Friday 10 May 2013

Paris: Île de la Cité

The big K and I are the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) kind of travelers. We prefer to travel and visit places on our own pace. We plan, organize and arrange our own travels. Well okay, I plan and arrange, the big K tags along and most importantly pays for the trip. Always works for us!

As in any one of our travel planning, the biggest challenge for us is how best to see a place in a very limited time but still get to enjoy it as if we have the luxury of time. Got you confused, haven't I? Let's just say we would be the last team to step on the mat in the Amazing Race.

Before each trip we take, months are spent reading travel books and surfing the net to come up with an efficient itinerary to see a city. Take Paris for example, we grouped all the sights we wanted to see per area. In this way we didn't waste precious time zipping around the city getting from one place to another.  

Since we're on the subject of Paris, might as well write about the places we visited in our trips to La Ville-Lumière, the City of Light.

La Tour Eiffel, the quintessential symbol of Paris.
Paris 101

Just a quick geography lesson, Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements or districts. The river Seine divides the city into the right bank (La Rive Droite) on the north side and the left bank (La Rive Gauche) on the south side. The arrondissements are arranged in a spiral starting from the right bank moving clockwise. To get an idea on how the arrondissements are arranged, you can click on this link.

In case you’re wondering where your hotel, apartment or the attractions are located, check the last two digits of the address’ zip/area code. When you see 75001 or 75018, the former will be at the 1st district or 1ere arrondissement while the latter would be at the 18th district or 18eme arrondissement.  

The Islands of Paris

Yup! There is an island in Paris. Two, actually. The Île de la Cité and the much smaller Île Saint-Louis wherein the former is considered the center of Paris. Below are some of the landmarks you can find at the Île de la Cité


Cathedrale de Notre-Dame de Paris

Entrance to the church is free but if you want to climb the towers be ready for a workout. To get to the top you will have to climb an enclosed stairwell of 401 narrow stone steps. Not for the claustrophobic!

Halfway up the tower there is a gift shop where you can rest and catch your breath. And when you get to the top, voila!   

The climb was truly worth it!
The Pantheon as seen from the Notre Dame towers. 
The off-white tower on the upper right is the Saint-Jacques Tower and the little speck beyond that is the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur perched on top of the Montmartre hill.

The Rose Windows of Notre Dame

North Rose Window
South Rose Window

The Notre Dame is a very popular site. Understandably there is always a long wait in line to climb the towers or to enter the church (unless you'll be there first thing in the morning!). To climb the towers when facing the cathedral, the line will be along the the left side of the church. The towers are included in the Paris Museum Pass. If you didn't get the pass there is an entrance fee of EUR8,50.

Notre Dame was among one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses.

Point Zero

If you see people taking pictures of their feet at the square right in front of the church that would be Point Zero or kilometer zero of all French national highways. The marker is considered the official center of the city of Paris.

Palais de Justice


Located inside the Justice compound, you'll have to join the queue outside to go through security. Once inside the compound, if you have the Paris Museum Pass you can bypass the long line of ticket-buying visitors. Just show your pass at the entrance booth to go inside the chapel. Entry fee without the pass is EUR8,50

The big K and I liked this church better because of the tall, stained glass windows circling the upper chapel. Better to go in the afternoon when sunlight is streaming in through the stained glass windows. Magical!


Located within the same compound as the Palais de Justice. Entrance without the pass is EUR8,50. A former royal palace and prison. Marie Antoinette was imprisoned here before she was led to the guillotines. Her former cell is now a chapel dedicated in her memory.

And after enjoying all these sites, you may want to head off to Île Saint-Louis for a scoop or two of ice cream at Berthillon, one of the oldest ice cream makers in Paris. 

How to get here:

Nearest Metro: Cité (4) , 
RER B: St. Michel Notre-Dame 

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