Paris. The city of love and baguettes and a pretty tall tower. I’ve been to Paris 4 times before but only ever to Disneyland so (although slightly gutted I can’t be a child and run up to disney characters for a photo) I was very excited to see the real Paris!
We started our interrail adventure in the ungodly hours of Sunday morning and at 6.40am we were flying over Heathrow on our way to stop number one! After checking in to our hostel (caulaincourt boutique hostel – fairly nice actually!) we headed out to adventure. By chance, we stumbled across the sacre caeur which is a beautiful white basilica that sits on the top of a hill looking over all of Paris. We also went inside which was just as beautiful. It was also really warm because so many people had lit candles to make prayers.
After a small lunch (a baguette) we continued our adventures but didn’t seem to find much because we weren’t in the centre. We thought we would try one more thing that was relatively near us on a map although because of what it was called I thought it was just a monument or something on a roundabout. I was wrong! It was the cutest restaurant/bar I think I’ve ever seen! All the outdoor seating was different with comfy chairs and loungers etc and all covered in fairy lights. Opposite that was the biggest surprise. There was a river heading outwards and either side was a temporary beach! There was sand, ice cream stalls, games like badminton.. It was great! We had a nice wander along until we were too tired to walk anymore. After a rest we went to the other side of the city for dinner and then headed out to the coolest bar I have ever been to. It’s called l’zero de conduit. It’s 16€ for your first cocktail and then 6€ after that. The catch is, all the cocktails are named after cartoon characters so to order your drink you have to draw it on a mini white board! I’m a horrendous artist but he still guessed them first time! I had a Peter Pan and a Pinocchio and just to make it all even crazier, they serve you your drink in a baby bottle!(Which you get to keep) in between drinks we had a wide variety of games that we could play including cluedo, pictionary, jungle speed and uno.
The second day we walked. Boy, did we do a lot of walking! We got the metro to the island in the city centre and met a tour guide from culturefish. It was a free walking tour but you tip at the end which was great. Paris was originally built by the celtics and used to be just the size of the island. They built buildings such as the Notre Dame and a gothic cathedral to attract people to come and see Paris’s beauty and they still attract people now! After seeing the gothic chapel (which amazingly still has 75% of its original stained glass!) we saw Marie Antoinette’s prison cell, that is now a museum about the French Revolution. Against common belief, she did not say “let them eat cake” when told that the people of her country were starving and couldn’t afford bread. Despite being perceived as a mean, out of touch person, her last words were “oh pardon me I didn’t mean to do that” after stepping on her executioners foot. Maybe not such a meanie after all!
We then saw the consergerie and learnt a bit about recent French politics and how Eco-friendly Paris is nowadays. Then came one of the things in Paris that I was most looking forward to seeing. I first went to Paris aged 4 when the current craze at Disneyland was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I fell in love with the film and now I’ve seen it in real life too! The Notre Dame cathedral was built in 1345 after 200 years of construction. On the sides you can see the world’s first ever buttresses which were invented so that they can build it higher with bigger stained glass windows with more support. This technique is now used all over Europe. Gargoyle statues are all over the top and are to scare away evil things and also drain water away from the foundations. (Water comes out the mouths). There were also a few that looked like those in the disney film! Here’s my favourite thing I’ve learnt in the last four days; in 1789 the Notre Dame was nearly knocked down. To save the cathedral, Victor Hugo wrote the book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and overnight people fell in love with the beautiful building again and it was refurbished. Here’s the mind-boggling bit that I’m still amazed by. In 2010 it was discovered that there really was a hunchbacked man who worked as a stone carver and as Victor Hugo was so involved with the refurbishment, it was very likely that they met. The real Quasimodo was called Jean Trajin which was Jean Valjean’s original name in Victor Hugo’s early drafts of Les Miserables!!
We then went onto the courtyard of the Louvre Museum which is the biggest building in Europe (originally built as a fortress). As we walked through the courtyards I was actually feeling pretty overwhelmed! I couldn’t get my head around the fact that it was all one building! We didn’t go in to see the Mona Lisa and we aren’t massive art buffs so we left it. Our tour guide told us that he’s worked out that if you spend 60 seconds looking at each piece of artwork in the Louvre, it will take you 2 years and 2 months to see it all!!! Who said you could do the whole of Paris in a weekend…. 😉
After the tour we went and had a picnic in the gardens looking up at the Eiffel Tower. Again, it was slightly overwhelming how big it is!! We then queued for an hour and a half and went up. For a student it is only 13,50€ and we spent 4 hours up there so it was worth our money! Other than the incredible views at the very top, we also enjoyed the bar/cafe on the first floor gallery that had swings as seats and some great music! We had dinner and went out for a drink and then headed home for some well deserved sleep.
The next day we had the laziest morning ever but we needed it! Then we had another picnic lunch but this time with a view of the Arc de Triomphe. We were in a prime picture position so people watching was on top form! It’s free to go up to the top of the Arc if you’re under 25 so it had to happen. It is A LOT of steps but the views make it worth it! There is also a mini museum about all the Arcs dedicated to fallen soldiers all over the world. There are also a few tombs underneath of generals etc.
We then made our way home via Champs Élysées where I bought some lovely macarons from Paul the bakery.
After that we made our way to Bastille and to the Promenade Plantee which is a 4.5km section of abandoned railway that’s been turned into a garden and it was beautiful! We probably walked about a mile and a half down it taking loads of pretty photos (whilst dodging a lot of runners) and then headed back to our hostel for dinner
Sadly, we weren’t in Paris on a Friday or Saturday when all the clubs have events etc but the guy who worked in the baby bottle bar recommended us a bar near our hostel called La Famile. They make cool flavoured mojitos with liquid nitrogen. Sadly, we didn’t find it but we did have a back up, dirty dick. Yes, that was really the name of a cocktail bar. As we were walking there we saw a group of guys looking pretty lost and then 10m down the road we also looked pretty lost as Dirty Dick was shut. They came over and between us we all decided to go to the Irish pub we’d all seen. We then had a few drinks, and then ended up in a karaoke bar and had a few drinks and a few more…. Shalini sung her heart out with a few solo jams and Ammun and I also joined for a few group songs. I’m pretty sure we got home at half five. Not quite what we expected when we were heading out for a cocktail or two!
Needless to say, we were pretty hungover on our last day. Didn’t manage to check out before eleven! We went for a walk around Montmatre (where our hostel was) and saw the love wall (le mur des je’taime). It’s a massive wall in a small park, made up of tiles and has “I love you” written in more than 300 different languages.
We then made our way to the Moulin Rouge (because I love the film) which was cool to see but after seeing what it looks like in the film it was a bit of an anticlimax.
We then collected our (very heavy) bags and headed to the station to meet Fiona and start the next part of our adventure; Brussels!
Food rating: 9/10
Boy rating: 7.5/10
Tackiest gift: 50cm tall Eiffel Tower with tacky flashing lights costing 95€!!
What I would do different: use my 3G to have better maps and maybe not go in August when the Parisians leave and loads of things are shut.
Next stop, Brussels!