Paris is the last instalment in the Travel Diaries from my big exchange adventure of 2016/17. I have to say, as someone who has studied French and always been a little bit obsessed with everything French, Paris was probably my favourite city we visited (although I loved them all!). Even though it was chilly there in winter, the city was vibrant and bubbling and I found the French to be incredibly hospitable and friendly.
Eiffel Tower – you simply cannot visit Paris without seeing (and going up) the most iconic building in the city. The Eiffel Tower is situated at the end of the Champs de Mars and is open to the public. You can either pay a little extra and take the lift to the first or second floor, or get a little fitness into your holiday by taking the stairs (all 669 of them) to the second floor. From both floors you can enjoy beautiful panoramic views of Paris and admire the incredible architecture of the tower up close.
Arc de Triomphe – the other famous attraction in Paris is also one that you can ascend, once again up the stairs or an elevator, and enjoy similarly stunning views from a different vantage point. On your way to or from the Arc de Triomphe don’t forget to take a stroll down the Champs Elysees, the most famous shopping strip in all of Paris.
Palace of Versailles – if you have a whole day to spare take the time to book a tour to the Palace of Versailles. Located about 50 minutes from Paris, the palace is a hugely historic and ridiculously enormous place. Wander through the main palace and learn about its history and gradual transition from hunting lodge to likely the biggest palace in France. Then you can wander through the 700 hectares of gardens and visit the Grand and Petit Trianon, which was the home of Marie Antoinette in her time.
Louvre – certainly the most famous museum in Paris, this is another place where you could easily spend a day or two. Although, while you’re there don’t forget to see the infamous Mona Lisa painting, which is located in its own room and is permanently guarded. On your way in snap a picture with the famous Louvre pyramid and admire the grandeur of the Louvre Palace in which the museum is located.
Notre Dame – arguably the most famous church in Paris (although then there is Sacre Coeur), Notre Dame is a beautiful gothic cathedral located on City Island (Ile de Cite). Entry is free and inside you can enjoy warmth, silence and the stunning stained glass windows.
Sacre Coeur – located on the famous hill of Montmartre, where the Moulin Rouge can also be found, is a grand church called Sacre Coeur. Since it was built it has apparently never been without someone inside praying or simply basking in the glory of God. The terrace in front of the church also offers incredible views of Paris from the Montmartre hill.
Jardin and Palace de Luxembourg – another park, another palace, that’s Europe in a nutshell! The iconic and expansive Luxembourg Gardens are certainly worth a visit for those who enjoy the greenery (even if it wasn’t overly green when we visited in winter). I can imagine though the the lawns would be the perfect place for a picnic in the warmer months.
Pantheon – similar to the Pantheon in Rome, this is another beautiful and uniquely built church. Unlike Rome, entry to the one in Paris is not free so it’s up to you to enter or just admire the building from its exterior.
Hotel des Invalides – once upon a time sick and disabled people were considered unsightly and had to be locked away somewhere and so the Hotel des Invalides was built. It is a large building which now houses an army museum. At its centre is a grand golden dome belonging to the cathedral of the hotel.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of eating a galette then let me tell you that you are missing out. Galettes, which are savoury buckwheat (therefore usually gluten free) crepes, are served in most creperies in Paris. The toppings/fillings of these galettes vary from the classic ham and cheese to more exotic combinations of spinach, mozzarella, smoked salmon, mushrooms and lots more! During our stay we ate quite a few of these, but the best two were at Creperie Broceliande in Montmartre and Framboise off the Champs Elysees.
For my 21st birthday Peta surprised me with an amazing three-course dinner at 58 Restaurant which is located on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. It’s hard to decide which was better, the food or the view! Although this is definitely expensive, it was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would definitely recommend it if you have the money to splurge. The package that we had included champagne, wine and tea at the end of our meal.
Rue de Lappe (11th Arr)
This little street was near our accommodation, very close to the Bastille Monument. We returned there every night for dinner as they had great bars and restaurants all the way along this street, including a great tapas and Indian restaurant, and yet another awesome creperie where we ate galettes the first night.
Back before diet and lifestyle changes were a part of my life I used to adore the classic French pastries called pain au chocolat (chocolate bread). Even though I have been gluten free for 5 years now I always vowed that the only time I would break that would be for the best pain au chocolat (or croissant) in Paris. And so at Miss Manon, that is exactly what I did! A little bit of Internet research told me that Miss Manon is renowned for having the best pain au chocolat in all of Paris and so on our first morning there Peta and I ventured down Boulevard Saint Antoine and tried it for ourselves. I have to admit, it was pretty damn delicious and I would definitely recommend a visit if pastries are something you enjoy.
Carrousel du Louvre – as if a museum within a palace wasn’t enough the Louvre also boasts an underground shopping mall complete with everything from chocolate shops to stationary stores and everything in between. If (like us) you are after a break from the weather and like window shopping (or actual shopping) this is the place to go.
Champs Elysees – as I mentioned earlier, the Champs Elysees is a huge shopping strip in the heart of Paris, famous for the plethora of designer stores that line either side of this wide street. There are also some regular stores for the regular folks amongst us!
Bastille Market – to understand true French life and culture you simply must visit one of the many food markets in Paris. Since we were staying near Bastille we headed to the market there on Sunday morning to collect all our goodies for breakfast. It is certainly a sensory overload experience, the sights, smells and sounds of the market are sure to put a smile on your face. Besides the enormous range of food stalls there are also smaller stalls selling little accessories and other crafty things, if that is more to your liking.
Well, that completes the Travel Diaries for now (but definitely not forever). I hope you’ve enjoyed keeping up with our travels and that some of these recommendations will come in handy if you ever visit Canada, England, Rome or Paris in the future!
Love Erica x