I’m somewhat lost for words on how to describe our recent trip to Paris. From the second we landed the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I mostly think of cities being flooded with people too busy for anything but themselves; like London for example, where people will very gladly push you out of the way to get on the tube before you. However Paris did not have a panic about it. Despite the large volume of people everything flowed smoothly and everyone around us seemed to be enjoying their day. Everywhere you looked there were cafes brimming out over street corners, full of conversation and laughter. Something about Paris felt magical.
The flight from Cardiff was just over an hour, with smooth take off and landing. The transport from the airport was fantastic, only €10.60 for the train to the Gare Du Nord (a main train station in Paris) from there you can jump on the metro to anywhere you want to go for only €1.90, it really is that simple. We checked into our hotel, yes an actual hotel, not the usual camper van in a layby somewhere, then headed out into the city. It was at this time that Dayne discovered I’d actually booked a hotel about 3/4 miles from most things we wanted to see. This did however give us an amazing opportunity to explore the streets of Paris.
Everywhere you look, every building, every street is beautiful and full of history.
It didn’t take us long to find our first gem within the city, a small crepe stand run by an old Frenchmen (see The Map for location). I can say in full confidence that it was the best crepe stand in Paris. We tried a few places and it was above and beyond the rest. We tried their paninis and crepes, both were incredible and as well as this his prices were the cheapest in the city. Although he was slightly out of the main city, he is definitely worth the visit!!
We carried on through the city, checking out some of the places we’d be visiting, and tested out the drone.
We wandered over to Notre Dame, had a look at the Louvre and then decided to find somewhere to eat.
Many people say that you can’t go to Paris without spending a lot of money whilst you’re there, even on things like food and drinks. However we did not find this, on our first evening in Paris after leaving the Notre Dame I found an amazing pasta shop that did fresh pasta, of which there was about 7 different varieties to choose from, and sauce/toppings, only €6.90 for a large box. It was delicious and neither of us could finish it. There was the option to sit in but we decided to find somewhere to sit outside and play our latest card fetish ‘Canasta’. Within a few minutes we’d stumbled across a park full of people spending their evening pinicing, playing music, skateboarding, dancing and just generally chatting, the atmosphere was lovely.
After I lost yet another game of Canasta we started the 3/4 mile walk back to the hotel. On route we came across a set of rentable bikes, I was hesitant at first but for only €0.50 for 20 minutes of riding we had to try it. Dayne shot off ahead of me, but after a while I managed to catch up and we had a quick journey back to the hotel. We parked the bikes up and hoped they’d still be waiting in the morning.
The following day nobody had decided to rent the bikes so we were able to jump straight on and continue exploring. We came to a large park opening out to the Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum).
We threw the drone up and the results were beautiful. As Paris is so flat and does not have many high rise building as soon as your above the rooftops you can see for miles.
Once we’d got some good shots we carried on into the Army Museum, one great thing about Paris is that if you are under 25 and an EU resident you can get in to most museums for free, including this one. The museum is spread through several different buildings and many floors surrounded by incredible gardens. Each area is very well organised and guides through chronologically.
We were lucky to witness a special ceremony that was being held in one of the court yards, a marching band and fully suited troops performed for a seated crowd of rather important looking veterans, although we never did find out who they actually were.
I had researched beforehand where to find the best hot chocolate in Paris and one of the top recommendations was Angelina’s, a cafe famous specifically for the quality of their hot chocolate. What I didn’t realise was that they actually had a cafe inside the army museum so we were able to sample their chocolate over a game of Canasta before exploring the next exhibit.
The hot chocolate was somewhat of an acquired taste, it was like drinking melted dark chocolate, which I really enjoyed, Dayne wasn’t such a fan but that just meant I got to drink two!
We covered the rest of the museum and then decided to hop on a couple of other bikes and explore more of the city.
This was when we first came up close to the Eiffel Tower, sun blazing down on us we cycled along side it.
It looked amazing but it wasn’t until that evening that we saw the best of it.
We carried on to the Arc de Triomphe, where the drone took some more fantastic shots.
Although it wasn’t a cheap bit of kit, the drone has definitely been one of our best tech purchases yet. If you’re considering getting one, I’d highly recommend the Parrot Anafi (https://www.parrot.com/uk/drones/anafi).
After seeing the Arc de Triomphe it was about time to grab some munch before we headed up to the top of the tower. We scanned a few restaurants and then came across a supermarket. They had an incredible range of fresh food, so we decided just to create our own meal. Their salad bar was absolutely incredible, €6 bought you a litre tub of whatever you wanted from the bar, I filled most of my tub with smoked salmon and Dayne filled his with chicken. I also discovered the biggest Babybel I had even seen in my life, which I had to add to our picnic.
We took everything over to the Champ de Mars, which is the park beneath the Eiffel Tower.
Here any visitor will be greeted by many, many souvenir sellers but haggle them down and you can get 18 mini Eiffel Towers for €3.
As dusk fell the park slowly began to fill up, and a gentle wave of chatter surrounded us, and then at 9pm the entire park fell silent.
It was then that the light show began from the Tower itself, 20,000 lights flashing simultaneously captured everyone’s attention. Looking up it was as though it was actually sparkling magically, the silence held until it stopped about 5 minutes later, you could feel everyone around slowly digesting the mesmerising experience.
Slowly the chatter built again and darkest fell over the park.
It was then time for us to make our way over to the Tower, we walked over and enjoyed another light show from underneath whilst queuing up.
After a long game of eye spy, which I won, we reached the top. Although I had visited Paris before I had never been to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The 360° views of the city are truly breathtaking, I would definitely recommend going at night, as the lights surrounding you are what makes it so amazing.
It took me a while to wonder over to the edge but I eventually did and got a few photos to prove it.
We stayed up for a while taking in the city, then headed down around midnight.
We found another set of bikes and rode through the quiet streets back to the hotel. Using the bikes to get around was one of my favourite parts of the trip, you got to see so much and had the freedom to go wherever you wanted.
The following day we rode over to the Notre Dame to go inside. The atmosphere within was peaceful, it was full of people all appreciating the incredible workmanship throughout, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Once we’d finished looking round we came back out to collect our bikes to head over to the Louvre, however they were gone, as anybody can rent them at anytime, we were out of luck. This is when we first tried the ‘scoot scoots’.
These are another of the cities many forms of rental transport and they were quite spectacular. €1 to rent and the 15c a minute, so a bit more than the bikes, however they travel at 35kpm, even with 2 people onboard, so you get around pretty quick.
We scoot scooted over to the Louvre, with a slight detour as I couldn’t quite keep up with Dayne…. and then enjoyed another free entry.
I had, for some reason imagined it was going to take us the rest of the day to get round the museum but we managed to cover ever section within a couple of hours.
Now it was time for some URBEX!!! A few streets over from the hotel was an abandoned railway track that ran below and around the city. Access down to it was easy, it was obviously regularly visited, we walked through an unlocked door down on to the tracks, though the were also holes in the fence all over the place. Once below the city we followed the track for a few miles, going through several tunnels.
Along the way we met other groups of Urbexers, some spray painting and others emerging from the hidden entrance to the Catacombes. Running even further underground are over 200km of tunnels covering the whole of Paris. There are various ‘off the books’ entrances leading into the tunnels.
After we’d been walking for about a mile, we found one of them down the side of the tracks. We crept in and started to make our way through, it wasn’t long before we discovered some flooding, in front of us were a few people wearing hefty waterproof gear (which we’re planning to bring next time). We made are way around a few other sections before the water cut us off and then climbed back out onto the tracks once more.
Due to the extent of the tunnels, it is best to get a map before you go in and make sure you’ve got a backup exit, just incase!
Saturday night was pretty chilled, more cycling round the city and enjoying the atmosphere, followed by take away pizza and Canasta.
We got up early on Sunday as it was our last day to explore. Our flight wasn’t until half 7pm so we had until about 4pm before we had to make our way back to the airport. We checked out, stashed our bags in a luggage locker and jumped on the bikes. We decided to go into the ‘legit’ part of the Catacombes, which is where most of the human remains are stored. The queues for this were the longest yet, and after my winning eye spy the other night Dayne did not fancy playing again. Instead we bought some breakfast baguettes and ate whilst we waited. When we finally got in it was a very interesting experience. The sheer amount of skulls and bones was hard to comprehend. Looking at it all displayed around you, it was difficult to picture any of it once belonging to a person.
It was almost as if it had all been made purposefully for some sort of obscure display, but it was all real.
By the time we left we only had about 2 hours before we’d have to head for the airport, we decided to have one last game of Canasta in front of the Eiffel Tower, and then cycled over to collect the bags. The metro journey was again, quick and easy; with two trains waiting at the Gard du Nore ready to take us to Charles du Galle airport.
I don’t know whether it was the relaxed atmosphere or the amount of things that we managed to do in just a few days while we were there, but it felt like we’d been there a lot longer than a weekend. Despite this it was still a shame to have to return to reality, until next time Paris.