I’m going to start off straight off with this: I love Paris. I love the art galleries, the culture, the streets of shops and the ENORMOUS department stores. I loved being able to see the Eiffel Tower from the metro station near our hostel, the views from the main attractions, all the people everywhere and just the atmosphere. It was late October by the time we got to Paris and starting to cool down, which I was grateful for. I don’t think I would have managed the bajillion odd stairs I climbed up with Osgood-Schlatters if it was also 35ºC outside. I might have melted.
All this said, I don’t speak any French, and my boyfriend speaks even less (ha). I can do basics, but my accent isn’t good and I don’t understand any of it (it’s one thing to ask, “hello, where is the nearest metro station?” it’s a completely different thing to understand the answer). We go by ordering food, and generally speaking if you throw in a few French words here and there (Bonjour, Merci, etc.) and look generally apologetic for not speaking their language, people aren’t rude to you, and are generally happy enough to help.
Our first day we climbed Notre Dame. 387 steps in a spiral. Agony, but well worth it. I seriously do not regret the pain at all (and seriously, not that hard. If I can do it, you probably can. About 90% of the world is fitter than me so really, just do it). The view is magnificent. And so many gargoyles! I have photos of pretty much every one I saw, but I won’t share them all with you, I’ll stick to my favourites. Emmanuel (the bell) is enormous, definitely worth a look, and once you get up the very top, it’s incredibly high. Like, I-can-see-the-whole-city high.
That evening we caught the metro down to the Moulin Rouge to have a look at the windmill and walked through Montmartre up to Sacre Coeur to watch the sunset. Word of warning, you can’t see the Eiffel Tower from Sacre Coeur, there’re trees in the way. It was all gorgeous nonetheless, but due to the crowds (and our own exhaustedness) we didn’t get inside the cathedral, which I’d have loved to do. We were unfortunate in only having planned for a week (truthfully, we could’ve stayed longer but I was getting seriously homesick and wanted to get back to England asap as it was pretty much the longest I’d ever been without seeing my mum), but we still got as much in as I guess we could have hoped for.
The next morning we queued for the longest amount of time so far on the trip to climb the Eiffel Tower. We got the lifts up, but I hope one day (when I go back with an un-injured knee) to climb the stairs (although you can only climb halfway, then you have to take the lift). It was super packed due to a long weekend in a number of European countries, and full of dressed-up kids due to it being Halloween. I’d never seen the Eiffel Tower before, despite having been to Paris a couple of times on camping trips as a small child, and I was totally blown away by it. It’s enormous and beautiful.
Later on that day we walked down the Champs-Élysées (stopping off to gawk at some HUMONGOUS stores on the way) and climbed the Arc de Triomphe, also breathtaking with amazing views of the Eiffel tower. We stayed up there for sunset, in time for the lights on the tower to be turned on and everything to start glittering. Romantic? Incredibly.
On November 1st we spent our morning at the Louvre (can I just say I really loved being 18 on this trip? I got in free pretty much everywhere…). We stood in a massive crowd to see the Mona Lisa, which, conversely to popular opinion, was bigger than I was expecting it to be. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard so many people go on about how TINY the painting is… I don’t know. It was more amazing to see the people crowding around her than the actual painting, to be honest. I appreciate its a masterpiece and all, but the social obligation to go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa if you’re in Paris sort of astounds me. You don’t really get the same thing about art anywhere else. No one is shocked if you go to Canberra and don’t see Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series… I digress. We saw the staples, if you will, of the Louvre, and then headed back over towards Notre Dame for souvenir shopping (I may or may not have an extensive snow globe collection…)
Friday (the next day) was my “Paris Shopping Day” which I completely failed at seeing as I didn’t buy a single thing. I had a look at some art outside a church behind the Louvre by Mauro Perucchetti, and made my way over to the LaFayette centre, which is the biggest shopping center/department store/thing EVER. Probably (not really, but I think it was for a bit). They had their Christmas tree up ALREADY (November 3rd. Really, guys?) and it was probably the biggest tree I’ve ever seen.
On our last day in Paris we went to see the pyramids outside the Louvre and walked through the Jardin des Tuileries. This took a surprisingly long time as, not only is it much bigger than I was expecting but we kept stopping to look at things and sit to watch ducks swim around in fountains.
As you can probably tell from the pictures it was a completely gorgeous day, some of the most perfect weather we experienced on the whole trip; not hot, not too cold, and sunny with pretty, fluffy clouds. After marvelling at the obelisk for a bit we went to Pierre Hermé to buy macarons, some of which were really nice, others were a bit odd…
On the 4th of November we took a Eurolines bus (I tell you, getting that ticket was the most stressful thing ever) from Paris to London, and arrived in the early evening, actually managing to miss my parents being in the city by about an hour.
More on the UK next time, hope you’ve enjoyed my photos, feel free to ask me anything about my time in Paris, especially if you’re planning to go there yourself, I’d be happy to help in any way I can. (I totally broke my 500 word limit and made this post even longer… sorry. Let me know what you’d prefer to read from me anyway, once I’m done with my travels these posts will be less essay-like, I swear)