Paris, ma belle! – part two

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After devoting the first day to the Louvre museum, our advice for the second day has a very French flavor, to devote yourself to the “flaneur”, a word not easy to translate. Balzac wrote: “Ah! Wonder about Paris! The flanerie is a science, a gastronomy of the eye”.

But before getting lost limply on the streets, the squares and the monuments of this wonderful city it is good to know its history. Paris arose on the Seine over 2,000 years ago thanks to the Parisii who lived by river navigation, fishing and trade with other Celtic tribes. It was then conquered by the Romans following Julius Caesar. Over the centuries they took shape the two main clusters: the Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint-Louis. On the first stand Notre-Dame, the Saint-Chapelle and the Conciergerie, the former prison where they were imprisoned before the beheading Maria Antoinette, Danton and Robespierre. But despite being the oldest part of Paris, in the second half of the 800 it was completely destroyed by urban Haussmann and were flattened its maze of medieval streets, the Jewish quarter, the churches, the hospital, the ancient buildings and the old brothels called Val d’Amour area.

But the Queen of the island remained Notre-Dame. Severe and imposing, it is the spiritual center of the city. The construction of the cathedral went on two centuries that followed many remakes including the most massive since the Revolution during which Notre-Dame was desecrated. Outside rich in stone embroidery are the three portals, while in the majestic wonderful interior are the stained glass windows and medieval rosettes of thirteen meters in diameter. If you have time dedicate it to the outside rear of the church in which the protagonists are the spectacular flying buttresses of Jean Ravy and climb the 387 steps of the north tower that lead to the famous gargoyles, stone monsters protruding from the eaves, and a magnificent panorama. Remaining in the area and going from the sacred to the profane, recommended a walk on the Pont-Neuf, very lively for flower and bird markets and shopping at Pylone (57 rue Saint-Louis-en-Isle), one of the craziest city shops, with design objects colorful and extravagant.

The visit to Paris can not ignore the most famous monument: the Eiffel Tower. Much resisted at first, this steel structure 300 meters high has become the emblem of France. Divided into three levels, the first floor houses a restaurant, a movie theater, a multipurpose room for seminars and conferences. The second platform is now used as a luxury restaurant, the Jules Verne, while from the rooftop terrace of the third level to 274 meters high, on a clear day you can even see the cathedral of Chartres. Very often long queues at the lifts and the impressive number of stairs discourage even the most willing …

We too have chosen to see Paris from the Arc de Triomphe from the apex which offers the picturesque view of the Etoile, a square in 120 meters in diameter from which radiate twelve streets. The rooftop terrace is 50 meters high and is reached via a spiral staircase: from here you can embrace with a glance across the capital. And every night at its base is the flame at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier that reminds the soldiers fallen in war and never identified.

From Étoile to Place de la Concorde, the promenade stretches for almost 2 km through Champs-Elysées and showcase after showcase you reach the large square that was the site of the guillotine and the center of which stands the tall obelisk from Luxor, while around 8 large rise statues symbolizing the major French cities.

Of course you can not expect to turn to Paris on foot. In addition, the city’s transport network is one of the best in the world and includes 16 urban subway lines and four railways that travel far and wide. Only two subway stations that have preserved the original glass canopy designed by Guimard in the early ‘900: Porte Dauphine and Abbesses.

After exploring the city on the surface and underground, you must look from the Seine, as André Gide wrote, “is not a river, it is the very soul of Paris”. You can do this with the Compagnie de Batobus (port de Bourdonnais 7th, +33 825 050101, www.batobus.com) which offers a shuttle service that stops through eight, first leg on the Rive Gauche and the return on the Rive Droite, turn a full circle of 1 hour and 45 minutes, with the ability to get on and off whenever you want.

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