My Spring Break Travels ended up in Paris, the Gem of the West. Staying in Paris was a quick stop-over from a long train ride from Salzburg. I saw so much and so little at the same time, because the city of Paris is not something you can just see for one day and say that you’ve seen the city. You might not be able to see the city in a whole lifetime!

The river Seine and the walls of the canal, protected by UNESCO.

Paris was founded by a tribe of Gaulish people called the Parisii in about the year 250 BC, although archeological finds have seen evidence of inhabitation from as early as the 4th millennium BC. The Parisii settled the land known today by the world as the “Île de la Cité,” a little island in the middle of the Seine River in Paris. All was well in the world until the Romans invaded. And then the Vikings invaded, and then the rest of the world invaded (almost including Attila the Hun, who swung just south of the city, thanks, it is said, to Saint Genevive, Patron Saint of Paris!).

Today, there are no Turkish invaders, no Attilas, and the closet thing to a Viking invader was me, a 3rd generation Norwegian-American who can barely scrape together a sentence in the Norwegian language. Paris today is a vast city of art, culture, tourism, haute couture and history. Its streets ramble in all directions and getting lost is a serious concern. Such a cultural melange was never seen! Chinese, American, Spanish, Italian, French, Irish, English, Saudi Arabian… it’s not crazy to be surrounded by people with entirely different backgrounds and all be interested in the same city.

Lovers from all over the world flock to Paris. They bring locks to fasten to this bridge and then they throw the key into the Seine to symbolize lasting love. Aww.

So many famous sights are within a stone’s throw from each other: Place de la Concorde (where the guillotine was set up for many years as a grisly reminder of the 1,300 deaths from the French Revolution), Arc de la Defense, La Louvre (which houses over 33,000 pieces of art!), Les Jardins de Tuilieries, L’Orangerie Museum, L’Arc du Triomphe, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel seem to point in a straight line. They point directly down the Champs-Elysees and cut a line through the heart of Paris.

The Famous Pyramid Entrance to the Louvre by American Architect, I. M. Pei, thought to be "the most controversial artwork in Paris" because of the mass dislike voiced by the Parisians. It lines up perfectly with L'Arc du Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde!

Place de la Concorde, the Obelisk which replaced the Guillotine from the French Revolution that stood here for many years to remind the people of the grisly revolt.

It’s possible, of course, to write a BOOK on Paris with such famous and historic landmarks, let alone cover it in one fell swoop with a blog post, but I will try to convey the visit I had with the famous city just a few days ago.

After so many days of rain and clouds in the other locations we visited over Spring Break, it was a delightfully blue sky that greeted me and Molly when we opened the curtains to our youth hostel. We stayed at an “all women’s” hostel which had a shocking amount of man-like women roaming around (in other words, it wasn’t an “all-women” hostel as we had expected!). Nonetheless, we left bright and early to take in Paris before our train left for Caen that night.

Me, next to the Notre Dame de Paris!

Jardin de Tuileries, the gardens that replaced the Palais de Tuileries when it was burned down in a revolt. It's beautiful, and the Parisians enjoy lounging around the pools, soaking in the sunshine. In the distance, you can see L'Arc du Triomphe and the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde.

We took advantage of the Free Walking Tour provided by Sandman’s (check them out here!) and managed to see so many beautiful things in only 3.5 hours that I felt compelled to circle them on my map in order not to forget where we had been. Paris is enormous! Its people are in a hurry, just like any big city, and I was glad that it was spring and not summer because Paris certainly WOULD sizzle!

Probably my favorite activity of the whole day was partaking in mass at the Notre Dame de Paris. It was utterly awesome to be in such a famous cathedral. People were shockingly quiet throughout the service, and I was pleased. Molly and I moved on to find a sumptuous lunch before catching our tour. We saw the Louvre (but only from the outside!), the Tuilieries gardens, L’Arc de Defense (France’s department of defense), countless statues, bridges, landmarks and avenues. When we finished our tour at the Grand Palais and Petit Palais (both false names as neither were palaces but constructed for the World’s Fair in 1900), I was EXHAUSTED!

This is where we ended our Free Tour with Sandman's. The Petit Palais is not a palace nor is it petite. It is, however, very beautiful with its gilded doors! It's used today as a museum and conference hall.

The last stop of the day was at Montmarte, “Hill of the martyrs” where Saint Denis, the 1st bishop of Paris, was decapitated for his beliefs. It now is home to the very famous Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre. It was built between the years of 1875 and 1914 and consecrated in 1919. From the basilica, you could see a sweeping vista of the city, a beautiful sight.

When I crawled on to the train at Gare de Saint-Lazare, Paris, I had walked about 15 miles and was utterly spent. I couldn’t quite remember a time when I was so tired! Our train was blessedly speedy and comfortable (and NOT delayed due to ash and volcanic eruptions!!!), and with our Carrefour Market suppers, Molly and I were happy as clams.

Montmartre, the "Hill of the Martyrs" with the beautiful Basilisque du Sacre-Coeur

My little dorm room had never looked so inviting or comfortable as it did that night. I crawled into bed, thanking God for His protection throughout my travels. It was a delicious, inspiring, beautiful week, one that I’d gladly repeat.

Click here to see Paris and the famous landmarks on a map!

Click here to see more of the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur in all its beauty.

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