Thursday, 17 December 2015

10 things you'll love about PARIS

The French capital is the true definition of elegance and sophistication - every traveller should have this iconic city on their bucket list.  Whilst having a reputation for high prices, I recently managed to visit Paris on a shoestring and ended up falling in love with the place.  Despite the tragic events of recent times, I sincerely hope people continue to visit this beautiful city.  Here are my top 10 reasons why I think you will love Paris as much as I do:


       Grand architecture

There’s no denying it – Parisian architecture is stunning.  Wherever you venture, you will encounter stylish palaces, magnificent churches and lavish tree-lined boulevards. The French capital is certainly easy on the eye.

Louvre 

And of course, Paris has no shortage of world-class iconic landmarks.  Anyone who visits this charming city for the first time would be daft not to take in the tourist trail.  The grandeur of sites such as Sacre Cœur, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame really lives up to expectation.

Notre Dame

Whilst a large amount of Paris’ architecture can be traced back to the 19th century Haussman Restorations, there is one notable district dominated by imposing modern structures – the business district of La Défense.  Whilst this area is off the typical tourist trail, I found the massive Grande Arche building impressive, built to resemble the Arc de Triomph which it sits in line with.

La Grande Arche de la Defense



The French Language

The French language perfectly reflects the French and indeed Parisian culture: it sounds sophisticated, romantic and beautiful.  I am fascinated by languages and am convinced that language plays a role in shaping the culture and the feel of a place.  Whilst exploring Paris, I really enjoyed being immersed in this fantastically elegant language, even if my attempts of speaking were at best shaky.  Naturally, the French people are very proud of their language, and any attempts from visitors to converse in French are always valued with great respect.

        Parisian Café Culture

In Paris (and France as a whole), café bars can be found everywhere.  And I mean everywhere!  I love the café culture as it allows locals and visitors alike to sit down and escape the rush of daily life.  Whether it be for a brief sit-down or a full two hours, it is lovely to take some time out of a hectic life to socialize, read the paper or simply sit back and people watch.

Typical Parisian cafe bar in Montmartre

In Paris, coffee is not just coffee.  You will encounter café au lait, café noir, café noisette, café serré, café déca ... and the list goes on!  Café bars will also serve tea and cold drinks, and many will also serve a selection of fresh croissants and other pastries, biscuits and cakes (which are SO good).  This leads nicely onto the next topic …


 Bakeries

I have always loved the idea of freshly made bread and croissants on a morning, a concept which is often associated with France and the French.  Parisian bakeries are fantastic places – the smell of freshly baked bread is enough to lure anyone in off the streets to spend some money.  Pâtisseries specialise in cakes and treats whilst boulangeries focus on bread.  However, many modern shops are a combination of the two.  A real treat for the senses – the enticing smell of the crusty baguettes, the vibrant colours of the macarons and the taste of the freshly baked pain au chocolate are simply divine.

French Patisserie

        Montmartre

The many neighbourhoods which make up Paris each have their own unique character.  For example, the islands form the historical centre, the Latin Quarter is home to scores of bars and restaurants, La Défense is a principal business district and Le Marais hosts Paris’ gay scene.

However, my favourite Parisian neighbourhood has to be Montmartre.   Built on a small hill in the north part of Paris, Montmartre offers excellent panoramic views over the city’s rooftops.  This ultra-chic part of the city has a cute village-like feel, crowned by the breath-taking masterpiece of the Sacre Cœur basilica.  For many generations, artists and poets have called this neighbourhood home and this tradition lives on today.  The best way to see Montmartre is to get lost in the charming cobbled streets and staircases and gradually weave your way to Sacre Cœur, stopping on your way to take in the cute shops and café bars.

Sacre Coeur, Montmartre


 Latin Quarter

Outside of Montmartre, my other favourite Parisian neighbourhood is the Latin Quarter.  The character of this area is rather different to that of Montmartre; the Latin Quarter has more of a lively, bohemian vibe (whilst retaining the Parisian charm and sophistication).  Narrow, bustling streets are lined by hundreds of restaurants – you will certainly not go hungry in this part of town.  Whether you are after traditional French food or international cuisine, you will find what you are looking for here.  Despite Paris’ reputation for high prices, I actually managed to eat rather cheaply in the Latin Quarter.

Latin Quarter

This area is a popular retreat for students, owing to its close proximity to the universities.  In fact, it is known as the ‘Latin’ Quarter as this was historically the language used by Parisian academics.


Pantheon, Latin Quarter

        Eiffel Tower by night

When many people think of Paris, the Eiffel Tower will come to mind.  And however touristy it may be, it is really worth seeing.  However, after sunset is when this iconic structure really comes alive, and the sight is truly breath-taking.  Gold lighting illuminates the Eiffel Tower each night from sunset until 1am (2am in during the summer).  On the hour, every hour, spectators are treated to a dazzling light show, in which the tower ‘sparkles’ for five minutes.  I can honestly say it is amongst the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Eiffel Tower


         Food

It would not be right to talk about Paris without mentioning food.  Fine food and wine is synonymous with Parisian culture.  The city currently holds an outstanding 118 Michelin stars – more than any other European city.  Whilst Paris is the place to come for authentic French haute cuisine, it really is possible to find a good meal to suit all tastes.  And not just French cuisine – you will find food from all over the world in this fantastically diverse city.


        Paris Métro

The Métropolitain is so much more than a means of getting from A to B.  It is firmly integrated into the daily lives of the Parisian people, so much so it has become a symbol of the city itself.  The Metro is relatively inexpensive and very easy to use.  The network is very dense – there is nowhere in central Paris that is more than a short walk away from a Métro station.  Look out for the flamboyant, artistic entrances to Métro stations, which date back as far as 1899 and were designed by architect Hector Grimaud.

Typical Paris Metro station - Hector Grimaud design

      The Parisian People

You can’t talk about a city without mentioning people.  And I’m not going to beat around the bush – Parisian people seem to hold the reputation of being somewhat unfriendly to tourists.  However, after visiting the city for myself I can honestly say that this reputation is unfair and unfounded.  The people of Paris were fantastically friendly and very tolerant of my poor attempts to speak French.  Many Parisians are very proud of their city and will passionately advise you on what to see, and how to get there.  I am very thankful to the people I met on my trip to Paris as I am a firm believer that it is people who make travel such an enjoyable experience.

Arc de Triomph

It seems appropriate to finish this article with a line once quoted by Audrey Hepburn; ‘Paris is always a good idea’.  Thank you for reading and feel free to share your thoughts below.


Elis Griffiths. x