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How to See Paris in a Day: Research, Prepare; Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame; Batobus, Check-List, Itinerary

Updated on September 15, 2018
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I love visiting places unknown, at home and abroad. Learning about history and traditions helps us understand the world around us.

Paris, Capital of France

Paris is flamboyant, artistic, romantic, adorned with grand monuments, graceful and impressive architecture and a colourful history. It’s easy to explore the main sites of this pretty, compact city in a day, to give you a taste of what’s on offer and an appetite to come back to savour the whole feast.

I had promised my granddaughter that I would take her to Paris so when the family arrived in France for their 2012 holiday with us, everything had been organised for our day ‘à deux’.

Symbol of Paris

The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower | Source

The Essentials

For a day free of worry with no unpleasant surprises, where hardly a minute is wasted, you should:

  • Research and Prepare
  • Buy tickets in advance where possible
  • Have pocket money for extras & contingencies
  • Make a priority list of sites you most want to see
  • Plan your route
  • Have a travel check-list
  • Take a written Itinerary with you

(all prices quoted as at Summer 2012)

On board the Batobus
On board the Batobus | Source

Research and Prepare

Transport times & fares

Research the choices of train (or other transport) times and fares - it’s cheaper in France to buy tickets in advance, either via the net or at a station. I bought ours at the local station, for return travel (aller retour) Bourges/Paris Austerlitz. It’s a journey of just over 2 hours with 3 stops. The service is on time, efficient and fast. For 1 adult + 1 child round trip, it cost 87€50 (about £75.00 at the time).

You have to remember to put your ticket into the yellow 'franking' machine at the entrance to the platform; it's obligatory. I was told off gruffly but the ticket inspector on the way home but she had a change of heart when I pleaded English ignorance of the system as a first-time user of the excellent French trains! She became charming and explained all.

Rise & Shine!

Be prepared to get up early to make the most of your day! We allowed plenty of time to get our train (in case of punctures or any unforeseen circumstances) and were in Paris just before 9am, ready for our 10 hour adventure!

How do you want to Travel around Paris?

Metro/RER train, Riverbus, Open-top bus tour and shanks’ pony* are at your disposal. Using the net before coming away, I had found several river boat companies which offered varying services. I decided on ‘Batobus’, a company which has 8 river stations along the Seine with boats that travel anti-clockwise from ‘Jardin des Plantes’ to ‘La Tour Eiffel’ and back, starting at 10am, the last one leaving the Eiffel Tower at 9.30pm. Boats are every 20 minutes in high season (see below for route).

We bought a day-pass from the boat-station on arrival (it can be done online but you have to pick them up from one designated place which wasn’t convenient for us). Starting from ‘Jardin des Plantes’ was useful for us as it’s just outside Austerlitz station; cross the main riverside road and walk left down the river bank past the River Police headquarters. Watch out for the little kiosk with ‘Batobus’ written across the top (it’s not that obvious).

The day pass was 15€ (adult’s) + 7€ (child), so 22€. You can then hop on, hop off as you please, as many times as you want during the day. This is a great way to see many of the famous sites and buildings plus a host of others. It gives you an overview and a chance to decide what to revisit for a closer look. It also gives you endless photo opportunities.

Guide & Map

There is a brilliant pocket book called ‘Eye Witness Travel, PARIS, Pocket Map & Guide’ which provides all the information you could possibly need for your day out as well as interesting facts, historical and otherwise, of many sites. The map is accurate and the information comprehensive; it has illustrations and is invaluable to have with you - make sure it’s on your check-list! (See book reference below.) I bought mine in my local branch of ‘The Works’ at home.

A Batobus, with the 8 stations painted on the side
A Batobus, with the 8 stations painted on the side | Source
Along the River Seine
Along the River Seine | Source
From bridge to bridge to bridge!
From bridge to bridge to bridge! | Source

Advance Tickets

You may not be able to decide on everything in advance but the more, the better. Train tickets are the biggest expense so, if nothing else, do try to book those. The riverbus tickets are the same price regardless but there are cheaper prices for passes lasting 2 days or more (also available at each riverboat station).

Other tickets, such as for the Eiffel Tower, can be bought online (you need to book the lift well in advance) and you can find some deals, usually for parties of 10 or more. However, if you want to avoid the queues for the lifts, even when you’ve booked, get there early. To save the hassle of the lift queue, climb up the stairs (escaliers); it’s also a lot cheaper (8€50 total for 1 adult and 1 child). If you’ve only got a day you don’t want to waste 2 hours of it in a queue; yes, that’s right, 2 hours! Anyway, walking is less crowded and good exercise plus you get better views all the way up and down!

Structure of La Tour Eiffel

The 4 feet of the Eiffel Tower & the 1st floor
The 4 feet of the Eiffel Tower & the 1st floor | Source
Looking up....
Looking up.... | Source
....and looking down!
....and looking down! | Source

Pocket Money

Don’t forget extra euros for souvenirs, gifts, food and drink and for any unforeseen expenses. A credit card is fine, of course, but there are always times when you need cash (must have an ice-cream!). You might decide to take the metro or a bus ride or just buy a souvenir from a road-side stall. Don’t forget 50c for the loo - when you gotta go, you gotta go! A word of advice - free facilities are usually not that good. A ‘pain au chocolat’ (like a croissant with chocolate chips in - we had one each for breakfast, outside the station) will cost you about 1€50 and an ice-cream about 3€. If you see nomadic souvenir sellers in the parks, bargain with them; we got a large Eiffel Tower reduced from 20€ to 5€! That leaves you with plenty for the loos!

Sites of Paris

You can walk to the 2nd floor, then it's the lift to the top!
You can walk to the 2nd floor, then it's the lift to the top! | Source
Trocadéro gardens over the Seine, with the Palais de Chaillot in the background, viewed from the Eiffel Tower
Trocadéro gardens over the Seine, with the Palais de Chaillot in the background, viewed from the Eiffel Tower | Source
L'Arc de Triomphe
L'Arc de Triomphe | Source
View down Les Champs Elysées from L'Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde
View down Les Champs Elysées from L'Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde | Source

Priority List

Know where you want to go and do stick to it. You can modify a little as you go or add something en route but don’t go out of your way as this will take more time than you think and could risk missing out one of your priority sites.

We had already decided on certain landmarks; the Eiffel Tower was number 1, then the Arc de Triomphe and the River Seine itself. Everything else would be a bonus - my granddaughter's easy to please!

Planning a Route

Knowing what was required, I planned our route to make it as easy as possible. One reason I chose the Batobus, apart from it being a convenient starting point by the station, was that we could go straight up the river to ‘La Tour Eiffel’ and see so much on the way; L’Hotel de Ville, the Louvre museum, Le Petit Palais, Le Grand Palais and Notre Dame, amongst many other imposing facades, as well as bridge upon bridge upon bridge and life along the riverbanks.

Boat from Jardin des Plantes to Eiffel Tower

Walk across river to Trocadéro

to L’Arc de Triomphe,

down the Champs-Elysées (the Elysian Fields)

towards the Tuilleries Gardens

to the Louvre Gallery

Boat - hop back on Batobus at ‘Louvre’ river station

back round past Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay & St Germain des Prés

maybe get off for Notre Dame Cathedral

I thought we’d be lucky to cram all that into a day but that we’d have a go!


Make up your sandwiches the night before and put them in the fridge; we’d also have crisps, biscuits and bottles of cold water.

My check-list put my mind at rest; I knew I wouldn't forget any essentials in the morning:





CAMERAS (& charged batteries!)






HAYFEVER TABLETS (in case of stings)

GAVISCON (in case of indigestion!)

FACE WIPES (good for keeping cool, wiping dirt, soothing feet!)

BAG EACH, GOOD SHOES or SANDALS SOCKS (in case of cold or sore feet)

The socks came in handy as did the face wipes. Should you develop a blister caused by those terrible gravelly pavements they love so much in France, wrap a face wipe round the blister and the toes to each side, put a sock over the top and you'll be comfortable for the rest of the day - much better than a plaster.


Even though you may have the transport times in your head and know where you’re going, I find it’s less worry and a safeguard to have it all written down clearly, to refer to when needed. For example:

6.49 am train from Bourges, arriving Paris Austerlitz 8.52 am (2h 3m journey time)

19.08 pm train from Paris, arriving Bourges 21.11 pm (87€ 50 total for returns).

Batobus from ‘Jardin des Plantes’ river station 10am, up to ‘La Tour Eiffel’

Walk across to the Trocadéro (maybe lunch there) (We did have lunch there.)

Walk to L’Arc de Triomphe, down Les Champs-Elysées (pavement cafe? - did that too), to the Louvre (see glass pyramid? no, time running short for seeing Notre Dame)

Batobus from ‘Louvre’ river station back round to look at anything else we wanted to see (Notre Dame)

Back to ‘Jardin des Plantes’ river station in time to catch train

(The Jardin des Plantes and the Tuilleries gardens are free and well worth a visit if you have time.)

Did it Work?

It Worked a Treat!

The research and planning is definitely worthwhile doing. Everything fell into place; no worry about checking transport and timetables, leaving us free to enjoy it all. Even the weather was on our side.

All the grand buildings along the banks of the Seine are majestic; photo opportunities abound.

We noticed one bridge where the railings were covered in padlocks on which were initials; a strange decoration. Later, we saw more and found out why (answer below!).

Excitement, Exercise & Views

The Eiffel Tower soon comes into view; more photos to take and then we went ashore to begin exploring.

Such a structure! We attacked the 360 steps to the first floor, my granddaughter with vigour, I less so!. Then only another 369 to the second!! Not for the faint-hearted but manageable.

Stupendous views; at our feet the Parc du Champs de Mars (in which the tower was built), over the river Le Palais de Chaillot behind the Trocadéro gardens and fountains. We picked out L’Arc de Triomphe, in the distance Montmatre and Le Sacré Coeur Basilica. You can take the lift from the second floor to the top but another long queue would have wasted too much time. There’s a reasonable souvenir shop on the second floor of the Tower; I was expecting higher prices here for a captive audience but perhaps they’re suffering from the low economy too!

So much in such a Compact Area

The Trocadéro is a good area in which to relax, with its fountains and statues and the grand facade of Le Palais de Chaillot (which now houses three museums and a theatre); a good place to lunch before a short walk to the Arc de Triomphe.

My young companion was amazed that the Arc was in the middle of such a huge roundabout (Place de Charles de Gaulle); it used to be surrounded by buildings at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte but they’ve long gone. An underpass takes you to the foot of the arch. The columns tell the story of Napoleon’s battles and of the campaigns of WW1; there is the tomb of the unknown soldier from WW1 with the eternal flame burning, lest we forget (sadly, we do).

A Saunter & Refreshment

A walk down the broad, lively Avenue des Champs-Elysées, lined with designer names, is fun. Have a rest at a cafe for a drink and a gateau, experience the French pastime of sitting outside at a table and watching the world go by, babbling conversation all around you. I explained that this avenue was built for the rich and famous with many high-class shops - then we spotted Macdonalds and Burger King and had a laugh! We just had to go into one of the exclusive fashion shops, dresses and coats upwards of 400€! Of course, we ordered a few - I wish! Lovely though.

La Place de la Concorde & down to Le Louvre

At the opposite end of the Avenue to L’Arc de Triomphe is La Place de la Concorde, with its 3200 year-old obelisk from Luxor, hieroglyphics carved into the surfaces.

We were wilting a little in the heat by then! If you are not a keen walker, then shorten the journey with a metro trip or hire a ‘pedal’ carriage at the Arc de Triomphe, to take you down to Place de la Concorde.

If you then go straight on you will come to the Tuilleries Gardens or if you turn right, down towards the river, you’ll see the beautiful Petit Palais and Grand Palais. We chose the latter and then turned left down to the Louvre.

Padlocks & Love

There’s a pedestrian bridge across the river opposite the west end of the Louvre, called ‘Le Pont des Arts’ where they often have exhibitions and where there were even more padlocks on the railings. I looked this up when I got home; someone started a craze, on this bridge, of putting lovers’ names on a padlock, locking it to the railings, then throwing the key into the river, symbolising undying love. I wonder how many of those lovers are still together?

Notre Dame & Home

Hopping on and off the boat means you can pick and choose; we took the Batobus once more at the ‘Louvre’ station, back round to Notre Dame where we disembarked to look at this impressive Gothic cathedral. There is much security at all the sites and the bag search had resulted in two very long queues. If you have time, it’s worth the wait; if not, take a walk round the square in front, see the statue of the warring Emperor Charlemagne standing high on his horse, charging into battle, then take a walk round the peaceful gardens between cathedral and river.

Over the bridge (more padlocks), past artists selling paintings and creating caricature drawings, takes you back to the river station; you can continue round and round all day!

For us, though, back to the Jardin des Plantes and over to Austerlitz station for our train. Our total for the day, including train and Batobus and incidentals but not our packed food, was around £140; not bad for a day out for two in Paris.

The Sites of Paris

Down to the Champs de Mars from the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower
Down to the Champs de Mars from the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower | Source
From the Eiffel Tower over to Montmatre & Le Sacré Coeur Basilica
From the Eiffel Tower over to Montmatre & Le Sacré Coeur Basilica | Source
The Fountains & Guilded-Bronze Statues of the Trocadéro
The Fountains & Guilded-Bronze Statues of the Trocadéro | Source
Inside L'Arc de Triomphe
Inside L'Arc de Triomphe | Source
Just to prove we really were there!
Just to prove we really were there! | Source
Pavement café in the Champs-Elysées
Pavement café in the Champs-Elysées | Source
Le Petit Palais - just a little pad down by the river!
Le Petit Palais - just a little pad down by the river! | Source
Padlocks on the Bridges
Padlocks on the Bridges | Source
Le Louvre, taken from the riverboat
Le Louvre, taken from the riverboat | Source
The beautiful facade of Notre Dame Cathedral
The beautiful facade of Notre Dame Cathedral | Source
Impressive flying buttresses
Impressive flying buttresses | Source
The terrifying Emperor Charlemagne going into battle
The terrifying Emperor Charlemagne going into battle | Source

Mission Accomplished

We had ‘done’ Paris and managed to pack in a surprising amount without totally exhausting ourselves. It gave us the appetite to go back to explore more, go into the gardens and museums, walk some of the quaint back streets and artists’ quarters. Of course, it would take weeks, possibly years to see all of this wonderful city. All the more reason to return again and again. ‘Au revoir, Paris!'

Don’t be daunted by traveling around a city for the first time; with careful thought and preparation it can be a fascinating and exhilarating experience.

Go on, try it! You’ll be glad you did.

*Interesting Fact

to go by Shanks’ pony (or shanks’ mare), meaning to walk, comes from the term ‘shank’ for the lower half of the leg, knee to ankle.

Do you have any travel tips? Let us know!

A few more Interesting Facts

Eiffel Tower

  • built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Universal Exhibition
  • ironwork pattern of girders for strength & stability
  • was world’s tallest building until Empire State Building (1931)

L’Arc de Triomphe

  • Place Charles de Gaulle
  • 12 avenues radiate from centre, one of which is Avenue des Champs-Elysées
  • foundation stone 1806
  • depicts many of Napoleon’s battles
  • lists of campaigns on pillars
  • tomb of unknown soldier from WW1

Musée d’Orsay

  • art gallery (1848-1914)
  • impressionist paintings
  • converted railway station

Père Lachaise Cemetery

  • 70,000 tombs
  • including those of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf & Oscar Wilde

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

'Here lies a French soldier who died for his country.'  Unknown, to represent all the soldiers who perished.
'Here lies a French soldier who died for his country.' Unknown, to represent all the soldiers who perished. | Source
The Eternal Flame
The Eternal Flame | Source

Some of the Buildings to be seen from the River

  • Le Palais de Justice
  • La Cathédrale de Notre Dame
  • La Conciergerie
  • L’Hôtel de Ville
  • Le Louvre Art Gallery
  • Le Grand Palais’ glass roof
  • L’Institut de France which houses L’Académie Française (which regulates the French language; dictionaries etc.)
  • La Tour Eiffel

Beautiful Architecture

La Conciergerie: a prisoner's last 'stop' before being taken to the guillotine!
La Conciergerie: a prisoner's last 'stop' before being taken to the guillotine! | Source
La Musée d'Orsay
La Musée d'Orsay | Source

Useful Information

Batobus stations: Boats have a continuous circuit, anti-clockwise, round the north side of the Ile de la Cité to La Tour Eiffel, then back south of the Ile to Jardin des Plantes.

The 8 stations are:

(from east to west)

Jardin des Plantes - Hôtel de Ville - Louvre - Champs-Elysées - Eiffel Tower,

then back eastwards via

Musée d’Orsay - St Germain des Prés - Notre Dame, to Jardin des Plantes.

The site gives you a useful map of the 8 stations.

‘Eye Witness Travel, PARIS, Pocket Map & Guide’ ISBN 978-1-4053-5320-5

French Phrases to Help You on Your Way

Où se trouve [place name] ? Where is (the)........ ?

(e.g. la station de métro / metro station)

Je cherche...... - I’m looking for.......

C’est combien? - How much is that?

Où sont les toilettes? Where are the toilets?

s’il vous plaît (see vou play) -please

Pardon M’sieur*/Madame! - Sorry (if you bump into someone)

Merci M’sieur/Madame - thank you

Same word for tickets, but pronounced ‘tickay’

Je n’ai pas de liquide - I have no cash

Je n’ai pas de monnaie - I have no change

Le train part à quelle heure? At what time does the train leave?

*Always put M’sieur or Madame before or after a request, for general politeness.

© 2012 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Glenis. It was quite tiring but well worth it and she's always great company which helps considerably!

      Happy Easter to you too!


    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glen Rix 

      2 years ago from UK

      Ann, it sounds wonderful, but exhausting. My knees couldn’t cope with all of that walking nowadays. You are so well organised! Lots of great tips and good advice for those fitter than I. I agree that trips like this need to be pre-planned - to avoid wandering around aimlessly and in the end seeing very little.

      P.S. Happy Easter

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Yes, Alun, you're right. In fact I think you need at least a week for Paris. I spent a long weekend there with a friend and we 'did' the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. We didn't see half of the Louvre but the Orsay was by far the better for me.

      This was being able to do a small area with the most sites in one day with a teenager! It was exhausting but superb.

      Thanks for your great comments and for your input.


    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      3 years ago from Essex, UK

      Thanks Ann. This is a very useful guide to what can be seen in one day in Paris, and illustrated with your own photos, and with your own personal experiences. The presence of so many famous sites along the banks of the Seine lends itself to an easy tour by riverboat, and your itinerary works. I'm sure it will help first time visitors, for whom efficient use of time is a priority. I would make two further suggestions, though the first admittedly goes against the whole premise of your article:

      1) If at all possible, I'd say spend two days in Paris, to allow visits to the great sites away from the Seine, such as Sacré-Coeur and Versailles.

      2) An alternative to climbing the Eiffel Tower for a view of Paris is the Montparnasse Tower. This is an ordinary, not very attractive skyscraper which I think is visible in one of your photos beyond the Champs de Mars. I believe it's the third highest building in Paris, and it has a high-level viewing platform which is much cheaper and quicker to access (and you get a great view of the Eiffel Tower from here!)

      Cheers, Alun

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Gatsy & Jetson: Thanks for reading; glad this was useful for you.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Waheed-Chuahdary: Thanks for reading; I'm glad you've found this useful.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Enilthgening the world, one helpful article at a time.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Check that off the list of things I was cofeusnd about.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      suzettenaples: Thank you for your lovely comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. The prior research certainly did make it easier and less stressful. We did pack a lot into the day; of course the weather helped and we walked a long way! I greatly appreciate you dropping by.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      6 years ago from Taos, NM

      What a fabulous day you had in Paris. I can't believe all that you saw and did. It was the prior research and ticket buying that made your day compact and organized. And your photos are stunning. I feel I have been right along with you on your day in Paris. Outstanding hub and all the great tips you have included. I am a traveler also and have lived in Europe (Germany & Spain) and couldn't have d0ne it better. In fact, I learned some great tips from you. Thanks for sharing this.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      chef-de-jour: Thanks for your comment. I love the Sacre Coeur and there's such a good view over the city from there, almost as good as from the Eiffel Tower. That's quite a walk you did though - brilliant! I love the things like the booksellers and the artists dotted along the route by the Seine as well as in Montmatre. Paris is so much prettier than London; it's a shame because I feel a bit of a traitor but there it is! Anyway I'm so glad you enjoyed the tour. Ann

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      A wonderful tour of this great city! I was last there en route to Barcelona but have visited several times in the past. My favourite visit was back in 2002, spring time, when we walked from Notre Dame up to le Sacre Coeurs and back, via the little green booksellers sheds near the Seine.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      Waheed-Chuahdary: I'm so glad this is going to be useful for you. I hope you have a great time and enjoy this beautiful city. Let me know how it goes! Thanks for reading and for the kind comment.

    • Waheed-Chuahdary profile image

      Chuahdary Abdul Waheed 

      7 years ago from Pakistan

      thanx for such a helpful hub...i am planning to visit next month, n m sure this hub is going to be really very helpful...

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      Thanks for reading and for your lovely comments cam8510. I had such a great day and I was so relieved it all went so well. I'm lucky, too, to have such a lovely, appreciative granddaughter.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Ann, wow, what a hub this is. If I was going to Paris I would just print this hub out and take it. Your Grandchildren are very lucky to have you. Good job......with the kids and the hub.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      That's interesting Melovy. The galleries appeal a lot to me but you need lots more time of course. We didn't have to time to study the padlocks, sadly; there must be a lot of stories amongst them! Thanks for reading and for the interesting comments. Ann

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      Gosh you achieved a lot in a day! We were in Paris earlier this month, mainly at Disney but my older daughter and I did manage to persuade hubbie and other daughter to have a day in Paris. We mainly did the galleries and had a walk along the Seine, and those padlocks also fascinated us. My daughter found one from as far back as the 1980s.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      Thanks alocsin; good to see you again. It's a great way to get a taster of Paris. I've still got lots to see and will have at least a few days next time! Thanks, too, for the votes; much appreciated.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      This certainly is quite comprehensive. We were in Paris last year, but we had a whole week to see the city. Your tour catches the highlights in a much shorter time. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      8 years ago from SW England

      Hi Dolores! Yes we had a great time and I'm looking forward to another visit with my partner to look at the museums and architecture. Thanks for reading and for the lovely comments.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Whew! I'm tired just reading this, haha! I cna't imagine seeing Paris in just one day. You did a marvelous job of explaining just how to do this. Your pix are beautiful and it looks like you visited so many wonderful spots!


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