She appeared briefly through the window of a train as we traveled along the line 6 track between Passy and Bir-Hakeim. Tall and slender, soaring above her sourroundings, the Eiffel Tower was just as glorious as I had imagined she would be. For that brief moment, I was transfixed, and I knew Paris would be everything I had hoped it would be.
Read on to see how to spend 24 hours in the City of Lights.
WHat To Eat
Every Frenchmen knows that the stinkier the cheese, the better. While we are not cheese connoisseurs by any stretch, we do enjoy a nice mild gouda, a pungent bleu, a chunky feta, a creamy goat, or a silky brie. For the cheese lover, Paris will never disappoint. Cheeses are readily available and reasonably-priced.
Nothing goes better with cheese than a fresh baguette. A baguette also makes the perfect sandwich, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
If you've never enjoyed a nutella crepe, you don't know what you're missing. This simple street food makes the perfect, inexpensive, sweet snack on-the-go.
Tip: Picnics were made for Paris. Grab food from Monoprix or Franprix and spend time in the outdoors.
What To See
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower and surrounding areas. Wander the Trocadéro, relax on the Champ de Mars with its stunning view of the Tower, relish a crepe from one of several crepe vendors, and embrace your inner child with a ride on one of the merry-go-rounds.
Opened in 1914, the Sacré-Cœur is easily one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. The Romano-Byzantine architecture is stunning, and the basilica houses relics and artwork to rival many museums.
Arc De Triomphe
Because we stayed near the Arc de Triomphe, we had the opportunity to see it more than once. Though it is beautiful with its myriad of reliefs, and though it is a famous landmark celebrating Napoleon's victory, the best feature of the Arch is the view from the top. We arrived just before dusk, stood in line for half an eternity, climbed the 284 stairs to the top, and were rewarded with magnificent views of Paris, including the Champs-Élysées and Etoile (star) of avenues, the Sacré-Cœur, and the Eiffel Tower. At night the city glistens with a million lights. It is absolutely mesmerizing.
Nothing says "gothic architecture" like the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Construction began in 1163, toward the beginning of the Middle Ages, but was not completed until 1345. Today it attracts 13 million visitors each year, and it's easy to see why. Standing 226 feet tall and with over 51,000 square feet, the cathedral is an imposing structure.
Though I would have LOVED to have spent an entire day (or 2 or 3) exploring the massive collections of artwork at the Louvre, with only one day in Paris, this was not feasible for this trip. Instead, we settled for a nice look around the outside of the Louvre - the architecture of the museum itself, the various sculptures and arches, and of course, the famous Louvre Pyramid. Though I wish we could have seen it at night when it is lit up, it was still exciting to see it during the day.
How to Get Around
Getting around Paris is easy and inexpensive. Paris' metro system has been in existence since 1900, and it is vast, but easy to use. Time between stops, at least within the inner city, is generally about a minute, so it moves quickly. We walked quite a bit, as we often do, especially if weren't going far or if we wanted to take in the scenery (definitely take the time to stroll along the Seine, for instance), but when we were going longer distances we opted for the train.
You can purchase individual tickets from the service counters. We found most of the personnel to be polite and helpful. Make sure you ask for a paper metro map. Each line is numbered, and the direction you need to head can be found by locating the final stop and navigating toward it.
We stayed in the 8th arrondissement near the Arc de Triomphe, so we walked from there down the Champs-Élysées, through the Jardins des Champs-Élysées, along the Seine, to the Louvre Pyramid. Along the way, we stopped at a cafe for a coffee and a sandwich (on a baguette, of course) to go. From the Louvre, we continued on down the Seine, and across the Pont Neuf to Notre-Dame.
Leaving Notre-Dame, we walked across the Pont Notre-Dame to the Chatelet metro, where we took the line 4 train, transferred at Barbès - Rochechouart, and disembarked at Anvers, the closest metro stop for the Sacré-Cœur.
After a picnic lunch of tomatoes, taboule, brie, meat, and baguette on the lawn of the Sacré-Cœur and a tour of the gorgeous basilica, we returned to the metro and rode down to the Trocadéro.
The Trocadéro was alive that day, with a rally on the Place du Trocadéro, break dancers in the gardens, and hundreds of tourists wandering the grounds and taking photos. We made our way across the Seine and around the base of the Eiffel Tower to the Champ de Mars. It was a beautiful day, mild with a light breeze. We lay in the grass looking dreamily up at the Eiffel Tower for nearly an hour. Then we finished off our cheese and baguette from lunch and retraced our steps back to the metro, stopping for a nutella crepe along the way.
Twenty-four hours is not nearly enough time to spend in Paris, but there are ways to make the most of it. Walk so that you can see the river, the architecture, the flowers, and the monuments and memorials along the way. Use the trains to cover longer distances quickly. Be a Parisian for the day and enjoy a picnic in one of the many beautiful outdoor spaces. Breathe the air, smell the flowers, marvel at the sights, take note of the street fashion, and above all, enjoy your time in the City of Lights.
Until next time, Paris!
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