returned to take a look at the Arc on foot a few days later, much less stressful!
Down the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower near the Grenelle Bridge is an interesting sight. The Statue of Liberty of Paris! It is not as large as the one in New York (151 feet compared to 37 feet) and was dedicated 3 years later in 1889. She faces west towards her big sister across the Atlantic.
Napoleon Bonaparte’s Tomb at Les Invalides is another impressive place to visit. Napoleon (1769-1821) the former Emperor of France and one time conqueror of Europe. His military successes were many but following a string of defeats including defeat in Russia, he was banished to the island of Elba in 1814 but escaped in 1815 and seized power again. Finally the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 against a coalition of forces from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands led by the Duke of Wellington and Prussian forces ended his reign. Following this defeat Napoleon was exiled to the island of Saint Helena where he died six years later (said to be from stomach cancer, but many believe he was deliberately poisoned). He was originally buried by the British on Saint Helena but at the request of the then King of France Louis Philippe I his remains were returned to France in 1840 and eventually entombed at Les Invalides in 1861.
Members of Napoleons family including Napoleon II (1811-1832 Napoleon’s son the “King of Rome” died at a young age due to Tuberculosis) are entombed at Les Invalides. Other French military heroes including Ferdinand Foch a Marshal of France and Allied Supreme Commander in World War One are also entombed there.
Keeping on the theme of burials the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris has many famous people buried there including Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde. Being a big music fan the main draw card for my visit to the cemetery was to see the grave of Jim Morrison (1943 – 1971) the lead singer of The Doors. The epitaph on the gravestone is written in Greek and translates to “True to his own spirit“. He died allegedly from a drug overdose and sadly his grave is in a pretty dilapidated state today. It is kind of fenced off and they do their best to keep people away from it as it has been defaced and vandalised consistently over the years (such as the bust of Jim that once stood there – stolen in 1988). One of the tombs next to the grave has numerous messages in graffiti to Jim.
Food wise three items stood out for me in Paris. Crepes, Macarons and Eclairs. Yum!
I also got to catch up with family who were visiting Paris too. Overall a great visit!