Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Paris in Pictures: A first-timer’s travel guide

Cover: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Whether it’s your first visit or your twentieth, Paris is a city that takes your breath away.

Truly like no other, Paris is a timeless beauty filled with monuments, galleries, cathedrals, boutiques, cafés, and museums – so much so that it can be a bit overwhelming, especially on your first visit.

Paris, France
Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting around Paris

Paris is composed of 20 arrondissements or districts. Often described as resembling a snail shell, the twenty arrondissements start from the middle of the city and are arranged in a clockwise spiral. In other words, arrondissements are simply a way to subdivide the city into segments, which helps to identify a location.

For example, the 1st arrondissement of Paris is located on the right bank of the River Seine. It is one of the oldest and the smallest by both area and population and is where the Louvre Museum and the Tuileries Gardens are located. The Paris Opera and the Bourse, or Paris stock exchange, are in the 2nd arrondissement.

Paris 20 arrondissements
Map by by ThePromenader

As far as getting around, walking can be the fastest method in the congested areas. For longer journeys, the Paris subway, called The Metro, is fairly easy to navigate and less expensive than taxis, which are in abundance but can be quite costly.

Like most large cities, driving and parking can be a challenge. However, rental car locations are available throughout the city. If you don’t rent at the airport and are already in the city, one of the more easily accessible locations for renting and returning a car, with a variety provider options, is Gare de Lyon train station in the 12th arrondissement. A note concerning petrol/gas stations when driving in France – many stations are not manned and credit cards from the United States do not work at quite a few locations, so keep the gas tank frequently filled when you spot a station with an attendant that accepts cash.

A good option for getting around to tourist sites is the hop-on and hop-off tour buses. While many offer recorded tours heard through earbuds in your language of choice, don’t set your expectations too high. The recordings can be of poor quality.

However, if you use the buses simply as a method of transportation from one spot to the next, it is far more economical than taking cabs. Most hop-on and hop-off buses offer unlimited usage per day.  Also, be sure when choosing a bus tour that their route and schedule includes stops where you want to go and frequent drop offs/pickups.

Things to do on your first trip to Paris

Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When you’ve been to Paris quite a few times, your daily itinerary differs from the first few times you’ve visited. For example, when we were in Paris in July, we dedicated an entire day to Notre Dame to photograph the cathedral in morning, afternoon and sunset light.

But, on your first trip to Paris, go ahead – be a tourist, roam the city, and discover the iconic sites in person. Here’s ten that should make your Paris to do list.

Stroll the boulevards and do some café time

Paris, France
Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

This may sound like an odd place to start with all the Paris attractions, but there is nothing like sipping a glass of wine or coffee while watching Paris go by in front of you.

So, before you head out with your long list of sites to visit, work in some time wandering the streets of the infamous city and simply being in Paris.

Paris, France
Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Place de la Concorde and Arc de Triomphe

Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Place de Concorde, Paris, France
Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde, Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the 8th arrondissement and stretching two kilometers from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is considered to be la plus belle avenue du monde (the most beautiful avenue in the world).

Starting on the east end of the Champs-Élysées, an Egyptian obelisk which was given to the French by Egypt in the 19th century sits in the center of the Place de la Concorde. Two fountains also occupy the Place de la Concorde, which were built during the time of Louis-Philippe.

The site of the arrival of the Tour de France, Bastille Day celebrations and countless movie scenes, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is lined with restaurants, boutiques, jewelers, perfumeries, hotels, nightclubs, and a public park, the Jardin des Champs-Élysées.

Tour de France 2015 Stage 21
Tour de France 2015 Stage 21
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the western end of Champs-Élysées sits the Arc de Triomphe in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. Honoring those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, the Arc de Triomphe is also the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel)

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Everyone wants to see the Eiffel Tower when they come to Paris and you’ll need to keep that in mind when planning your visit. The Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid monument in the world with seven million visitors each year. Built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, the Eiffel Tower’s construction took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days and it stands 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, the tallest structure in Paris.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France Photo: Greg K. HullCool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Do you need a ticket to visit? Yes and no. If you just want to see the Tower, you can stop by anytime day or night (it’s in the 7th arrondissement). However, if you want to go up in the Tower or dine in the restaurant, you’ll need tickets and reservations. Open every day, tickets sell out far in advance for peak times, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Find out more on La Tour Eiffel website.

Notre Dame de Paris (Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris)

Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris or Notre Dame de Paris, which means Our Lady of Paris in French, is one of the most well-known cathedrals in the world.

Notre Dame, Paris, France
Notre Dame, Paris, France Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the 4th arrondissement on the Île de la Cité, the cathedral dates back to the 12th century, when work began on the French Gothic church. Taking over 300 years to complete, Notre Dame was one of the first buildings in the world to use the arched exterior supports, also known as flying buttress.

Notre Dame, Paris, France
Notre Dame, Paris, France Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Notre Dame de Paris houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails and is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris.

The Louvre

Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and nearly 35,000 other works of art, The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum, with nearly 10 million visitors annually. Located in the 1st arrondissement, the museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, a former royal palace dating back to the medieval period. The museum is open daily except for Tuesdays.

Palais Garnier, Opéra de Paris

Palais Garnier, Opéra de Paris, Paris, France
Palais Garnier, Opéra de Paris, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Well-known as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, the Phantom of the Opera, the Palais Garnier or Opéra de Paris is home to the Paris Ballet. One of the most opulent buildings in Paris, the Palais Garnier is located on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, the Musée d’Orsay is a delight for art lovers with works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Located in the former railway station, the Gare d’Orsay, the Musée d’Orsay sits along the left bank of the Seine in the 7th arrondissement.

Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

View Paris from a Bateau Mouche®

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The River Seine is the heart of Paris and cruising it by Bateau Mouche is a wonderful way to see the landmarks from a different vantage point. Bateau Mouches are open excursion tourist boats, with the concept first created by Jean Bruel in 1949. While many boat tours now exist on the River Seine, Bruel’s The Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches is still one of the largest and actually trademarked the name Bateau Mouche, although the term is widely used to refer to all Paris boat tours. Boat tours can be found throughout the year, including hop on/hop off tours and lunch and dinner cruises.

Grand Palais

Grand Palais, Paris, France
Grand Palais, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the heart of Paris on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the Grand Palais is a historic monument, exhibition hall and museum complex in the 8th arrondissement. The Grand Palais is home to major art exhibits and cultural events, the science museum, the Palais de la Découverte, and many events, including haute couture runway shows each year.

See the City of Light (La Ville Lumière) at night

Paris, France
Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Frequently called the City of Light because of its role during the Age of Enlightenment, and because Paris was one of the first European cities to install gas street lights, Paris is stunning at sunset and after dark.

From the illuminated 37 bridges that cross the River Seine to the landmarks and monuments, Paris shines at night. A stroll along the river, a night boat ride, or watching Paris twinkle from a sidewalk cafe, are the perfect way to end your Paris day.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Paris, France
Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Greg Hull, Tour de France 2015

Behind the scenes at the Tour de France

Cover photo: Greg Hull shooting at Tour de France 2015
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


No matter which bike race we are covering, rarely a day goes by without people telling us how they wished they could do what we do. It’s true, covering pro cycling is pretty cool.

But, it’s also a lot of work. We multitask and function on little sleep to get it done – and, we honestly rarely accomplish everything we want to in a day before it’s time to move on to the next town. So, I thought I’d share what it’s like with life on the road covering the Tour de France. I chose stage 3 which began in Antwerp and ended on the Mur de Huy to provide a glimpse into our day.

7:00 am

First thing each morning, after attempting to remember what town we are in, is to grab the laptop, check social media, post the day’s route map, and have a look again at the technical race guide to plan the day.

Each race provides a technical race guide for the teams, support staff, and media that contains route information, time schedules, maps, parking locations, team hotels and host city information. It is frequently referred to as the “race bible.”

A day at the Tour de France
A day at the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

8:00 am

Following a quick shower and jamming everything back in the bags, it’s back to editing photos from the day before. We each typically shoot several hundred to a thousand images in a day, so many photos will remain unedited until after the race.

A day at the Tour de France
A day at the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

11:00 am

At this stop, we stayed in the same hotel as Movistar. Heading down to check out, we step off the elevator into a lobby filled with fans waiting in hopes of getting a photo or autograph from Quintana or Valverde.

Not disappointing, Valverde appears just after us and stops for photos with fans.

A day at the Tour de France
A day at the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We head out the door and make our way behind the Movistar guys to the stage start, which is about a 10-minute walk from the hotel through the crowds.

Huy, Belgium
From the window of the car – Huy, Belgium Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We also frequently hear, “You get to see so many awesome places.” Yes, sort of. We see a lot of hotel rooms, whatever is along the side of the road as we head from start to finish each day and the scenery at the starts and finishes.

Unfortunately, there is rarely – make that never – anytime for sightseeing or exploring the beautiful host cities we find ourselves in each day. Some of the sights are stunning, such as the stage 3 start location in the center of Antwerpen/Antwerp/Anvers (it’s Antwerpen in Dutch-Flemish, Antwerp in English, Anvers in French) and at the finish in Huy.

Tour de France 2015
Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shooting the start is the most relaxed part of each day. Riders are casual as they sign in, which at the Tour de France, is actually a push of a button by each rider creating an electronic signature.

Tommy Voeckler, Tour de France 2015
Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following sign in, riders stop by the PowerBar tent for some snacks, chat with one another, and sign autographs for fans. On this morning, Tommy Voeckler also stopped by the Vittel water station and used some water from the melted ice to wash his tires.

Tour de France 2015
Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As sign-in grows to a close, we head to the start line. Each day actually has two starts – an unofficial start, where we were near the sign-in and an official start after a parade route/neutral zone. The riders line up, and after they depart, they ride through the neutral zone and then stop again for another ceremony and the official start.

Tour de France 2015 Stage 3 start
Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

As soon as the riders set off, we grab a takeout lunch and head for the car. Next stop, Huy.

Meanwhile back in Boulder….

 

A 1:00 pm start in Belgium means a 5:00 am start in Colorado when Todd Hofert rolls out of bed, turns on the race and begins to write. The one disadvantage of covering a race in person is that you actually see very little of it. We have the app on our phones and in Europe, the race is streamed on the Tour website with the ability to switch between moto feeds, which is really cool.

However, in reality, the majority of our day is spent navigating the off-course itinerary and editing a few photos to put up during the race. Some days we intersect with the actual race course for some mid-stage coverage, but not on this stage as we anticipated (correctly) that the Mur de Huy would be quite crowded.

Which brings us back to Todd, who writes the stage recap as it happens throughout the race, capturing the events as they occur, which on stage 3, included some serious crashes.

3:20 pm

Like Hansel and Gretel and their breadcrumbs, the race leaves a trail of signs for us to follow on an alternate route from the race to guide us from the start city to the finish line. In many locations, we actually drive the last part of the race route, which is quite helpful in understanding the last kilometers of the race course.

On the way through Huy a couple of guys stopped us and asked for a ride, so they piled in the back and we headed up the hill.

Press parking and the press center is normally very close to the finish line at races. We typically stop by the press center to grab water, head out to scout our locations to shoot the finish, then wait.

5:28 pm

The riders hit the finish line, with today’s winner being Team Katusha’s Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez. Chris Froome (Team Sky) was second and Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale) was third.

Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing, Tour de France 2015 Stage 3
Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing, Tour de France 2015 Stage 3
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), who started the day in yellow, crashed mid-way through the stage and was forced to abandon the Tour. Chris Froome (Team Sky) moved into the overall race lead.

Races are carefully choreographed presentations with thousands of people handling the countless tasks that occur each day in multiple locations. Podium at the Tour de France is managed down to the last detail, with a “director” changing the stage background with the push of a button as each jersey is presented and cueing timing with signs.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After shooting podium, we head back into the press center, which at the Tour is massive. Todd’s article is usually in my inbox when I sit down and power up my computer and TravelWifi, our personal wifi. Travel Wifi is a sponsor and is what’s keeping us connected throughout the entire Tour no matter where we happen to be – in our hotel, in our car, in the press center, or out shooting on course.

Results go up, the recap article gets added, we each quickly edit & add the finish line and podium photos. Rider comments are added as they are obtained.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France – press tent
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

7:00 pm

Time to head out for our hotel  – always a slow process as the thousands of cars leave the parking areas and head through the small European streets.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our stage 3 hotel was in Namur, about 40 km away. Planning and scheduling hotels for the entire Tour took a little over three days of work and has to be done after host cities are announced but before the actual race route is published, which takes a bit of guesswork and a lot of searching.

We arrive and the guys we gave a ride up the hill were sitting in our hotel lobby. Quelle coïncidence!

9:00 pm

Time for wine, dinner and editing photos. We head to the bar, grab a table near a power outlet, and begin to work again.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

11:00 pm – 1:00 am

Back upstairs for more work. Stage 4 is the cobble stage, so we make our plans on which sectors to cover then decide to call it a day at 1:00 am.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One day of 21 at the Tour de France.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France – Kim Hull shooting near finish line
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media