Traveling is one of the most important virtues of my life and after a busy year at university and just before the exam period I thought it was the right time to treat myself to city trip to the city of lights.
I took the Eurostar at 5:20 am, but arriving to a sunny Paris at 9:15 (local time, the traveling time is actually not more than 2:40 from London) was totally worth waking up early. If you book early and are flexible with departure times, you can get a ticket for little money (mine was 66 pounds return). After stopping by at my hostel in Montmatre to drop off my luggage I climbed up all the steps to Sacre Coeur and enjoyed the sun in front of the beautiful church. Its style is quite different from the other architecture in Paris and let it stand out, don’t miss the beautiful mosaics inside the church.
I took a stroll through Monmatre, stopped for a petit dejeuner at a little café and then continued by walk with the Champs Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuilleries. I also walked along the Seine for a bit and had a look at the Bouquinistes (stalls with antique books, cards and paintings). My survival strategy for lunch in the most touristy area of Paris was to go to one of the least french looking restaurants where it was possible to get a nice lunch for less than 20 euros.
Later I went to the Louvre (there is an entrance right next to the little arc in front of the museums if you want to avoid the queue at the main entrance). I was completely taken away by all the artworks and the hugeness of the museum. I didn’t manage to see all of it but I tried to catch a few highlights: Mona Lisa, Coronation of Josephine (Napoleon’s wife, Venus de Milo and the egyptian galleries. At night, I went for a drink at one these stereotyped Parisian Cafés with the two coloured chairs and small round tables and I also had (amusing) olives as a amuse-bouche.
I went all the way to Versailles only to find out that it was closed on the 1st of May and that you can never trust receptionists. I walked around the gardens and had a horrible vanilla ice-cream the I returned to Paris and walked around in St. Germain, marveled at Notre Dame, had an overpriced lunch on the Île de la Cité (my fault but I was too tired to avoid it), and lay in the sun in the Jardin du Luxembourg. I even caught a glimpse at a Parisian grève (well it was more of a worker’s protest/ parade, but close enough). I went to see la Tour Eiffel at sunset, walked over to the Place de Trocadero and relaxed on the Pont des Arts and saw people drinking there -as I later read in the Metro newspaper – alcohol for the last time (it became illegal after that day). Strike for my french! Another drink at a different stereotyped Parisian Café (Wine this time. Somehow I felt pressured to be classy).
On my third attempt (I’ve already tried once when I was sixteen, and the day before) I made it into Versailles! From a young age on interested in all all things princess-y, I, of course went for the Super Deluxe Tour (including a guided tour through the private apartments of Louis XV, Marie Antoinette’s and Madame de Pompadour’s apartments and I also saw the opera, which was probably one of the most impressive rooms. After I somehow swam with the stream of tourists through the rest of the palace, I looked at the gardens again and then went to see Marie Antoinette’s (after all she was an Austrian princess, so I paid extra much attention to her) Estate and the Grand Trianon, a more private palace in the large gardens surrounding Versailles. I probably saw somewhat 98%.
If you want to do Versailles properly (which I highly recommend. Everybody should see this amazing architecture, decor and luxuriousness once in his or her life), you have to devote one full day to touring the grounds and palace. You should be there the latest at 11 am, so you have to leave your hotel probably at about 10 or even 9:30, depending on where it is. There is long queue for the security check but you can jump it by booking a guided tour (for 7 euros) which is not only interesting and well worth the money but which will also leave you inside the palace to continue with the audio guided main tour.
I had a look at the Galleries Lafayette on my way back but was too tired to really do anything else and just went to bed early.
Time to get the museum essentials done but before that I had to get a pain au chocolat and a little cappuccino in my stomach. Then I queued up for the Musee d’Orsay (luckily not too long) and spent the next 3 hours looking in the most beautiful Impressionist paintings and sculptures by one of my favourite sculptor, Rodin. I took the audioguide but was disappointed: some of the tracks just describe what is in the painting, something I can see myself, I would say.
Afterwards I strolled along the Rue du Fabourg- Saint Honoré, home to Chanel, Hérmes and the über-cool store Colette. I had a terrible salad in a café (I did not always get lucky in terms of food with the Cuisine Française.) Oh, well…
Afterwards I strolled through the Marais to the Centre Pompidou, which is also a museum for contemporary and modern art. You get a great view of Paris without having to climb the Eiffel Tower and the collection is very inspiring. I spent my last hours in Paris walking towards the Place de Vosges, eating Macarons and then got on the Eurostar at 9 to get back to London.