I tried to think of some sort of trendy and eye-catching title for this blog post, but, to be honest, I think ‘Paris’ in itself is pretty exciting, so that’s how I’m leaving it.
And as that wonderfully short title suggests, I have been to Paris – somewhere I’ve wanted to visit way before the year abroad era. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Millie left Hanover at the end of February to do the second half of her year abroad in France’s capital city, giving me a perfect opportunity to visit one of the very few cities I want to visit before I get stuck into ‘being a grown-up’ and not finding the time.
Together with Shane, we caught a flight from Hanover on Friday (due to flying from Hanover being approximately 45€ cheaper than trains from Cologne which seems pretty ridiculous but I wasn’t complaining), and after about 90 minutes of hell in this labyrinth they call ‘Charles de Gaulle Airport’ (what kind of airport allows you only to buy train tickets at the machines with coins, and doesn’t have working change machines?), we ended up at another labyrinth they call ‘Gare du Nord’, which is basically a massive train station in the north of Paris. With the weather being pretty poor (the type of weather which might not only flip your umbrella inside out but might also snap your umbrella clean in half – luckily the latter didn’t happen to Shane), we hung around in the hectic train station, panicked a little bit when trying to order a baguette in French, and a few hours later was finally rescued by a smiley-faced Millie.
There isn’t really a great deal to report about as far as Friday is concerned. It was brilliant to see Millie again, as well as Rachel who came around for some pizza and wine. The most exciting part was at around 11pm when Millie declared it would be a good idea to go have a look at the Moulin Rouge whilst it was dark as all the neon lights would be on. So we did. On the way, we passed the Sacré-Cœur which is placed perfectly right near to where Millie lives, but I’ll talk more about that later as we visited it properly on the Sunday evening.
As we walked towards the Moulin Rouge, we saw a beam of light shoot across the sky every now and again; it was the Eiffel Tower.This really excited me with me never having even caught a glance of it before, and yet I was walking through Paris seeing the beams of light passing over our heads.
Anyway, back to the Moulin Rouge – I’ve never seen the film, but the place looked pretty impressive with all the lights going on, and there was also a giant vent outside of it which reminded me of Marilyn Monroe, but made me look more like Batman with my rain jacket. No complaints.
The list of things to see and do on Saturday wasn’t as long and stressful as I’d first assumed it would be, due to the fact we were there for the full weekend. We started off by helping Rachel move house, who’d been living with a guest family for her first month, and had luckily found a really lovely one-bedroom (or, in Paris terms, ‘one-room’) flat. And with 5 flights of stairs and two big suitcases, I’m not surprised she asked for a hand.
Wasting no time at all, we then headed straight for the big one – the Eiffel Tower. After seeing the lights the night before, I was so excited to see the most-visited paid landmark in the world, and I don’t think I’ve actually ever been so excited to see just one thing, including my trip to Berlin. And it was even better than I imagined – it is absolutely huge and appeared out of nowhere as we walked around the corner onto the plaza looking over towards it. I just stared at it whilst the mass of tourists around took photo after photo, some pretending to be leaning on it, and others pretending to hold it (yes, we did try both at one point. And yes, both ways failed).
After seeing the size of the queue, which was as equally shockingly big as the Tower itself, we decided to start to look for something to eat. However, despite all agreeing to find somewhere to eat, we ended up having a look at the Louvre (but not going inside – we did that on the Sunday) and having a go at a few ‘my hand is on top of the glass pyramid’ photos, which actually worked out quite well. Well, they turned out better than the Eiffel Tower ones at least.
Finally finding somewhere to eat, we all treated ourselves to Croque Monsieurs and Croque Madames (Croque Monsieurs being ham-and-cheese toasted sandwiches, and Croque Madames being the same but with a fried egg on top). The café we had our food in was perfectly placed across the road from the Pont des Arts – this is basically one of the ‘love padlock’ bridges, and I was amazed at how many padlocks there actually were locked onto the sides. We even witnessed a couple doing the whole ‘lock it and throw the key into the river’ which was quite sweet. Afterwards, we walked along the river and had a look at some of the market stalls spread along the path, and some of them were actually pretty good, such as the pictures artists had painted, as well as some really nice postcards.
Our next stop is also famous for a movie which I haven’t seen (but if you know me well, you know I’ve barely seen any of the films which everyone else has seen…). This one, however, was the Notre Dame – and just a passing note, I’ve just discovered there’s a restaurant in Hanover called the Notre Dame, after I googled it to check I’d spelt it right. Bonus. Anyway, the building was magnificent. It was no Sagrada Família, but it was really pretty to look at from the awkward temporary seats which had been place opposite the entrance. Down the road was the town hall, which was also brilliant and reminded me of the town hall in Munich, and we enjoyed a hilarious dancing group outside of it.
After sitting and watching a strange street performer who used a mirror which he placed where you could only see one of his arms and it gave your mind a bit of a tough time as he juggled with both hands but you could only see one arm and its reflection, we came across a really small and peculiar water feature (The Stravinksky Fountain) which reminded me a lot of some statues in Hanover – and it just so turns out this small water feature in the middle of Paris was done by the very same artists of the Nanas in Hanover, as well as a small cove in the Herrenhäuser Gärten. The artist being Niki-de-Saint-Phalle, if you’re interested.
Saturday night then involved more pizza and more wine from Carrefour, and me learning a new drinking game, ‘Ride the Bus’, the hard way.
We woke the next day quite late due to the previous night, and decided to take it easy with us not having a great deal to see due to us having seen quite a lot on the previous day. Our first stop was the Arc de Triomph which I was extremely impressed by. I didn’t realise how big it would actually be – I had Brandenburger Tor in my mind, and it was by far bigger than that. We climbed to the top (for free because we’re European citizens between the ages of 18 and 25!) and enjoyed the views from such a high height. Millie even treated us to a few of her stunts whilst jumping from a big step. The shop inside the Arc was also pretty impressive and we spent a good 10 minutes or so in there – I managed to resist and not buy anything, though it was pretty hard to do so, especially when hearing a bunch of Germans picking up something I thought was cool and saying ‘Guck, das ist geil!’ (‘Look, that’s awesome!’).
We headed back down and towards the Avenue de Champs Elysées, which is a huge shopping street, and went into about 3 car shops, as well as the Disney Store and a Marks & Spencer, where we bought our dejéuner (using the French to avoid the awkward dinner/lunch argument) which, for me, consisted of a chicken & bacon sandwich and a packet of ready salted crisps, making me extremely excited to go home this coming weekend.
Despite Millie saying it would be a let-down, we headed back to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. And guess what? It was a let-down. It was absolutely tiny, and probably every other painting in the same room as it was more impressive. But at least I can say I saw it now. It was just a huge anti-climax after walking through the gigantic place for about 10 minutes to come across a miniscule painting.
After an hour or so of chilling back at Millie’s, we headed to the Sacré-Cœur where we planned to also meet Rachel ready for a big meal. On the way, we stopped and bought some macaroons which Jo, who’d just been to France for the first half of her year abroad, recommended I did – and I can see why because they were absolutely delicious. I had a praline, vanilla and raspberry one, and none of them disappointed. I know there’s a café in Hanover which sells macaroons so I may have to stop by there at some point soon.
Sticking onto the topic of food, we met Rachel after walking up to the Sacré-Cœur, and I was told to pick a restaurant on the Place de Tertre, with the important fact that all the restaurants were basically the same, in that they served the same things and they had similar prices. Enticed by the colourful chairs and lanterns (they were the French colours!) I chose one, and we enjoyed a 3-course meal, which for me consisted of snails and mussels for starters (sharing with Millie because I couldn’t decide between the two of them), duck for mains, and a tasty chocolate pudding with cream for dessert. It was worth every bit of the (just over) 30€ we each paid.
With it slowly but surely getting darker, Rachel decided to head home, but Millie, Shane and I went back to the Eiffel Tower in the hope that the queues to go up it would have died down. Luckily, we were right, but then there was the small fact that the Tower lights up every hour on the hour at night, though we weren’t 100% if this was true, with me being told my Phoebe it happened at midnight to her. We got there at around 10:40pm, so we decided to sit on a bench nearby and watch the Tower in the hope that it would start flickering at 11pm. 10 seconds before it turned 11, I started recording with my phone after we laughed about how funny it would be if nothing actually happened, and out of nowhere the whole Tower start flickering with hundreds of lights. In excitement, we ran backwards to get a better view, and the video does make for some good laughs as that happens.
After it finally stopped flickering about 5 minutes later, we headed up the Tower where I actually had a bit of height-fright looking up to the top of the tower whilst being on the second floor. It makes me feel a bit dizzy just thinking about it, but the view from the Tower across Paris was amazing, especially as you could follow the beam of light around which we’d seen on our first evening.
All excited, we headed back down the Tower and to the metro station to then realise it was 11:55pm and the Tower would be flickering again very soon. Luckily, we perfectly caught the metro on time and saw the Tower flashing in the night as the metro travelled parallel to it.
It’s safe to say that Sunday night was a pizza-free and wine-free night after arriving back at Millie’s, and we went to bed pretty shortly after getting back. On Monday morning, it was a 5:30 wake up to leave the house for around 6:30 and conquer the labyrinths (which we did brilliantly), and we landed safely on time in Hanover a few hours later.
And that was my first trip to Paris. I was more than amazed throughout the weekend, and with Millie working in Paris until September, there’s nothing stopping me from another visit when I find the time when I have breaks throughout the summer (and Millie said I could also visit again – don’t just think I’m assuming she’ll let me stay again).
Paris, c’est une ville très jolie, et j’espère que je vais la voir bientôt!