If, prior to my year living abroad, someone had told me that the first time I would really visit Paris, I would be trying to cram everything in to less than 2 days.. well I would tell them that they were nuts. Yet, alas, that was exactly how it happened.
With less than 48 hours until my flight to Madrid leaving from Charles de Gaulle airport, I arrived to the City of Light bright-eyed and bushy tailed, wondering just how much I would actually achieve in just a couple of days. The answer? A lot.
Day 1 – Afternoon
My train arrived in Paris just after lunch-time, meaning I had the whole afternoon to get going with sightseeing. The very first thing that I did, before even leaving Austerlitz train station was buy a packet of 10 metro tickets. I would advise everyone to do this. It works out cheaper than buying a single ticket each use, and I only had 1 left spare at the end of my stay.
I then made my way, by metro, to my hotel/hostel. I say hotel/hostel because although it was advertised as a hostel online, the room that I stayed in could just about pass as a hotel room. The only qualm I had was that despite there being a shower in the room, there wasn’t a toilet and I found that pretty odd. Nevertheless, my comfortable room on the sixth floor (climbing six flights of stairs multiple times per day counts as cardio right?!) did the job. If anyone reading this is looking for affordable, well located accommodation along with a work out then I would suggest giving the Hotel Montmartre Clignancourt a go. You can find out more about it here: http://www.hotelmontmartreclignancourt.com/en/
Once checked in, I headed out on to the street feeling pretty clueless about where to even begin. My hotel was only a 5 minute walk from the Basilica du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre, so that’s where I decided to make my way to first. It was beautiful from both the bottom of the stairs and the top. Definitely worth a visit. Plus by climbing even more stairs I made sure to burn off all of the calories I gained by eating macarons! If you follow the road to the left of the Basilica you will come to a plaza full of cafés and restaurants. It all looked lovely but extremely touristy a.k.a. overpriced. I opted for my favourite iced tea and a cookie from Starbucks instead before descending the stairs once again and heading in the direction of my next destination which I was extremely excited about!
My first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from Montmartre
After quite a bit of walking, and even more attempting to work my way around the Parisian metro system I managed to reach the one thing I had been waiting for – the Eiffel Tower! This is obviously THE most touristy thing you can do in Paris, if not the world, but that does not mean that it isn’t worth it – because it totally was! To me it’s something that everyone should tick off of their bucket list and I’m so glad that now I have. The time I spent queuing wasn’t too bad at all, but maybe that had something to do with the fact that I was there in the middle of the week before the Easter holidays had began in France. My only tip is that if you are under 25 take ID with your DOB on it! I only took my student card thinking that it would be enough, but it seems that in Paris they don’t care if you are a student, and you can only get free/discounted entry to places with proof of age. Luckily, the nice lady at the Eiffel Tower ticket booth took my youthful appearance as enough proof that I am still just a spring chicken, however the next time I might not be so lucky.
Day 1 – Evening
My last spot of sightseeing for the day was the Arc de Triomphe. On leaving the metro it was located directly in front of me, thus I expected it to be extremely easy to get to. I thought wrong. After going round and round in circles around the monument for longer than I’d like to admit, I realised some stairs leading underground with ‘ARC DE TRIOMPHE’ carved in stone above them. ‘This is dodgy’, I thought but went with it anyway. The stairs lead to an underground tunnel, where you can buy your tickets and then climb up to the top. There was also a military museum inside. The view from the top was spectacular, a panorama of the whole city including the Eiffel tower. It was the perfect place to be at sunset.
By the time I had headed back to my hotel, washed and changed it was almost 10pm. After a long day of hoofing it about town without a proper sit down meal I was ravenous. I had a quick look on Trip Advisor to see where would still be serving food at that time and was lucky to find something just across the road from my accommodation! Although the food at Le Panorama wasn’t very French, it was damn tasty and the service was second to none. I had a lovely carbonara, one of the best I’ve ever had, washed down with a rosé which was recommended by the garçon. To finish off I savoured a delicious crème brûlée before nipping back across the street and in to my bed to rest for the next day of adventure.
If you’re ever in the Montmartre area of Paris and looking for somewhere to have a nice meal, I couldn’t recommend Le Panorama more: http://www.abpanorama.com/ .
Day 2 – Morning
Straight after I checked out I headed to the 1st arrondissement where the Louvre is located. However, prior to checking out some art on canvas, I wanted to sample some gastronomic art so I strolled along Rue de Rivoli until I arrived at the tea house I was looking for – Angelina. I had read online that this was where they sold the best hot chocolate in Paris and I would be damned if I left the city without tasting it. I treated myself to a white hot chocolate and what we call in north east Scotland a ‘funcy piece’ named Duchesse. It was one of the most lavishly decorated places that I have ever visited and if most of the other customers hadn’t been dressed similar to me I would have felt highly underdressed. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my breakfast, but not enough to justify the price. Angelina was one of those ‘I’ve been, I’ve seen and I probably wont go back’ kind of places.
Next it was time to go across the road to the Louvre. I remember being taken aback by a strange feeling of astonishment when I first laid eyes on it. Partly because it was much more beautiful than I had imagined and also because I suppose that I have seen it in so many pictures, films etc. that seeing it right in front of me with my own eyes was a bit surreal. After taking some snaps I headed in to the queue and once past security tried to find the ticket office. Once I had found the ticket office (it took me a while as I was having a mega blond moment) a kind member of staff told me that I didn’t need to pay for entry because I am under 25! What a boost! I was expecting to have to pay a fortune to enter such a prestigious gallery, but luckily, because I had already learned my lesson about carrying proof of age I had taken my driving licence and got in without having to pay a penny! As someone who loves visiting museums, especially by myself because I can go at my own pace, this was the perfect way to pass a few hours. I could have spent all day there – or longer! I decided to tackle the Italian and Spanish wing, therefore I was able to lay eyes on the well-known Mona Lisa amongst other (and in my opinion better) paintings. For me the Louvre was completely free and one of the highlights of my trip!
Just me being a tourist
The Mona Lisa
Day 2 – Afternoon
After being slightly let down by the ‘best hot chocolate Paris has to offer’ I was hoping that Ladurée’s macarons weren’t going to do the same as I crossed the Seine and walked to their closest patisserie. Anyone who knows me knows that I am in love with macarons, so for me not to visit Ladurée, where they sell 15,000 of them every day would have been impossible. I decided to go for orange blossom, lemon, salted caramel and rose flavoured macarons – they did not disappoint! 10/10, the best macarons I have ever tasted in my life. Slightly less expensive than Angelina had been, and 110% worth the cost. I can’t wait to go back and if you are ever in Paris you should go too!
After having filled up on confectionary I was ready to try and find the last place on my to-do list – the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. I thoroughly enjoyed the 15 minute walk through little streets full of unique boutiques and even did a little bit of shopping on my way there. It was definitely and area I’d like to return to with more time to spend there. Finally I arrived at the famous bookshop. From a book lover’s point of view it was fantastic. Again, I could have spent all day there, as well as blowing my entire bank balance. There were lots of neuks and crannies where you could curl up and get lost in a good story, and even resident cats to cuddle while you do so. Eventually I managed to settle on some of Rabbie Burns’ poetry, a book about Norse mythology and a Bukowski novel before heading on my way. This is one place that yet again I cannot wait to revisit and would advise anyone who is in to reading to check out. It was a boost that it just so happened to be across the road from Notre Dame de Paris which I didn’t think that I was going to have time to see! But unfortunately by that point it was time to go to the airport so I was unable to explore Notre-Dame any further.
So there you have it, how I managed to cram my whole Parisian bucket list in to under 2 days. It certainly wasn’t relaxing but I managed to accomplish everything that I had hoped to and someday will go back for more.