The Big Walk in Paris

Posted on November 7, 2012 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Solo UK and France by Train

I had a good and very productive week in Paris. I took several thousand photos, at least some of them good, and that's the main thing. My French, such as it is, ground back to life and got some good practice. I got to know my way around the city again, saw many parts of it I never have before, and I became comfortable with the Metro, which is just as efficient but not as intuitive as London's Tube.

My first full day, Sunday, was very sunny (one of the few sunny days, it turns out) and I did what I shall call "The Big Walk," which I think I have done on previous visits as well. It takes in most of the big sights, from the Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Louvre to the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, and back again. Here are some highlights.


Above is a rough sketch of the walk, with purple extension for twilight photography on the Ile-St-Louis. The Notre-Dame is by the blue line at the far right; the Eiffel Tower on the far left. As best I can calculate, I walked around 10 miles. Holy moly, it felt like it.

My first stop was virtually around the corner from my hotel. This is the Centre Georges Pompidou, built in the 1970s as a modern art museum, which it still is. It wears all of its functional innards on the outside, leaving lots of space for the galleries inside. It is very different, and certainly stands out from its surroundings!


Then I headed in the other direction, passing along the Hotel de Ville (city hall). I saw this impressive building everyday, as it's only one block from my hotel and is on the way to everything else.

Fountain and Notre-Dame

View from the other side of the fountains, from the Hotel de Ville square, looking towards the Notre Dame Cathedral.

I've crossed two bridges by the time I'm on the other side of the Notre Dame, as seen here - because it's on a small island in the middle of the Seine River. Ancient Celtic and Roman cities were centered on this island, as it was easy to defend.

Those buttresses are really flying.

The line to enter the cathedral - actually just the back half of it! Ugh. Admission is free, wonderfully, so that's not the holdup - it's just a natural bottleneck of so many people wanting to enter through two small doors. There was always a significant line when I passed by, so I never went inside on this trip.

One of many iconic sights of Paris are these wonderful stalls that line the river on both sides. A few sell tourist stuff, but most are really cool, with wonderful antique books, magazines, and prints. I really wish I had more time and luggage space to stock up on wonderful things to decorate my house with.

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Another Paris tradition is for couples to declare their everlasting love by attaching padlocks to a bridge. This is the Pont de l'Archeveché, near the back of the cathedral.

It seems that an awful lot of romantic couples come to Paris - who knew?

I stopped for a brief breakfast/lunch with a view, in the form of a ham and cheese panini and a fashionable Coca Cola Light. It was quite good.

Art Nouveau Metro Sign

Nearby, I discovered one of the few remaining Art Nouveau entrances to the Metro (the Cité stop). Quite beautiful.

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I also unexpectedly came upon an outdoor bird market, which as you can imagine was quite noisy.

View back to the southern tip of the Ile-de-la-Cite and the Pont Neuf from further down the river.

View the other way from the same bridge, the Pont des Arts, which has also collected some padlocks. That's the Pont du Carrousel up ahead and the Louvre on the right.

The Pont des Arts, leading to the Louvre.

In the main courtyard of the Louvre.

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, at the west end of the Louvre. It was built in 1806-08 to commemorate Napoleon's military victories. Its more famous big brother was also designed in 1806 but not completed until 1836.

It has very pretty vaults underneath.

And behind it was a wonderful surprise - a Paul tent! These bakeries are found across Paris and in London (normally in a permanent storefront), and I'm a big fan. Some of the best croissants around.

This time, I went with a Viennoise Chocolat, which is a brioche-like bread studded with dark chocolate chips. So delicious, much less rich than a croissant, and perfect for keeping in my purse and munching on throughout the afternoon.

If you continue past the arch (and Paul) with the Louvre behind you, you've entered the Jardin des Tuileries. And you soon come upon this, the first of several lovely pools.

It was not warm out, but the sun was delightful.

I even sat down for a minutes to rest my legs and bask a little.

And here is a second pool further down. You can see the "main" Arc de Triomphe behind the obelisk.

And now we're on the Champs Elysees.

It has lots of fancy, super-stylish shops.

I made a brief detour to check out the Petit Palais and Grand Palais, two very pretty art museums that face each other across a large road. This is the Petit Palais:

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(And that's Winston Churchill, for whom the road between the museums is named. Nearby is the Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

And the Grand Palais:

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Back on the Champs Elysees, and heading for the Arc de Triomphe where it ends, but I turned off down the Avenue George V before I got there.

Along the way, I peeked in the Four Seasons George V. Very nice.

Just before it reaches the river, Avenue George V crosses over this tunnel, which is where Princess Diana was killed. There are still flowers left nearby for her.

Eiffel Tower

A nice view from the Pont de l'Alma, where I crossed over to the Left Bank and headed south.

I made a slight detour to visit Rue Cler, which not one but two friends had recommended to me on Facebook. It is indeed very nice, but there was no market that day, so I didn't get the full effect.

Eiffel Tower

Then I walked over a couple blocks to a big grassy park, where I saw this. I don't remember what it's called.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower Detail

Near the tower I sat on a bench to rest for a minute and consider my next move, and a lady next to me asked in English where I was from. I told her, and she exclaimed that I was the second person from Portland she'd met that day - the other was at her B&B that morning. Watch out, we are everywhere! And I lady I spoke to was from Toronto. I considered heading for a Metro station, which my feet were strongly in favor of, but the light was getting better in the late afternoon and I couldn't pass up the photo opportunities. So I headed back the way I came, along the river, and I'm glad I did. It was a very pretty walk.

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Pont Alexandre III

View south from Pont Alexandre III, to Les Invalides, built for war veterans in the 17th century. Under the golden dome is the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.

A bit of football in front of the Air France building, which has obviously been around longer than Air France.

And a photo shoot. The car and pink key are public art, not part of the shoot.

Musee d'Orsay
The Musee d'Orsay, an art museum housed in a former train station. It is an excellent museum, but doesn't allow photography inside for some unknown reason (whereas photos are allowed in the Louvre, the Musee Rodin, the Museum of the Middle Ages...) so it wasn't a priority and I never made it inside during this trip.

Riverside path across from the Musee d'Orsay, with the towers of the Notre-Dame visible in the distance.

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Private riverboats, some quite impressively furnished, anchored in the Seine.

Looking back down the river toward the Grand Palais, with the riverboats on the right side.

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Better light in the Louvre on my way back, close to sunset...

Finally getting closer to home - this is the Pont Neuf again, which connects both banks to the Ile-de-la-Cite.

Part of the Palais de Justice building on the Ile-de-la-Cite.

Evening Sun on the Hotel de Ville

Then it still wasn't quitting time. Here's the Hotel de Ville again on my way back to the hotel, but I only made a quick stop to pick up my tripod.

By 5:30pm I was on the Ile-St-Louis, the other main island in the Seine, where I stood on a bridge for almost an hour and half taking night photos of the Notre-Dame. It wasn't entirely a success, since they apparently don't illuminate the cathedral anymore! Humph. But it was still a lovely scene and, aside from the cold wind, a nice place to spend some time.

View from the bridge of the moon rising above the buildings of the Ile-St-Louis. As usual, much prettier in person.

Notre Dame at early dusk

And night, with the Eiffel Tower on the left.

Then it was quitting time, and I wandered down the main street of the Ile-St-Louis looking for dinner.

Found it - a nice spaghetti bolognese and hot tea to warm me up, served by a nice French-Indian man who also spoke excellent English.

Then the cold, but not too long, walk home.

I got back to the hotel around 8, downloaded and copied all photos, charged the camera batteries, chatted briefly with David, researched some destinations for the next day, handled some photo orders via e-mail, then crashed. But I'm glad I used that first day to the fullest, because there were many rainy days to follow.