Notre Dame Cathedral

La Gauche où La Droit?

 Right Bank vs. Left Bank – it’s a rivalry like none other – Hamilton vs. Burr, chocolate vs. vanilla, Coke vs. Pepsi; Right Bank vs. Left Bank. For those of you unfamiliar with French history the original town of Paris was established on a small isle in the middle of the River Seine. Connected to the mainland on either side by its stunning ponts, this central ‘Ile de la Cite’ holds great examples of gothic monuments, such as Notre Dame Cathedral. An inspiration to many other cathedrals of its time and famed for its flying buttresses and gargoyles, this Cathedral was frozen in time and literary history by Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The Right side (or East/North side) of the river is the Right Bank. It holds the Louvre Museum, The Tuileries Gardens, the Opera Garnier (the setting of the Phantom of the Opera), the idyllic and classy Marais district, Montmartre and the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. The ‘Grand Etoile,’ a large roundabout, is proof that only the brave drive in Paris and standing in the middle; the Arc de Triomphe.  While a walk down the Champs Elysées is a must, shopping and dining here can be spendy. But, you’ll find Europe’s most luxurious and chic fashion houses and the experience is grand. For food, I suggest walking a few blocks in any direction which will warrant the same delicacies, typically more affordable and less crowded. However, don’t be alarmed if at any time you find the French to sit nearer to you than further away as we are accustomed to in the US – c’est normal to them.

The Left side (or West/South side) of the river is the Left Bank. It contains the prestigious St Germain des Près district and the Latin Quarter; thus named because all of the students at the Sorbonne spoke Latin predominantly. You can also find the Grand Palais Royale, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Montparnasse, the Musée d’Orsay and the most famous sight; the Eiffel Tower. While many first-comers to Paris will find the climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower a necessity, it is a long line and a long hike if you choose the stairs. There are 2 restaurants here, but again, I prefer to walk a few blocks in any direction to satiate my culinary palate. The wide boulevards were created during the Napoleon era and the metro runs along similar routing underground. It is an easy public transportation system mirroring those in most other major cities. Even if the French language intimidates you, the system is user-friendly and efficient. It becomes easy after using the metro a few times.

Regardless of where you find yourself in Paris there is always be a boulangerie around for your fresh bread; a fromagerie for your cheese; and quaint locally owned and operated cafés and bistros for your coffee, wine and meals. If you prefer, you can always stop for a quick Panini or baguette sandwich along the street and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the freshness and quality for a pretty price point. In fact, after our day of walking with major jet lag and the time change, a Panini and a beer (yes you can buy that on the street as well) never tasted better than at 2AM! Delish


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Leisure Travel Specialist at Travel Leaders (Stillwater Office)

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