Paris! The city of lights, Eiffel Tower, Crepes and some may even say it’s the most romantic city in the world! We flew to Paris from Montreal and after a 10-hour flight, a transfer in Zurich and a couple of Metro stops later we arrived at our accommodation. We thought that because accommodation was so expensive in Europe, perhaps we would be better off staying in apartments. We used airbnb to find our apartment and the found that the overall process was completely flawless.
Our first apartment was in an area called Ile de France and was about 30 minutes away from the centre of Paris. We used the Metro to get everywhere and we actually got a four days pass for 36 Euro each, which we thought was VERY pricey- but it covered us for our entire stay. Massive tip for Paris – the trains don’t wait for you. The doors will close very quickly and if you’re half way out the door they will slam shut on you. So, as soon as you hear the beep-beep warning signs, either jump off or stay on. We saw two couples get separated because they were either too slow or just being polite letting people off the train behind them! It was definitely a wake up call for us to start pushing our way on and off trains and live like the French!
Eiffel Tower: Our first stop was of course the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower (and Disneyland) must be the one attraction that is always FULL of people. We got there at about 6pm and there was still a lot of hustle and bustle. We ran when we saw that there was a line with only 10 people at the south west end of the tower and stood in line quite content with ourselves. That was until we realised that we had found the ‘Climb the Tower’ line where you need to walk up the first two levels of the tower, so we quickly jumped out of the line and went to another line with 100 or so people at the south east end of the tower. This one used the lift to get up.
The line took us about an hour to reach the counter to buy our tickets (which were only 14 Euro each) and about 30 minutes to get into the lift. There is a stop on the 2nd floor to transfer lifts, which of course has a new line with another 200 people, so another hour there. We ended up making it to the top at about 9pm – perfect to see the sunset over Paris! Amazing! It is a hassle getting up there, but once you do it’s worth it…you can drink a glass of champagne up there for 12 Euro, have an ice-cream or simply lookout at the sights…it’s breathtaking and very romantic!
The Sights: The next day, after a good sleep in we set out to see the sights! We mapped out everything we wanted to see on Google maps and decided to take the Metro everywhere. First up was the Louvre. We must have had good ‘Line Karma’ from the previous night, because we got off at the Metro station and used the entrance from down there to buy our tickets into the Louvre (10 Euro each) and we also bought tickets to see Chateau de Versailles (25 Euro each). There was no line at the entrance, so we sailed straight in. Those that did line up at the top near the Pyramid entrance had a much longer wait in the sun than what we did – so try and take the Metro to the Louvre to avoid waiting in line.
The Louvre is the biggest museum in the world. It’s King Louis’ old Palace and is just absolutely massive – they say that if you spent one minute at every artefact, it would take you four months to complete. We were quite proud that we managed to do it in 90 minutes. The Mona Lisa is surrounded by Red Carpet and glassed in, so it’s quite hard to get a good photo, especially when you have about 200 people crammed into the one spot and flashes going off every second. We thought the line to see the Mona Lisa was more impressive than the painting itself… but that sounds improper… so I’ll stop now.
There are some amazing pieces of art here and we both wished we’d really paid attention in history class, so we could appreciate the pieces a lot more. The staff at the Louvre know this though and they are kind enough to offer you a guide with the ‘main’ pieces of art on each floor – so that you don’t feel completely lost. Regardless of whether you are a history/art buff or not, it would almost be a crime to come to Paris and not see the Louvre. A definite must see!
We cruised down to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral after our Louvre experience. You may remember Notre Dame from movies such as the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Quasimodo – Vampire Slayer. Not sure about the last one…but Notre Dame was very beautiful. Lots of stain glass windows and a very ornamental cathedral. There was no wait to get in here and there wasn’t a charge either. There are souvenir coin machines inside the cathedral where you can put in two Euros and in exchange you get a memorabilia coin from Notre Dame Cathedral. Good as a small keepsake of your visit.
Champs d’Elysees was next on the list and Gus’ dream of singing Champs d’Elysees is a busy street became a reality and he got to sing it all the way down. We came from the Metro George V, so it wasn’t until we got right down to the end of the street that we saw the Arc de Triomphe. With 300 steps to get to the top of the Arc, we were quite happy to admire from below. I did get lost in one of my favourite shops Promod for about 40 minutes. I was going in for a quick browse and it ended up taking a bit longer that expected! This impressive street has just about everything cinemas, shops, restaurants and the crazy round a bout with four lanes. After a jam-packed day so we headed to one of Paris’ many parks to enjoy an afternoon siesta – something we have become very accustomed to lately! Great way to finish off the day…
The following day was a bit more chillaxed, with only three things on the itinerary. A cruise down the river Seine, Sacre Couer and a visit to the Moulin Rouge. The cruise down the river Seine was lovely; it went for about an hour and covered a good 10 km’s of river. At only 12 Euro each it’s good value for money! Montmartre is the artist district and where you can find both the Sacre Couer and the Moulin Rouge. Sacre Couer was just stunning. We took the 200 steps to get to the top of the hill and had the most amazing view over Paris. Heaps of people here, street performers and plenty of great photo opportunities – if you get the right photographer. We seemed to find the worst photographers in Paris, where you would ask for a photo in front of the Sacre Couer or the Eiffel Tower and they would take it of us and leave the monument out of it! We got it right eventually and came up with these beauties! There is also a funicular that can take you to the top if you’re not up for the climb. But a great place to sit and take in the best Paris has to offer.
A short 20-minute stroll down this red light district of Paris, led us to the main doors of the Moulin Rouge. Heavily guarded by a massive bouncer he was bemused at the fact that we were looking for tickets that same night. “Saturday night”, he stated “is full!”. So, tip right there – book about one week, maybe two weeks in advance for a show at the Moulin Rouge! Tourist buses arrive here by the droves, maybe next time we’ll look into another Burlesque show that isn’t so touristy.
Our last day in Paris we dedicated to the Chateau de Versailles and its gardens. We took a train to the Chateau and arrived 40 minutes later from the Champs de Mars station. The line to get into the Chateau Versailles was ridiculous; it was definitely a Disney line, which snaked around 4 times before we could even contemplate getting in. We tried bumping the line and going straight it, as it seemed quite easy to do – but two security guards came out of nowhere and pointed us to the back of the line.
The line did go quickly though and we were ushered into the chateau. It’s an enormous palace, with golden tipped gates and doors. You can get the audio guide at the entrance (four euro) which helps explain the in’s and out’s of the chateau and it’s history. The gardens were a lot more impressive. Perfectly manicured gardens spread out across over 100 acres, with it’s own man made lake that people can row their little boat in. You could walk for what seemed to be a lifetime and always discover something new. These gardens were beautiful, so if you go to the Chateau make sure your ticket includes the gardens because otherwise it’s not worth it!
We finished off our day with a walk down to the St Martin Canal. Lovely for an afternoon stroll and drink or snack on it’s banks. There was a ferry that interestingly enough would cruise down for approximately 2km before the gates behind it would close and the canal would fill up with water, while emptying the previous gates water. This process was repeated every 2km or so down the canal. Very interesting and amusing to see all the passengers on the ferry think they were going down with the ship!
There is so much to do in Paris. We packed everything into four days and we know this is only a fraction of what we can see and do in this unbelievable city! On the way to the train station, we got the loveliest Taxi driver who showed us the best places to shop and dine when in Paris – of course we hadn’t seen any of it. We weren’t disheartened though, we told him we’d come back and see it all again…