Travel: Three Days in Paris - Magical, Enchanting, Bewitching

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During my visit to London, I decided to take the Eurostar to Paris for the weekend to take in the most iconic monuments and whiz around the city with effortless stealth skill of a seasoned traveler.

Leaving London from the St. Pancras train station, I arrived at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris in a little over two hours. Gare du Nord is a huge, centrally located transportation hub for all Euro intercontinental train service, as well as the Paris Metro Subway system which is relatively easy to navigate.

Gare du Nord train station (Image credit: Janet Walker).

As this was my first trip and I was in Paris, I wanted to take in the culture and the sights. So, I decided to walk from the train station to my accommodations, which looked doable on my small cellphone screen. As it was, it was somewhat further than I anticipated.

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Gare du Nord train station (Image credit: Janet Walker).

So instead of the nine-minute subway ride, I ended up walking for about an hour, and finally I arrived at The Louvre Art Museum. Fortunately, also a central hub for transportation. By this time, I gave in and took a taxi, which was an experience I will never forget.

My walking cost me a half day of sightseeing and so I was down to two days. The next day, I made my way to the Musee d' Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe, The Eiffel Tower and ended the day walking the Avenue Champs de Elysees. For all my initial stumbling Paris was everything I had hoped.

The Grand Hall Musee d'Orsay (Image credit: Janet Walker).

While The Louvre seems to be synonymous with Paris, the lesser celebrated Musee d'Orsay is stunning in both collection and architecture. The building itself, is a former train station with high arched windows, is breathtaking. The original ornate clock remains. The Orsay was created after The Louvre moved its collection of late 19th and early 20th Century Art.

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Upon entry, the Beaux-Art architecture, made famous in the late 19th century in Paris is captivating. The Orsay houses a collection of stone sculptures, which were very mesmerizing. Rodin's Purgatory, a massive two pane panel depicting various level of hell still resonates.

Musee d'Orsay (Image credit: Janet Walker).

Described by the Museum, "Inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, Rodin sculpted "The Gates of Hell." It was meant to serve as the entrance to a Decorative Arts Museum that was never built. Consequently, Rodin continued to refine the work for 37 years, until his death in 1917. In total, 180 figures are represented in the work, most of them in tortured poses."

More intriguing to me, the time it would have taken to create any of the sculptures. Painstaking attention to a vision which would only be seen by the artist, in the imagination.

Musee d'Orsay (Image credit: Janet Walker).

As a former resident of Manhattan's Upper West Side, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a walk across the park, and often became a respite of sorts. It was there I discovered "Wheat Fields in Cypress" by Vincent van Gogh. During my visit to the Orsay, most of the van Gogh collection was on loan with only a few works available for viewing. Still, the work is hypnotic.

Musee d'Orsay (Image credit: Janet Walker).

It is possible to wander through the museum for hours and still not see all the exhibits, sculptures, paintings, miniatures, collections. Plan for a full day.

For more information: Musee d'Orsay

The Eiffel Tower, of course, is Paris' most famous landmark and instantly recognized anywhere in the world. There is so much to see and experience in Paris, trying to squeeze everything into two days proved a bit challenging and as it was, waiting in line for the Observation Deck was not doable. It certainly makes a return trip in order.

From the Arc de Triomphe (Image credit: Janet Walker).

For more information: The Eiffel Tower

Of course, visiting the Arc de Triomphe is a must for any traveler. A war monument dedicated to those who died in service to the nation. The imposing arch stands at the intersection of five streets called the Roundabaout on Place Charles de Gaulle on the Avenue Champs de Elysees and offers stunning views of the entire city from the top.

 Arc de Triomphe (Image credit: Janet Walker).

From the top, you say. Yes, it is possible to visit the top of the famous arch. Accessing the roof can be done through a small circular staircase, which for those who are claustrophobic or unable to climb stairs is not the best option. Option, you say. Yes, there is more than one access point to the roof deck of the Arc de Triomphe. I know this as I was one of those who just felt it was impossible to wait in the congested, extremely slow-moving line, on the spiral staircase. So halfway up, I turned around and forced everyone to stand to the side while I exited. While catching my breath at the bottom, a kind gentleman approached me and asked If I'd like to take the elevator to the top. "Elevator," I said, and he replied "yes."

Avenue Champs de Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe (Image credit: Janet Walker).

And so, I took the elevator to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, visited the gift shop, and ended up with stunning pictures of the Eiffel Tower, and the entire city. After, I wandered down the Champs de Elysees, enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris.

For more information: Arc de Triomphe

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As Paris is the Capital of so many expressions, art, culinary mastery, cuisine, and wine, and as I have a penchant for pastry arts, having enjoyed opportunities at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, under some the most decorated chefs in the world, I decided to enroll in a recreational pastry arts class in Paris. Which I would recommend for anyone who enjoys culinary or pastry arts.

Avenue Champs de Elysees  (Image credit: Janet Walker).

The afternoon recreational classes were limited in size to no more than eight students and were held at the pastry kitchen of Le Chef en Box, a subscription pastry service. The couple who operated the service, Anais Hody and Chef Anthony Maupou, studied with great chef like Cédric Grolet, Cyril Lignac and Benoit Couvrand.

The afternoon was a fun filled opportunity to create delicious chocolate tarts. Recipes are available in my review: Paris: Le Chef en Box Patisserie Class Review – An Intoxicating, Mind Blowing, Chocolate Experience (Recipes)

Delicious chocolate tarts made at the Le Chef en Box pastry arts class (Image by Janet Walker).

For more information: Le Chef en Box

What I found most surprising was that in a city so tourist dependent, English is not commonly spoken or understood. And while I have some French language skills, they seem to escape me when I am faced with a native speaker. So, I do recommend a translation app or another device that instantly translates dozens of languages.

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Not seeing The Louvre or enjoying the views from The Eiffel Tower's Observation Deck are incentive enough to return to visit. As I reflect on the magical time, I'm looking forward to returning to the enchanting city of lights that is Paris.

Image Credit: Janet Walker.

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