A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Paris 2016 Travel Diary

I have known my friend Rosie since we were four years old. We lived on the same road until I was eight and went to the same primary school. In the past fifteen years that we've known each other we had been in Paris together twice before this trip a couple of weeks ago. Once, when we were both eight and our families randomly bumped into each other in Disneyland (talk about a small world right?!), and another time when we were fifteen for our school's French exchange. One way or another, Paris has kind of become our place and, since my Dad retired to a small town forty minutes outside of Paris last year, we decided to take a visit this summer so that I could see him and so that we could go to Paris again.

A couple of Fridays ago we hopped on the Eurostar at an ungodly hour, slept most of the journey, and met my Dad at the Gare du Nord. The Eurostar is incredibly convenient and, if you book in advance, it can be very reasonably priced so, if you live in or near London, I'd say it's the best way to get into Paris. 

We spent the first night at my Dad and his girlfriend's, who live in a really beautiful house with an incredible garden. It felt like the kind of place you could go to and really relax, what with the sound of the little pond's fountain in the garden and a hammock to read books in. We had a delicious lunch there and then headed to Versailles since neither Rosie nor myself had been before. 

The Château de Versailles, as you can see, is absolutely breathtaking. Home to King Louis XIV and built originally in the seventeenth century, the palace and gardens are HUGE and to say that they are extravagant would be a massive understatement. It's almost grotesque how lavish the palace is, but it is an amazing sight to behold and worth seeing in my opinion.

We didn't go inside the palace itself as the queue to enter was so long, so if you wanted to see the interior I'd suggest booking in advance if you can. But the gardens are much quicker to get into and my student ticket was only seven euros which I'd say is pretty reasonable considering how big the grounds are. You could easily spend hours there walking around but, after an hour or so, we decided to head back as it was so hot.

My Dad has been telling me about a little Italian restaurant in the village he lives in ever since he moved there so we all went there for dinner in the evening and it did serve amazing pizza so he was definitely right to rave about it! We had a fairly early night as Rosie and I were so tired from the 4:30am wake up call and wanted to make the most of our weekend in Paris, which started the next morning.

 After an early lunch on Saturday, my Dad and his girlfriend Nicole drove us to our Airbnb in Paris and left us to do our own exploring. On a side note, the Airbnb we stayed in was perfect for us. It was a tiny studio but the wifi and shower were great, the bed was super comfy and the apartment was just a five minute walk from the metro stop 'Bonne Nouvelle', which meant that we could get into the centre of Paris really quickly. We were amazed at how cheap the Parisian metro was, especially compared with London underground's prices, and so would highly advise using the metro if you want to get around Paris quickly!

Since Rosie and I had both been to Paris multiple times before, we decided to see our favourite parts again but not to feel rushed to pack loads in. This meant that the weekend was actually very relaxing and not a mad race against time to fit in as much as possible each day. We headed to the Champs-Élysées first, which is one of Paris' most well known shopping streets, stopped in at Ladurée for one four macaroons each (which were *heavenly*) and walked to the top of the street to see the Arc de Triomphe, as pictured above. As I'm sure you'll have heard if you haven't seen it yourself, Parisian architecture is absolutely beautiful and, although this street is always full of people, it's a really nice place to visit if you have the time.

The Eiffel Tower is just a fifteen to twenty minute walk from the Champs-Élysées and so we walked along the Seine until we spotted it. Although we'd both seen it so many times before, you can't really go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower - it's like some kind of law!

After sitting on the grass in the sun near the tower for a while and chatting, we went for a quick and early dinner before having a nutella and banana crepe and then catching the metro back to our apartment where we spent the evening watching YouTube videos on the tv. What with the horrible terrorist attacks in France over the past eighteen months, we didn't feel like staying out late and that was the reasoning behind heading back so early, although I know such things could happen at any time of course.

Sunday was an incredibly hot day and we ended up taking a lot of pitstops to cool down because of that! We headed out of the apartment relatively early, got on the metro, and walked to the Sacré-Coeur. The Sacré-Coeur is Rosie's favourite thing to see in Paris, and the cathedral is absolutely beautiful. I've never seen it in front of such a blue sky before and it really is a sight to behold. If you go you must walk up to it and walk around - there's an artists' market with lots of artists selling their amazing paintings at the top. I have my own little canvas painting of the Eiffel Tower my Mum bought me there years ago and I adore it; there are some real treasures in that market. The view from the top is breathtaking as well, and shows you just how special Paris truly is.

After a walk around we stopped in at a supermarket and boulangerie to buy a fresh baguette and some picnic essentials. We made our way to the Jardin du Luxembourg and had an incredible picnic with fresh baguette bread, salami, brie and grapes. It was so nice to relax in the shade of the lovely gardens for a while after all those steps in the heat up to the Sacré-Coeur.

If you haven't been to Paris before you simply must visit some museums, I'm not the biggest fan of art exhibitions although I've started to appreciate them more in recent years, but some pieces of art I believe simply beg to be seen. The Musée d'Orsay and Louvre are particularly famous and special galleries to visit. But, since Rosie and I had both been there before, we hoped to visit a new museum and, having heard a lot about the Musée de l'Orangerie, we headed there on Sunday afternoon. However, the queue to get in was over an hour and, in the heat, we decided we couldn't wait that long in a queue and so gave it a miss this time. It was a real shame but we should have thought it through really - it's definitely one to see next time!

Instead, we made our way to Shakespeare & Co, an incredibly sweet English bookshop near the Notre-Dame Cathedral, picked up a book each after having a looking around the shop, and sat in its lovely cafe outside and read for about an hour and a half. Being in the heat and the sun all day travelling around can be incredibly tiring and I think we both needed that down time. It was actually so nice to just read for a while; I feel like I haven't had the chance to do that in forever, never mind in such an amazing location.

That evening we went to a restaurant that I can't recommend enough. I found an article from The Guardian featuring the best affordable restaurants Paris has to offer and, as so many were closed due to it being a Sunday/many restaurants closing for August while their owners are on holiday, we ended up at the Bistrot Victoires which remained open! It's a wonderful restaurant. We sat outside, had a really friendly and polite waiter, and proceeded to eat the most delicious steak and chips (me) and duck confit (Rosie) with a glass of wine. We followed this with profiteroles with hazelnut ice cream in the middle (both of us) for around twenty euros each. It was *amazing* and we loved it. Definitely go there if you're looking for a nice, authentic and affordable meal!

The next day we went back to my Dad's to spend time with him and Nicole a bit before getting the Eurostar home. All in all it was such a great trip and so nice to get to catch up with Rosie and explore some more of Paris. It's not my favourite place in the world as much as I do like it but I can see why people fall in love with it and I think it's somewhere you have to see at least once in your lifetime.

Sorry for how long this post has become but I wanted to include everything and not leave parts out -  I really hope you've enjoyed reading it anyway!

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