Friday, April 17, 2009

Paris is a city that's easy to get on top of. It's not overwhelmed with skyscrapers, which means you don't have to go very far or very high to enjoy a marvelous panorama. Below are four places with terrific views and that, together, offer a perfect introduction to the city's top attractions. Try making a day of it!


La Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower is the Paris icon, instantly recognized round the world. My favorite refrigerator magnet is a little metal Eiffel Tower that I bought several years ago from one of the bouquiniste stalls along the Seine.

The tower is definitely worth a visit. Elevators take visitors to the top. If you're in good shape and want exercise, try walking the stairs to the second level
(115 meters up) and take an elevator to the top from there. Walking is less expensive than taking the elevators the whole way--and there's never a line! Think about going at night, when the tower lights sparkle for five minutes on the hour. It's enchanting.

La Cathedrale de Notre Dame
Gothic Paris is on display at the cathedral of Notre Dame in the heart of the city. A visit to the top of the South Tower offers a view out over the river Seine, although be forewarned. There is no elevator to the top of the tower, so be prepared to walk all 387 steps. The gargoyles will be there to reward your effort.

Le Musee d'Orsay
The Musee d'Orsay is an easily recognized landmark along the Seine. It was once a train station (above), whose rail hall is now filled with sculptures (below). I especially love the museum's elegant grey roof. From a distance, it looks like a light covering of snow has settled on the building, even in summer.

If you've worn yourself out walking up the steps of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, wind up your day with an easy stroll through the museum's well known collection of impressionist art.

Then have a late lunch at one of the museum's lovely restaurants. The casual Cafe des Hauteurs is at the top level of the museum and offers a magnificent view over the river and toward the Louvre museum, the Opera (the Palais Garnier), and the basilica of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.

For a more elegant dining experience in another Left Bank museum, make reservations for dinner at Les Ombres. This restaurant (above), designed by Jean Nouvel, is on the terrace level of the Musee du Quai Branly (MQB). The museum is one of the city's newest and has an impressive collection of indigenous artwork from around the world. And you'll love the view of the Eiffel Tower, where you started your day!

Note to readers: Experiential Paris will not be posting next week, so look for the next entry on May 1.

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