Monday, 1 June 2015

Top Five Things To Do In France

PROJECT: Tutoring & Immersion
WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Khouw

Today was mine and Ben’s my last day in Paris. It’ll be sad for us to leave but we’re both really excited to get to our respective host families.
This past week, we’ve been alternating between our French course at Paris Langues and exploring Paris. We have on average four hours of intensive French lessons per day, but we usually finish around 3pm and we have the rest of the day to look around. The sun doesn’t set until 10pm here, which is crazy! But it’s also fantastic because it’s still light out so everything’s open later.

Top 5 must-dos of Paris

1. The Jardin du Luxembourg

These gardens surround the Palais du Luxembourg, which was once the residence of the Luxembourg royal family in Paris but is now used as the French Senate. It’s the most beautiful place on a sunny day. You can view the spectacular Fontagne des Medicis, visit the Musée du Luxembourg (at the moment they’re showing an exhibition on the Tudors), and see the amazing statues of ancient French queens and female saints that encircle the Palais.

Do: See the Fontagne des Medicis to the right of the Palais

Don’t: Buy lunch at the restaurant inside the Gardens. The prices are exorbitant and it can get pretty packed on a nice day. Instead, exit the Gardens and go around the corner. There are several small sandwich places where you can buy a baguette and return to the Gardens to eat, surrounded by beautiful scenery.

2. Musée d’Orsay

This famous art museum has some of the biggest collections in the world. In particular, it features original works from Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as a whole top floor dedicated to Impressionist artists such as Monet and his contemporaries. Aside from paintings, it contains sculptures, ornaments, architectural diagrams, even shadow puppets from Le Chat Noir (famous Parisian cabaret).

Do: Leave plenty of time. I was there for I think 3 hours, and I had to rush the upper floors before the exhibition halls closed at 6pm
Don’t: Use flash photography. You can take as many photos as you want, as long as you don’t use flash. Most museums here have that policy.

3. La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur

The Basilica is very impressive, but it also has a fantastic view over Paris. The Eiffel Tower tends to be hidden behind trees but you can see the landscape of the city as well as the tall and very modern Montparnasse Tower. Definitely worth the visit.

Do: Take the Funiculaire (cable car) up, but not down. You have to climb the stairs all the way up the slope, so it’s easier to take the Funiculaire up to the top. However it’s not so bad to walk down the stairs, so the Funiculaire on the way back is just a waste of money.

Don’t: Take photos inside Sacre-Coeur. This is strictly forbidden as the Basilica is still a current Catholic Church. People go there to pray and attend Mass, so you need to be respectful of that and not treat it like it’s just a tourist attraction.

4. Les Catacombes

This is not for the faint of heart. The Catacombs in Denfert-Rochereau are a labyrinth of human bones from when the cemeteries in Paris were overflowing. The solution was to transport the remains to underneath the city where the bones are stacked higher than my head. While it sounds very macabre, it’s actually a really good experience, and without a doubt, different to any tourist attraction you’ve been to before.

Do: Get the metro to Denfert-Rochereau. The Catacombs are directly opposite the metro station
Don’t: Touch the bones. I don’t know why you’d want to, but it’ll cause them to degrade faster, as well as being incredibly disrespectful to the dead.

5. Sainte Chapelle

This Chapel is most famous for its incredible stained glass windows. It’s a burst of colour in a city dominated by marble and grey-pink stone. The Chapel is quite small but I think it’s also inexpensive. I was lucky enough to go there just after it had been renovated, and as celebration, entry was free from 6-9:30pm.
Do: Remember to go upstairs, which is where you can view the beautiful, tall stained glass windows from the inside, with the sun shining through
Don’t: Bring anything that could be considered dangerous, just like in airports. Entry to Sainte Chapelle is through the same entrance as the Palais de Justice, which is the major Law Court, and you need to have your bag x-rayed and walk through a metal detector.

I’ve left out some of the big tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre because if you’re in Paris, you’re going to do them anyway! But don’t forget to visit the small places too- local patisseries, museums of lesser-known artists, and the many Hôtels with their beautiful architecture and courtyards. It’s all part of the wonderful Paris experience.


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