Paris Sightseeing: The Expected and the Unexpected

Paris is one of those cities that you can feel familiar with, before actually stepping foot there. From films and literature to television and travel magazines – this city is everywhere. Arriving in France’s famous capital for the first time this spring, there were so many well-known sights right there in front of me.

A strong image of what I imagined Paris would be like was etched on by brain. And in a lot of respects, the city was what I expected. Beautiful baroque architecture (check), buskers playing accordion music (check), lots of street side cafes (check).

There were key sights I did not want to miss:

The Notre Dame Cathedral

Seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral, looking up at its great spires and haunting gargoyles, I thought about Victor Hugo’s Victorian novel: The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I remembered reading about how important this story was in the preservation of this grand gothic building.

At a time when the Notre Dame was showing the signs of having been forgotten about for many years, the book stimulated a re-emergence in gothic revival architecture. It was during the 19th century that the cathedral underwent renovations which were integral to the way it appears today.

While it was much smaller than I expected, the Notre Dame was fascinating to look at. I spent so much time circulating the exterior, taking many photographs. I am a big fan of gothic architecture, mainly for its aesthetic appeal.

The Eiffel Tower

When the Eiffel Tower initially presented itself, it was shyly peeking behind buildings, teasing in the background. In the distance, its curves looked delicate and romantic, especially when located behind a River Seine setting. Up close, it was heavy; a maze of metal in the air.

The Eiffel Tower must be one of the most recognised structures in the world. I knew what to expect.

One thing I did not expect: It was so much better enjoying the views from the ground than at the top of the tower.

Why? There was too much queueing. There was a queue for tickets, a queue for the second floor and a queue to the top. By the time we got up there, it was too busy and too cold, we just wanted to get back down again. We had to follow the same queuing theme all of the way back down again. I am a patient person, but I am sure there are better ways to spend an afternoon. The views were great though.

When we finally got back down to earth, we enjoyed Eiffel Tower views walking along the Champ de Mars. This is without doubt the most pleasing on the eye way to see the tower. These lush public gardens are the perfect forefront for taking those all-important Eiffel Tower photographs.

The Louvre

Another familiar sight is the Louvre – the largest museum in the world. We were lucky enough to have visited on Museum Night, where admittance is free to most of Paris’ museums and art galleries. This happens once a year around May. We chose to delve into the vastness that is the Louvre for the evening. Because it is so huge, it was impossible to get all the way around it during one night. So we concentrated on the sections we were most interested in – my favourite being Ancient Egypt.

I could not stop looking up at the stunning paintings on the Louvre’s ceiling:

There was one sight that was a complete surprise…

Padlocks on the Bridges

The sides of some of the bridges in Paris are covered with padlocks featuring people’s messages. ‘Love padlocks, or ‘lovelocks’, can be found on the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, Pont des Arts and Pont de l’Archevêché bridges. Among the selection are lovers’ declarations for each other. Others simply have people’s names and the year they were in Paris.

I really liked this unexpected quirk. But, after reading up on them, I discovered the Parisian authorities are not as laid back. In fact, they removed the padlocks last year, fearing they ruined the look of the area. Some regard their presence as an eyesore, and accusations of vandalism have even arisen. However, as the lovelocks are removed, they quickly began reappearing again.

Have you visited Paris? What was your favourite sight? Did you find anything unexpected on your visit?

4 Comments

  1. November 17, 2011 / 18:15

    The lines always deter me from going up the tower too. It never seems worth it for the time. Especially as Im usually in Paris only for a short time.

    I have seen those love-locks in so many different places. Prague, Italy, Spain…

  2. November 17, 2011 / 20:29

    I didn’t realise they were in other cities. Might be in Prague in February – will look out for them. We were only in Paris a few nights so, in retrospect, climbing the tower (or rather queuing up the tower) was definitely a waste of an afternoon. I was surprised that even those with special passes were queuing. But overall I really liked Paris. It’s one of those places you can return to and there’s still loads to do.

  3. February 13, 2012 / 20:24

    I think the fisrt country with lovelocks are Balt countries (Riga, Vilnius…)

  4. February 13, 2012 / 20:24

    I think the fisrt country with lovelocks are Balt countries (Riga, Vilnius…)

    Love Paris!!!