This one has been long overdue. I went to France back in July 2016 for the Euros. A classic example of sports tourism. Given the economics and numbers behind such events, its not surprising the amount of bids a country is willing to make, and the lengths they’re ready to go to, to host them. The numbers will simply blow your minds off!
In general, we visited Paris, Nice, Marseille, Chamonix and then back to Paris. And we ended up watching two matches. The first one, Spain Vs. Italy and the second one between Poland and the eventual champions, Portugal.
We landed at the Paris De Gaul airport. The airport in itself seems like a huge building with a lot of debris. Barely painted and in a way unfinished or a work in progress. Wasn’t able to conclude if it was under renovation or the idea was to keep it raw. The city itself being known for its beauty, would people really judge it based on its airport? Connected by a network of long escalators, and through immigration, we were in Paris. With the country to explore, some matches to be watched, some adventures to look forward to and the beginning of memory which would last a lifetime.
The airport being about 35-40 mins away from the city, and every bit as romantic and beautiful as you’ve read or heard. All through my journey I wasn’t able to determine what it was about this city, but its vibe was something I’ve never felt before. The wonderfully planned architecture, the pretty people, the romantic cafes, the delicious food, the stoned streets and the picturesque monuments. Although engulfed in beauty, like any other metropolitan, it has its fare share of dirt.
Paris was the only city where we lived in a hotel. Although the best, and the most cost efficient accommodation is always going to be a hostel. Unless you’re a family, in which case a hotel can turn out to be economical or in case you intend on living in luxury. Ours was a simple 10 minute walk away from The Eiffel.
It is very difficult to spot large buildings in this city except certain areas where there are abundant high-rise buildings. Most of them are limited to 5-6 floors, which if noticed is quite evident throughout the city. The colour for each structure is also almost even without any major contrasts. One will also find cute cafes on every corner of the street. Each of them opting for lesser seating indoors and more outdoors. This is something I’ve seen in Mumbai far too often! Every cafe/restaurant occupying a small or sometimes a larger chunk of the sidewalk.
After checking into our hotel and freshening up, we set out for what was the closest and the most obvious choice : The Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower
There isn’t much to portray in words if I were to give an extensive description of The Eiffel. It is beautiful and yes, it is majestic and huge. However personally, I did not find it as extraordinary as I had heard from the people who’ve already seen it. Some might even call it rustic and vintage.
A symbol of love, you want to visit this place with your partner cause you just don’t want to be left out. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to kiss their partner under the biggest, most significant and probably the most beautiful building in the city of love. Every romantic on this planet has wanted to live a scene out of those countless movies that capture this structure.
There are 3 viewing galleries at 3 different levels, the third and the topmost level having limited tickets. I’d recommend one take a quick ticket and hurry up to the second level. From there, rush and grab a ticket and get to the third. That usually has a long queue and if you’re one of the unlucky few, the elevators might be under maintenance , which would lead to them shutting down the third level altogether. (We were amongst the unlucky ones to have missed it).
Irrespective of that, the view from the second level is breathtaking and it gets quite windy, so you might want to carry a cap or any other precautionary measures if you’re very particular about your photos.
From the Eiffel, we headed towards Sacre coeur. It is a church on the hill on almost the other side of Paris. Thanks to being on top of the hill, one can also see a great part of the city from there. There are also various live street musicians playing in the area and the place is always crowded. The place is surrounded with a small garden and lawns, and it is also a place for the locals to go and relax after work.
In every city, there’s always two ways to explore. The tourist way or the traveller way. It is very easy to list down some places and sights, see them in a hurry and get it over with. The other way is to actually try to walk around everywhere. Paris and the whole of Europe actually, their beauty lies in its intricate buildings and the streets and the people.
The day started with us going to see The Louvre. Now that’s a big big building. An architectural marvel for when it was built. Inside the compound, there’s a big glass pyramid. That pyramid is plagued with controversies, starting from the number of glasses used to make pyramid to the making of it a modern structure amidst a historical traditional structure that’s been there for years!
Today was a big day. Started with going to The Louvre. For this museum, depending on your love for history, one can take anywhere between 5 hours to 5 days. It’s really huge and really beautiful! Another way to go about it takes about a few hours and one can just see the important ones, like The Mona Lisa and others.
All the information below these forms of art is in French, so it’s better to know the language or take a machine translator. There are batches for entry to The Louvre every hour, so it’s better if you book tickets online and manage time accordingly.
It has 3 separate sections. After spending a good 5 hours in The Louvre, and hurrying through it, we left for The Arc De Triumph.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and best-known church buildings in France, and in the world.
Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. A buttress is a structure of stone or brick built against a wall to strengthen or support it. And a flying is a buttress slanting from a separate column, typically forming an arch with the wall it supports. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.
If you are one of those that thinks too highly of the 5th Avenue in New York, or Orchard Road in Singapore, this one is for you. Its easily one of the most crowded and touristic places in the city. It easily has the best, most branded stores to shop from. Its also the one where Tour De France ends. And connects The Louvre to Arc De Triomphe.
Arc De Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly named Place de l’Étoile — the étoile or “star” of the juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues.
The Arc de Triomphe is accessible by the RER and Métro, with exit at the Charles de Gaulle—Étoile station. Because of heavy traffic on the roundabout of which the Arc is the centre, it is recommended that pedestrians use one of two underpasses located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée. A lift will take visitors almost to the top – to the attic, where there is a small museum which contains large models of the Arc and tells its story from the time of its construction. Another 46 steps remain to climb in order to reach the top, the terrasse, from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris.
Stade de France & Italy Vs. Spain
More than the match, it is the buildup to the match which was the most exciting. Personally, this was the first time I was going to see a professional football match live in a stadium, and had been waiting for it since months. The atmosphere was simply electric. We saw fans already picking sides and cheering right inside our hostel. The respective nationals out on the streets with their load of banter and cheers and jeers too. Some of them were all hearts and fun, and sometimes you could sense the rising hostility amidst the fans, like a cracker waiting for a spark.
There weren’t any, or barely a few small ones which were managed by the police anyway. As far as picking the compartment in the trains went, one would have to pick carefully or they could end up with the wrong set of fans. Scary! After getting inside, the match was pretty one sided. The Spanish fans weren’t as vocal so Italy won that battle too! The organisers were courteous enough to provide for the match ticket as a pass for public transport.
Coming back to the hotel, we packed up; looking forward to our 6am flight the following day, to take us to the beautiful and amongst my personal favourites, the city of Nice.
Until next time,