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DAY 1 | 9 June 2005 – Paris |

After 13 hours of flight time, we finally touched down at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport at 7 am. As we walked towards the immigration checkpoint, my mind flashed through images of Steven Spielberg’s film “The Terminal”, the story of a man “without a country” spending over 15 years in this airport, starring Tom Hanks. The film is said to be inspired by the 18-year-stay of Mehran Karimi Nasseri in the Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Terminal I from 1988 to 2006. 

We checked into The Courtyard by Marriott Paris Neuilly, a hotel located in the residential neighborhood of Neuilly Sur Seine near downtown Paris. This hotel is an easy access to the main attractions and monuments of the city: the Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.

The easiest way to travel within Paris (and for most part of Europe) is using the Paris Metro. It has 16 lines and over 300 stations, covering a total distance of 214 km. We bought two-day travel cards, which allowed us to commute unrestrictedly within Paris.

JL in Metro

Louvre Museum

Our first stop was at the Louvre Rivoli station. Louvre, the most visited museum in the world, is housed in the Louvre Palace and is located on the right bank of the Seine River. In front of the Louvre is a glass pyramid entrance, designed by a renowned American architect, I.M. Pei. The glass pyramid allows the natural sunlight to come in on the underground floor.

CSJL at Louvre

We spent nearly 4 hours in the Louvre Museum and of course, we finally witnessed the smile of Mona Lisa!

JL & mona lisa smile

Notre Dame

The next destination was to the Notre Dame de Paris (‘Our Lady of Paris’ in French). Notre Dame de Paris (1163 – 1345), one of the finest French Gothic cathedral in the world, was among the first buildings in the world to use the “flying buttress” (arched exterior supports). In the early 19th century, the cathedral was in such a bad state of disrepair that the city planners were thinking of tearing it down. Victor Hugo, a French novelist and renowned author of Les Miserables, was a great admirer of the cathedral. He wrote his novel the Hunchback of Notra Dame to raise awareness of the cathedral’s heritage. This novel sparked renewed interest  to start campaign for collecting funds to restore the cathedral.

CSJL at Notre Dame

notre dame 03

notre dame 02

The architecture of this cathedral is astounding and exquisite. Near the entrance of the choir, you can see a sculpture of Virgin with Child. Virgin Mary, with a crown adorned on her head, is carrying baby Jesus on her arm, who is playing with the fastening of her cloak. JL lighted a candle here to pray for well wishes.

 notre dame 04

JL at Notre Dame 01

We were feeling especially tired and hungry, as we passed through the streets in St Michael. Finally settled into a quick service Chinese restaurant.

 JL at St Michaels 01  

St Michaels 02

Eiffel Tower

We devoted the rest of the evening for Paris’ most iconic landmark. Named after its designer (Gustave Eiffel), the Eiffel Tower (completed in 1889) is the tallest building in Paris at 324m, which is equivalent to about 81 levels in a conventional building. It was built to celebrate the French Revolution. There are total of 3 levels  – the first and second levels are accessible by stairways and lifts and the third level brings you to the observation platform.

JL with Effel 02

Effel 04Effel 01

The queue up to the Eiffel Tower was long one. But once we reached the third level, we found the hours spent in the long queue very worthwhile. Right before our eyes was a spectacular bird-eye view of this beautiful city and the Seine River. We took a picture of our Singapore National Flag at the observation platform.

 Effel top view 05

JL at Effel top 03CSJL at Effel top 01

I always like to plan Europe trips during summer for two main reasons. First, you can travel light (no clogging of winter clothes in your suitcase) and secondly, daylight is proloned till very late evening (you can practically do sightseeing till you drop!). It had been a long day and we were both dog-tired; after reaching the hotel at 10 pm, we headed straight to bed.

DAY 2 | 10 June 2005 – Paris |

With a good night rest, we were ready to explore Paris again. We checked out from the hotel, dumped our luggage with the concierge, and hit out to the street. Breakfast was brisk and confined to some nice bakery we picked up on the way to the subway.

JL at breakfast

Arc de Triomphe

We alighted at the Charles de Gaulle – Etoile station to see Paris’ well-known monument, Arc de Triomphe. The arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories, but ironically, he was ousted before the arch was completed. It was only completed in 1836 during the reign of Louis-Philippe.

CSJL at arc de triomphe01

On the inside and the top of the arch are engraved with the names of generals and wars fought. Underneath is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I . The top of the arch is a viewing platform from where you have great views of the Champs-Elysees. Probably the most famous avenue in the world, Champs-Elysées is bordered by cinemas, theaters, cafés, luxury shops, beautiful gardens with fountains and some grand buildings.

arc de triomphe03

arc de triomphe06

  arc de triomphe_triumph of napoleonarc de triomphe08

Basilique du Sacré-Coeur

The journey to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur was an interesting one. As the Sacré-Coeur was built on top of the Montmartre Hill, we took a tram up the hill.

Basilique du sacre coeur 01

Basilique du sacre coeur_elevator

This Roman Catholic Basilica has three arches, which are adorned by two statutes of French national saint, Joan of Arc. There is a mosaic in the apse, entitled Christ in Majesty, which is among the largest in the world.

JL at Basilique du sacre coeur

Basilique du sacre coeur 03

Orsay Museum

We had lunch at a cafe at Place du Tertre, overseeing the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, before proceeding to our next destination – the Orsay Museum. The Musée d’Orsay is a museum housed in a grand railway station built in 1900. It is the home to many sculptures and impressionist paintings. We spent the rest of the afternoon here in this fabulous museum.

JL at Orsay 01

Orsay 01

This was our last stop in Paris. After returning back to Marriott Courtyard Neuilly to collect our luggage, we headed to Concorde Hotel to catch an airport shuttle bus to the Beauvais Paris Airport. Tonight, we are taking Ryan Air (an European budget airline) to fly into Rome. Soon after midnight, we arrived at the Rome Ciampino Airport.  Taxi is very expensive in Rome but at that wee hour, all other public transport had ceased operations. The cab ride to Hilton Rome Airport costed EUR 90!

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