Christmas in the City of Light – Paris, France

This was our first Christmas without family or friends nearby, but Bobby and I wanted to make the most of it.  After opening up our Christmas gifts a few days early (Santa came to Florence on the 22nd this year!), we set out to spend the holiday in Paris.  Paris is a city that both Bobby and I had always wanted to visit, but never got the chance and we were very excited to see the city for the first time together.

Although Paris has a wonderful subway system, we spent most of our time on foot (after 2 days of walking 12+ miles, however, we did decide to use the train a little more on our last couple days.)  Our first stop was one of Paris’ biggest attractions, Notre Dame, which happened to be only about 15 minutes from our hotel.


Notre Dame by night

Notre Dame is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in all of the world.  Construction began in 1163 and serves as the official chair of the Catholic Archbishop of Paris.  Originally, Notre Dame was not supposed to have flying buttresses (arched exterior supports), but as the walls got taller and thinner, stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward.  In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.

Notre Dame, flying buttresses, and the Locks of Love

View of Notre Dame from across the river and its flying buttresses

Nave of Notre Dame

View from the southwest corner

The front facade; The center rose window is 10 meters in diameter

Notre Dame during a rain storm

The back of Notre Dame and its buttresses

The front facade of Notre Dame has three large portals with hundreds of statues, which were all painted in the Middle Ages.  The statues were used to teach Biblical history and the lives of the saints to those who could not read.

The Portal of the Last Judgement and Jesus and the weighing of souls

The gigantic doors

Detail on the facade

Gargoyles on south facade

One of the biggest masterpieces of the interior is the enormous rose window that lies on the south facade of Notre Dame.  It was constructed in 1260 to mirror the rose window on the northern facade (which was built 10 years prior.)  It is close to 13 meters in diameter!

South facade Rose Window

Rose window on the south facade

Beautiful stained glass

Stained glass

View looking from the west (entrance) to the east

View of the east pulpit

Interior gothic arches


France’s most recognizable structure (and perhaps one of the most recognizable structures in all the world) was built as an entrance to the World’s Fair in 1889.  The tower stands 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to gain the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world.  It held this title for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930.  (In 1957, however, France added an antenna to the top of the tower, making it again taller than the Chrysler Building!)  Today, it is “only” the 30th tallest tower in the world.  The pig iron structure (with all of its rivets and metal supports) weighs approximately 10,000 tonnes, or about 22,046,225 pounds!

Our first experience at the Eiffel Tower by day

Eiffel Tower at dusk

..and the tower after a rain storm and fog set in

View up through the tower

And we found someone to successfully take our photo (without lopping off the top of the tower!)

The tower boring a hole in the sky

You can see the tower all around town….

The tower from the east side of town

We did the very-touristy thing (we are tourists after all!) and bought tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower as well.  Luckily, we bought our tickets ahead of time and bypassed the 2 hr+ wait!  (Bobby thanked me several times for that one!)  On the way up, there are two separate elevators:  one that goes from the ground level to the second floor (it bypasses the first floor) and another that goes from the 2nd floor to the top.  The elevators from ground level to the first and second levels are operated by cables and pulleys driven by massive water-powered pistons.  Each elevator in normal service takes an average of 8 minutes and 50 seconds to do the round trip, spending an average of 1 minute and 15 seconds at each floor. The average journey time between floors is just 1 minute.  It was a pretty smooth and uneventful ride (thank goodness — because Bobby wasn’t loving the elevator ride!)

View from the elevator on the way up

View from the elevator on the way up

View to the northwest and the Jardins du Trocadero

Parc du Champ-de-Mars

The Louve from the top of the Eiffel Tower


We visited the Louve twice to take photos of the outside, as it was on our way back to our hotel in the Bastille area.  However, on the day that we decided to actually visit the museum, it closed at 4:00pm (which we didn’t know because there were no signs about early closing when we went to ask about tickets the day before.)  We arrived at 4:00pm on the dot (literally!) and a museum worker literally yelled at us because the line was closed.  What?  Bobby says “it’s 4:00pm.”  And she just shook her head and put up a barrier.  Really?  You couldn’t allow just 2 more people in the museum that probably had 1000s already inside?  Ugh.  So, we didn’t get to visit the Louve and see the Mona Lisa.  Maybe next time.  But, here are some photos we took outside.

Gateway into Tuileries Garden and the Louve (Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel – smaller version of the Arc di Triomphe)

The pyramid with Louve Palace in the background

The entrance to the Louve

Detail of the Louve

Women hold up the world!

And this is the lady who rudely kicked us out of line


The Arc de Triomphe is another of Paris’ famous landmarks.  It was built to honor those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.  All of the French victories in the wars and their generals are inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces.  Underneath the arch, there is France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.  An interesting (and dangerous!) fact I discovered: three weeks after the Paris victory parade in 1919, (marking the end of World War I), Charles Godefroy flew his biplane through the Arc de Triomphe and the event was captured on newsreel!

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

View of the interior arch with names inscribed


On Christmas Eve, Bobby and I attended an orchestral and choral concert at La Sainte Chapelle.  This chapel was built by King Louis IX of France to house Christian relics, most specifically the Crown of Thorns.  It was built from 1239 – 1248, but was heavily damaged during the French Revolution.  Luckily, it was restored in the 1800s because La Sainte Chapelle houses one of the largest collections of stained glass of anywhere in the world!  (Unfortunately…this seems to be a common theme….we did not see the chapel during the daytime.  However, I’m including a couple of internet photos to show you the stained glass!)

View towards the pulpit

View of the chandeliers

The brightly colored walls

Painted walls

Stained glass

Stained glass


On Christmas day, there were very few attractions open.  However, we read that up on Montmartre, the highest point in Paris, there would be many restaurants open.  We took the subway up, hoping to get good views of the city, and found the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris instead.  Luckily, we were allowed in and although we weren’t supposed to take photos (shhh!)  we snapped a few of the beautiful mosaic dome.  Bobby and I agreed that it was the best mosaic we’ve seen in Europe thus far.   After reading up on it, it’s also the largest mosaic in the world (475 m2)!

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris

Apse with large mosaic

View of mosaic through arch

View of the apse mosaic from the pulpit


The Saints

It was also on Montmartre that we saw an amazing street performer (although he would be written off as incredibly dumb if he fell.)  A man scaled a light post that sits on the wall of the church overlooking the city.  He scaled it while dribbling a soccer ball or balancing it on his head.  He was one of the only street performers we witnessed actually get some money for his performance!

Making his way to the top

Dribbling on the way up

The final pose for all the glory


We took a short detour to the Centre Pompidou, another museum in Paris.  I had read that the works in the museum were not that great (I can’t judge, however, because we did not go in), but I wanted to see the building because I studied it in architecture school.  It was built by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers and from the website, “the supporting structure and movement and flow systems, such as the escalators, were relegated to the outside of the building, thereby freeing up interior space for museum and activity areas. Colour-coded ducts are attached to the building’s west façade, as a kind of wrapping for the structure: blue for air, green for fluids, yellow for electricity cables and red for movement and flow. The transparency of the west main façade allows people to see what is going on inside the centre from the piazza.”

The west facade and piazza


West facade

The structure on the outside of the building

Color coding on east facade



Last but not least, we took a day trip about 20 minutes outside of Paris to Versailles.  The palace of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution.  The chateau is a huge, opulent home with even larger gardens.

Gate into Palace of Versailles

The golden gate

Interior court

Painted ceiling

Painted ceiling in another room

Tapestry on the wall

Beautiful velvet tapestry

Chandelier in a bedroom

Entrance into the Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

The mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

Very luxurious bed

The gardens at Chateau Versailles

View out to the gardens

The plan of the chateau and gardens – it’s huge!


  1. terrileedee says:

    gorgeous as always!

  2. Tonya Finton says:

    I’m loving your blog ! The photos are incredible. I know your Mom and Dad can’t wait to visit. What a beautiful city to spend Christmas in. Happy Mew Year. Cousin Tonya.

  3. Gorgeous photos, especially your Eiffel tower shots, what amazing skies you had! What kind of camera are you using for all of these?

    Did hanging at Versailles make you realize how the French Revolution came to pass? Imagine the masses starving in the streets while teenage royalty cavorted on those grounds, completely oblivious.

    • I have a Nikon D60 that I got back in 2008, but Bobby just bought me a combination 18-200mm lens for Christmas that takes great photos. It has vibration resistance to take pretty good low light photos without a tripod. And yes, we commented several times about how oblivious they HAD to be living in such an opulent place when everyone else was scrounging for food.

  4. Dave Mortensen says:

    I have a list of “some things to do in Paris” that I made up for some friends. I wish I had thought to send it to you. I still can. You will probably go again.

    Dave Mortensen