What’s your opinion of Paris? I’ve heard many. I’ve heard people say it’s too dirty, it’s overrated, it’s overwhelming. I’ve also heard that it’s magical, it’s the most historic city in the world, it’s a dream come true. Paris seems to be where artists and questioning souls travel to get lost and find themselves in the “City of Light.” What do you think?
I got to spend a whirlwind of a weekend in Paris when my mom and aunt visited me in Spain this March. My experience was positive, enough in fact, to already be planning on another visit this December. In this post I’m going to focus on the most historic, probably most famous area of the city, Île de la Cité.
What’s Île de la Cité got to offer? Well first off, it’s an island in the middle of the Seine. You can reach it by many bridges, including the Pont Neuf which alone creates a famous, beautiful view of “classic,” “old” Paris. Once on the island, you will discover the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle, and the Conciergerie prison, which held Marie Antoinette (and many others) before their execution at the guillotine at Place de la Concorde. You should definitely step inside Notre Dame- it’s free!
But just as famous as these medieval buildings is the atmosphere of Île de la Cité. Just across these bridges you will find the Louvre, Musee d’ Orsay, Le Orangerie, governmental buildings, public parks, and the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. At street level, multiple art, book, poster, and stamp stands, called bouqanistes, are set up in warm weather to sell souvenirs and antique collector items. It makes for a beautiful picture. This explains why artists have flocked to the bridges of Paris for centuries to paint the water’s reflections, quirky houseboats, and Parisian life gathered along the Seine River.
As you spend more time there, then comes the large tour groups, street performers, and petty thieves. This is where my wallet was stolen when we were harassed by a group of gypsy teenagers. Alert: there are people in the world that are only out for themselves. Paris happens to be more famous for pick-pockets than most and I was assured when I went to the police station to report my loss that the local police “are doing everything they can” to prevent these kids from causing a problem, but the truth is that even when they are caught they won’t stay in jail because they are underage.
That incident didn’t turn me off of the city. I thought Paris was one of the most beautiful, architecturally coordinated cities I’ve ever been to. Seeing the world history and world-class art all around me was simply inspiring. That’s why I want to go back. If you visit, though, make sure you bring plenty of euros and keep in mind all of the traffic while planning your day.