Stu and I went to Paris earlier this month and we were there when the Charlie Hebdo attacks happened. It was obviously quite a scary time to be exploring the city but in all honestly our trip was not affected by the attacks at all. The public transport systems ran smoothly and all the main attractions remained open with extra security. On the actual day of the incident, we didn’t even know anything had happened until we got back to the hotel and checked BBC News on our phones. Anyway, here’s how our trip went.
Staying at – Mercure Eiffel Tower.
Duration – 3 nights.
To celebrate our 5 year anniversary in true cliché style, Stu and I headed to Paris. We decided to stay in the Mercure hotel right next to the Eiffel Tower because of the amazing views it offered and for its accessibility. It is so easy to get to. From the Charles De Gaulle airport you can get a train to the Eiffel tower for under 10 euros each. I’d had a little search on Trip Advisor and this seemed the best way to get to anywhere in Paris as Taxis can be expensive.
We arrived late in the evening so checked in and went straight to bed but we’d already seen the Eiffel Tower all lit up as the hotel is ridiculously close to it. I always feel a bit surreal seeing famous monuments for the first time because it isn’t really the first time. My generation will never see anything for the first time, everything is over-shared on Facebook, Instagram etc. I think that’s the main reason anyone goes anywhere, just to take the same photo you’ve seen someone else take. Anyway, enough of me being cynical (I’ll save that for another blog post), let’s get back to Paris!
As this was our first time in Paris we wanted to be the typical tourist and go see all the main sites. As we were under 26 and EU citizens we also got into all museums and art galleries for free and to climb the Eiffel Tower for a reduced price. Just show your passport or driving licence and in you go! We headed straight to the Eiffel Tower on our first morning with the aim of climbing to the top. We were greeted with this.
Um, don’t think we’ll be seeing much if we climb it today! It actually looked a bit spooky in all the fog. We weren’t disappointed by the weather though as we still had a couple of days to climb the tower so we headed off in search of a croissant and a coffee.
We walked what seemed like miles for the rest of day and saw lots of the city. You can use the Metro system to get around but you get to see so much more if you take the time to walk. Paris is full of cute restaurants and boutiques that are tucked away down alleyways that are begging to be explored. We walked from the Arc de Triomphe to the Lourve and back to our hotel and saw lots of Paris this way. The Arc de Triomphe was really interesting with the tomb of the unnamed soldier. You can pay to go to the top of the Arc but we decided against it because of the fog. On the way to the Lourve we walked past the ‘Place de la Concorde’ where Mary Antoinette was famously executed. Best of all, once in the Lourve, I got a selfie with Mona Lisa!
There are hundreds of restaurants in Paris so you really are spoilt for choice when choosing somewhere to eat in the evening. Stu and I went for our standard technique of walking around, reading the menu and choosing somewhere which looked reasonably busy and the food sounded nice. My GCSE French came in handy here as some of the menus didn’t have English translations. We found that waiters were happy to explain anything we couldn’t decipher so don’t worry if you can’t understand a word of French. We wanted to stick to the local cuisine so ended up eating a lot rich food with every course having some sort of cheese or bread. I’m pretty sure my blood was 3 parts brie and 1 part red wine by the time I came home. Stu ordered snails for one starter so we got to try some stereotypical French food. They weren’t too bad, a bit chewy and tasted mainly of the garlic sauce they were cooked in.
The second full day of our trip was the day after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. We were planning on visiting the Notre Dame today and we ended up there at midday when the bells of the cathedral rang out to start the minutes silence in respect to the victims. This was an extremely poignant moment with ‘Je Suis Charlie’ signs being held up along with pens to symbolise freedom of expression.
We walked around the Notre Dame afterwards and the cathedral is home to the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen. I don’t seem to have the photos we took of them but I’ll upload them once Stu has sent them to me. I’m a massive Disney fan so I spent the whole time looking out for Quasimodo. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen but I did spot a few gargoyles!
We also climbed to the top of the Eiffel tower on this day. We waited until it was dark and got to see Paris all lit up which looked spectacular. There’s a little flat at the top of the tower where Mr Eiffel entertained guests – who knew?!
On our last day I got to be a true history nerd and visit the Palace of Versailles which I have learnt about in so many lessons. The palace is so beautiful and extravagant, it’s crazy how much money each King and Queen spent on the place and the gardens are just as spectacular as the rooms. You can spend hours here, there is so much to see, from the King and Queen’s bedrooms to the ballrooms to the Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versaille was signed to end WWI.
I loved Paris and I’m really happy I finally got to visit, it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a long time. Stu and I have no trips planned now so we’ll be job hunting and hopefully planning a few city breaks. I’ll still be writing though, there are places we visited in Australia that I never dedicated a full post to so expect to see some of that and some of me moaning about the job hunt, enjoy!