So this weekend I went to Paris for the first time ever (because apparently going to Disneyland when I was 8 doesn’t count…) and it was so beautiful!
It completely lived up to the hype and I cannot believe it took me so long to go and check it out for myself.
My boyfriend said we should go and visit as the fact that I had never been to Paris was apparently an outrage, and so we booked Eurostar tickets for the first weekend of August, leaving London on the Saturday morning and returning Sunday evening.
Lucky for us there is a handy Thameslink train to St Pancras that stops at both of our local stations so it didn’t take too long to get there. We had a quick stop at M&S for some breakfast supplies and then grabbed a coffee, heading to the train with half an hour easily before departure only to be rushed through by the usher people as if we were late. Security took barely any time and we were through and on the train with a solid 15 minutes waiting time and great annoyance that we were sat next to a family with 3 very small children being loud.
Sacre Coeur and a spot of lunch
We headed straight out of Gare du Nord and towards the Sacre Coeur – the large basilica located on a hill offering a beautiful panoramic view of the City, which was gorgeous. There were people selling model Eiffel towers and trying to stop you and sell you things everywhere, and a lot of stairs, which slightly hungover me wasn’t too keen on in the 28 degree sun carrying my bag.
But after we did some observing of landmarks, we left the Sacre Coeur and headed back down in search of some food, going down some side stairs and walking around away from the tourist filled cafes in front of the church. We found a small café on Rue de Clignacourt, which had the little red and white checked table clothes and wicker chairs and looked quite rustic and french. We decided it was a good spot – all the menus in the area were very similar, with things like bruschetta, salads, pizzas on offer. We both went for bruschetta and beers, as we were on the continent where one drinks beer, even if it isn’t your usual drink of choice. It was perfectly tasty, my gorgonzola bruschetta was particularly good.
We chose to get an Uber to our hotel to check in and drop of our bags, which cost 10 Euros. We sped past the Moulin Rouge on this journey through Paris, which was smaller than I imagined.
When we arrived at the hotel we received a nice surprise, as we had been upgraded from a ‘superior’ room to a ‘deluxe’ room at the Hotel Bedford. It was pretty fancy, with a huge bath and a sofa area and nice big bed.
Place de la Concorde and the Lourve
We didn’t stay long as we wanted to walk along the nearby promenade between the obelisk on the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre so we headed straight back out to take in the sights. I had my first proper glance of the Eiffel tower, which we would be visiting the next day. I loved the obelisk, being a big fan of ancient Egypt. It stands pretty tall at 75ft and came from the Luxor temple, which I fully intend to visit one day.
We had a lovely stroll through the tree lined path, past the various fountains which seemed to house a lot of wildlife including ducks and their fluffy ducklings in one and some huge Koi carp in another. We walked up to the end by the roundabout where the famous Louvre pyramids were, where we took a few pictures from afar but intended to return the next day so didn’t wade through the crowds. In the end we didn’t return as we ran out of time which is a shame, but there is always next time. We weren’t planning to go in, since Craig says you need a full day and our time was very limited.
Evening in the Latin Quarter
After strolling back to change and enjoying a lovely bottle of sparkling wine from the Alsace region, we got the Metro to the Latin quarter, where I got my first view of Notre Dame. Obviously I never saw it before, but it seems to me like they did a pretty incredible job in the circumstances to protect the outside. This was after we spent a good 5 minutes getting annoyed that all the exit signs just seemed to lead us to other metro lines, which was infuriating and we thought we may never escape. The view of the river Seine was lovely and we went off in search of a drink. To our horror, some of the places were charging 14 Euros a pint. We abandoned our original spot due to this and wandered down the street and found a bar called Cave A Bieres, with a happy hour on cocktails, so went with two trusty margaritas.
After this we went for dinner at Café Restaurant Les Editeurs, but I think I will do a separate post about dinner and brunch, so I will spare you the details of that delicious meal for now. We then went to find some more beverages, stopping at a place on a side street where there were only locals who were all drinking sangria, so naturally we ordered that too. It was lovely sat outside, but then we wanted somewhere with more of a vibe and headed back into the main area. We found a bar playing Queen songs with cheap cocktails and beer and stayed there for a while having a fantastic time, but deciding since we had a big day of sightseeing ahead to get an Uber back around 1am.
The next morning we sadly had to check out. We left our bags at the hotel and headed for a walk down the Champs Elysee, where our brunch spot was located. We went to the gorgeous Lauderee, but I will tell you all about that in the detail it deserves in another post!
The Champs Elysees was, when we left, closed to traffic, which was super handy for getting a photo! We crossed the most terrifying roundabout I have ever seen – huge with no lanes, which gave me anxiety just looking at as a nervous driver – fortunately our time in Vietnam means we are chaotic traffic crossing pros. There stands the Arc de Triumph, which is impressively grand and much larger than I anticipated.
Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero
From there, it was off to the big one: The Eiffel Tower. We walked along the quiet streets growing ever closer, until Craig announced that we were about to come round the corner of the Trocadero, which, he had said, has to be where you see it from the first time. I have to say, I think he was right. I was completely blown away by the view down there with all the fountains flowing and the bright skies of the day. It really is quite spectacular, and I think that was the moment when I knew I was a little bit in love with Paris. It is such a great spot, even the tourist numbers didn’t ruin its magic for me.
After many a photo being taken, including a couple who asked us to take one photo but then did a full on photoshoot (at least they took some for us too and even directed us into some poses haha), we took a slow meander down to the fountains, where we took more photos and enjoyed the spray on the super hot Parisian day.
We tried to walk to the base of the tower, via a street vendor for a strawberry slushie to cool down, but it turns out its all behind plastic screens now and you cannot get to the base unless you pay to go up the tower, which was a bit disappointing.
Latin quarter revisited
Following this we walked around the back to get a photo of the end of a street with the tower and stopped for a drink in a café with a view of the tower for a drink, no lunch needed after our giant brunch. We then walked all the way back to the Latin quarter, and went as close to Notre Dame as we could, which is not all that close as it is all fenced off for safety and construction. We also visited lovelock bridge – the one that people kept putting padlocks on – but turns out that all the padlocks have been removed and there is now plastic behind the bars so they cannot be put back, which probably explains why there were loads of them on the railings outside the Sacre Coeur.
We also popped into a little bookshop called Shakespeare’s which was very old and mismatched with books in every nook and cranny. By this point we had done about 25,000 steps and my feet were pretty tired and it was time for another rest stop, rather than walking to our next destination – we would take a taxi instead. But not before we found a pub that had 6 Euro pints which is essentially a bargain in Paris it seems.
Our taxi took us back over the river and through the roundabout attached to the Lourve which was very cool. We were dropped off at Palais Garnier, the city’s famous opera house.
We booked tickets in advance, which I would recommend as there was quite a queue at quarter to four still when we arrived. It was pretty packed, but the interior was so stunning we didn’t really care. I was living my phantom of the opera dream with the big central staircase and all the candelabras, and really wished suddenly to be in a ball gown and mask. Maybe next time. We walked around the incredible ballroom and took some pictures before leaving to walk back to our hotel and collect the bags.
Upon realising we were hungry we stopped and grabbed a five guys, which was very unoriginal but we were short on time and it was cheap by Parisian standards! Plus, actually a big moment for me as it was my first one since I started eating red meat so I finally got to see what the hype was about, and it was pretty tasty.
We grabbed our bags and headed towards the Metro, stopping for one last glass of wine in the sun at a little table on the street in Madeleine square, before heading back to Gard du Nord for the train home back to London after an amazing weekend.
I had the most fantastic time exploring the main sights of the city, and am keenly aware that I still have much to see! I will be back I have no doubt, my French speaking will still probably be non-existent (I learnt German and Spanish at school and I’ve never really gelled with French), but the food and the pretty views are worth the struggle.
Top Travel Tips for a short trip to Paris
I just want to note a few points for anyone thinking of travelling to Paris for a short weekend, particularly if like me, you have never been before.
- Paris is known for having pickpockets, so don’t wander around with your bag open or leave items unattended.
- It is very expensive – we aren’t sure if prices have been hiked up because it is tourist season, but I was genuinely shocked at how expensive things like food and drinks were, with some places even charging around 6 euros for soft drinks let alone alcohol, so factor that into your budget if you are going to be drinking.
- The Latin quarter in particular was very pricey
- There are lots of people walking round with Eiffel tower keyrings and other tacky merchandise who may approach you. There were also people trying to tie friendship bracelets on you to make you buy it so would avoid them if you don’t want to be harassed.
- Prepare for the weather – you can still burn through cloud, as my very red chest currently demonstrates – I assumed I wouldn’t need any suncream and boy was I wrong.
- Plan your route to maximise sightseeing – a lot of things are quite close together so it is easy to walk between them, don’t pay for a taxi because you assume it is far away!
- It isn’t recommended for tourists to use the Metro at night, so taxis are a safer option. They aren’t that expensive and they also have Uber so it is easy to get one even if you cant see any nearby
Instagram tips for Paris
If you want pictures with no one in them, then obviously you can get up at the crack of dawn as many influencers do and get there before the crowds entirely. Showing up around opening time is also always an option. But for those of us who want to enjoy a slightly more relaxed wake up call on our trips here are some handy things to know.
- There is a big roundabout in front of the Lourve. If you stand by that on the side farthest away and take a picture, the height of the roundabout blocks the crowds.
- The tree lined boulevard on the way up is gorgeous and has lots of side offshoots which are much quieter for that tree lined shot.
- The pictures you see of everyone sat on a wall in front of the Eiffel tower are dead easy to get – the walls are pretty big and they weren’t too crowded even at lunch time, so no need to get up early!
- The Palais Garnier is absolutely gorgeous and you should go and see it, its easy to take pictures above people’s heads in the ballroom as the ceiling and walls are the best parts! But go early for minimum people.