4 minutes reading time France
Our trip to Paris, France will last one week. There are 20 arrondissements in Paris (districts), so we have planned enough time to visit every 7 districts for at least one day. We will spend the first day in the northern arrondissements, landing at Aéroport de Roissy on the outskirts of Buttes Chaumont (19e arrondissement), and making our way from the Eastside to the West side of Paris.
On the first day, we start from the 20e arrondissement and calmly walk through the cozy streets of Belleville. Belleville is a Parisian district that used to be an independent commune, but it was annexed into Paris in 1860. It is cherished for its wine-making history, its popular cafes, and its distinctive and compelling artistic background. Many people say that people from the Belleville area speak with a distinct Parisian accent and linguistic manner compared to central Parisians.
In other words, Belleville is a great introduction to France if you feel like an outsider, due to the uniqueness of this district itself. Then, we make our way to the 19e arrondissement, mainly made up of the Parc de la Villette, which hosts Europe’s largest science museum, the Conservatoire de Paris, and ENSA (École National Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris), the largest school of Architecture in France.
The next few days are spent delving into the heart of the capital of France. We follow La Seine, a river that flows through the city of Paris. This is where our most memorable encounters take place. Firstly, we walk to the Louvre, the art museum in the 1er arrondissement. This architectural beauty was built in the shape of a glass pyramid, and it holds the legendary Mona Lisa painting that we all know and love. Then, we book a guide to follow the Eiffel Tower District Tour, where we would have 2.5 hours to spend on the legendary tower.
During the last days of the trip, we discover the more eerie side of Paris, which are the districts near the southern border of the city. We begin in the 14e arrondissement, nicknamed the ‘new Moulin Rouge’ by some locals, and it is by far the most exhilarating. Buried below our feet are the catacombs of Paris, and Montparnasse cemetery is the final resting place of many renowned individuals. For example, Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty was buried here in 1904.
Samuel Beckett, deceased in 1989, was awarded a Nobel Prize in literature before being laid to rest in Montparnasse. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were influential writers, philosophers, and intellectuals – buried here as well, surrounded by other notable artists and scholars. Alfred Dreyfus, a French captain in the military who was falsely accused of being a spy for the Germans in the late 1800s, was also laid to rest here. This cemetery has a way of generating appreciation above all eeriness.
On the other hand, the Paris Catacombs are underground networks of tunnels that serve as ossuaries for over six million deceased people. The catacombs were constructed because ground-level cemeteries were overflowing. Although the catacombs remained mostly as forgotten, disorganized piles of bones at first, they were first renovated in 1810 and have since been renovated many times. Walls were built of the bones to allow visitors and turn it into a mausoleum. During World War II, Parisian members of the French Resistance used the catacombs, due to the intricate tunnel network, to establish an underground bunker. They also served as the headquarter from which the plan to liberate Paris in June 1944 took place.
Paris is home to many other revolutionary landmarks. If you have more than a week, I would recommend splitting the trip and spending half your time venturing French history, then spending the other half absorbing the artistic ambiance that engulfs the City of Lights. All this to say that Paris is a must-see in Europe.
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23 August 2020 6 min. Dragana Brankovic
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