The city was founded in the 3rd century BC. by the Celtic Parisii tribe, from which its name is derived. Its location made it a convenient waypoint for goods and the Parisii traded with merchants from as far away as Spain. Soon enough, it attracted the Romans, who conquered it in 52 BC and transformed it into a quintessential Roman city, complete with a full range of Roman amenities like forums, baths and temples. Since then, Paris has been considered a cultural center, not just for its food and wine, but for its leading role in certain ideological movements. Of course, it has earned its title of the “City of Light”, which refers both to its role in the Age of Enlightenment but also because it pioneered the widespread usage of gas lamps—by 1870, the city had installed over 50,000 gas lamps.
These days, Paris remains a cultural center, and its forward-thinking persona manifests itself in many ways: architecturally, aesthetically, gastronomically, etc. Without plunging (or ascending, dependent on perspective) into a long-winded philosophical discussion of French nombrilisme, here are some of our favorite parts of our trip.
The Eiffel Tower
The tallest structure in Paris (~1,063 feet), the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 as the entrance to that year’s World Fair, which was hosted in Paris. It’s named for its architect, Gustave Eiffel.
When we got there, we took the elevator to the second floor and were instantly reminded of the Eiffel Tower’s open-structure design. The winds kicked in and gusted at around 30 miles per hour, compounding the low temperature, which was hovering in the high 20’s. Pining for a couple of chocolat chauds, we decided to make the descent.
Not realizing how far we had come up, we took the stairs. All 250+ of them, only to realize that we still had to wait for the elevator to get back to ground level. However, we were rewarded with a magnificent view at the bottom. The structural beauty and architectural genius wasn’t readily apparent until we got to the bottom and looked up to see every beam, arch, and support lit up by massive lights. It’s really a beautiful structure, and one can only imagine how much more impressive it was at the 1889 World Fair, before the world became accustomed to skyscrapers.
Walking Tour – Dessert Edition
Talk to most people about Paris and you’re liable to find yourself in a heavily nostalgic discussion about food and wine. Naturally, we had to have ourselves a tasting of some of Paris’ best. We took a walking tour of chocolate and pastry shops like Gérard Mulot, La Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Hermé, Pierre Macolini, Un Dimanche à Paris, etc. Given that words—English words, at that—would not do these justice, here are some pictures.
Check back here for Part Two: Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur!