Walks Along the Seine-A Day in Paris {France}

We began our day in Paris in the Saint Germaine area with a perfectly French breakfast of croissants, coffee, and fruit at Cafe Louise. The cafe was so elegant and had a great view of the street and we enjoyed just sitting there and watching the passersby as we ate. The day was off to a wonderful start.

After breakfast we were ready for a day of walking through this beautiful city. We happened upon another popular café- Les Deux Magots. Opened in 1885, this cafe has a reputation of having been the meeting place of some of the city’s most elite literary and intellectual people. It was here that Simone de Beauvoir, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Julia Child, and many others came to be inspired. The name means roughly ‘two Chinese figurines’ and comes from a novelty shop that use to occupy the premises before becoming the restaurant of the elite.

We walked across the bridge and marveled at the beautiful Seine River. This river is 483 miles long and is just as central to French culture and identity as any of the buildings or structures. With 37 different bridges that cross the river, there is no end to finding lovely views of the river.

We found ourselves walking through one of the back corners of The Louvre. Before reaching the front, I was already overwhelmed by the incredible architecture of this former royal palace. Seemed such a fitting place to be the home of thousands of pieces of art and history.

If a small courtyard was overwhelming in beauty, it was nothing compared to walking into the main front area and being surrounded by the rest of the palace with the glass pyramids out front. There are some who feel that pyramids take away from the beauty of the building. But I quite loved the mix of that beautiful Renaissance style and the modern art of the glass pyramids. Since there is such a wealth of art within, it seems only natural to have different styles of art outside as well.

Originally built in the 12th to 13th century under Phillip II, it was built as a fortress. Later in 1546 it became the royal residence under the direction of King Francis. He commissioned a great expansion of what was a fortress into a palace fit for a king. Wanting to keep pace with the styles of the Renaissance that was happening at the time, he ordered the addition of columns and statues and wanted the building have a perfect sense of symmetry and proportion to it.

You could easily spend a month at The Louvre taking in all that it holds. But for most people that is too much time and so they run through trying to see some highlights. One of the most popular residents is the Mona Lisa. But visitors are often disappointed to see how small of a painting it is and how difficult it is to see past all the protective layers and the masses of people trying to catch a glimpse of her. Another favorite resident is that of Winged Victory, a masterpiece of Greek Hellenistic Art.

We walked by the inverted pyramid coming down from the ceiling and touching points with a smaller pyramid of stone. This skylight was part of the renovation project of The Louvre in 1993. It later became a interesting point in Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. Whether a piece of art, a functional skylight, or something a little more intriguing and mysterious- the inverted pyramid is a fascinating addition to the museum.

Paris has a lot of high end shopping places. But even some of the big names showed their creativity and whimsey on their building like the artist and her paint spots on the outside of Luis Vuitton.

We continued walking through the city with another cross of the Seine. The buildings in Paris are so lovely with the delicate wrought iron work and the delicate details everywhere.

When we walked up to the construction site that is Notre Dame, I felt such a heartsicking sadness. We came up to the side of the building and so we were greeted first by the cranes and scaffolding around this beautiful cathedral as people are working tirelessly to restore back to its former glory after the fire of a few years ago. The damage of the fire was so extensive that it will be a few more years before this project is finished and people will be welcomed back in.

Seeing Notre Dame from the front though and reading through some of the boards about the restoration project helped to ease the sadness of the site. The front remains untouched by the damage and still is the impressive and majestic entrance that it was. One of the reasons that the restoration will take so long is because of the determination to build it back just as it was with incredible attention to the historical and symbolic aspects back in place as they were.

Notre Dame was built between 1163-1495 and is considered one of the greatest examples of gothic architecture. The cathedral boasts of being a leading example of the rib and vault flying buttresses, the large rose windows, and of having three pipe organs. Notre Dame suffered extensive desecration of religious imagery during the French Revolution. There was talk about tearing it down but then Victor Hugo came out with ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and the interest the cathedral gained from the book’s popularity encouraged people to restore it instead. Today, Notre Dame is the most visited monument in the city of Paris.

Right across the street from Notre Dame is the Shakesphere and Company bookstore which has become a Paris institution in itself. This English language bookstore first opened in 1919. I had to buy a copy of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and they stamped the inside of the book with the logo of the store. This is my favorite bookstore I have visited.

Seeing the Arc de Triomphe, one of the city’s most famous monuments, was incredible. This monument is the center of Paris at middle of the axis between the other monuments in the city. This arc honors those who died in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Buried under the central area is the tomb of the unknown solider from WWI. This has been the rallying point in Paris since it’s construction in 1810.

I found it interesting that Paris seems to have an American street. The street is named after President Woodrow Wilson, has a statue of President Washington, which is close to the President Kennedy Center. The statue of President George Washington was a gift from multiple women associations of America in 1900 in honor of the friendship and support that France gave the American colonies in their fight for independence in becoming their own country.

What I soon realized on this trip was that I had not planned for nearly enough time in this city to really see everything I wanted to. I started making a list for next time of the places I want to come back and experience. There is just so much history, art, and architecture that this city has to share with me.

While the favorite bridge across the Seine is Pont Neuf, one of the most decorative bridges is Pont Alexander with the golden statues and heavy iron lampposts. The detail and artistry given to this bridge were incredible. And it gave a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine.

Our day ended with the Eiffel Tower rising above the streets of Paris. The Eiffel Tower was created as a centerpiece for the 1889 World Fair. When it was erected there was a general outcry of the people of Paris. Petitions and protests went through the city with the angry cry of the tower being a horrible scar on the beautiful face of Paris. But despite the protest against it, the tower remained and is now the icon of the city throughout the world.

We stopped by the Jardin du Trocadéro for a ride on the carousel next to the Eiffel Tower. This was the highlight for our daughter who insisted on getting a purple beret for the visit to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower makes for a beautiful backdrop to this double decker carousel.

We decided against going all the way to the top of the tower and instead settled for the second story with beautiful views of the city and a box of macrons from the shop there. These incredible engineering masterpiece stands at 1,083 feet tall. For 41 years it held the title of tallest man made structure in the world until it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building in New York City in 1930. And then in 1964 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While we were there, they were doing some work on the tower in anticipation of the Olympics coming to Paris in 2024.

The could be no better way to end our first day in Paris then by visiting the Eiffel Tower. We wanted to stay and wait for the lights to come on, but after traveling and then walking through the city all day we wouldn’t have made it much longer. So we added that to our ‘when next in Paris’ list that was growing longer by the minute.

It was a beautiful day in this beautiful city. We had waited for so long to come and now we are already looking forward to when we can come again. Paris is a place that seems to have travelers divided on whether they love it or hate it. But for me, I am joyously on the side of loving it and I think I could happily spend weeks here with my camera in one hand and a pastry in the other.

If you have enjoyed this visit to Paris, here are some other favorite cities of mine:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Pape’ete, French Polynesia

Jerusalem, Israel

Thank you for joining me on this visit to Paris. May life always have the hue of seeing things through rose colored glasses.

27 responses to “Walks Along the Seine-A Day in Paris {France}”

  1. Mmmmm. I can almost taste the croissants! 🥐 Isn’t Paris wonderful? I’ve been there 4 times and I’d happily go back. Next time you have to have a meal in the Jules Verne restaurant in the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower. It’ll knock your socks off. Also have you seen the Before Sunrise, Before Subset, Before Midnight trilogy? Not only are they my favorite movies, but the middle one starts out in Shakespeare & Co. We went there last time we were in Paris for that very reason. Finally, glad they are taking such care with the restoration of Notre Dame.

  2. You’re absolutely right, Meg, Paris does seem to split opinion. For the life of me I don’t know why, it’s a wonderful city with an exciting ambience and we both absolutely love being there. You seem to have had a very full day and seen many of the fabulous sights that Paris has to offer. I could actually close my eyes and get that “Paris feeling” as I read through your post. As it happens, we will be back there soon, and your day has made me even more excited about being there once again,

    • How fun that you will be back in Paris soon! I don’t understand why some people hate it there either- sure, it’s busy and has its tourist traps but that can be found anywhere. We just loved it and can’t wait to go back and see more and do more. It’s definitely a place that needs return visits to really see the city. Can’t wait to revisit this beautiful city with your post! 🙂

  3. Oh Meg, this post actually brought tears when I saw the photo of your daughter on the carousel. I know how long you have waited to get here with the delays and disappointment along the way. You’ve written a beautiful description of Paris, and I’m looking forward to reading more about your European adventure.

    • Thank you, that means a lot to me. That moment of watching her joy on the carousel gave me all the feels and happy tears. More than any other thing that day, that moment was the best part of the day in Paris. To wait so long and finally make it there was amazing. Now we can’t wait to go back and see more! 🙂

  4. You covered a lot in a single day in Paris. My husband actually proposed to me in Paris at the top of Notre Dame. It’s so weird to see it now after the fire. I’m with you on the side of loving Paris. I’d love to go back someday.

    • Oh what an amazing place to be proposed to! I just don’t understand why some people really don’t like Paris, I thought it was one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen. We would really love to go back and see more of it 🙂

  5. What a full day you had, and I’m so glad you loved Paris and finally got to visit 😊 we go next year for the Olympics and I’m dreading the crowdsa

    • Even with the crowds, what an amazing place to be for the Olympics! The whole city seems to be working on getting everything painted and refined for next summer. I can’t wait to watch the Olympics 🙂

  6. How wonderful Meg, I felt as if I was following along in your footsteps. It seems years since I was last in Paris but your detailed post has reminded me how gorgeous the city is.

  7. Love the Cafe Louise vibe, quality cafe time is one of those essential Paris experiences. Oh to be a fly on the wall of Les Deux Magots in the 1920s and 1930s. I like your appreciation of the glass pyramid and you make an excellent point that mixture of different styles mirrors the wealth of the art housed inside the Louvre. That’s a great souvenir to have from Paris -‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ with the Shakespeare and Company stamp. Your wonderful photos really showcase the charm and allure of the city. Beautiful photo of Tessa with a purple beret on the carousel.

    • Thank you- that picture of her on the carousel really just sums up the feeling of the whole trip. I can’t even imagine the conversations of Les Deux Magots at that time. Some waitress probably could have become a famous author just from writing down what she saw and heard working there. I started reading my ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ book on the way home and it just seemed all the better from reading it in college from having been there. 🙂

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