Good old Paris was on the list of places I really wanted to see while I had my working visa in the United Kingdom.
It had been over a year since I had landed in London and I still hadn’t made the time to get there. I had flown over the city countless amount of times going to other places throughout Europe during this period but had never made the decision to stop. Part of this was because since arriving in London and to a certain extent even before arriving in Europe I had heard such mixed reviews and people’s personal opinions on the famous capital city.
I finally thought, bugger it and took the chance to go over to France on a “Bank” long weekend in May. Since it was a long weekend as always, the flights out of London jumped up to a ridiculous price so I booked a late bus out of London Victoria on the Friday night after work and took off to make up my own mind.
Do I love or hate Paris?
The bus ride was nothing too concerning and I managed to get some sleep during the approximate 6 odd hour ride. That was a real bonus because once I arrived in
It wasn’t too long though and I had found a place where I was going to tick off the first item on my mental list of must do’s while in Paris. I had found a simple but nice-looking cafe to enjoy breakfast in and right in the front of the display counter proudly sat fresh croissants with the choice of different flavours as fillings. I promptly asked for a plain and chocolate one along with a coffee before sitting down out the front to enjoy my first meal in Paris.
It was a nice way to start my time in Paris, the croissants were still slightly warm and the pastry fresh and flaky. I personally rather the sweet filling of the chocolate inside to the plain. I stayed and finished my coffee while studying the map I had managed to score from my accommodation. I planned a rough route for the day then headed off.
Next stop on my Saturday morning stroll was the Arc de Triomphe. This is where I started to find the first busy parts on the streets, as many tourists had awoken and obviously decided to start there day here as well. This place was interesting, the roundabout itself is very large and the traffic on the roads was constant even though many other roads had been pretty quiet.
There is a walkway underneath the road that allows you to make your way to the middle of the Arc itself, although half the entertainment while being here was watching the tourists stupidly decide that the walkway was not required and
Once you get to the middle you can get some great pictures from here and also go up the top of the arc if you’re willing to pay for it. I didn’t worry about that though.
From here I walked down one of the main streets, Avenue des Champs-Elysees heading towards the middle of the city. The buildings along here were super grand indeed and made for some beautiful pictures with the trees in the streets. I also saw Ferrari’s that were available to hire and drive around the city but there was not a chance I wanted that responsibility. I turned off this street and walked past the Grand Palais and Petit Palais and over the Seine River. It was about here I had caught the first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.
I walked further through the gardens leading up towards the Les Invalides (The army museum). This building was very beautiful and certainly worth the time to walk through the grounds and out the other side. There is security there with scanners, but this shouldn’t put you off at all and it is a quick process to enter. This is a lovely spot to look through even if not interested in visiting the museum (which I didn’t) and the best thing is once walking through here and enjoying it you have actually got closer to the Eiffel Tower itself.
This was my next stop on my stroll of the city but before I got there, I called into a small local bakery and supermarket to make myself a nice little picnic to sit and enjoy at the feet of the famous tower. This is something I had seen others do and honestly a great way to soak up the views and realise exactly where you are and what is on display before you.
Once I was full, happy and had soaked up enough vitamin D, I made my way to the entrance of the Tower and decided to purchase a ticket to climb up by foot. FYI, there are 2 ways to get up, climb yourself or take the elevator. By going with the option of walking you really get to take in the amazing views step by step and appreciate exactly how high and uniquely structured the Eiffel Tower is. Once up to the second level you get to take in the fantastic views at your own leisure and spot some of the other famous landmarks dotted about the city. I could also trace back most of my footsteps I had recently walked throughout the morning.
While up on the second story I decided to purchase an extra ticket for 7 euros to take the elevator to the top of the Tower. The elevator is the only way up to this height. From here it was another view altogether and certainly worth paying the extra bit to experience. I took my time to soak it all in as well as take the pics I was happy with.
Handy hint fellas… the Eiffel tower has great dinner options available and you guessed it… brownie points collector right here… ching ching!!!
Once back down on ground level again I crossed the river and looked back at the Eiffel Tower from a different angle. I then walked along the river wandering through the gardens towards the Louvre, I passed by this as the line was pretty long and decided that an early morning start was best option to avoid waiting too long in the queue.
I walked further along with the idea of getting to Notre-Dame Cathedral. As I travelled to get there I passed by Pont Neuf and Pont au Change bridges, went in and visited Sainte Chapelle which is a 13th-century gothic chapel and also famous for its stained glass painted windows and then finally made it to Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Here there was another large gathering of tourists all trying to get that perfect shot to share on social media and keep as a memory of their time in Paris. Once I had also got my Insta snap I took the time to admire the architecture of the building from the outside before proceeding inside to do the same.
It was truly an impressive Cathedral and once again had some beautifully painted glass windows. The curves in the building were fantastic and really made it feel grand and impressive. Once I had soaked in enough of the inside I climbed the 422 steps to the rooftop and again had the chance to enjoy some sensational views overlooking Paris. Once done, I decided the day was getting late and I headed back towards my accommodation. I grabbed a quick feed on the way home and enjoyed a couple of well-deserved beverages at a pub close to the accommodation.
The next day I woke up early for a Sunday and made my way in towards the Louvre. I sampled another chocolate croissant on the way just to make sure the day before was not a fluke. Sure, enough it was delicious again.
When I arrived at the Louvre, I was happy to find that my plan had worked, most people must’ve been enjoying a Sunday sleep in. I only had a quick wait before getting inside and starting to look around. Personally, I’m not much of an art or historical collection person but I had to obviously come here and check it out, no trip to Paris would be complete without saying you have been and seen Mona Lisa in person.
Inside was actually surprisingly large, the collection of pieces varied and was an eye-opening experience. I found myself enjoying it far more than I initially thought I would. In fact, I was seeing work from artists that I had even heard of which I wasn’t expecting to know too many at all.
I certainly knew when I was approaching Mona Lisa though, it was crazy. People were lining up 10 or more deep just to get a picture of it. There were even a special walkway and security guards keeping a close eye on how close eager tourists were getting.
I ended up spending 4 or so hours in there which for some might sound too much and honestly longer than I had thought I would have spent but on the other hand, it would be possible for others to easily spend a whole day in there if it was something, they had a genuine interest in.
The rest of the afternoon I spent having lunch and a coffee at a lovely cafe
That evening I treated myself and went out for dinner as I had 2 culinary items I simply had to tick off before leaving on Monday. These were frogs’ legs and snails. I jumped straight into the snails for entree and was pleasantly surprised with the taste, once you get over the idea of “I’m eating a snail out of its shell” the taste was actually something I could enjoy. It was cooked with lots of garlic and parsley so had plenty of
I walked back to my accommodation very full and satisfied after an overall tasty dinner.
Monday was fly out day for me. I checked out of my room and left my bag at reception as I had an afternoon flight. My plan today was to spend the morning and early afternoon exploring around the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and the surrounding charming streets of the area.
The Sacré-Cœur itself is a Roman Catholic Church located on the highest point of Paris and therefore offers some simply stunning views as you look back across the city and an ideal place to get some terrific travel pics. It is a popular spot for tourists to venture to and as a result, there are plenty of people trying to sell you little collectable souvenirs. If you’re one to collect fridge magnets, little Eiffel Tower replicas or shot glasses this is as good of a place as any to find them. The church looks stunning on the outside. It is almost all white with 3 round points grabbing your attention first on arrival.
The surrounding streets are also beautiful and charming. There are little cafes and restaurants dotted across the place everywhere and plenty of places selling freshly made macaroons of all different flavours. This was something I couldn’t resist and eventually, my mind gave in and I tried a few different flavours. My personal favourite was the cookies and cream closely followed by strawberry cheesecake. I also decided that I deserved a sweet lunch today and opted for the freshly made crepes with strawberries and Nutella. Why not while in France hey?
After spending the last hour or just simply getting lost in the beauty of the area and the streets I headed back to my accommodation, picked up my bag and made my way by train to the airport.
My views on Paris are pretty clear now after initially arriving having heard so many mixed reviews. The city is certainly a special one and perfect for a long weekend style trip. It was a busy few days but completely rewarding. Make it a destination on your itinerary when in Europe and decide for yourself, do you love it or hate it?
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Happy Travels, Brodie