Touristing in Paris
Last night I got back from a whirlwind weekend in Paris – I met up with my friend Liz, who I’ve known since high school (or, I suppose, since fifth grade – but we didn’t become good friends until a few years later). She’s doing a co-op term in Germany, so we decided to meet in the middle for 36 overlapping hours in one of my favourite cities!
I should mention that I have been to Paris before; I actually went twice with my family, the summers I was 13 and 14. Each time, we were there for a few weeks and stayed in a rented apartment, so we had time to properly explore many of the arrondissements (neighbourhoods) and wander around the streets. But I’ve never been as an adult, and somehow 14 feels like eons ago!
This time, Liz and I essentially did the ‘express Paris tour’ – on Saturday, we walked what turned out to be 50,000 steps. Back in the hotel room, she asked if my phone’s step counter knew how many kilometres we’d walked. It did – 43 kilometres and apparently about 2700 calories burned (which helped make up for all the bread products we consumed!!).
Rather than waxing poetic about how much I love Paris, I will let the photos of this stunning city speak for themselves!
When I stepped out of the train station, I immediately saw Notre Dame – lit up – across the Seine. The sheer beauty of it almost brought a tear to my eye, and I remembered straight away why I’d fallen in love with this city the first time.
On Saturday morning, after an amazing (free!) hotel breakfast of assorted breads, including some of the flakiest, butteriest croissants I’ve had in a long time, we went to the Louvre – and beat most of the tourists. Naturally, Mona Lisa (or La Joconde, as she’s known en Français) still drew a crowd, but we got a pretty clear view.
After the Louvre, we walked through the Tuileries and up the Champs-Élysées (through a Christmas market!). The weather was stunning and we kept remarking how lucky we were, then hoping we hadn’t jinxed it. As it turned out, it rained on and off on Sunday, so we probably did jinx it. Oops.
The Arc de Triomphe is potentially my favourite piece of French architecture. It’s just so vast, with intricate carvings on every side, and it’s hard to imagine it being built by people. The 12-way intersection around it looks like a clock from above, and you have to cross the street via an underpass because it is constantly filled with cars. I would not like to be behind the wheel in this city (although, unlike the UK, they drive on the right side of the street in France!).
We walked up three hundred and something stairs to the first level and I pretty much took a picture in every direction (since you can walk all the way around the balcony). I have actually been all the way up before, but neither of us particularly wanted to brave the heights and we felt like it wouldn’t be the best use of our time, so the first-platform view had to suffice.
After the Eiffel Tower, we got pastries (I recommended réligieuses, which are essentially big iced cream puffs with little iced cream puffs on top). These ones had chocolate cream inside as well as chocolate glaze on top – we ate them as we walked through Montparnasse Cemetery, where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre are buried (among other famous figures).
We spent much of the early evening wandering around our neighbourhood, walking our way back over to the Eiffel Tower, and got an amazingly priced dinner on the way there – it was 10 euros for a massive plate of lettuce and tomato salad, lentils, potatoes, green beans, and beets. Add that to 3 euros for fresh goat cheese (which we ate with the free baguette that accompanies every meal) and a couple of glasses of white wine, and we were satisfied.
The Eiffel Tower at night is stunning – it lights up for five minutes every hour on the hour between 9 PM and 2 AM (I think?), and we kept wondering what it would be like to be up the tower when it’s lighting up. It is an incredibly striking sight, and although this photo does not feature the lights – they’re difficult to capture properly – rest assured that they are magical.
On Sunday morning, we ate more bread products … and then went back to Notre Dame for a surprisingly tourist-free experience. Unfortunately, this means I couldn’t caption this shot “In the tourist jam / Round the Notre Dame,” but anyone who knows me already knows that I love ABBA and Mamma Mia, so missing out on the cheesy pun just this once was okay.
Because we made the incredibly sensible decision to go to Notre Dame first thing in the morning (so got there just after 9 AM), we managed to get inside with zero line and heard part of a sung service in French. The interior of the church is stunning and the music was ethereal – what an experience!
After a 10 AM ice cream from Berthillon (renowned for their crème glacée!) and a pleasant, peaceful wander through the Jardin de Luxembourg, I said goodbye to Liz. She was catching a noon train back to Germany and my flight didn’t leave until 8:30 PM, so I decided to wander along the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay on my own. I haven’t done much solo travelling, and although I missed the company, it was oddly freeing to be alone in an unfamiliar city, just exploring.
The Musée d’Orsay has an extensive Monet collection, and this is one of my favourites. I love his style of painting and the colours he uses are so soothing … it’s funny that after 2 years working at an art studio, the way I look at art and think about technique has totally changed. I’d say I have a slightly more practiced eye, although obviously not as refined as someone who’s been to art school! It’s certainly given me more appreciation for art and I am definitely a big fan of Impressionism as a movement.
The inside of the Musée d’Orsay is beautiful – it used to be a train station, so it’s got a giant clock on one wall and a glass ceiling. I spent a couple of hours trying to see everything – the floor of Impressionist works were probably my favourite, although there was a little wing of the first floor that was all pointillism, so that was cool as well.
After this, I went and had a nice lunch on the Seine and took some final pictures, just wandering around the Quartier Latin (where our hotel was) for a little while. I indulged in a final crêpe and took in the city lights before making my way to the airport.
If you have never been to Paris, definitely consider it – it’s a city full of culture and history, and although I have now been there three times, I can say with absolute certainty that I will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later.