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Three Sights in Paris in Easy Steps
Tips for visiting Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame
Paris is a wonderful place for sightseeing and there are so many different places to visit. Here are three of the main venues. Whenever you decide to travel there, the first requirement will be a map, easily obtainable on the internet, from your hotel or at tourist offices (Offices de Tourisme). Such maps often incorporate the public travel service by RATP including the bus and the metro system (underground). Underground stations also provide metro maps.
The underground trains or metro provide a good method of easy travel and you can buy individual tickets at the stations or a Paris Visite pass for up to 5 days to cover a short stay. The metro is fascinating in itself and combined with easy walks makes a sightseeing trip over the centre of Paris achievable.
I would recommend buying some comfortable walking shoes, and some sun tan lotion and a sunhat if you are visiting in the summer. It is a good idea to factor in some cafe life as it is one of the pleasures in life to take a seat, rest and watch the world go by while you drink some water and try a snack if you wish. From there you can quickly recheck a map, consult a travel guide you may have with you or read any brochures you have picked up along the way. Cafes can get busy, but they are not too expensive if you choose one down a side street away from the busy sights. Even the most expensive will usually display a price list outside which it is normal to consider before you go in and take a seat.
There is depth and breadth to the culture of Paris which could fill the volumes of many books. There is a delight to stumble across these wonderful details while wandering. I have described details of the cultural facts that reveal some of the foundations of the locations.
Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe
Both of these sights can be visited easily in a combined visit. Nicknamed "the most beautiful avenue in the world", the avenue des Champs-Élysées is an essential step in visiting the capital. Tourists and Parisians wander at all hours of the day and night, summer and winter, on this emblematic portion of almost 2 kilometers, between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. It is full of restaurants, luxury brands, various flagship shops and clubs. It serves as a setting, each year, for large popular events: the July 14 parade, the finishing line of the Tour de France and Christmas illuminations, among others. The avenue is also marked by the presence of major museums: the Grand and Petit Palais and the Palais de la Découverte. The highlight of the visit is the ascent of the Arc de Triomphe, built to commemorate the victories of Napoleon, on top of which a panoramic view can be enjoyed.
Champs-Élysées can be accessed easily by public transport. For an easier stroll, I would recommend taking the metro about halfway along its length to Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau. You will emerge to a view of the Avenue with at one end the obelisk of the Place de la Concorde all the way to the top of the Avenue at the other end and the majestic archway of the Arc de Triomphe. You can then walk up the Avenue towards the Arch experiencing its shops and cafes, before taking the pedestrian subway to the Arc de Triomphe itself.
The Arc de Triomphe is located on a roundabout known as the Place de l'Etoile which forms an enormous roundabout of twelve avenues. These avenues radiate in a star or Etoile around the square. Baron Haussmann was the perpetrator of this design. The arch itself can be ascended to view the road patterns but the archway can also be appreciated simply by looking up and taking in its enormity. It looks as though it has been built for giants! Inscribed on the walls are the names of the towns in which Napoleon's armies succeeded in their military campaigns.
A metro station near the Arch, Charles de Gaulle - Etoile is a useful point from which to return and it is on a main metro line which can be useful if you have any shopping bags you have acquired along the way. There are however many metro stations in the vicinity, some on the same line on the Avenue.
Notre Dame cathedral has been, since its construction, one of the most emblematic monuments in Paris. As a religious and cultural edifice, it has often been at the heart of French history. Thus, the cathedral is found at the heart of the novel of Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, published in 1831. It was a royal parish church in the Middle Ages, and it was in the cathedral that the holy Crown of Thorns was placed in 1239 and in which the coronation of Napoleon I on December 2, 1804 took place. Religious ceremonies were held there at the death of General de Gaulle in 1970, Georges Pompidou in 1974 and François Mitterrand in 1996.
Most people have heard of the Bells of Notre Dame from the novel of Victor Hugo. The novel centres around the church and its main character, the hunchback, who lived there as a recluse. You can visit these bells. The cathedral has 10 bells and they all have names. Emmanuel, the largest dates from 1681 and rings on the hour and for services and special occasions. You are likely to hear Emmanuel but to see it is also special. Located in the south tower it weighs just over 13 tons. Several smaller bells were taken out of use as they caused the building to vibrate!
Notre Dame cathedral is found on a natural island on the river Seine in the centre of Paris, called the Île de la Cité and it is recommended that you view a map to see how you would like to approach the area and which bridge to take. The architectural style of the cathedral is ornate French Gothic and the other buildings with the Seine river surrounding make great views. There are also many pleasant cafes to sit outside. Cité metro station lies under the island if you prefer to go there directly.