I feel very lucky that my 26th spin around the sun has been spent in the summer for the first time. Darrelle and I had a lovely day with just the two of us starting with breakfast in the apartment then a picnic lunch in Vondelpark. It’s so picturesque and we still smile at it’s beauty every time we visit.
My birthday present is something I have dreamed of doing and I still find it hard to believe as I write this on the train. It still doesn’t feel real but…
We’re going to Paris!
The train system is Europe is fantastic, we get the tram from our doorstep to Amsterdam Centraal then scan our ticket and go to the Thalys platform, 3 hours later and we’re in Paris!
We arrived at Gare Du Nord and after a quick 10 minutes on the metro we’re at our hotel. The metro is very similar to the London tube, particularly the heat inside but nowhere near as iconic.
We really clocked up the kms on this trip. We unpacked then walked through the magnificent Luxembourg gardens nearby. Then we followed our noses through and across the Seine river to the louvre. My favourite part was watching everyone try to hold the pyramid. The Arc De Triomphe stood proudly in the distance and we approached it enthusiastically on foot via Avenue Des Champs-Elysées. Incredibly hot, we stopped for a baguette and marched onwards. Once there we took the underground passage but ended up on the other side but with good reason, there were no tourists. The roundabouts in Paris are ridiculous, organised chaos like driving in Thailand. We reapplied sunscreen and continued towards the Tour Eiffel, a place I had literally dreamed of visiting making it all the more incredible to see it in person.
We made it back to our hotel room by the evening which was about a 16km round trip. No air conditioning makes things very hard to sleep but when the hotel was 120 for 2 nights including breakfast you tend to skip over some finer details, I won’t make this mistake again 🙈.
The food is magnificent whether you dine in a brasserie, bistro, restaurant, cafe or something in between. We saw a cute brasserie on the other side of the road from our hotel and went for it. Darrelle said it was the best salmon she’s ever had, I had a delicious duck and in true French fashion, they asked how I wanted it cooked. A beautiful meal and lovely staff, we shared a tart for desert then wandered back to our hot box for day 2.
Day 2 – No sleep but who cares!
It was a rough ‘sleep’ if you can call it that. Not that we’re precious about much however 30 degrees over night In those little rooms without fans or AC does make it hard, especially when there was no breeze at night and it was very loud and bright 🤪.
We went downstairs for breakfast which consisted of lots of breads, yoghurt, pomme (apple) compot and tea. Perfectly reasonable breakfast although some fruit would be wonderful.
We walked off the beaten path to Notre dame, flowing north through the 5th arrondissement. The Pantheon, Catholic Church, ancient sandstone and plaster buildings encompass you in a swirl of direction. Everywhere you look you feel very Parisian in this area. The twisting roads and streets, the vertical gardens, the green the yellow/white of the buildings and the black/gold features. We laughed at the monstrous line to go inside the Notre Dame. Thank god both of us can savour the outside beauty of these main tourist attractions, otherwise we’d still be in line for Westminster Abbey in London. We got some brilliant photos then got a bus costing us €2 each for our version of the over priced hop on hop off busses. We arrived at Blanche station, named because of the white plaster adoring the buildings. And starring us down is the Moulin Rouge (red windmill).
We got some selfies and walked across to Blanche metro stop to find our free walking tour guide. She was informative but a combination of the language, heat and noise of the start or Montmartre caused me to loose a bit of interest. I think we also had the best tour guide ever in London so that’s pretty hard to beat. Never the less, Darrelle and I were thrilled to walk through the Montmartre hills, I’d like to think that 100 years ago we’d be living up here hanging out with Picasso or Van Gogh and the other starving artists, anarchists and the general lunatics. Foggy alley, with an eccentric walking his pet lobster would be magnificent to observe with a charcuterie board and champagne in hand. The hill had great views and we learned that the Sacre Coeur is really quite disliked by Parisians as its construction was and is seen as an oppression by high society/Catholics/kings at the defeat of the uprising lower/middle/lunatic class following the French Revolution.
The guide made the comment that Parisians hate everything that is less that 50 years old, after that they love it e.g. Eiffel Tour, The Louvre etc. but Sacre Coeur is the exception. The view from the top is apparently loved by Parisians as it is the only place in the city where you can’t see the mercilessly beautiful monument sticking it to the down trodden.
That concludes the tour and we walked through a charming square from the back of Sacre Coeur to a tourist free area with brilliant bistros and cafes, I don’t think we will ever know the difference. I was very excited for a steak with frittes and it did not disappoint from this gorgeous place. Tandoori spices and heirloom tomatoes, the menu was shared around by the owner carrying it between tables – she very kindly decoded my atrocious French translations and we both came away with full tums.
As much as we belong on the Montmartre hill rather than the dwellings of powerful Parisians, we did still want to see Sacre Coeur from the front, just walking up to the other side of the summit amassed hundred of tourists, something that was completely concealed in our locals only square for lunch.
The typical dodgy street dealers and peddlers of knick knacks that are around your arms before you every realise – are there sucking in everyone they could. We grabbed a few photos and got out of there.
Walking back to Gare Du Nord then taking the RER back to our place at port royal. For dinner tonight we walked the other side of the street from our hotel and snacked on entrees from a brassiere being so full from lunch still. Escargots, affectionally labelled land oysters by me, were the classic, soily taste we had to try. A deli meats board and salad were all we needed along with a delicious pint. We strolled through Luxembourg gardens again, Vondelpark will never be beaten but some of there places are giving it a real try. The Statue of Liberty Jr and old and young alike playing boche made us smile. The hundred of chairs scattered throughout the garden were well received as we sat at the front of the palace and looked through the open windows and guards with machine guns. Thinking about what is inside and after a quick Google search we came away disappointment that it’s the house of the senate. What a waste we laughed.
We walked out and around, paid way too much for 2 magnums from a ‘super’market and trotted back through the sunset.
We slept so much better than the night before.
Day 3 – Finale
We woke, more rested but slightly steamed by our room again, to the same breakfast. We really need some fruit.
We then walked to the Montparnasse cemetery – slightly touristy as far as cemeteries go, but the crypts were incredibly elaborate and the grounds were peaceful.
We walked back, checked out, paid the city tax and used our sneakily never activated bus tickets to get to the Eiffel Tour via Champs de Mars – again a hop on hop off at a fraction of the price. We spent some more time capturing the tower and asked a group who ended up chatting for a bit to take some photos of each other. The couple were from Belgium and we had a quick chat about our lives in Amsterdam. They recommended the free museum in Antwerp for a view of the city when we go there with Mum and dad.
The bus ride to Gare Du Nord was pretty brutal, it makes me wonder why anyone would ever want to drive in Paris. 45 mins or so in a hot bus got us there – better than the metro we say to our dehydrated selves. We go to another brassiere based on our lucky streak but the croque monsieur was unfortunately dismal and I had recommended that to Darrelle so 2 very average meals but at least it was cool and not in the train station.
We waited about 40 mins and that was way too long for the train. Next time we really only need to be at a stop 15 minutes before it leaves, especially when seating is assigned. The usual beggars are asking for change and it’s hot busy and generally chaotic.
As we walked through to our cabin we were amazed by how long the Thalys train is, hundreds of people around us all boarding the same to get back to Brussels or Amsterdam.
My opinion of Paris is of beauty, shown in its buildings, architecture, gardens and food. I had arrived with somewhat lowered expectations based on everyone’s advice of hold on to your backpack for dear life and that French people are rude.
None of that seemed to apply to us, the few Frenchies we interacted with were incredible kind, whether they were helping us use the frustratingly difficult public WC, the woman who translated her whole menu into English for us or the waiters and hospitality staff who were all lovely. Perhaps the beggars and peddlers have been cleaned up over the last few years, but I felt very safe and comfortable exploring Paris and hats of to both of us and our legs for trekking the city, seeing everything we wanted and more in 3 days.
Au revoir and on to our tv show 🤪