While I was planning the much needed overhaul of this blog, I discovered a bunch of old photographs from a trip I took to Paris in 2013. Now, my memories from three weeks ago are a little hazy, let alone three years. But one thing I’m sure of is that I had a fantastic time.
As somewhat of a reward to ourselves for surviving university, my roommate and I decided to spend our Winter holidays together in the ‘City of Love’, and so booked flights to leave the UK shortly after Christmas and return again in the New Year.
Neither of us had been to Paris before, but we had heard a lot of great things about it and had both wanted to visit for the longest time. Of course, we wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and other popular tourist attractions, as most do on their first time visiting any city.
It was just as important to both of us, however, that we took some time to just wander the streets as an everyday Parisian would, and discover shops, restaurants and other gems on our own. So, for our first few days in the city that’s exactly what we did.
Away from the hustle and bustle of souvenir shops, we discovered a brilliant mix of big stores, markets and boutiques selling everything from porcelain cats and delicate parasols to perfumed candles and haute couture hats.
And, while we took refuge in an English pub called The Frog & Rosbif on the first night, we soon started dining out at corner restaurants selling traditional French dishes and mouth-watering cheeseboards for the rest of our time in Paris.
Soon enough, we were ready to and felt confident enough to navigate Paris’ metro service and visit some of the city’s most talked about attractions.
First, we visited Centre Georges Pompidou, a complex building featuring two galleries for temporary exhibitions, a restaurant and panoramic views of Paris close to our hotel, in the Beauborg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris.
It was exhibiting the works of Salvador Dali and so the queue was already pretty long by the time we arrived. About an hour, an hour-and-a-half later, we were let in and immediately forgot about how long we’d been stood outside in the cold.
The décor was hyper-industrial, the views definitely didn’t disappoint and the exhibition was really fun. We even got to take a photo with Dali’s iconic Mae West Lips Sofa.
Next on our hitlist was, of course, the Eiffel Tower. We used the metro service to get there, but saw a tour bus stop at the attraction at least once every 20 minutes. As soon as the Eiffel Tower was in sight, we were both stunned by its size and the intricacy of its architecture, and couldn’t help but join in with the mass of tourists directing their own impromptu photoshoots.
I’d recommend paying a little more upfront and booking a behind-the-scenes tour to avoid the long queue, which for us took about two to three hours to clear. That’s not to say the wait isn’t worthwhile though. For us, the weather was good and we were able to go all the way up to the top. The views were amazing from every level of the Eiffel Tower and it was incredibly peaceful.
Being Christmas, there was also a traditional market stall not far from the Eiffel Tower selling gifts, knitwear, and the most delicious crepes and marshmallows. There was also a carousel which I unapologetically enjoyed a ride on, and an ice-rink that allowed me to flex my linguistic prowess and ask a young boy who’d taken a tumble, ‘ça va?’.
Trips to the Louvre Museum, Les Halles and Notre Dame followed suit, and I’d absolutely recommend all three attractions to first-time visitors. Beware of young children and teenagers asking for donations which they in fact pocket for themselves at all three of these locations, however.
One of the highlights was our day trip to Disneyland, which happened to be celebrating its 20th anniversary while we were there. Subsequently, our day of childish fun and bad eating habits ended in an elaborate lights and fireworks show, featuring some of Disney’s most beloved characters.
Before we knew it, it was New Years Eve and almost time to go home. To ring in the New Year, we wrapped up warm and went to the Champs-Elysees, a fantastic shopping destination and the site of the city’s largest gathering on New Years Eve in Paris.
The energy was electric; people were wishing one another cheerful Bonne Années and exchanging bises, and some had their own firecrackers and smaller fireworks. The boulevard also boasted a great view of the Eiffel Tower, which again showcased one of the most elaborate light shows as soon as the clock struck 12 and provided us with the perfect end to our trip.