Owing to a travel mix-up explained in my previous post, my time in Paris was sadly all too short. I definitely want to go to Paris again in the not too distant future, however we did manage to pack a LOT in in our short time in the French capital.
Paris certainly surprised me, it is such a well known city that I thought I had seen enough of it in movies and books that I ‘knew’ it. However, actually being there was really very different from how I imagined.
I wasn’t that eager to see the Eiffel tower as I thought it was such a hackneyed and over-visited part of the city that it wouldn’t hold much interest for me. I was wrong. As much as the tower is a very well known image, it is still pretty amazing to see in real life, especially standing under it and looking up.
The first time I saw the Eiffel tower we were on the Metro and suddenly the view out the window opened up and I saw it! We went hurtling past it and, as silly as it sounds, I was worried that it was gone and I wouldn’t see it again.
A few tips – we only went up to the 2nd floor, not right up to the top but the view from there was brilliant itself without having to go to the top. We also took the stairs and not the lift because there was a queue but the walk up the stairs really wasn’t bad at all and the views were lovely.
One of my favourite EVER memories is the evening of the last full day of this two week trip, when I and my friends sat outside the Louvre in the dying Parisian light for hours upon hours and laughed and talked and enjoyed the peace and beauty of the night.
As for the museum itself, this was a revelation. We went on our last day burdened down with rucksacks with only a few hours to spare. The plan was for a few of us to stay outside with the bags and the other two to go in and then swap around as we didn’t think we could take the bags in. However, the museum let us leave our large rucksacks in the baggage room free of charge for however long we liked (this may have changed, check before you go) and the queue which I had imagined would take very long moved quickly. The museum’s collections were amazing, full of pieces I had long admired and I only wish we could have spent an entire day there!
As anyone who has visited the city can attest to, there is something very unqiue about Paris. Some sights in Paris which were special to me include walking by the Seine and looking at all of the different, intricately decorated bridges. I also loved seeing all of the book stalls by the side of the river and I am sure I would have spent a lot of time there had I been able to.
Seeing the Notre Dame de Paris was also an important experience for me as I had recently just finished reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. I also left my friends on a tour to run over and see the Pompidou Centre as I had previously heard about in a lecture and thought sounded fascinating, and it certainly did not disappoint.
Montmartre and Nearby
The first thing we did in Paris was to visit the Sacre Coeur. This was a very good idea as the view of Paris from the steps of the church offers a breathtaking introduction to the city. The Sacre Coeur itself is a very beautiful and very large church, a visit to which, I would say, is unmissable, if only for the view.
Other nearby places worth a visit are, of course, the Moulin Rouge, the Moulin de la Galette, an 18th century windmill, and, for fans of french films, a visit to the Café des Deux Moulins, the location where much of where Amelie was shot.
Another famous landmark that I would recommend, is the Champs-Élysées. This very long, tree-lined boulevard, is home to many luxury shops, theatres and cafés, perfect for window shopping and people watching. If this isn’t your thing, however, then maybe the Arc de Triomphe will make the Champs-Élysées worth the visit.
This large monument is accessed by walking straight down the Champs-Élysées. From the Arch, twelve avenues shoot off at diagonal angles. In the centre of the Arch, lies The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is a memorial to France’s unknown dead of both the First and Second World Wars. Part of this memorial is an eternal flame and it is both a sobering and a very beautiful and impressive to behold place.
And so, with Paris, ends the stories of this two week interrail trip.
Next up, Italy and Venice 🙂