As the only steps I had ever taken in Paris were on the grounds of Disneyland over 5 years ago, the opportunity to truly discover the city was long over due. After been spoon-fed over-romanticised images of the city by American movies fascinated with all things European, I was intrigued to find out if my visit with Greg would be anything like what they had presented. During our 36-hour stay in the city, we visit Paris’ most iconic sites, including the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe, and take the time to appreciate all it offers to eat. To read a full breakdown of this trip, click here. Otherwise, scroll down for more.
After a grueling 8-hour journey on a cramped, poorly organized Ouibus, we arrive in Paris from Victoria Coach Station in London. It’s around 6.30am, the air is crisp and the city is quiet. To kickstart our day in a truly French fashion, Greg and I take a train to the city’s center and stop to eat at a traditional Parisian brasserie. We each order a classic petit-dejeuner: hot chocolate, fresh orange juice, a slice of toast and a pain-au-chocolat, before taking a short walk to the Louvre museum to join the queue for entrance.
The Louvre is the worlds largest museum and hosts collections that range from Ancient Egyptian antiquities to the one and only Mona Lisa. As we approach the museum I come up with the brilliantly innovative idea of standing on a conveniently placed stone plinth so that Greg can take a photograph of me that gives the illusion that I was pinching the top of the museum’s iconic glass pyramid – genius right? Even after an embarrassing number of attempts, we can’t manage to make this work so eventually give up and move onto the queue. The museum’s doors open in around an hour however the queue is already of a considerable length. When we reach the point of entry we avoid paying the 14EUR entry fee as we are both under 25 and citizens of the EU, which we prove with our passports and ID cards.
We spend around 2 hours exploring what we could of the Louvre’s awe-inspiring offerings. Highlights for me include the interior furnishings of Napoleon’s decadent Apartment and the mummified creatures displayed among the museum’s collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts. When we finally approach the Mona Lisa I’m surprised at how small the painting is, as well has how frantically the other visitors were scuffling among each other to get a photograph beside it.
For lunch, we settle on a restaurant that is aptly named Café de Paris. Here, we take dishes of lamb shank and ratatouille and a salmon and melon salad. While delicious, neither of our main dishes even touch upon the enjoyment we get from dessert – an indulgent apricot tart accompanied by a zest fuelled lemon gelato. Feeling the toll of our bus ride, we make our way to our AirBnB for a nap. When booking accommodation for the trip, our request to stay in our first place of choice was declined by our host. Luckily our plan B accepted our request with no issue, and as an added bonus came with a complimentary view of the Eiffel Tower, which we set out to visit later that afternoon.
The Eiffel Tower
Feeling rested, we walk to the Tower, passing a peaceful canal lined with bobbing boats on the way. As we get closer, it’s monumental scale finally registers with me. Along the road leading to it, we pass a number of street vendors selling bread and berets and the grass surrounding is dotted with individuals touting miniature towers to put on your keys. While I felt skeptical about how amazed I would be by the Tower before I visited the city, I’m honestly blown-away by its appearance in real life.
The Arc de Triomphe
After another failed attempt at taking a touching-the-tip-of-a-monument photo, we move on to see the Arc de Triomphe, which is located at the end of Paris’ equivalent of Oxford Street, Champs-Elysees. On the way, we stop for dinner at Paradis du Fruit and afterward walk past the shops as the sun sets behind the Arc. Before returning to our accommodation for the night, we return to the Eiffel Tower to view it against the night’s sky. To get there we take a scenic ride in a bicycle-driven-carriage for 15EUR and arrive with perfect timing, just minutes before the Tower is lit up by dazzling white lights.
On our second day in the city, Greg surprises me in bed with an indulgent breakfast of chocolate and coffee éclairs, macarons, croissants and a baguette, before we make our way to Montmartre, a large hill in the northern part of the city. Our first stop here is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a.k.a the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris which we reach by climbing an unforgiving set of stairs. Fortunately for us, during our visit to Paris the weather has consisted of bright blue sky’s and a warming sun and when we reach the level of the sun bounces onto us from it’s extravagantly decorated white exterior.
We explore the Sacré-Cœur’s equally extravagant interior and appreciate the view of the city provided from its surrounding area before taking the steps down to the main road. Greg reveals another surprise he has in store for me which is revealed to be The Wall of Love – where the words ‘I love you’ are hand painted in 250 different languages.
Hungry, we begin our search for lunch and stumble upon Chez Bebert. Here we take a classic Moroccan couscous which is accompanied by rich meats and juicy vegetables. When we finish our meal we’re full but find we’re unable to resist temptation when we pass a boulangerie with a sign advertising their award for the best baguette in Paris. After truly stuffing ourselves we rest at Luxembourg Gardens before moving onto the last two attractions on our list – the Pantheon and Notre Dame
Just a short walk from the park, The Pantheon stands in the Latin corner of Paris and is mausoleum for distinguished french citizens including the likes of Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie. We’re astonished by its high ceilings and elaborately decorated walls. The Pantheon also offers the opportunity to explore beneath the main hall and discover the crypt where the bodies of those honoured are kept. It’s an extremely fruitful experience for those interested in learning more about France’s history and those who played integral roles in forging it.
Last but not least we visit the inspiration for the only Disney-film that I continue to avoid. Fortunately for me, there is no sign of Quasimodo and the gargoyles that adorn the building remain unanimated. As a non-religious person the spiritual aspect of a visit to a site of worship like Notre Dame does not appeal to me, however the unquestionable beauty of the stained glass windows and carved walls, pillars and ceilings make a visit truly mesmerising.
Before we head to the coach station to begin our journey’s home, we visit the Jewish Quarter to get a taste of some of the best falafel the city has to offer. Unfortunately the queue for the number one spot in the area is too long for us to wait in with our time constraint so we settled for somewhere else – though regardless of it not being the so-called best, the food we are served is a delicious and warming end to an amazing weekend.
How we travelled: We booked a coach with Ouibus that departed from London’s Victoria Coach Station at 9.30pm and arrived at Gare de Paris-Bercy at 6.30am. My return ticket was 64.99GBP however, this was a cramped, tiring journey that in my opinion, was not worth the savings. In the future I would much rather pay extra for a flight than endure such a trip again.
What we did: On the first day of our visit, we went the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and Champs-Elysee. On our second day, we explored Montmartre, where we visited the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and the Wall of Love, before moving on to Luxembourg Gardens, The Pantheon, and Notre Dame.
Where we ate: We tended to eat at wherever was nearby when we began to feel hungry. Highlights included the brasserie where we ate breakfast, Chez Berbert couscous and falafel at the Jewish Quarter.
Where we stayed: We stayed in a small AirBnB in Montparnasse that offered a view of the Eiffel Tower.
Tips & Tricks: If you have the option, avoid a coach and take a plane or train into the city instead.