Thursday, 2 May 2013

Paris, April 2013:

Bonjour!  Sadly, our brief trip to Paris is already over, but we managed to squeeze a lot of sightseeing into three days!  Although you might not want to hear it (Margaret, I'm looking at you...) we were treated to some amazing weather while we were there, which made it feel like a real holiday away from all the wind and rain.

The view from our room (points if you can spot a famous landmark!)

We stayed at the Hotel ibis Paris Sacr
é Coeur in Montmartre  which wasn't luxurious, but was a great budget hotel with a clean room, an ensuite bathroom (a commodity that can be difficult to come by in Paris) and even a view of the Eiffel Tower!

Paris from the Sacré Coeur

We arrived early on Monday afternoon.  After the first of many embarrassing linguistic exchanges in the airport ('Yes, yes, all the way to Paris.  Next!') we made it in one piece to our hotel, checked in and went straight out again to start exploring.  Our first stop was the nearby 
Sacré Coeur Basilica, the famous and extravagant church situated at the highest point in the city that really has to be seen to be believed.  It's completely free to admire the Sacré Coeur's breathtaking architecture, both inside and out.  However, we paid the extra €3 to go down into the (admittedly slightly creepy) crypt below the Basilica and have a snoop there too.

A beautifully ornate lamp post near the Louvre (Edinburgh City Council, take note!)

After lunch and ice cream in Montmartre, we made the mistake of skipping the Metro and walking all the way from Montmartre to the Louvre Museum, passing by the Moulin Rouge.  By this point, the sun well and truly had his hat on, and we spent a little while enjoying the weather in the grounds of the Louvre.

Time had slipped away from us a little by this point (probably should have taken the Metro!) and we decided that we didn't have time to see the inside of the Louvre before dinner.  Instead, we headed towards the Eiffel Tower and stopped off at Le Campanella Brasserie for dinner.  The restaurant had a very excitable maître d', but he was friendly and welcoming and we had a nice meal in the modern but cosy restaurant.

Beef bourguignon at Le Campanella 

The plan was to go up the Eiffel Tower at dusk in order to see the whole of Paris by both day and night, but (predictably) the queue was too long, and the security checks too inefficient to get us to the top of Paris's most famous landmark before nightfall.  Still, I can't really complain as the views were amazing, there was virtually no wind and every city is just as beautiful at night.

The river Seine by night from the Eiffel Tower

After choosing to walk down from the second floor of the tower (mistake) and getting well and truly lost on the unfamiliar and dark streets of the city, we admitted defeat and took a metro back to Montmartre.

On Tuesday we forced ourselves to get up early and hobble out on sore feet to see the awe inspiring Notre Dame Cathedral.  Like the Sacré Coeur, it's free to visit Notre Dame.  Craig and I were prepared to pay €8.50 to climb the 387 steps to the top of the cathedral, but the queue for the tower was already miles long, so we skipped it in favour of going back to the Louvre.

Colour coded 'love locks' on Pont des Arts

Of course, as any informed traveller will already know, the majority of museums and galleries in Paris are closed on Tuesdays.  In fact, even I already knew this, which is why I had specifically planned for us to visit the Louvre on Monday.  Whoops.  Undeterred, we walked along the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe and took in the view from up there.  We had great fun watching all the crazy driving and near misses on the roundabout underneath the landmark.  Driving in Paris is something else!

A panorama shot from the Arc de Triomphe

After resting our tired little legs back at the hotel for a while, we headed out in Montmartre to find some dinner.  Un Zebre a Montmartre has some great reviews on Tripadvisor, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner there.  The staff were really friendly, and actually let me attempt to speak some (very rusty) French when ordering, rather than interrupting in their much more fluent English.

We stopped for a couple of after dinner cocktails at the Café des Deux Moulins, which has become a popular tourist destination since the café was featured in the 2001 French film, Amélie, starring Audrey Tautou.  It was fun to visit (and peer at the glass case of film memorabilia kept in the toilets), but the cocktail menu was very uniform, and the drinks themselves didn't knock my socks off.

Props from Amélie 

was devoted entirely to visiting the enormous and beautiful Palace of Versailles, and we still didn't manage to see all of it.  We took the train from Gare d'Austerlitz straight to Versailles (it's the 'C' line, if you're planning on making the trip!) and only had to walk for about five minutes before we reached the grounds of the palace.  I mean, you really can't miss it.

The weather was unbelievably nice and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, with the temperature (we found out later) averaging at around 25 degrees celsius.  If we had had the foresight to bring sun cream and two pairs of sunglasses, not just one between us, it would have been an idyllic day!

After queuing for a really, really long time (we did a lot of queuing on this holiday!) and sizzling in the sun, Craig got his ticket.  Before going inside, we had a picnic lunch in the beautiful gardens of the palace, which are free to visit, and could take weeks to properly explore, if you'd rather not pay to see the palace itself.  

The inside of the Palace of Versailles is stunning and decadent beyond belief.  I had visited once before (on a school exchange trip) but since seeing Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (2006) I was itching to go back.

After seeing the palace, we explored more of the grounds, which cover around 800 hectares (over 1900 acres) in total.  Unsurprisingly, we didn't see all of the gardens, but we walked down to the boating lake and watched our fellow tourists attempt to operate rowing boats without bumping into each other (they mostly just bumped into each other, though).  You can also hire bikes and even golf buggies if your legs aren't up to the challenge of walking around Versailles.

I loved visiting Versailles, and can't complain about the amazing weather that we had, but Craig and I still felt pretty sorry for ourselves as we tried desperately to stay awake on the train back to Paris whilst realising the extent of our sunburn...  That night, we dragged ourselves back out into Montmartre for what turned out to be a very memorable farewell dinner (a quarter of a wheel of Raclette cheese between two of us!) and then gratefully hobbled back to the hotel to bed.

Raclette a l'ancienne for dinner

We left Paris early the next day and were back in Scotland around lunch time.  It was an amazing trip, and I'm pleased that we squeezed so much into such a short space of time.  In all honesty, I kind of felt like I needed a holiday to recover from my holiday once we got home!

Have any of you visited Paris recently, or are you planning a trip?  You might find it useful to know that if you live in the EU, are under 26 and have a passport or driving licence handy to prove it, you will be eligible for free or reduced entry into quite a few Paris landmarks.  The Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Palace of Versailles and even the Eiffel Tower were all free or at least slightly cheaper for me, so keep your ID handy if you are holidaying there soon!


  1. looks like you had an amazing time, i'm insanely jealous :( xxx

    1. You should take a trip! You'd love it :) xxx

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