Grand Tour: Paris

Grand Tour: Paris

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Carmen Paddock tells Exeposé Arts about her Easter excursions in Paris.

During the second week of the Easter holidays I had the incredible good fortune to travel to Paris with Exeter’s French society. The society organised Eurostar transport between London and Paris, hostel accommodation, optional ‘trip challenges’ (slut drop in front of the Moulin Rouge? Use the loo at the top of the Eiffel Tower?) and a wonderful end-of-trip group dinner. In the interim we were left to our own devices, giving us five fantastic days- days blessed with nothing but glorious sunshine and warmth- to freely explore La Ville Lumiére to our heart’s content.

Image credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr
Image credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr

My own itinerary began on Monday with a prix-fixe lunch before a wander through the city, passing through Les Halles to see the Centre Georges Pompidou, Île-de-la-Cité to enjoy the Seine and the Latin Quarter for crêpes and garden strolls. Tuesday comprised of more Latin Quarter wanderings, Montmartre, a three course lunch in a café with live piano music, Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower at night- sweeping views of illuminated Paris were definitely the romantic highlight of the trip! Wednesday began with a walk along the Champs-Elysées to l’Arc de Triomphe, a picnic in the garden of the Hôtel des Invalides, the Musée Rodin and a night time stroll along the Seine. Thursday was a major shopping day: the Bastille Market, boutiques in Le Marais, the Palais Royal, and two huge department stores before the end-of-trip dinner. Lastly, on Friday I went walking through Le Marais, filling up on pastries as my last experience of the city.

Image credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr
Image credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr

Paris is an artist’s paradise. One does not even need to enter a museum to experience its beauty. It seems like painstaking care was taken in the design and decoration of every single building, however every-day or inconsequential. Naturally, Paris is abundant in architectural wonders: Notre-Dame, Sacré-Coeur, Sainte-Chapelle, Saint-Sulpice, L’Opéra Garnier, the Eiffel Tower, l’Arc de Triomphe, le Palais Royal, Le Palais de Justice- all are breath-taking without exception. And a day is incomplete without strolling through one of the city’s many gardens, including Jardin du Luxemburg, Jarden des Tuileries and Bois de Boulogne, all of which are filled with flowerbeds, trees, and Parisians from all walks of life.

Image credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr
Image credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr

This artistic sense extends beyond the city’s monuments and cultural institutions to its iconic fashion and food. Wherever you go, it seems impossible to find poorly-made or poorly-styled clothing, and one almost never sees a poorly-dressed Parisian on the street. The massive department stores Au Printemps and Les Galeries Lafayette are a fashionista’s heaven; both have six floors and a basement full of clothing and accessories – every piece gorgeous and stretching a student’s budget. The independent boutiques in the Latin Quarter and especially Le Marais, however, are easier on the pocketbook and often feature more unique designs and items without sacrificing quality or style. 

The food is another art form in itself.  Once away the main tourist trap areas, every street seems to have restaurants, cafés, and (the best!) takeaway crêperies catering to all appetites.  Not to mention the artisan pastry shops, bakeries, butchers, cheese shops, chocolate salons, and other gourmet culinary offerings sold in tiny storefronts or on street markets (the Thursday morning Bastille Market is a must).  Croques monsieurs, boeuf bourguignon, pains aux chocolates, macaroons, crêpes, tartes, baguettes, chèvre… The list is endless. Such beautiful dress sense and delicious cooking is enough to evoke true joie de vivre even without Paris’s magnificent history and culture!

Carmen Paddock

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