Louvre at first sight: things I wish I knew for Paris
Being well settled into the new London winter has me thinking about all my travels this year. Eighteen countries this year! That’s insane. Who would have known I would have gone to so many places. And one of those very special places is Paris. So far, the only city I’ve taken a trip for twice. Thanks to the Eurostar it’s incredibly accessible to London, with only two hours separating the capitals. And here’s a roundup of some things I wish I knew for when I went to Paris.
Eurostar all the way
Taking the train to a country is often better than taking a flight. You skip all the silly time waiting (and getting to!) the airport and the ride is smooth and drama-free. The only downer is that the train is often a longer journey, but here the tradeoff in saved airport time works out perfectly. Charles de Gaulle airport is a little ways out of town, whereas landing at Gare Du Nord is almost being smack back in the middle of the city. No worries about luggage, liquids, check-in, though you still need to go through security so allow 30min just in case of bad queues.
The second part is that Eurostar often does some great deals on tickets. I love getting a cheap trip out of the city. You have to book early though, pretty much when the sale is announced as the good times get snapped up rather quick. And if all fails, check out Eurostar Snap. How this works is you book a few weeks out and you get allocated a cheaper, but mystery time. I tried this for the first time on my second trip to Paris and ended up with a frightening 6am train. Getting to King’s Cross comfortably meant having to take an Uber as it was too early for the tube too.
Eiffel tower any time
It’s a funny one, but I’ve headed to the Eiffel time about four times now. Something about this metallic monolith has me always coming back. It’s the unofficial symbol of the city and one that is instantly recognisable. So, to make the ascent to the Eiffel there are two options: be super organised in booking a time in advance OR saving some money and working those legs walking up. Taking the lift set you back €16, whilst walking costs €10. But the better part is no waiting, and no queueing (depending on the day). You still get the same lovely view and the satisfaction that you worked for it. I haven’t yet sighted the top floor view, that costs €19/€25 depending if you walk.
When you’re back down to earth, the grounds around the Eiffel are perfect for a summer picnic or general chilling out. Some of the locals loiter around offering drinks and snacks and the likes. It feels a little dodge, but it’s all in good fun. Watch your valuables though! Also at night, it’s all lit up which is a sight to behold in itself.
Subway is the only way
My first day in Paris I was super insistent on walking everywhere. Good cardio, I always tell myself. Wrong. Paris is such a huge place it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep it on foot. I was proud to get up to the 59K steps mark. Maybe crazy. A day pass for the key zones of Paris central cost £7.50 and was totally worth it. The subway system is easy to navigate with the likes of Google Maps, though I often got angry at the buses which didn’t seem to come as planned as often.
The markets are great
Cheese, wine, bread. The French know how to keep it simple and successful. The farmers’ markets, like the Marché Bastile, are well worth your while. Nothing feels like being a local like doing what they do.
Watch yo’ self
If there was one hotspot for thievery, scams and generally nuisance, it would be Montmarte and the Sacré-Cœur. It’s actually a lovely area. The 18th arrondissement is 130m high and offers one of the best views of the city. And completely free. But the bad thing is all the people preying on tourists.
I was fine the first time but witnesses plenty of people doing the bracelet scam. That’s where they whip one on to your wrist and con you into giving them money for it. My second visit this guy tried to do exactly this, I had my hands already in my pockets. He actually grabbed my arm before I yelled expletives and continued on my merry way. Some parts of have the same vibe, so always pays to watch your stuff and keep an eye out.
So much to see
My final piece of learning for Paris is that there is just so much to it. Even two trips is barely scratching the surface of this amazing city. Some highlights:
- Notre Dame
- Luxembourg Gardens
- Latin Quarter
- Musée d’Orsay