Warm days in Paris can bring out the crowds, especially in the parks near the foot of the Eiffel Tower. While lines can be long year round, they get the worst around Bastille Day (July 14) when the picture on the right was taken. And once you get to the top, well, expect more congestion.
Most people visit tourist attractions to see the sights and say that they’ve been there. They snap photos of the monuments, pose for a few more shots so that they can prove that they were there and then move on. One clever young lady, however, decided to dance in front of some of the UK and Europe’s most famous places. And when Andrea Dighton dances, it’s not just glorified running in place. Seriously, how many of these dance moves can you perform? While we’re at it, how many landmarks can you identify in the video?
Around there globe, there are many amazing bridges that combine interesting history, incredible architecture and breathtaking views. Crossing a great bridge, especially on foot, can be quite a memorable experience, not to mention it’s completely free. While it is hard to choose only ten, here is a list of some of the best bridge walks around the world that everyone should experience.
When it comes to the Sydney Harbour Bridge you have a few options. You can either walk across the arch-shaped structure from one end to the other, taking in views of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House, or you can climb to the top. In 2010, climbing the bridge was actually rated one of the World’s Top Ten Experiences by Lonely Planet. During the climb, which takes you up more than 300 feet, you will be given protective clothing to aid against the weather and will be secured by a wire lifeline. Beginning at the eastern side of the bridge, climbers will ascend to the summit and go down on the western end.Charles Bridge
Prague, Czech Republic
The historic Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River and is about 1,700 feet long. Its construction began in 1357 under the sponsorship of King Charles IV. Today, the bridge is a lively attraction, with artists, entertainers, and marketers catering to tourists during the day. In the evening, the setting is a bit more peaceful and the bridge and Prague Castle are lit up, giving the structure an entirely different vibe. During both times, you will get great views of the city and its sites.
One of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan to Brooklyn and goes over the East River, giving walkers spectacular views of the New York City skyline. The main span of the structure is about 1,600 feet and is not only an icon of New York but also a National Historic Landmark. The bridge has been used during many situations by New Yorker’s to leave Manhattan on foot, such as during the blackouts of 1965, 1977, and 2003, as well as after the infamous 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The Henderson Waves Bridge is an 899-foot long pedestrian bridge that connects Mount Faber Park with Telok Blangah Hill Park. It is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, sitting 118 feet above Henderson Road. What makes this bridge so special is it’s unique curved design, making it look similar to a roller coaster, with hidden alcoves and seats inside. Make sure to experience this bridge at night in between 7PM and 2AM when the LED lights are on.
The Ponte Vecchio is a Medieval arch bridge that spans the Arno River. It’s most famous for still having shops on it, as was once very common. Stroll across the bridge while perusing the goods of artisans, jewelers, and souvenir sellers while taking photos of Renaissance architecture. The bridge also has a bit of an ironic history. After being destroyed by floods and being rebuilt multiple times, it is the only bridge in Florence not destroyed during WWII.
The Jacques Cartier Bridge is a steel truss bridge that gives people access to Montreal Island, St. Helen’s Island, and Longueuil. It spans the Saint Lawrence River and walking over it will give you spectacular views of Montreal, especially at night. In the summer the bridge closes to vehicular traffic for the annual fireworks competition held at La Ronde, with the Jacques Cartier being the best viewing spot for the show, sometimes drawing more than 50,000 people.
The Golden Gate Bridge in a suspension bridge that spans the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean (also known as the Golden Gate) and connects San Francisco to Marin County. It has been declared one of the modern Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers and has been said to be “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world” by Frommer’s travel guide.
While the stroll across the Tower Bridge is short, the views make this a must-experience. Often mistakenly referred to as the London Bridge, the structure holds two towers that are connected by two horizontal walkways. For a bit of an adventurous experience, go inside the towers to explore the exhibits of film, photos, and interactive displays. Then, walk across via the upper walkway for photo-worthy views of the Thames River and London’s famous sites.
Of course, a bridge that gives views of the Eiffel Tower and the Chaillot Palace would have to be included in this list. The Pont D’iéna spans the Seine River and connects the Left Bank, where the Eiffel Tower is, to the district of Trocadéro on the Right Bank. Where the bridge begins on the Left Bank you will get the feeling that you are at a small fair, with the festive atmosphere and carousel ride. As you walk along, you can also see sculptures of warriors that were put there in 1853.
The Magdeburg Water Bridge is a navigable aquaduct connecting Elbe-Havel Canal to the Mittellandkanal. This unique bridge crosses the Elbe River and, at 3,012 feet, is the longest navigable aquaduct in the world. Basically, this bridge is a raised body of water that sits over another body of water, which can be a pretty interesting sight (as you can see in the photo on the right from Wikipedia). Snap pictures of the German countryside while watching the ships as they pass by.
Natives will tell you that Paris has everything necessary for the pursuit of happiness, including songbirds. The intensity and frequency of birdsong signals the end of winter, if not the arrival of spring. Spring comes and goes, hesitating on the threshold. That’s why accordions are Paris’ reliable bellweather. Their wheezing is a sure sign people are back outdoors filling cafés, or draping themselves over the double-backed park benches, staring at buds.
The other day the usual spring suspects began squeezing their red-and-white accordions in the square under our bedroom windows. Listening to them, I just happened to open an email and click a link to the biggest panoramic photo ever taken, “Paris 26 Giga Pixels“, composed of 2,346 individual shots stitched together.
Up came Paris, from the belltower of Saint Sulpice. And up came the accordion waltz from the cult movie “Amélie Poulain.” I closed my eyes. The soundtrack is a masterpiece of nostalgia. Baguettes and berets, Edith Piaf’s raucous croonings, and Robert Doisneau’s black-and-white photos floated above Montmartre painted by Utrillo and Modigliani, the merry-go-round spinning below Sacré Coeur.
The music distills the bittersweet essence of a certain Paris. It’s a Paris much of the world — and many Parisians — desire, a magical city of dreams and memories and merry-go-rounds, abstracted from the globalized, recessionary nitty-gritty of today.I opened my eyes. On screen were the domes and Gothic towers, the neoclassical palaces, the gardens and 19th-Century merry-go-rounds of my home of the last quarter-century. The digital technology is state-of-the-art, the definition astonishingly high. But the high tech didn’t diminish the nostalgic punch.
Carouseling on Amélie’s waltz, clicking, dragging or scrolling, the merry-go-round of images sped up, zooming in and out, unapologetically plucking at heart-strings. The effect was instantaneous and systemic. I reconsidered Paris from a rooftop perspective, eager to see what had changed. I flew to the places I’ve lived and worked in. So much seemed the same, at least outwardly. Better, the panoramic view pushed me out to climb a real tower, revisit Paris, and be an aimless wanderer in spring all over again.
Because the belltower of Saint-Sulpice isn’t accessible, I headed to the Panthéon. En route at arcaded Place des Vosges, the Internauts used free WiFi, blissfully oblivious to the 17th-century bricks and stones. Across the Seine, a carousel spun near giant sycamores in the Jardin des Plantes, Louis XIII’s lush botanical garden. To synthesized calliope music, shrieking todlers rode back in time to the days of their grandparents.
The Panthéon rises atop Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, an awkward imitation of the real Pantheon in Rome . A toothy guard from a former French colony informed me gleefully that the panoramic terrace wouldn’t reopen for another week. In the meantime, there was Foucault’s famous pendulum, and the tombs of France ‘s great and good.
Directly beneath the dome, the pendulum dangled from a wire over 200 feet long. Back and forth it swung in the damp gloom, demonstrating the rotation of the Earth, marking the seconds, minutes, hours and days. It was not the pendulum moving forward, but we the public, the church, the city, the Earth, moving around it.
Mesmerized, it seemed to me that the pendulum’s bob was Paris, marking timelessness, while the rest of the universe spun around. Paris was as eternal as Rome, the Eternal City. The real Paris, of the mind, did not exist and could never age.
By comparison, the vaulted tombs of the country’s great men — and one woman, Marie Curie — left me chilled, an exercise in mildewy propaganda. Rome’s Pantheon, dedicated to the pagan gods, was saved by being consecrated as a church. In Paris, a church was saved from Revolutionary vandalism by becoming a temple to the Republic.
The cult of the Republic may once have been a fine thing. It seems less so now, when France’s anti-immigrant policies and reactionary reinterpretations of liberty, equality and fraternity clash with a spinning Earth of many hues and infinite diversity. In the gift shop a visitor wondered why French patriot Léon Gambetta’s heart was in an urn. The attendant replied that a body part was needed. Clearly the cult of relics had not ended with the Revolution, the visitor remarked, buying a mug emblazoned with “Vive la République.”
Down the street in the Luxembourg Gardens, the merry-go-round turned dreamily. Nearby, children rode ponies. Gaggles of pimply teens fiddled with hand-held devices as others devoured obsolete printed matter. Everyone smoked, even the tennis players.
The pendulum swings, the Earth and the merry-go-rounds spin. Paris stays the same.
Skipping Montparnasse, I aimed for the Eiffel Tower, last experienced by me in 1976. Bookstores in the notoriously literate 6th and 7th arrondissements displayed the sensation of late-winter, La Paresse et l’oubli, a novel by 29-year-old David Rochefort. The title means “sloth and oblivion” or perhaps “laziness and forgetfulness.” The cover is wrapped by a banner promising “Les battailes perdues de la vie” — life’s lost battles.
How someone not yet 30 could know such things, be compared to Flaubert and Balzac, dead for 150 years, and how such a clear-eyed and pessimistic oeuvre could be published and embraced by all in a world of corporate sameness, seem unanswerable questions to non-Parisians. The other big literary noise, this one written with tongue firmly in cheek: Mai 1958: Le Retour du Général de Gaulle. Did he ever go away?
At the Eiffel Tower’s base the requisite merry-go-round wheezed. Accordionists serenaded the waiting lines. Why not hang Foucault’s Pendulum here, I wondered?
Riding up, I calculated the number of merry-go-rounds in Paris. There are dozens. Dozens. But there are many more bookstores selling difficult novels. Both are subsidized, like public transit, health care, and much else. Culture is propped up at both ends of the spectrum. French movies are too. And the Eiffel Tower.
Might that help explain Paris’ abiding popularity even among lovers of free enterprise?
Amélie’s waltz replayed in my mind’s ear as I gazed down at 17 centuries’ worth of cityscape, from the Roman baths at Cluny, to the National Library and other remarkable monstrosities of the 1980s and ’90s. The messy reality of Paris glimpsed from above seemed immeasurably more satisfying than Paris 26 Giga Pixels.
Amid the jumble below I spied two more merry-go-rounds, one in the Tuileries and one in front of City Hall, my next destinations. As I walked through the Tuileries, the same children rode the same ponies. Had they trotted over from the Luxembourg or was I hallucinating?
Beyond the merry-go-round fronting City Hall’s neo-Renaissance façade, the line to enter “Izis: Paris des Rêves,” a photo exhibition, was as long as the lines at the Eiffel Tower. ” Paris through a Dreamer’s Lens” is the French Dream, the European Paradise as dreamed by Izraël Biderman, better known as Izis. A Lithuanian Jew determined to escape persecution, Izis wound up in the City of Light, soon dimmed and Occupied. Like other Jews and undesirables, Izis was hunted by Nazis aided by zealous Frenchmen. But he kept loving Paris. It belonged to him and the world, not his persecutors.
Like those of Doisneau or Brassai or Cartier-Bresson, Izis’s black-and-white photos capture the allure, the sleaze, the enchantingly bleak Paris of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Everyone smokes, especially the Résistance fighters. Everyone dresses in the shades of gray that are fashionable again today. One haunting, wall-sized image shows a merry-go-round in the Tuileries, its battered horses standing out against the snow.
On the sidewalk outside City Hall an outdoor exhibition currently hails 150 years of immigration to Paris. As I walked home past it I thought of Izis, Brassai, Chagall, Picasso, Piaf, Yves Montand and others. Many others. I thought of Chopin, a Pole, and how Paris is celebrating his 200th birthday, as if he were a native son. The cafés I looked into were staffed by immigrants. The restaurants, museums, monuments and City Hall were too. Even the accordionists in the square beneath our windows are immigrants. And so am I.
The pendulum swings, the accordions play, people, politicians and recessions come and go on an ever-spinning merry-go-round. Paris remains.
David Downie is an American writer and journalist based in Paris. He is the author of nine books, including Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light and Paris City of Night. He has written for Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Town & Country Travel, Departures, Travel + Leisure, salon.com, and concierge.com. His website is www.davidddownie.com.
Woody Allen said “As long as you haven’t been kissed during any of those rainy Parisian afternoons, you haven’t been kissed at all”.
Having met my wife in Paris, I have to agree with Woody. There really is something magical about Paris. It can be as busy and loud as any other big city, but it also offers plenty of places to just get away from it all, and enjoy the company of someone you love. We gathered some of the most romantic spots in the city (thanks to some tips from the Parisian tourist board), and added some of our own recommendations.