Unlike many southern French cities, Paris tends not to be associated with a Roman past. Some guidebooks barely mention their presence at all, or they do so only in passing. Not surprisingly then, of all the things to see and do in Paris the Roman sites rarely get a look in. Of course the Roman archaeology that does survive in Paris today is nowhere near as visually spectacular as say the amphitheatre in NÃ®mes or the theatre in Orange. But, for those interested in a deeper past of European cities there are some interesting Roman sites to visit.
Multimedia display in remains of Roman port in Notre Dame’s crypt
Soon after Julius Caesar defeated the Celts in 52 BC, the Romans established a settlement on the left bank of the Seine River. Although it would never become an administrative centre, its location on the navigable river meant the settlement would always be strategic for shipping and maritime commerce. Visitors to the crypt of the Notre Dame Cathedral can see the remains of the Roman port. A wonderful but simple multimedia display that adds life to the stone foundations, and children today excitedly watch the arrival in port of a Roman ship (below).
An exception can be found on Boulevard Saint-Michel, where the substantial remains of what was one of a number of public bath houses can be seen from the street (above). This bath house still stands today because it was not destroyed by the Franks when they sacked the city in the mid fifth century AD, and it has been in continuous use since. Part of the building now houses the National Middle Ages Museum.
Reconstruction of Roman amphitheatre in Paris
As with all sizeable Roman towns, Lutetia also had an amphitheatre. Do not expect anything like the Colosseum in Rome – that was after all the biggest and most elaborate amphitheatre in the entire Roman world. Today the ArÃ¨nes de LutÃ¨ce is a reconstruction of the amphitheatre that was located just beyond the edge of the Roman town. That there is anything there at all today is thanks in part to Victor Hugo who spearheaded a campaign to have the remains preserved when they were discovered in the 1860s.
The Romans were by no means the first to settle in Paris. The earliest evidence of human habitation along the Seine River goes back some 10,000 years. One of the earliest dugout canoes to have been excavated in Europe can be seen on display in the Carnavalet Museum; along with many other archaeological objects from the earliest times in Paris.
More Paris Tips
If you’re in Paris to attend a football or rugby match or a gig at the Stade de France, we’ve ideas for day trips by car from the Stade de France area in our guest post on the carhiremarket.com site. Having a hire car will enable you to visit places such as the Montmorency Forest and the Isle d’Adam, giving you a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Paris.
With so much to see and do in the French capital of Paris. I’d start planning my Paris trip by thinking about my sightseeing itinerary. Having some ideas about what I’d like to see in Paris would allow me to decide in which area I wished to stay e.g. close to the route of the Axe Historique. While the Paris Metro is usually very efficient and reasonably priced,Â I’d prefer to stay in a hotel that’s not too far from the attractions that I wished to visit. Once I’d checked out hotel prices and availability, I’d book my flights to Paris. The city’s Charles de Gaulle Airport is served by a wide selection of airlines including Emirates, easyJet and Air France, which means that there are daily flights from most destinations to Paris. Once my flight was arranged, I’d book my hotel in Paris and then firm up my daily schedules.
Constructed between the Louvre and Tuileries Palaces between 1806 and 1808, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel commemorates Napoleon’s military victories of 1807. Today the arch has a statue that was installed in 1828, which represents Peace riding a triumphal chariot that was created to celebrate the restoration of the Bourbons after the downfall of Napoleon. This Quadriga replaced a much more the famous quadriga from Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Venice – looted by Napoleon when he captured the Italian city in 1798. Following Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the return of the Bourbons to the French Monarchy, France immediately gave the Venetian quadriga back.
So what might at first seem to be nothing more than random accumulation of monuments along a straight road (they do exist!) through Paris, is in fact a very significant focus for the commemoration of cultural and historical events in the story of the capital city. Over the years, successive French leaders have added monuments to the axis, at various political junctures in France’s history. And this shows no sign of having ended. There are now plans to extend the axis further west through the city of Nanterre.
It hurts to admit it, but my only visit to France has been an accident. A flight delay gave me a night (and a very early morning in Paris), and sneaking a visit to the Eiffel Tower on my way to the airport was all I could squeeze in.Donâ€™t get me wrong, Iâ€™d love to see Paris the way it is meant to be seen, while discovering all its corners and streets, visiting the museums, and trying (yet failing to) manage French. For now, I made a list of museums that I shouldnâ€™t miss the next time I go there, including tips from fellow writers on some of the best museums in Europe. You’ll find plenty more tips on what to do in Paris on Europe a al Carte.
Tomorrow, 27 January, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet troops in 1945. This anniversary had been variously observed by different groups and nationalities for some time, but it was only in November 2005 that the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 60/7 designated 27 January an international day of remembrance.
This week the national French railway company, SNCF, handed over to local officials the former railway station in the Paris suburb of Bobigny for the creation of a new memorial to the French victims of the Nazi concentration camps. Not only was the state-owned SNCF’s equipment and staff used to transport some 76,000 French and other European Jews to Germany, and on to various concentration camps, it was from the station in Bobigny that these final journeys began. Fewer than 3000 people are thought to have returned to France.
For the first time, SNCF last year expressed its “sorrow and regret” for the role the company played in the deportation of Jews during World War II.
Another evocative part of the monument is a narrow chamber on which the walls have been covered by 200,000 crystals – each with light shining through them. Each one intended to represent the life of a French citizen who died in the concentration camps.
And, as with many other Holocaust memorial monuments, the exit of the chamber bears the words; Forgive but never forget.
January 2011 is the fifth year that the city hosts “Soldes by Paris“. Or, ‘Sales by Paris’ – the city’s sale event of the year, which lasts throughout the month, and in some areas even into February. As an indication of how seriously the planning and marketing of this event has been, the city has produced ‘shopping itineraries’ – five of them in fact. As the Shopping By Paris strap-line goes: 5 different itineraries for 5 different styles â€“ and they are Select, Trendy, Creative, Bobo-Chic and Ethic-Ethnic. The organisers have even thought of the ‘Savvy itinerary’ for those people who favour stock clearance stores and cut-price designer labels. VoilÃ ! There truly is something for everyone!
But, no shopping tips for Paris would be complete without mentioning the Saint-Ouen flea market; the city’s largest, dating back to the nineteenth century. Here you will find everything from antique furniture to vintage clothes. Urban legend has it that one lucky shopper found a a grand master’s painting. That may not happen again, but you will find something quirky and interesting. Given the weekend crowds, its advisable to avoid this area during the weekend. Unless, of course it is crowds you are after. Certain shops in Paris still close on Sundays, for religious reasons. Increasingly, however, many shops open on Sundays – particularly for the tourist trade.
I stayed at the Seven Hotel Paris for one night in November 2010, on a complimentary basis, during my easyJet 15 Hour Blogger Challenge. The hotel is located in the 5th arrondissement, close to the Latin Quarter. It’s a design boutique hotel. I must say my first impression was that it felt like an upmarket massage parlour with the strong scents and velvety chairs and curtains.
Seven Hotel Paris lobby
I loved my Levitation Room. The bed seemed to be suspended from the wall with no visible means of support anywhere else.Â It was one of the most comfortable beds in which I’ve ever slept.Â Combined with double glazing which shut out all exterior noise and a thermostatic control which took effect quickly to reach a pleasant overnight temperature, I had a wonderful sleep.
My room at Seven Hotel Paris
The sink and shower are in a transparent compartment with the toilet in a separate walled cubicle. The double sized shower had a central rain shower head and another two shower jets which could either be hand held or attached to the wall. The aromatherapy toiletries were lovely. There was a coffee machine in the room but no instructions on how to use it. The room was on the small side with no chairs or working space, so it seemed better suited to a leisure break.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a decent wifi signal in my room in the evening and had to go down to the lobby to get connected, as I’d have preferred to stay in my room. However, early the following morning I was able to get a good wifi signal, perhaps because no-one else was online at that time?
My room at Seven Hotel Paris
My room had fibre optics variable lighting. You get various effects such as stars at night in the sky painted ceiling.
Overall I really enjoyed my short stay, sleeping much better than I normally do in hotels.Â All the staff were really helpful and accommodating. If you’re looking for somewhere zany and funky to stay in the French capital, the Seven Hotel Paris is a great option. The main negatives for me were the poor wifi signal in my room and a 17 Euro per person charge for continental breakfast (whichÂ as far as I could see consisted of croissant, pain au chocolat, fruit and coffee). With room starting at 161 Euro a night, I think that breakfast should be included in the rate.
There really is so much to see and do in Paris, something to suit everyone’s tastes and interests. So well featured is this European city on the Europe a la Carte blog that Karen recently produced a post summarizing the Best of Paris Travel Tips as recommended in a number of posts on this blog over the last four years. But it really does not end there. There are still so many more attraction in Paris that make this city one of the best places to visit in Europe.
The suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is about 12 miles (20 km) to the west of the centre of Paris. The Saint-Germain station can be reached on Line A of the RER, and also on the Paris â€“ Saint-Lazare suburban rail line. For anyone who is particularly interested in prehistory and history of France, this Paris museum is well worth a visit.
If you are in the French capital for a short time and canâ€™t make it to the Palace of Versailles, one of the best things to do in Paris to get your opulence fix is a visit to the Napoleon apartments at the Louvre.
Located in the museumâ€™s Richelieu wing, these rooms continue to hold the luxury enjoyed (and probably expected) by the Emperor and his council.
Itâ€™s impossible to imagine a life lived in the gold and velvet splendor of these quarters. It holds an aura of formality. Even when a comfortable arm chair pops up, itâ€™s accented by ornate lamps and vases.
The furnishings are works of art, carefully carved, polished and upholstered. And then there are the works of art – murals, paintings, vases, sculptures, mirrors, chandeliers and clocks, each more exquisite than the other.
Along with the very lavish public rooms, private rooms are also open to the public. They are smaller, and a little cozier, but look closer and youâ€™ll notice the intricate and impressive antiquities and accents.
Even if you donâ€™t enjoy museum visits, the apartments can be pretty interesting, besides it’s an opportunity for taking some great photos!
On 22 December 2010, easyJet announced that I was voted Top Traveller in the easyJet 15 hour Blogger Challenge. A big thank you to everyone who voted for the video of my challenge in Paris in the Facebook poll.
As part of easyjet’s 15th birthday celebrations, four travel bloggers took part in the “easyJet 15 hour Blogger Challenge“.Â I was one of the four bloggers flying to a secret destination in Europe, where we’d have 15 hours to explore that city with Â£100 to spend.Â We didn’t know our destination until we arrived at the airport to check in.Â We were accompanied by Kane, easyJet’s social media planner, who took photos and videos of our challenge.
My easyJet 15 Hour Blogger Challenge
My Challenge kicked off on Tuesday 23 November at 6am at Luton Airport. where my secret destination was revealed as Paris.
My Â£100 spending budget only equated to 100 Euro at a Luton Airport bureau de change. I never change my money at a UK airport, as the rates of exchange are low and the commission high.Â I’ve researched this topic in my post “Best Debit Cards for Use Abroad” where I recommend a FairFX Anywhere card with a flat fee of 1.5% for purchases and cash machine withdrawals.Â I go to a cash machine at my arrival airport and get out some cash in the local currency there. Using the FairFX card can increase your holiday spending money by up to 10% compared to using an UK airport bureau de change.
After paying 18 Euro for a return train/metro ticket from Charles de Gaulle Airport to my accommodation, the Seven Hotel Paris, I realised that 100 Euro wasn’t going to go very far in the French capital, as I’d to spend some more money on transport and buy food.Â However, as my time was limited I thought I’d rather explore Paris than linger over lunch and dinner.
My room at Hotel Seven Paris
After checking into the hotel I thought I should spend some time online checking up on the Paris tips I’d received in Facebook and Twitter. However, that plan was rather thwarted by the poor wifi signal in my room. After I’d managed to arrange to meet Michael and Marlys tweeting as @Paris Buff for a guided Paris Movie Walk in Montmartre that afternoon, I decided I’d better get out and about. Fortunately I’d recently compiled a Best of Paris Travel Tips post on the Europe a la Carte Blog, so I had some ideas on what I could do in Paris.
There was a great baker and patisserie close to the hotel, so the 4.5 Euro Formule consisting of a ham baguette, a slice of flan and a drink was a fast, delicious and cheap lunch option.
Patisserie near Hotel Seven
We arrived in Montmartre early for our appointment with ParisBuff so walked up the steps towards Sacre Coeur which offered views over a rather cloudy Paris.
Dusk was falling by the time we began our walk with Michael and Marlys, I just caught the illuminations firing up on Sacre Coeur.
Sacre Coeur at dusk
Montmartre was looking very magical with the fairy lights in the trees.
Montmartre by night
We had a tasty potato topped salad at Relais Gascoine, as recommended by Michael and Marlys before heading for the Arc de Triomphe and a walk down to the Champs Elysees to the Place de la Concorde.
Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde
Then it was back to the hotel for an early night to prepare for any early start the next morning.
Next morning after a visit to the bakers close to the hotel for breakfast, we took the Metro to Notre Dame with a quick stop at the Fontaine St Michel.
Fontaine St Michel
I’d planned to climb the tower at Notre Dame as suggested by Kimberly in her post “Paris from Quasimodo’s Perspective” but there was a long queue so I had to make do with a quick look around the interior.
The rear of Notre Dame
It was such a lovely day that we decided to walk along the Seine to the Louvre.
The Louvre Pyramid
Then we continued along the banks of Seine toward the Eiffel Tower.
Eiffel Tower from the banks of the River Seine
We made the big mistake of going for lunch at a restaurant close to the Eiffel Tower, mainly as I needed a rest after all that walking. The food was not very good and the portions small. I said goodbye to Kane after a coffee, as his return flight was earlier than mine. I decided to do a bit more sightseeing before returning to the hotel to pick up my luggage.
The Musee de l’Armee was looking beautiful in the afternoon sun.
Musee de l’Armee in Paris
I’d hoped to go up the Montparnasse Tower as Neha thinks that it offers the best views of Paris. However, it was longer to walk there than I’d anticipated, so I didn’t have time to go up.
Montparnasse Tower, Paris
Then it was time to pick up my case and head to the airport, little did I know that my biggest challenge was still to come, getting back home.
My flight back to Newcastle from Charles de Gaulle Airport was delayed for more than 2 hours as Newcastle Airport was closed due to snow. We were sitting in the plane not knowing what would happen for almost 2 hours, at one stage the pilot thought we might have to be diverted to Edinburgh, not good for me as a taxi had been booked to take me home from Newcastle to Berwick upon Tweed. However, we did finally land at Newcastle around 22.45.Â There was no sign of the taxi or contact from them.Â There was a long queue at the taxi rank, no taxis there and it started to snow again. It seemed that the best course of action was to hang around the airport until early morning and then make my way to Berwick by public transport. When I phoned my husband to tell him I wouldn’t be home that night, he said he’d come and pick me up.Â I finally arrived home at 3.30am after a horrendous drive north on the snowy A1.
Podcast about my easyJet 15 Hour Blogger Challenge in Paris
I hope that I managed to take a note of everyone who offered me Paris tips. Due to my limited time in Paris and not getting a decent wifi signal on arrival at my hotel, I wasn’t able to follow many of the tips. I haven’t been able to retrieve all the tips made on Twitter so I’m just linking to the Twitter streams. I managed to retrieve the tips on Facebook more easily.
James Benedict Brown – I suggest you head to my favourite arrondissement, the 11th. It’s a Tuesday, so you wil…l find the beautiful and lively food market on Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, just near Oberkampf metro. It’s always been the first stop when we take self-catering breaks in this densely populated and diverse neighbourhood of the city. Then turn east and walk uphill towards Belleville and Menilmontant, two of the prettiest, most diverse and most interesting neighbourhoods of the city. Reward yourself with a drink at La Mer Ã Boire, which has a stunning view over Parc de Belleville towards the skyline of Paris.
Easyjet Top Traveller
Now that all the bloggers have done their challenge, our endeavours will be judgedÂ in terms of entertainment value, utility and originality, by easyjet Facebook fans, so thatÂ a “Top Traveller” can be crowned.Â If you vote for the “Top Traveller” you then have the chance to win a two night holiday in the winning featured city.
There are a lot of hotels within a short walk from Gare du Nord station, the Paris Eurostar terminal. However few of the Paris Gard du Nord hotels rate very highly amongst previous guests. Being central Paris, there is nothing really fitting a “budget” category, and curiously there are no highly-rated luxury hotels in the area either. Here are ten of the best hotels (with guest ratings of over 75%) within half a mile of Gare du Nord, with prices shown for a double room for Tuesday November 16 2010.
The Soft Hotel Paris (Â£76) markets itself as being an “affordable design hotel” with fancy furnishings but reasonable rates. It has modern, clean rooms and a central location. It receives an average of 78% from 112 verified guest reviews.
Each room at the Eurostars Panorama Hotel Paris (Â£88) features pictures or words from a different star, for example there’s an Edith Piaf room amongst others. It is fully renovated and located in a quiet side street, and offers 24-hour bar service. It receives an average of 78% from 556 verified guest reviews.
Hotel Peyris Opera Paris (Â£86) is quiet with just 50 rooms, includes free WiFi in the lobby and has been recently renovated. It’s close to the Paris Opera as well as the train station but some say the rooms are a little cramped. The hotel scores 80% in unverified reviews.
Paris Gare du Nord mid-range hotels
Holiday Inn Paris Gare De L’Est (Â£102) is also close to Gare du Nord and the location directly opposite Gare De L’est and next to the metro station is ideal. The rooms are small but clean. the hotel receives an average of 80% from 682 verified guest reviews.
The Hotel La Tour D’Auvergne Paris (Â£101) is beautifully decorated and also in a handy location near the stations.With only 24 rooms it is particularly quiet. It receives an average of 82% from 23 verified reviews.
At the Hotel Windsor Opera Paris (Â£103) the rooms are more spacious than average for a central Paris hotel and the staff have a reputation for being friendly and helpful. It scores an average of 86% from 83 verified guest reviews.
The 58-room Best Western Aida Opera Hotel Paris (Â£96) offers free WiFi and larger than average rooms for the price range. It scores an average of 78% from 87 verified guest reviews.
The Hotel Francais Paris(Â£106), not to be confused with the Grand Hotel Francais, (a much pricier place) is set amongst lively shops and still close to the major train stations, and its business centre offers free WiFi. It receives an average of 78% from 301 verified guest reviews.
The stylish 9 Hotel Paris (Â£107) has been recommended by Wallpaper magazine, although again many guests say the rooms are a little on the small side for the price. With only 35 rooms spread over six floors,it is a quiet boutique hotel with friendly staff. It receives an average of 80% from 518 verified guest reviews.