Paris – the “City of Lights”
Although our trip to Paris was some years ago, this beautiful place has so much character and so much to see that I wanted to share my memories of this romantic city.
We visited Paris after I surprised my partner, Alex, with a trip to the magnificent city for the weekend. We left our home town in England shortly after I handed him a little gold key chain of the Eiffel Tower. “Are we going to Paris?” he exclaimed with a little childish giggle.
We, excitedly, drove to Dover where we boarded the ferry to take us across the English Channel.
Upon arriving in Calais we drove into a town on the outskirts of Paris called Cergy. A beautiful, idyllic town with a marina, surrounded by shops and restaurants. It was only a 30 minute drive into central Paris from here.
The next day we drove into Paris and made our way through a vintage car show outside the Louvre. Frustrated traffic wardens were whistling at pedestrians who were oblivious to the oncoming traffic.
After snapping a few photos of the vintage cars, we followed the River Seine until we reached the bottom of the Eiffel Tower.
I, of course, had to climb it (I never let an opportunity pass!) so we queued for 40 minutes. When we finally reached the ticket gate, Alex left me to climb this magnificent structure alone. He is severely afraid of heights and didn’t fancy the 674 steps to the top!
Even my legs turned to mush for the first part of the climb, but after getting to level 1 and seeing the views, I just wanted to climb higher and set my eyes on more panoramic views. I reached the top after a short queue for the lift to the top (you have to take this up the last part of the tower).
Standing at the top, looking over Paris, I couldn’t help but think about my parents coming here whilst my mother was pregnant with me. My father had done the same thing as I had just done, climbed the tower alone, leaving my mum at the bottom, just as I had Alex. I wondered whether he thought the same things as I did as he rose higher and higher in the iron tower.
I also thought of my brother, who had proposed to his wife at the top of the tower when he was just 18 years old. A romantic tale to be told for years to come.
After taking far too many pictures, I made my way down the tower to reunite with Alex.
We took our selfies with the tower in the background before heading off to get some lunch. We didn’t know what kind of food we were looking for so we just wandered through the rustic Parisian streets. We walked through the Palais de Chaillot and absorbed the beauty of its gardens and fountains. With the Eiffel tower just opposite, it was the perfect spot to sit down, relax and take in some views.
After we had some lunch, from a lovely little Patisserie, we found ourselves at the Arc de Triumph. Alex decided he would climb this one with me and we reached the top in no time at all and he loved every minute of it. The views were stunning and we just couldn’t get enough of the perfectly straight roads surrounding this 214 year old building. The traffic continued to curl around us, the sounds of car horns and engines roaring added to the moment.
We continued our walk along the River Siene towards Notradame and the street markets. Walkways filled with wooden stalls containing second-hand books and handmade gifts, I was in complete heaven.
Notredame was fabulous and looked just like it does in my favourite childhood movie, ‘The Hunchback of Notredame’, complete with the gargoles. We were hypnotised by it’s beauty and so caught in the moment, we had to sit and take it in.
We continued our walk to the Padlock Bridge. We placed our padlock, signed and dated, on the bridge with thousands of others. A band played softly along the river banks as we threw our key into the river.
From here we headed to the Louvre and wandered through the parks surrounding it. Another facinating building you just have to take in for a while. Streams of water run around the base of the structure which make it a perfect spot to sit and rest your feet.
Before the day was over, I had another surprise for Alex up my sleeve, a river cruise along the River Seine, so off we went again back to the base of the Eiffel Tower to hop on board our cruise. The sun was setting over Pairs as we glided along the twinkling river Seine. The Eiffel tower sparkling in the distance. It was a brilliant way to end our busy day in Paris.
By the time we got back to the hotel, our feet were throbbing and our skin a sore shade of pink from the Parisian sun. All signs of a fabulous day. We went to sleep dreaming of what the next day had in store.
I’d seen Montmatre from the top of the Eiffel Tower and thought how stunningly beautiful it was. It turns out that Montmatre is the hill on which the building, Sacre-Coeur, sits. Sacre-Coeur is a Roman-Catholic Church.
We wandered the church grounds and were able to have a peak inside. We paid for a pass which allowed us to climb to the top of Sacre-Coeur via a winding staircase. As we wound our way to the top, it felt like the staircases would never end but eventually e emerged to breathtaking views over Paris.
We wandered the town surrounding Montmarte and enjoyed the stunning traditional Parisian streets. Our trip to Paris was short, but oh so sweet.
Accommodation is highly dependent on your personal budget and the duration of your trip. As ever, if you are only in the city for a short time, I’d suggest staying in a hostel or treat yourself to a hotel room. However, if you are staying for an extended trip, perhaps look into rending a studio apartment or a house share.
An apartment close to the city centre is currently pricing at £168 based on 2 people sharing.
A double room with private bathroom in a hotel 200m from the city centre is currently pricing at £97 based on 2 people sharing.
A bed in a hostel dorm room with shared bathroom, 1 mile from the city centre, is currently pricing at £36 based on one person.
Couch surfing is a thing in Paris – check out couchsurfing.com or take a look at their app in your app store for another budget friendly option.
(Prices sourced from Booking.com -prices are likely to rise once the Covid-19 pandemic is over)
Getting to France:
A return flight from London Gatwick is currently pricing at £62 per person.
A return journey on foot via the Eurostar is currently pricing at £29 (lowest fair available) per person.
A return journey on foot via the ferry from Dover to Calais is currently pricing at £50 per person.
(Based on travelling from UK – prices are likely to rise once the Covid-19 pandemic is over)
Getting around the city:
The travel options you have in the city centre are, the good old fashioned bus, the traditional trams, the Metro (underground) or the RER (suburban express trains). The most efficient way to get around the city is the Metro.
You can purchase the Paris Visite Pass is valid for either 1, 2, 3 or 5 days’ unlimited use on métro, suburban trains, trams and buses. Of course, the price will up depending on how many days you choose. You can by passes which cover Zone 1 to Zone 3 or Zone 1 to Zone 6. Zone 1 to 6 will get you to Disneyland Resort if you fancied a visit (I didn’t go to Disneyland so I’m unable to comment- sorry!).
If you are staying for an extended period of time, it may be worth getting a “Navigo” yearly pass or the “Carte Navigo” pass which can either be monthly or weekly.
If you’re staying for a while, why not get yourself a scooter or bicycle to ride around like a local?
I wouldn’t advise going to France if you don’t like snails and frogs legs…
…JUST KIDDING! These are mostly only served in the posh restaurants in Paris.
As I sit and type this I’m tucking into a delicious warm croissant and sipping on a luxurious freshly brewed coffee.
Of course, during any visit to France’s capital city you have to try some local delicacies.
Let me be real with you, as with most places across the globe nowadays, you can pretty much find whatever food you are craving.
Fancy pizza? Head to Pizzeria Napoletana Oscia. Fancy Asian food? Check out Shang Palace in the Shangri-la Hotel near the Eiffel Tower for a special treat or Hao Long for a more casual dining experience.
That being said, please, please, please try some of the local foods and eateries. For lunch, why not head to a patisserie? Have a freshly baked baguette and a french coffee whilst you sit by the street and watch passers-by?
Enjoy a french onion soup with a side of warm freshly baked bread. Try a Croque Monsieur (a ham and french cheese toasty) or a Monte Cristo Sandwich.
Of course, for breakfast you have to have a mouthwatering freshly baked croissant or Pain au Chocolat.
Be sure to stop in and buy some macaroons during your day in the city as a quick snack. You could also stop at one of the many ice cream and/or crêpe stalls.
To give you an idea on food budgeting, a meal in a restaurant will cost you around 15 € per person. A beer will be around 6 €, a coffee around 3.50 €. and a bottle of water is around 2 €.
A meal at Mcdonalds (very backpacker friendly budget) will be around 9 €.
I think this covers almost everything but if you would like some more advice or would like to discuss anything within this travel guide, please reach out, I’d love to help!