Ever since I was a little girl dreaming of one day leaving New Zealand and travelling the world, I have wanted to visit Paris, the city of love. As the Camino Frances trail starts in France we thought it was the perfect opportunity to see Paris, and to make our way down the country from there. However I have both travel anxiety and a general dislike of people so there was the other half of me that was not to keen to spend very much time in the big city at all. That and I was also pretty keen to get our packs on our backs and get walking! Our compromise was we opted for a whole 48 hours in Paris from landing to busing out again. One full day to see as much as possible, which if I’m honest was definitely not enough.
Paris is like any other big capital city, it’s expensive! Transport is expensive, accommodation is expensive, food is expensive. But, your in Paris right..? We flew into Charles De Gaulle airport at around mid-afternoon from Luton London. I was doing my super excited happy dance because I was FINALLY in France. I waited 23 years for this experience! (i didn’t know i wanted to travel before I could walk. 😅) However the happy dance ended as foreign language, travel anxiety, sleep deprivation and confusing train systems kicked in. (Why is it so difficult to get out of airports??? 🤔😫) We manged to get lost trying to find our way from the airport to our hotel while on like 10% phone battery. Through a bit of grumbling, glaring and general tired snarlieness we managed to get ourselves into Paris city, then to the outer suburbs where we were staying in Hotel de la Terrasse.
The Hôtel de la Terrasse had a small restaurant attached to the base where they supplied breakfast to patrons, which we declined as our plan was to be up at ridiculous o’clock. We got in late, around 8pm. The room was small and basic but relatively clean, not sparkling, but not don’t touch the sides either. It was a bed and for the price that was good enough. We headed down the road to Le Chablis 2 restaurant for dinner and between Royce’s limited French and the wait staffs better English we had a lovely meal in our travel worn state.
The alarm blared into life at 5am the next morning in the very get the F out of bed way my alarm goes off, especially when it’s at the other end of the room. We did want to be out the door at 6am… So I did get up. Our plan was to pack as much into this 24 hours as possible, so two trains later, a few yawns, and multiple photo stops at the bridge while we tried capture the beautiful sunrise brightening the cold autumns morning later. We found ourselves at our destination. Having passed by the gold and pink rays of light igniting the river Seine, and a mind blowing shop. We found the actual rat poison shop from the movie Ratatouille!! Complete with the fake dead rats hanging from the window. Totally had no idea this was a real shop!!
Finally we found ourselves almost alone at the base of the glass pyramid that sits atop the entrance to the place I had been waiting impatiently to see. The world famous Louvre museum. The Louvre holds approximately 38,000 works of art and is the largest art museum in the world. It is home not only to the well known Mona Lisa but also so many other amazing historic works that you couldn’t possibly see it all in a day even if we did try. The museum is housed inside the Louvre Palace, originally built as the Louvre castle in the late 12th to 13th century under King Philip II. The building has been extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682 the Louvre due to relocation of King’s residence became the primary place of the Royalties collections of art, including from 1692, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces. And since then the beautiful palace has become the most popular art museum in the world.
We arrived at the museum around 7am and were roughly 10th in line. I had read all over the internet that you should book a ticket, but we couldn’t;t get an early time slot so we opted for the early bird approach instead. Unfortunately what I didn’t realize while booking, is that at opening time (after we had stood around freezing our tits off for an hour!) That the ticket holder line has to be empty before our line even gets to walk inside the door, let alone buy a ticket. When we finally did manage to get out of the cold and put our things through the metal detector (roughly twenty five minutes or so after doors opening.) It was thankfully soooo much warmer inside it only took a few minutes to defrost. Down the escalator, under the glass pyramid we went to an almost deserted museum. Thankfully because of this the ticket line was empty and so was, more importantly, the breakfast line. Croissant and coffee down, we headed for the first stop of the day. Another line actually, to pick up our Louvre museum Nintendo’s as our guides and walking curator. These bits of tech took you wherever you wanted to go to find any piece of art in the museum, and also had guided talks through individual pieces of art. It made the museum trip far more enlightening and interactive. Our first art stop was however, you guessed it. The Mona Lisa
Up the stairs we went, past the armed guards, to a very reasonably sized line where she was being held in a temporary room. We waited in line for a maximum of around ten minutes. Honestly if your going to go to the Louvre, EARLY BIRD’s get to see the lady That Di Vinci carried around with him for flippen ages. The temporary room where she was held almost over-shadowed her small painting. Set in a backdrop of floor to ceiling murals of the life of the French Queen Mary. It’s not that surprising that I spent more time looking around absorbing the magnitude of the room then I did watching the crowds of people rush in on the small portrait. Ten minutes almost wasn’t long enough to wait to get my 60 seconds in front of the Mona Lisa.
We spent most of the day travelling the monstrous number of art works. Captivated by the details and the stories told within each brush stroke and sculpture. But our musings and pondering had to come to an end because other then having sore eyes from staring at art all day, we also had places to be. One place in particular was one very tall, very famous monument. In fact that happened to also be across town. So at 4.30pm we practically ran (and by practically I mean we got our shepherd/marathon power walking stride going!) And got halfway across Paris center in record time to be at the Eiffel tower for 5pm. I do not recommend cutting this deadline so fine!
The Eiffel tower is a massive monument of steel construction iconic to Paris. Built between 1887 and 1889, the tower is 324 meters or just over 1000 feet tall. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower became the tallest building in the world, a title it held for 41 years. Not surprisingly with incredible height also comes an incredible number of stairs! And up them we went, because we are tight walleted young travellers and climbing stairs is good for you! *fist pump* I’m not going to lie there was waaaaay to many stairs. At the end of the first tier of stairs is a large open air viewing area with a restaurant, ice cream shop, small sandwich and pastry shop and a lovely little set of tables to it down and enjoy the Parisian tourism. Like every good tourist spot it was hideously overpriced and actually quite exposed so a bit brisk for a late September afternoon.
The second level has more stairs, obviously. Though there is the option to pay for the cable car, which is the only way to get to the third viewing platform, at a height of 276m. It’s important to book if you want to get up to the third level. We only headed up to the second, but again worth booking through the Eiffel towers official website if you want to go past the first level. We spent a good hour taking photos and eating overpriced snacks because we hadn’t had lunch yet.
Back on the ground, we walked through the gardens surrounding the tower. There was a multitude of small vendors selling tower souvenirs and even wine and glasses to enjoy while watching the sunset. We took some more photos and sat down with the other couples a way back from the tower and enjoyed the view while we reflected on how far we have come; From small town New Zealand looking after thousands of white woolly sheep, to sitting at the base of one of the most famous buildings in the world half a planet away. I was reminded for the first of many times this trip how grateful I am to be having this journey.
We went down the road from the tower to Le Royal for Dinner and enjoyed a three course meal for 31.80 Euro. Which naturally came with wine included. Wine, France, it’s a thing you have do do. Really simple but tasty food and they even had a less lactose option so I could actually have dessert! (Apple pie). Back to the hotel, I was exhausted but elated. I had spent a whirlwind 24 hours in Paris 😁 now off to Nantes!!
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