Paris. Just the accent of its name takes us to imaginary worlds and adventures where everything is possible. It is a genuine, booming, and ideal city for families and lovers. It is one of those must-do trips at least once in our lives. So that you can say that you’ve already lived.
Even if the reader is not familiar with the comic strip world, it is most likely to have heard about Astérix, the tiny Gaul created by Uderzo and Goscinny, that resisted against the Roman invaders thanks to a magic potion. Likewise, without having a deep knowledge of the stories of this hero – shared with his companion Obélix and his dog Ideiafix – the reader has most certainly heard about the city of Lutetia. Lutetia of the Roman era and today called Paris.
The origin of the name Paris comes precisely from the period when the adventures of Astérix took place. The Gallic tribe that inhabited that region which is, presently, France, was known as Parisii. The Roman invaders named the city “Lutetia of the Parisii” (Lutetia Parisiorum), and, as times went by, the first name disappeared until, little by little, it ends up with its current designation. Shorter and easier to pronounce, it takes us to a field full of imagination. If there is a city that should be visited, at least once in life, Paris is, undeniably, one of the options on the top positions.
It is a stage of culture and architecture, a field of ideas, a gastronomic landmark, and it exhales imagination and innovation combined with tradition. It is not Paris that is in the world. It is all worlds that inhabit Paris. Indeed, it is not by chance that it is also called the “City of Light”. These lights can be the lights of thinking, from the age of Enlightenment – the intellectual and philosophical movement of the 18th century – as well as the lights of technological innovation from being one of the first cities in Europe to use public street gas lighting in large scale. The gas lighting was installed, for example, in 1829 at Place du Carrousel, Rue de Rivoli and Place Vendôme. Records ensure that, in the 1860s, avenues and streets of Paris were lightened by 56 thousand gas lamps. Today, Paris, the modern one, is renewing itself and intends to become a reference for the rest of the world. Its streets become “greener” with fewer cars and more space for leisure and ecological transportation. The sustainability of daily life in the city is the new “revolution” of a metropolis that doesn’t like to settle down. The Parisian is an active person who does not resign and enjoys playing a part in building a better quality of life. And Paris is the portrait of political successes. It is enough to remember, for example, the life path of a name like Jacques Chirac, whom, before becoming Prime Minister or President of the Republic of France, had as his first high-profile political platform the management of the then recently created Paris City Hall, from 1977 to 1995. Yes, Paris has only had a municipality since the late 1970s, still a result of the effects of the Commune of 1871. However, nothing takes away the “glamour” of one of the cities which knows how to receive its visitors better than anyone. It offers museums, cafés, restaurants, parks, and palaces to visit, all out in the open.
What to do in PARIS
Saying that the city is an open-air museum is not a “cliché” even in French. Simply strolling through the streets is a moment of leisure and culture. We can go shopping accompanied by historical landmarks. Visiting an exhibition is as common as being, ourselves, the artists photographing the streets. You only need to aim the camera, and the city does the rest. Here you can find some suggestions to enjoy to the fullest your stay in Paris.
There are many scenes of films recorded in Paris but the most symbolic one, if we want to take the chance of choosing one, is certainly the one in which Jean Seberg is selling the international version of the “New York Herald Tribune” and walking side by side with Jean Paul-Belmondo in the film “A Bout de Souffle”, by Jean-Luc Godard. Strolling through Les Champs-Élysées (the Elysian Fields), with the Arc de Triomphe (Triumphal Arch) as background, is one of those unforgettable moments. And there are also stores with all kinds of prices and restaurants for all tastes and wallets.
Paris is a city with flat topography, but it is at the Montmartre hill, where the Sacré-Cœur (The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris) is located, that we can – and should – contemplate the profile drawn by the buildings and monuments of the French capital. It has been receiving catholic pilgrims since the Middle Age and is presently a meeting point of tourists that go up and down the garden’s stairs. In the vicinity, the bohemian neighborhood is not as busy as another location of artists like the Montparnasse, but it is here that we can find, for example, the first studio of Pablo Picasso, the number 49 of Rue Gabrielle.
Visit the Pigalle
It is the place where we can find the most famous cabaret in the world: the “Moulin Rouge”. The Pigalle area is also known for its stores of musical products and sex-related items – something the French have always seen in quite an open and liberal way. It was during the liberation of Paris at the end of the Second World War that Pigalle became known by the allies, English and North American soldiers as “Pig Alley”. That was not certainly something that the sculpture Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714-1785), the man after whom the location was named, expected to be related to its name. But, it is unquestionably one of Paris’s must-visit locations!
Strolling along the banks of the Seine River
Strolling around Paris, from the sunrise to the sunset, is an event on its own. From the Quartier Latin, next to the Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris), to the several bridges of Paris, always with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop, we are constantly reminded that we are not dreaming, but actually in Paris, France. The next book, a work of art or a simple photograph to frame, is right here within reach of our imagination and art. Strolling along the banks of the Seine River, forever.
What to eat in PARIS
It is something special about this destination: in Paris, from the most sophisticated restaurants to the average restaurants or the typical street food, or even the international fast-food chains, everyone becomes a gourmand. There are offers for the most different tastes and, when it is time to choose, not even the wallet is relevant, as this is the perfect city for a priceless gastronomic experience.
Note: These suggestions are subject to Covid-19 prevention health regulations. For reservations and opening hours, the establishments should be previously contacted through the indicated emails.
For sophisticated tastes – after all, we are talking about Paris – a suggestion is the L’Ambroisie, at the Place des Vosges, which is considered the most ancient Parisian square and where we can find, for example, the house the writer Victor Hugo lived. This restaurant started its cuisine journey in 1986 with chef Bernard Pacaud and, now, is managed by his son, Mathieu. It has three Michelin stars, which adequately justifies the unique meal experience with no concern for the expense. Especially in good company, as this is the only way to experience the offers of this house named after Greek mythology. The word ambrosia (L’Ambroisie) means food for the gods, which was their source of immortality. It is worth checking.
Place des Vosges, 9
The Georges restaurant is located in the heart of Paris, on the last floor of the Georges Pompidou Centre, the modern building designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, house of the National Museum of Modern Art. It is the perfect place to enjoy the Parisian sky and the panoramic view. The cultural program for a visiting day to this iconic place ends with a family meal or romantic dinner. Or just a drink with friends. Sophisticated food. Who knows, a steak tartare?
Centre George Pompidou – Place Georges Pompidou
Le Grand Vefour
It is a historical house dating from the 18th century and since 2011 under the influence of chef Guy Martin. In a scenario of opulent palaces, this place combines history and gastronomy. In 1784 it was Café de Chartres and, since 1820, it has its current name when Jean Véfour hosted here the Parisian elite. And, as in the past, the rooms of this restaurant are still recommended. The cuisine seems to have poetry here. There is no better menu.
Rue de Beaujolais, 17
Les Deux Magots
A historical café in St. Germain-des-Prés, from the end of the 19th century. It was attended by names of the Parisian literary and artistic spheres, namely Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé. The French literary prize Prix des Deux Magots started here. It also received other names like Picasso, Hemingway, André Breton, Sartre, and Beauvoir. And, what about the food? It has brunch menus, for example, with several types of eggs and sandwiches. There are also salads and main courses with Charolais beef. Nice wines. Average prices.
Le Camion Qui Fume
If you want the best hamburger in the world – we are in Paris, and here everything is unique – here is a suggestion that can be found in several places of the French capital. Carefully baked and sliced potatoes, meat from the Normandy region of France, and accurately chosen cheese. This is the promise of the recipe offered by the heads of the Le Camion Qui Fume food chain, a street food service with an American taste, but in France. Where every food always tastes good, even this food is mouth-watering for the most demanding clients.
It can be tasted indoors or, as the name states, in the street – this option is Street Bangkok. It has a chain of restaurants in Paris subdivided into three variations to be chosen according to the client’s taste. You can choose grilled food at the Grill&Beer restaurants. You can also pick fried food with the name Fry&Beer, and, lastly, boiled food in the Rice&Noodle space. More than street food, it is a philosophy, a rendezvous in the streets of Paris with the flavors and tastes from South Asia.
La Maison de la Poutine
Another international option that you might find in Paris comes from Canada. From the French part of the former colony of North America. More specifically of the Quebec region, where the cosmopolitan city of Montreal is located. Also one of our destinations. We are talking about a very distinct specialty, and that is certainly not adequate for all stomachs. But the most knowledgeable and curious ones can take this visit to Paris to get to know one of the La Maison de la Poutine restaurants. We could summarize it to a plate of French potatoes dipped in cheese and a special spices sauce. But there is more than that. It must be the flavor of the location. Be it in Montreal or Paris. Unforgettable!
Curiosities of Paris
Paris is one of the most visited cities in Europe, but most people are unaware of the fascinating and unique facts that help make it such an incredible city. There are multiple cultural, architectural, and social elements that tourists, and even Parisians, do not know.
Before you leave for a trip to the French capital, a city with a very long history, find out some curiosities of Paris that you (probably) didn’t know yet.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower, the symbol of Paris par excellence, constantly changes size: in the Summer, thanks to thermal expansion, it is around 6 inches taller than usual!
Did you know it is possible to climb the Eiffel Tower? Of course, be prepared for its 1,665 steps.
The Eiffel Tower took two years, two months, and five days to build and was the tallest building in the World (at 300 meters) for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York (319 meters) was completed in 1930. Today that title belongs to the Burj Khalifa, with 828 meters high.
France’s kilometer zero
Le Point Zéro, or Paris’ kilometer zero, is located in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, and it is from here that the distance of all French roads is calculated.
The city trees
There are 470,000 trees in Paris, and every one of them is measured and referenced, and is registered.
The Old New Bridge
The Pont Neuf (New Bridge) is, in reality, the oldest bridge in Paris: it was the first to be built in stone, with footpaths. All the other bridges of its time no longer exist since they were made of wood.
The world’s largest ossuary
Paris is a city of light, but it has a dark side. Above ground, it is the city of love, but it hides a massive underworld with millions of corpses. The Paris Catacombs are a tunnel system of more than 300 km, but the section open to the public is much smaller, containing the remains of about 6 million people, and is the largest ossuary on the planet.
Home of the largest bell in France
The largest bell in France is in the beautiful Sacré Coeur Basilica: it is known as “The Savoyarde” and weighs 26 tons.
The Louvre Museum
The pyramid that serves as the entrance to the courtyard of the Louvre Museum replicates the exact proportions of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The museum has a total of 460,000 pieces of art, but only 35,000 are on public display, making it the vastest collection in the world. If you want to see all the works of art, even for just 30 seconds each, it would take 35 days.
The wall of love
On the Wall of Love in Montmartre, the words “I love you” appear written in more than 250 languages. The wall includes these words in all major languages, but also in rarer ones like Navajo, Inuit, Bambara, and Esperanto.
Beaches by the river
Paris has no sea, but it does have a beach: in the Summer, on the banks of the Seine River, a few tons of sand are dumped, where Parisians go to enjoy the sun. The beaches on the banks of the Seine prove that Paris is a city that has everything.
The Montparnasse Tower
The 210-meter Montparnasse Tower is the second tallest in Paris. Its 56th floor, 200 meters from the ground, houses a restaurant called le Ciel de Paris, and the terrace on the top floor is open to the public for viewing the city, making it one of the best places to enjoy the sunset.
Home to many French people
20% of the French live in Paris and its suburbs. The metropolitan area of the city is enormous.
The Statue of Liberty of Paris
France gave the United States the famous Statue of Liberty to commemorate its 100th anniversary of independence. But it is little known that the United States gave France a copy, four times smaller, to celebrate 100 years of the French Revolution! Located on Île aux Cygnes, it is positioned as if it is looking at New York. A symbol of the friendship between France and the United States.
The longest and shortest streets of Paris
The Avenue des Champs Elysées is the longest in Paris: it measures 1,880 meters and runs from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. By contrast, the shortest street in the French capital, the Rue des Degrés, is only 5.75 meters long.
The Gargoyles of Notre Dame
Notre Dame Cathedral is surrounded by mysteries, and several of them revolve around its famous gargoyles, though, in reality, they have only one function: to evacuate water from the roof during the rains.
The end of the padlocks’ bridge
Since late 2008, tourists began attaching padlocks with their first names written or engraved on the railing, or the grate on the side of the Pont des Arts, then throwing the key into the Seine River below as a romantic gesture, representing a couple’s committed love. Since 2012, the number of padlocks covering the bridge has become overwhelming, with locks being placed over others. Thus, as incredible as it was, the “bridge of love locks” is no longer. The locks weighed over 45 tons and had to be removed to prevent structural damage.
There are 830 libraries around the city. The oldest is the Bibliothèque Mazarine, also the country’s oldest public library, created by Cardinal Mazarin in the 17th century as his personal library, featuring today one of the richest collections of rare books and manuscripts in France.
No STOP signs in Paris
Paris does not have a single stop sign. There used to be one (yes, only one!) in the city, but in 2014 the traffic sign disappeared, and no one knows how.
The Luxor Obelisk
In the center of Paris’s largest square, Place de la Concorde, filled with historical monuments, including many statues, sculptures, columns, and fountains, stands an obelisk from the 3,000-year-old Temple of Karnac in Luxor. Built during the 13th century B.C. in Egypt and decorated with hundreds of hieroglyphs referring to Pharaoh Ramses II the Great, it is the oldest monument in Paris.
Of the two Luxor obelisks offered to the French people by the Viceroy of Egypt Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1829, only one obelisk made it to Paris. Because of its weight (227 tons), its height (23 meters), and the difficulties of transport by Nile River, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and Seine River, it took two years of travel (12,000 km) and three years to dismantle and assemble in the square.
The current pink granite base illustrates, on two of its sides, the story of the transport and erection of the obelisk on the Place de la Concorde, and on the other two sides, a self-tribute to King Louis Philippe I, who sponsored the obelisk’s journey from Egypt to Paris.
Eventually, France refused to pick up the second obelisk until President François Mitterrand officially returned it on September 26, 1981.
In 1998, the small stone pyramid atop the obelisk was covered with 23.5-carat gold leaf.
On June 21, 1999, the obelisk was transformed into the “world’s largest sundial” during the summer solstice to mark the passage of the year 2000. The bronze lines and the Roman numerals from the number VII to XVII marked on the square’s ground are part of a giant sundial whose Luxor obelisk serves as the gnomon.
To read the edition 9 of our inflight magazine Azorean Spirit click here.