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A Catholic Insider's Guide to Paris
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A Catholic Insider's Guide to Paris

The City of Lights is a delight for many, but especially for Catholics. Here are my tips to seeing the sights:

A word about the Metro – Take the Metro. It’s fast and efficient, and taxis will cost
you a fortune in Paris. All you need to know is that when you get on, the direction is
named by the final stop in that direction, so for example, you are either taking the
line 4 in the direction of Place de Clingancourt (north) or in the (south) direction of
Mairie de Montrouge. If you find that you got on going the wrong direction, simply
get off and cross to the other side and you’ll be going the right way. So to find
something on the Metro, just look first at the stop you want to get to, and then the last stop in the direction you need to go. Go to the side of the Metro station that is labeled with that last stop in the direction you need to go. When you see the lines cross on the map, that’s where you can transfer to another line.

Also, French people aren’t really rude or snooty. It’s just that Americans don’t know
the basics of French manners. When going to a shop, you always greet the
shopkeeper when you enter (“Bonjour”) and say goodbye when you leave (“Au
Revoir” – that’s pronounced like “Oh Ruh-VWAH”). You would never just ask them
where something is without saying hello first. Otherwise you haven’t acknowledged
their personhood (That’s a Catholic value for sure.)

Most people speak some English, but will act like they don’t sometimes if you
assume. Be a little apologetic (It’s THEIR country after all.) And if you can start with
a Bonjour, that will go a long way. Say, Excuse me (“Pardonnez Moi” pronounced like
“ParDUNnay mwah”) and then ask if they speak English – bonus points if you can ask
that in French: “Parlez-vous Anglais?” pronounced like, “Parlay vu ongLAY.”

Two things about restaurants – First, sodas are VERY expensive (up to 7 or 8 euros,
and that’s closer to 8 or 9 dollars)! That’s because the French don’t think sodas go
with meals – except at the fast food places like McDonalds or Quik. I recommend
water or wine – both will be cheaper. Second, the French consider it rude to bring
you the check too soon. It’s like they are rushing you out – and the French come to
restaurants to relax and talk. That’s why it seems like the service it poor, they never
bring you the check, etc. You have to ask. Just flag them down and say, “L’addition si
vous plait!"

Now the sights:

Eiffel Tower: There is a Metro stop called Bir-Hakim/Tour Eiffel that is near the
Eiffel Tower. You will be tempted to go to that stop to see the tower, but DON’T. The
best approach to the Eiffel Tower is from the Trocadero stop, because this stop
overlooks the river and the tower from a balcony (very popular view at sunset). As
you approach the tower from there, it’s spectacular, because of the reflecting pool
and the constant view of the tower. Watch your wallet – always keep it in your
front pocket. Be especially careful on the Eiffel tower elevator when people are in
close quarters.

Notre Dame: Notre Dame is on an island in the middle of the city (called “Ile de la
Cite”). It’s easily accessible on the Metro (take the Cite stop). It’s worth going up in
the tower if you can brave the line. Go early if you want to do that. But the best time
to go to Notre Dame is for their sung Vespers. It’s amazing, with beautiful singing
and incense – the whole works. Also, it’s good to see Notre Dame at
night when it’s lit up. It’s spectacular. Nearby on a side street you will find the
entrance to the Latin Quarter – lots of little restaurants and cafes that really come to
life at night.

Sacre Coeur: This is the Basilica on the hill – without a doubt my favorite site in
Paris. This church has had the longest running perpetual adoration in history – since
the 1800s. If you are there on a Sunday, go to the Sunday evening Mass. It’s
amazing and easily the best Mass in Paris. Lots of people and lots of energy! Also, it’s
amazing to see the giant monstrance lowered from the ceiling over the altar just
after Mass for the continuation of Perpetual adoration. Be sure to stay for that!. The
balcony outside Sacre Coeur is the best place to see and photograph the whole city.
It has an amazing view. Take the Funiculaire (a train that goes up a hill, sort of like a
skyride on the ground) up to the balcony (If you get a 5 or 7-day City Pass tourist
Metro ticket, it will work for that also.) The Abbesses stop is the one to take for this.
At the bottom of the hill, watch out for young men who have some kind of
string trick they want you to see. This may be a pickpocket ruse. They are
harmless, but don’t give them any attention. Just say, “No, Merci” and walk around
them.

Chapel of the Miraculous Medal and the body of St. Vincent de Paul: You will
definitely want to see where Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure and asked for
the Miraculous Medal to be struck. The chair Mary appeared in is to the right of the
Altar in the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal (near the Vanneau Metro stop –
Sevres/Babylone is also not too far. The street is Rue de Bac, but the Rue de Bac stop
is a long walk from the two chapels). Also at the Miraculous Medal chapel is the
body of St. Catherine Laboure under glass – pretty amazing! Right around the corner
(nearer to the Vanneau stop) is the Vincentian house, where in their chapel you can
see the body of St. Vincent de Paul – looks like a wax statue, but that’s really him just
over the altar. ) Approach the altar on the left side and you can walk up some steps
behind the altar and see St. Vincent up close. Again, pretty amazing! There’s a
Pauline Bookstore near both of these things where you can get French versions of
Catholic Holy Cards, etc. The Miraculous Medal chapel gift shop also has great stuff.
One of the sisters there will bless the religious articles for you if you ask.

Church of the Madeleine: Take the Metro to the Madeleine stop to see the Church
of the Madeleine (that’s Magdalene in French). This is the oldest church in Paris and
is pretty darn amazing, but what’s even better (and completely unknown to most
tourists) is that the thigh bone of St. Mary Magdalene is behind glass up high to the
right of the altar. If you can’t find it, ask someone. This is the place where they are
most likely to have an English-speaking priest. The priest who showed us was from
Dallas. To the right as you face the church is a side street. About a block or so away
is a dessert café called Fauchon. YOU MUST TRY SOMETHING AT FAUCHON OR YOU
HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED THE GLORY OF PARISIEN DESSERTS! If you are there at
sunset, you will notice that sitting on the steps of the Church of the Madeleine at
sunset is a popular activity, because the lights of the city twinkle in a wonderful way,
and you can see forever.

Musee d’Orsay: I recommend getting advance tickets for this. Yes, I know people
always think of the Louvre, but if you like French Impressionism (Van Gogh, Monet,
Cezanne, Degas), the Louvre is not your museum. Musee d’Orsay is your museum.
Easy to find on the Metro – just take the Musee d’Orsay stop! The street vendors
nearby sell very good sandwiches on fresh baguettes – another inexpensive option
for lunch.

Musee de l’Orangerie: If you like Water Lilies by Monet, the biggest one is here. It
will take your breath away. This museum is located in a nice little park called the
Jardin de Tuileries (look for the Tuileries stop).

Disneyland Paris: You can also take the Metro out to Disneyland, and if you have a
free day, I recommend it. Yes,if you live in the United States, you might be closer to the original, but this is not the original. Disneyland Paris is just outside the city and is
1/3 THE SIZE OF PARIS (yep, hard to believe, but true. This park is spectacular for
its gardens and the way they have really done up the rides and features, including a
castle you can go inside.)

Arc de Triomphe/Champs Elysees: You’ll want to see both of these, of course, and
luckily, they are next to each other. Take the Charles de Gaule/Etoile Metro stop. Be
sure to get a ticket and take the elevator to the top of the arch. That’s the best part
and a great view!

Finally, don’t get so caught up in doing the things on the list that you fail to take the
time to walk around, sit at a café or stand at a balcony and take it all in. Paris is an
amazing city. Have a great time!


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