Le Fête Nationale (pt. 2): Sweet Day in Paris

One of the items on our ‘’must-do’’ list for our trip to France was to taste as many French pastries as we could manage. That is why our visit to Paris couldn’t pass without trying the ultimate and most iconic French confectionary – le macaron. The lazy afternoon of Le quatorze juillet seemed a perfect time for a visit to the Ladurée store in Rue Bonaparte, the home of the most famous Parisian macarons.

We obviously weren’t the only travelers to Paris who wanted to taste the Ladurée macarons, so we had to spend some time waiting in line in front of the store. It was worth it, though: upon entering the store, we slipped into the magic of the Ladurée brand, famous for its pastel colors and beautiful décor. The stars of the show are, of course, cakes and macarons: in different shapes, sizes and colors, they resemble beautiful works of art. Indeed, the entire ritual of choosing the cakes and watching them being carefully packed in special boxes resembled the purchase of priceless artworks in some posh art gallery.

To complete our French pastry experience, we decided to taste the world wide known macarons and cakes by the Seine, close to the bouqinistes and with beautiful views on the Louvre and Parisian bridges. Colorful macarons tasted like small pieces of clouds melting in our mouth, while raspberry cakes and chocolate verrines looked and tasted wonderfully complex and full of flavour. It was quite a special experience, one that sweets-loving me will not forget that easily.

While we have visited the Cathedral of Notre-Dame before, we decided to do it again, finally gathering enough patience to wait in line and climb up to the cathedral’s towers, to see the gargoyles from up close and to enjoy the views of Paris with the Eiffel tower in the background.

Cathedral of Notre-Dame has a long history. It is believed that there was a pagan temple on the site at the beginning of the Common Era, and that it was later replaced by a large Christian basilica with five naves, dedicated to St Stephen.
In the 12th century, it was decided that a new cathedral was to be built, one that would be longer, taller and more majestic than the previous one. Such ideas could be realized because of the new architectural and building techniques that were developing as a part of the gothic style.
The Cathedral’s first stone was laid in 1163. Building work continued through the 13th and 14th century, with modifications made in the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries (often associated with changes in the general architecture).
Today, the cathedral is one of the symbols of Paris – with full right. Standing in the square in front of it, looking at its intricate facade and stone sculptures, trying to remember as much details as possible, you really feel like you are observing the historic heart of the city. It is a place where you can easily spend hours and hours.

The climb up to the towers through a narrow passage consisting of some 400 steps was… slightly challenging, I must admit. But definitely worth it: the views from the top of the cathedral were quite spectacular, with the abundance of beautiful landmarks such as the Seine, the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Montmartre… We took some photos, studied the gargoyles, imagined stories about the Hunchback of Notre-Dame and admired the romantic views.

After the visit to the cathedral, it was time for an early dinner in Quartier Latin, after which we started towards the Trocadero, to find the best position for the traditional Quatorze Juillet feu d’artifice. The square and surrounding streets were crowded with people, both tourists and the Parisians, and the fireworks were really spectacular: the theme of the fireworks was disco, so we enjoyed the performance in the sky while listening to greatest disco hits (it was a strange, but entertaining combination). The fireworks went on for quite a long time and I dare to assume that they cost more than my hometown’s annual budget. But it was a spectacle that really suited the beauty and majesty of the city. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Paris.

As we were riding home in a crowded métro, we had time to gather our thoughts and impressions: our first eventful day in Paris and our first ever celebration of the Fête Nationale came to an end.

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