One of my close friends who I went to university with asked me back in April if I fancied going to Paris for a week in October. I immediately replied with yes! The last time I went to Paris was back in 2005/6 on a school trip, which only really scratched the surface of the beautiful city. So on Sunday 2nd October I got on board the Eurostar from London and arrived in Paris in the early afternoon.
The start of the trip was certainly interesting. We decided to walk from the Gare du Nord to our hotel, as we had been sitting on trains all morning and it was about a 40 minute walk. I knew that we would be walking past the Moulin Rouge, but little did we know that we would be making our way through the Red Light district of Paris! We walked past lots of sex shops until we reached the Moulin Rouge. Our hotel was about a 10-15 minute walk from the Moulin Rouge, so we were close to the Montmarte region of Paris where the Sacre Coeur is.
On the first day we went on a Seine river cruise and went up the Eiffel Tower. The weather was stunning, which made the views of Paris look even more beautiful from the top of the iconic Eiffel Tower. We then climbed up the Arc De Triomphe and walked down the Champs-Élysées at night. This was my friend’s first trip to Paris and he loved what we saw on our first day. He was amazed with the views and we both found it funny to watch the chaos of traffic around the Arc De Triomphe (I could never drive around Paris, it’s mad!).
Before travelling to Paris my friend and I planned in advance what excursions we would do. However we both didn’t realise that the Louvre isn’t open on Tuesdays! We got there first thing in the morning and wondered why it was so quiet. So instead we visited the Musée d’Orsay, an old railway station converted into a museum which holds artwork and sculptures, including paintings by Van Gogh. We then discovered the Place de la Concorde and the church of Madeleine, a church built like a temple.
For a break my friend wanted to visit Angelina’s, a decadent tea room opposite the Jardin des Tuileries. It was 8.20 euros for a hot chocolate, but it was recommended as the best hot chocolate in Paris. We both had one of each, a normal hot chocolate and a white one. The white hot chocolate was my favourite and the best I’ve ever had! The normal one was a bit too sickly for me. They were served with whipped cream, which was the lightest cream I’ve ever tasted; it literally dissolved in my mouth.
After drinking sickly yet sweet hot chocolate we went to the Notre Dame. We had to go back on Friday to climb up the towers as we were there in the late afternoon and the queue had closed to go up. The Notre Dame was as beautiful as I remember. Another church which I found breathtaking and hadn’t visited before was the Sainte-Chapelle. It was tiny inside but the sainted glass windows were so colourful which emitted a warming colour light inside. Then we went to see the Bastille, and took a long evening walk along the Seine to the Hotel de Ville.
Wednesday morning was a very different start to the day. We went to the Catacombs, a creepy yet popular attraction where you walk through underground tunnels of piled up skeletons! I had visited the Catacombs previously, but this time I had an audio guide which meant learning a lot more about its history. After climbing up lots of steps to life again, we took a quick visit to the Luxembourg Gardens and then headed to the Concierge, formerly a prison where Mairie-Antoinette was held prisoner until she was executed. In the evening we spent nearly 3 hours in the Louvre! Turns out that the massive museum is open until late on Wednesday evenings, so it was pretty cool to wander around while it was getting dark outside. Of course we went to see the Mona Lisa first!
My uni friend and I decided to keep Thursday free for a trip to Versailles. The palace is beautiful and the gardens are absolutely outstanding! You don’t really get to see much in the palace because it’s so big, but I was glad to see the well-known Hall of Mirrors. It truly was something very different. After a tour of the palace we spent most of the day trying to see as much of the estate as possible. We visited the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon, two smaller palaces away from the main one with their own beautiful gardens. By around 5pm we both couldn’t physically see anymore of the main gardens as our feet were hurting from so much walking. However, I was happy with what I saw and would love to visit another time.
Friday was yet another jam packed day of visiting attractions. First we went up the towers at Notre Dame and then paid our respects at the Deportation Memorial near the Notre Dame, a memorial for Jews who died during the Second World War. After that we made our way to the quirky Centre Pompidou, a contemporary arts museum full of interesting and ‘odd’ looking pieces of art work. I loved the architecture of the museum, even if it does stand out as a bit incongruous with the rest of the buildings in Paris. We then went for a walk down the Canal St Martin, where Audrey Tautou skims stones in the famous film Amélie.
We ended Friday with a trip to the Sacre Coeur. A service was being held when we went inside the church, so sat at the back and watched. It was nice to listen to a church service in French. A market was being held all around the Sacre Coeur over the weekend. A sort of wine festival was being held, where you paid 2 euros for a plastic wine glass and then you paid about 2 euros for it to be filled with wine. I certainly felt very cheery on Friday evening after drinking three glasses of wine!
I couldn’t believe how quick our final day came round. We had done all of the major attractions by the end of the week, so we went back into the Louvre for a few hours of what we hadn’t seen. We wanted to have a portrait done at the Artist’s Square near the Sacre Coeur, but it was 60 euros which we couldn’t really afford! So we had a lovely meal instead, and then headed over to the Tour Montparnasse. A skyscraper with a lift that takes 38 seconds to get to the 56th floor, we enjoyed our final evening at the top of the Tour Montparnasse. We watched a sunset over Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower’s spectacular light show on the hour.
It was amazing how much we managed to fit into our trip to Paris. I knew that a week would be plenty of time to do all of the most popular attractions, and we had time to do the lesser known ones and discover the quieter parts of Paris. We never rushed to get anywhere or finish attractions, but my feet did hurt every night when we got back to the hotel. It’s amazing how much walking you can do in Paris and how close many of the attractions are. We had sitting breaks quite often throughout the day, which was a great opportunity to watch the world go by. I wore walking boots most of the time and we climbed up and down a hell of a lot of steps! So I certainly got a lot of exercise while being in Paris.
We also had some very delicious food while staying in Paris. I had quite a few crepes filled with nutella and bananas, and some lovely main meals including beef bourguignon and steack hache (a posh French version of a beef burger). I had some lovely wine as well, especially at the Sacre Coeur, and I got to have a hot drink of vanilla milk at the Cafe des Deux Moulins, where Amélie in the film Amélie works as a waitress! It was pretty surreal being inside the cafe where the film was made, and there was a poster of Audrey Tautou as Amélie with her signature.
Overall I had a fantastic week away in Paris. It’s a truly beautiful city with so much to see and explore. A big thank you to my friend who invited me back in April to go to Paris.
Clare Bear 🙂