We organised a number of trips in Europe while visiting my brother in London, and Paris was the second destination on our list.
We booked seats on the Eurostar for 6am (6am??!) on Friday morning to get the most out of our time there. My brother would join us on Saturday morning after he had finished up with work for the week. So we got up at 4:30am and got ready to walk. Yes walk. St Pancras Station was a 20 minute walk from my brother’s apartment so we decided to have a brisk walk to wake up us on the way to the station. Very brisk walk as it was a tad chilly for us Brisbanites.
We got to the station with a bit of time so I bought a cornish pastry and a salad for breakfast. Immigration was done prior to boarding the train so once that was done, we settled down for the 2 hour trip. The train wasn’t as nice as a Japanese Shinkansen, but it got us there quickly!
Once we were arrived at Gare Du Nord station in Paris, we got off and wandered out to see the Paris sky. It was grey.
After fumbling around to figure out how to buy some local metro tickets (2 out of the 3 machines were broken, and the remaining machine didn’t take cash notes!), we made our way to our apartment in Bastille. Our private apartment was in a little side street, around a 5 minute walk to Bastille station. It was lined with bars which came alive at night, but was very quiet during the day. By the time we dumped our luggage in the apartment, the sun made its way out.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around and checking out the sites that are so famous in Paris. We decided to tour the city sites by travelling along the river Seine, and purchased tickets for the Bato Bus. The Bato Bus stops at all the major sites, and is a wonderful way to travel around – particularly on a sunny day.
We quickly stopped by to see the Louvre Museum buildings, which are stunning and historic in itself. Thankfully it wasn’t too busy and we could take in the view. It also gave us a chance to figure out how to avoid the crowds and get into the Louvre when we were going to visit the museum in a few days…
We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, somewhere my mother specifically asked us to have a look at. Being a good Catholic girl who attended a French convent school, my mother dreamt of visiting the Cathedral since she was a little girl. It is an imposing, gothic Cathedral dating back to the 12th century. The Notre Dame is very different from the Westminster Abbey in London, it felt more dark and sombre, with its architecture being more raw than the Abbey. Raw probably isn’t a good way to describe it, but it’s the first word that popped in my head. While the structure itself may have been quite sombre, it was still awe-inspiring to see the intricacy of the columns, different coloured marbles and carved sculptures, and the stained glass windows were like nothing I had ever seen before. And surprisingly I felt at home and happy in there. The church was like a home and welcomed visitors to come and see the Cathedral, it was much more relaxed than visiting Westminster Abbey and didn’t even charge an entrance fee.
We blocked out the afternoon to visit the Eiffel Tower. The sun had really come out by this stage and it was lovely and warm. As expected, the Eiffel Tower area was ridiculously crowded with visitors, after all this is essentially the symbol of Paris. For every visitor there was a street seller trying to sell souvenirs. We strolled around to have a look at the surrounding grounds and ate an ice cream as we went. We then went up the tower to have a good look at Paris. After a 45 minute wait (which I’m told, is a pretty quick waiting time!), we made our way up.
I am not a fan of heights so I’m not going to rave on about the views, only that one side of Paris clearly had more history than the other. No, I was busy calming myself down and was distracted from taking in the views. Yes, that seems inappropriate if you have the opportunity to go up the Eiffel Tower, but that was the way it was for me.
As the evening came, we went back to our apartment to freshen up (because I tell you my feet were sore by now!) and potter around. We made dinner reservations for Le Bistrot Paul Bert and walked to the restaurant. You can read more about our visit to Paul Bert here.