How to spend 42 hours in Paris & see loads
Ok so it's not quite a full 42 hours if you count the sleep. But we all need to sleep right?
So we didn't really plan to go to Paris. The original trip was fly from Newcastle to Berlin for a few days. We couldn't get a direct flight and had to fly via Paris. When I told JT this, his obvious response was "well if we have to stop in Paris for an hour, we may as well stay for a couple of days". May as well.
Anyway, I'd been to Paris with a friend the previous year and I must admit, I wasn't awestruck by it. (I know cue sharp intakes of breath). I suggested a day or so and I'd do an itinerary that would cram in all the things he wanted to see if he was prepared to get stuck in and have a full on, non-stop, stopover. He said he was up for it. I got to work on the itinerary.
Me: "What sights do you want to definitely see?"
JT: "All of them." Challenge accepted.
Here's what we did:
Day 1: Arrived at CDG airport at am. We got the RER B train into Gare du Nord. It took around half an hour and cost €9.75 each. From there we hopped on the Metro to Oberkampf and our hotel was a few minutes walk from there.
We checked into the hotel. The room wasn't ready but they let us leave our bags and we did a quick change then set off. We walked down towards the Centres George Pompidou. Didn't go in but saw it from the outside. I'm not a huge art fan. JT does like a bit but not enough to spend our valuable minutes browsing in there. Past there we skirted Hotel de Ville which is effectively the town hall. A very impressive building. A few minutes later and we'd crossed the Seine and were near Notre Dame. As it was afternoon the queues were enormous to get in but we were coming back that way for breakfast in the morning so we decided to get there early to have a look inside. This afternoon we just contented ourselves with taking some pics from the outside. We then headed towards the catacombs with a detour through Jardin de Luxembourg. These gardens are very pretty and there's an exceptionally nice fountain too. The plan was to see how long the queues were for the Catacombs. If they were huge we were going to walk round the corner to Tour Montparnasse and go to the top of there then hit the Catacombs on the way back. They were huge. Off to Tour Montparnasse it was. Last time I came the queues were also huge. It's a popular place and unless you're there at least a half hour or so prior to opening, be prepared to queue for at least an hour but usually more like 3! On the way we passed the huge Montparnasse cemetery with some impressive mausoleums so we popped in for a look around.
We got to Tour Montparnasse and there was no queue at all. Yay! Straight to the top and the views are pretty amazing. We had fun picking out all the landmarks and taking pics. There is also a bar up there if you fancy a drink. Realistically you can kill around an hour or so here. I suppose you could linger for longer if you wanted but there's not that much to do really unless you stay for a bite to eat in the cafe. I can't speak to the tastiness of food and drinks there as we didn't try it.
Back to the Catacombs. We ended up queuing for around an hour or so. It was worth it though as this was one of the main things JT wanted to do (he loves skulls). It's not too expensive to get in (around €12) and it's an impressive site. Be prepared to walk about 2.5km. It's dark, a bit damp and there's a slight chill in the air. It's also not suited to anyone with mobility issues or with a wheelchair or walking aid. There are a number of steps down and back up again. Coming back up is the killer. After this we headed back up to Canal St Martin to a restaurant I'd heard about for an evening meal. we had Cambodian food at a place called La Cambodge. It's a tiny place and popular. They don't accept reservations so we got there early to make sure we could get in. The food was delish! A stroll along the canal back to the hotel, glass of wine, then bed.
Day 2: We walked back to Notre Dame and got there around 8.30am. No queues so had a look around at our leisure. It's beautiful and well worth taking the time to see. And it's free! Breakfast was at Cafe St Regis next to Notre Dame and it was delicious. Some of the best eggs benedict I've ever had.
The Batobus starts running at 10am. This is basically a river boat bus which goes up and down the Seine and stops at 9 of the main tourist attractions. You can buy a day ticket for €17 and hop on and off as much as you like. I figured this would be a good way to see everything and get between them whilst taking in other sights too. First stop was the Louvre. We had a wander round (didn't go inside as we didn't have time. Apparently it would take 100 days to see every exhibit!) and took some pics. From there we walked up Champs Elysees past the impressive Grand Palais. We did pop into a few shops on the way up to the Arc de Triomphe (it would be rude not too). I particularly recommend the fancy Abercrombie & Fitch store, just for the entrance alone. And if you're a tea drinker, the Kusmi Tea shop is worth a browse. Once at the Arc de Triomphe we did the obligatory selfies and headed back down on the other side of the road in case we'd missed some good shops ;-). After walking through Place de la Concorde, we headed up to the Pigalle district on our way to Scare Coeur. We took some pics at the Moulin Rouge and spent a giggly half hour or so looking in some of the 'adult' shops. We stopped for a drink en route as it's pretty much uphill to Sacre Coeur. Worth it when you get there though for the views. From there we headed back towards the Opera district to have a look round Galeries Lafayette. We got lost and as I tried my best French on a young woman to get directions it turned out she was English and living in Paris with her boyfriend. Anyway, she was going in the same direction so we walked together and had a chat about how she'd ended up there. You just never know who you might meet do you?!
We ogled round Galeries Lafayette and after a few yelps of "how much??" at some of the bottles of wine, we bought an ice cream for our walk to the Eiffel Tower. We actually cheated and got as far as Champs Elysees and hopped back on the Batobus. The beauty of that was, that it does the loop round to the bottom and skirts around the Statue of Liberty. I know, I didn't know they had one either!
At the Eiffel Tower, more photo ops and a wander down the Trocadero. At the time they were building this huge spherical thing under the tower and we weren't sure what it was. When we got back we found out it was a huge football that was going to be suspended for the duration of Euro 2016 football tournament which started the following week.
After our wander round we got back on the Batobus and aimed to head back to Notre Dame to go somewhere for dinner. However, earlier in the day we had noticed some weird looking sculptures on one of the bridges near Musee d'Orsay so we decided to hop off there and investigate. As it turned out there was an art exhibition taking place on the bridge! We did feel slightly out of place in our jeans and trainers when everyone else was wearing cocktail dresses and suits but no one seemed to mind so we didn't! The sculptures were really good. We noticed a plaque with the artists name so I googled him. As I did, an image came up and it turned out he was standing next to us on the bridge! (His name is Daniel Hourde if you want to check out his work).
We were starting to tire by now so we hopped back on the Batobus and got off at Notre Dame. Since we'd enjoyed our breakfast at Cafe St Regis so much that morning we went back for dinner! We weren't disappointed. I finally got some French onion soup :-)
Bellies full, we retreated back to the hotel to have a glass of wine and pack our bags for the early flight the next day.
Keep your eyes peeled for tales of the 2nd leg of our trip in Berlin.