So, it has finally happened! The day I had been talking (or some may say going-on, non-stop) about for the past year, had finally come around.
A long time waiting, planning and saving led up to the 21st August where we would finally say our farewells to friends, family and home, and head for the road.
So, goodbyes said and ready to go, a few hours later we found ourselves in Paris. And man I was so excited to be there! Having dreamed about Paris for many a year, it was about time I finally ventured there. With a few hours to kill before check in we wandered around the lower part of Montmatre where we were staying. We ended up being surrounded by tourists, tat and a general disappointed feeling. Where were the Parisian streets, cafes, Parisians themselves?! Where was the romance and the soul of the city of love?! By the Eiffel Tower surely?! Well, we headed there, and, though a beautiful building, the overwhelming amount of rubbish on the grass surrounding the tower meant sitting down was a choice between sitting on broken glass, food wrappers, or not at all. With the feeling of disappoint remaining, it was about enough for one day.
Awaking on the second day with bright spirits none the less, it was time to give Paris another chance! All could not be bad in the capital! And much to our delight, things did get better… I found a bakery. Hurrah! A real French bread for little over a euro. Cheese added into the equation and life had suddenly improved ten fold. This day, and the following 2, led to a complete change of heart about Paris. Three museums later, a few rides along the River Seine and exploring the less-touristy areas of Montmatre and outer districts, alongside some tasty crepes in the Latin quarter and a second and more successful visit to the Eiffel Tower (despite chickening out of going even to the second floor) and Paris had well and truly won us over.
Giving ourselves five nights meant we had the chance to really explore, rather than having to cram everything into one or two day. Which, I must add, was exceptionally handy when it came to a mid-afternoon nap (a new found hobby since travelling). Paris is also huge. Do not underestimate the sheer size of the city. Especially when tied in with the late summer sun. Walking was okay, sometimes. That is, of course, if you want to either walk for hours to get to your desired location, or end up a lovely sweaty mess – or both. if not, then opt for public transport. For just 13 euros 30, you can get a book of 10 underground tickets. That is pretty cheap, especially when you compare it to London’s £4+ single journey fare. This also saves you heaps of times when it comes to moving around the city; efficient and very regular, serving all the main attraction (or nearby) in Paris, this is a great way to get around.
Next you have the museums. With so many to choose from and just a few days in the city you need to decide what you MUST see and what you don’t mind shelving, for now. For us, we decided we really should go to the Louvre. So the second day we were up and out the hostel by half 8 in the morning. Getting up early was a good idea; we were in the front of a queue that was forming rather fast behind us, ready for opening time. Straight in, we didn’t waste an hour or two sulking in a queue. The Louvre was really very good, as people say it is. However it is massive, and after 2 1/2 hours we’d had enough. One museum under the belt, we hadn’t really thought about visiting any more. But a few recommendations later, the following day we found ourselves at the Musee D’Orsay – my favourite of the three we visited. The building itself is beautiful and not overwhelming in size. The galleries are split nicely and there are some glorious pieces of art housed within the walls. Not an arty-farty person, I thoroughly surprised myself that I enjoyed it so much, particularly seeing the iconic works of Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. The third and final museum we visited was the Pompidou Centre. Housing all sorts of modern art, again I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy it or find some of it rather pointless. The answer is that it was a good way to spend an hour or two, some of the art was wonderful and some was just…odd. Still, if you like Picasso and you like your weird art which some people will refuse to believe is art, the Pompidou is for you. The icing on the museum cake, was the price. Free! Free I hear you say?! Surely not?! Yes, it’s true. They were free, nada, nil. Being under 25 and from the EU has its benefits. Free entrance to museums in Paris appears to be one of them.
Having been to more museums in 3 days then I would normally in a year it was probably time to do something different. Like climb the stairs of the Eiffel Tower to the 2nd floor, then maybe even be daring and get the lift to the very top. This all seems well and good, but the reality of the situation is if you are a wimp, scaredy cat, big-girl’s blouse or all the above then, like us, you may struggle to even make it up at all. Okay so we did try, we queued for 30 minutes and purchased tickets to the second floor. I was so confident i’d be at the second floor that all thoughts of height-induced fear had evaporated. This was until I began the ascent. By the time I was half way to the first floor my balance was going and the hand rail had become my best friend. One clammy hand, bitten lip and two exceptionally wobbly legs later I arrived on the first floor. The decision to go to the second floor had been decided on about the fourth step up. Unfortunately, Ed is probably more scared than I am so there was no hope for either of us. Instead we had to marvel at the view (which was in fact rather lovely) from the first floor and chuckle at our lame-ness.
To write about everything we did in Paris would take forever, and probably get a little boring for the reader. So, to summarise, on top of the museums we went to the top of the Notre Damn towers (another freebie – thanks UK passport), picnicked outside the Sacre-Couer, visited Jim Morrison’s grave and got a day ticket on the hop-on, hop-off boats down the Seine (thanks expired student card for making this half price!). The days were long, but not too long, and we felt like we had a chance to get to grips with Paris.
After spending three full days exploring and eating, or eating and exploring (the latter is more accurate) we headed to Rock en Seine festival to watch System of a Down. The tickets were cheap and it was a fun way to spend an evening.
The time had come to pack our bags and head off for the Swiss Alps. Having completely changed about how I felt about Paris, I was sad to leave. But I was heading to the land of chocolate and cheese, which is always enough to perk me up. Overall, I would absolutely, definitely and wholly recommend you check out Paris. Once you have a chance to explore you can see why people love the place so much. As the infamous saying doesn’t go, but could; you should never judge a city by its tourist tack selling traders.