What do you do when you get a free day in Paris? Since this wasn’t my first time in the city, I decided to skip the Louvre (though I would say it’s a must see) and the Champs-Elysées and explore areas of Paris I had not seen yet. After a light breakfast of tea and pastries at the hotel, I walked to the Quartier Latin to see the Grand Mosque of Paris.
Built in the 1920s as a symbol of France’s gratitude for the Muslim soldiers who fought in World War One, the mosque is a stark contrast to the crowded streets of Paris. The Moorish architecture with green and white tiles and beautiful courtyards were reminiscent of the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain. I even met local artists who come to the mosque every day with their paints and canvases for inspiration.
After taking a quick look at the library in the mosque, I took the “scenic” walking route back to the hotel. My first stop: the Jardin des Plantes. This botanical garden dates back to the 16th century and was planted by King Louis XIII’s physician to grow medicinal herbs. Today the garden houses a large collection of flora and fauna from around the world as well as the Natural History Museum. The shaded tree lined paths through the garden are a great place for a morning run. Second stop: the Jardin du Luxembourg. Considered one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg as well as the Luxembourg Palace located in the garden were built for Marie de’ Medici who was the regent queen of France in the early 17th century. Today the stunning palace is home to the French Senate.
I decided to swing by the hotel for a much needed hour in air conditioning and then walked to Le Bon Marché with a friend to see some haute couture. What I thought would be a quick stop soon turned into an hour and a half. I tested almost every single Chanel perfume from No 5 to No 19. I then walked to the Jardin de Tuileries and the Musee de l’Orangerie. I love impressionist art, so the Orangerie turned out to be one of my favorite places from the entire week we spent in Paris. Monet’s water lilies were even better than I had imagined. The eight canvases span oval walls which are shaped like an infinity symbol. Monet designed the space himself but never saw the exhibit realized during his life.
The museum boasts an impressive collection of works by the likes of Picasso to Renoir, Matisse, and Cézanne. I then hopped on the metro and headed to Montmartre to see the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. The moderate hike up the hill to the basilica was well worth it, and the terrace offers some of the most beautiful views of the city. I strolled around the streets of Montmartre. This charming neighborhood is filled with cozy cafes and cobbled streets.
Instead of taking the metro back to the left bank and the Saint Germain area, I decided to walk almost 3 miles back to the hotel. I walked by the Palais Garnier and the Louvre courtyard. After being unable to decide where to eat dinner since each restaurant I walked by looked even better than the last one, I sat along the Seine River and people watched as the sun set over the city. In the end I ate some delicious Vietnamese food at “I love Bo Bun” before heading back to the hotel for the night. By the end of the day and 35,000 steps later, Paris is still just as exciting with more neighborhoods to be seen and discovered. I will definitely be coming back here again.