Bonjour!. This the second part of Christmas in Paris, although most of what's described here is basic information about Paris through our eyes. First, the transportation was a breeze as the Metro system is a great way to travel safely in the city. The city is divided into 20 arrondissements or municipal administrative districts that start at the city center and clockwise spiral outward to the edge of the city. Unless they are boulevards or avenues, a lot of streets in Paris are one way and very narrow. Most of the architecture in Paris was created in the mid 19th century urban remodeling with neo-classical buildings under the direction of Baron Haussmann. The more modern structures in the business district are located outside the old Paris. Walking in Paris is easy and pleasant. Yes, you have to have a good pair of shoes to wear and appropriate jacket for inclement weather if you go during Winter. It rained for a day or two but it did not bother us, because hey, we are in Paris! We take any weather condition since we do love the city (well, almost). One day we just walked from the Eiffel Tower (7th arrondissement) back to our hotel in the 2nd arrondissement. Map did help although for some reason we could not find the Metro stop, so we kept walking. That night we decided to go to a supermarket Monoprix, a Trader Joe’s-like supermarket and they are everywhere in Paris. We bought two type of cheeses, crackers, prosciutto, a nice bottle of Bordeaux, and two bottles of Orangina, the famous French orange soda that is also sold in the US, although they don’t have the blood orange one that we like so much there. We carried all these foods walking all over Paris to our hotel and we had a nice meal at home (sort of) perhaps like some of the Parisians do, at a fraction of the price of a dinner at a decent restaurant. Talking about restaurant, it can be expensive. Coke is as expensive as their house wine. We came across a trendy Italian restaurant in the area called Fuxia. We had the best Italian meal there, aside from the best pesto we had in Florence. Surprisingly, the total bill was not as staggering considering we had two cocktails, a bottle of red wine, two entrees, coffees and desserts for around € 70. Our waiter used to live in LA and speaks English well. We also ventured into Chinatown as Richard’s coworker informed him to visit her friend’s restaurant called L’Indochine, and to our taste, we had the best Vietnamese food ever!
The rest of the time was spent on visits of the structures that we did not get a chance to visit last time, namely the Sacre-Coeur basilica, Montmartre district, Pere Lachaise cemetery, Pantheon Paris and Opera Garnier, both of which were spilled with grandeur and gild. Basilica du Sacre-Coeur was seemingly larger than Notre-Dame but since photography is prohibited I did not take any picture inside the building. Since it was after Christmas time, the area around the basilica was transformed to a Christmas market, abuzz with Christmas booths selling all kinds of things from jewelry to wine to food. This reminds me of how both sides of Champs-Elysees were also transformed to Christmas market, and traffic through this famous avenue was impossible with a car. Even walking through the throngs of people was difficult! Montmartre was magical in itself with its legendary art scene. We got a glimpse of it although the place was packed with tourists like we were.
Pere Lachaise is a massive area with winding roads, tombs and mausoleums, some were built like small palaces with Corinthian columns. Prominent Parisian families have their own mausoleums, alongside with other prominent public figures such as Frederic Chopin, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, whose simple grave got the most visits from tourists. One interesting thing about this cemetery is that these tombs are located very close together.
We got to Pantheon when the clouds were coming in, so the interior of this massive structure had the ambiance of a tomb, as it was also a resting place for French’s luminaries such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Louis Braille. The crypt was located underground. We visited Opera Garnier towards the end of our trip, as it was located close to our hotel. The opulent structure was the home of Paris Opera, and the setting of the novel “Phantom of the Opera” which was subsequently written for the Broadway musical of the same title.
To us, it is hard to appreciate the beauty of a city without spending plenty of time in it, which is at least 5 days or more. Tours are great, but you can only spend so much time in one location or attraction and they are averaging only 2-3 days per city. And finally, with all its wealth of arts, romance and sophistication, Paris will continue to draw millions of people every year as the most visited city in the world. Although we like to travel to other parts of the world to capture their architecture marvels, Paris continues to be our favorite city to visit. Au revoir!