Sunday, 7 May 2017

Lifestyle: My Trip To Paris

My Paris Holidays

I've recently had the chance to spent two weekends away from London sightseeing the beautiful capitals of Europe. I went on a holiday to Amsterdam and then my travels took me to Paris for the very first time. The trip was mainly to support my friend who participated in the Paris marathon and whilst he sweated and ran half-across the city, I went off by myself exploring.

A big part of this great holiday experience was the incredible weather, as I think Paris is not really "my" city. Similar to Amsterdam, Paris didn't wow me much at first sight. Even after a few days, I couldn't warm up to Paris and felt it was a bit bland and characterless - but this didn't stop me from exploring its streets filled with cafes, delicious cakes and its historic sights, bursting with culture and art.

1. The Prestigious Louvre Museum
The art museum is impressive inside and out: arriving at the famous pyramid and stepping into a whole new art world was an exciting experience in itself. The collection is perfectly curated and I wandered around for 4.5h, admiring the treasures of the European art scene (and also fought with some ruthless tourists over the best spots). I saw the Mona Lisa, The French Revolution and the Venus de Milo and it didn't stop there. The museum's wide spaces are filled from bottom to ceiling with incredible pieces and the rooms are an artwork themselves which I would compare to equally rich in detail and presentation as the rooms at the Vatican Museum (less busy though!). The main attractions are very busy but the rest of the museum is wide-stretched and hence why very relaxed.

I was glad to have bought a 17 EUR (£15) fast-lane ticket in advance as my visit was worth every penny. Did you know that you can get free admission if you're under the age of 26 and are an EEA resident? Plus, under the pyramid is an atrium and the main visitor centre from which you can choose the direction you'd like to explore the treasures first. This area can also be reached from a second entrance, which is less busy than the common route via the pyramid. Try to access the museum through the shopping centre entrance on the Rue de Rivoli. The side entrance allows you to skip the long queues at the pyramid, plus shopping inspiration....you know ;)

tourists around the mona lisa louvre paris
treasure chest islamic exhibition louvre paris
painting and art at louvre paris
venus de milo louvre paris

2. The Sadness of Paris
Unpopular opinion coming your way, but I found Paris scruffy. Unlike Rome, it is not picturesque at all and in some parts it reminded me heavily of London. Where there was once glamour and elegance, are now dirty streets with houses that lack interesting features. Street after street looks the same. You may find some of the enchanting glamour around the Champs-Élysées, but apart from that the French chic and elegance that so many people told me about, have seemed to be completely gone. Heavily neglected areas, police patrols and constant controls dominate the picture and still, you don't feel 100% secure. In Rome, you had streetsellers which were a bit annoying but in Paris, you see entire families living on the street - an intense and absolutely heartbreaking picture which occurs with consistency on the streets of Paris.

3. For a Sweet Tooth: Pâtisserie & Cakes
Paris won me over with its diverse and extensive variety of cakes - it is a paradise! There's a pâtisserie waiting for you at every corner with delicious cakes, colourful macaroons,  fancy profiteroles and fluffy pastries. Top addresses for exquisite Parisian treats are Café Angelina and Café Pouchkine. Both serve top-notch quality delights and Café Angelina has the most indulgent hot chocolate I've ever tasted - thick and creamy, with a rich but not overpowering chocolatey taste and a smooth milky finish. The average price for the cakes are 10 EUR but there's enough to share and the quality is out of this world. I had a chocolatey treat with a heavenly filling which was handcrafted and presented stunningly.  Café Pouchkine can be found with a few branches all over the city and they serve gorgeous cakes. Did I share? Erm...I don't think so :)

Angelina cafe cake in Paris
Cafe Pouchkine Paris cakes

4. Food Part 1: Price
Whilst the food prices in European capitals seem to be similar, the quality of food varies tremendously. 25 EUR on average per person seems to be common. Whilst I treated myself to a 23 EUR dinner at a Michelin-guided restaurant in Amsterdam, for the same price I got an average and small pasta meal in Rome. Wherever you go in Paris however, you get really nice and tasty food from an international food scene. There are Italian restaurants, street food, French cuisine, the usual fast food establishments but more importantly small cafés and hidden-away restaurants serving quality food. I was surprised how diverse and manifold the food scene was and you don't have to worry to be starving in Paris. There's literally food for everyone, which leads me to my next point:

5. Food Part 2: Street Food at Its Best
I found two little gems in Paris for my favourite food: Burger Joint near the Centre Pompidou is a very small place that serves goats cheeseburgers. The combination of the dominant goat's cheese and the sweet savoury taste of a medium rare cooked beef medallion was heavenly. The prices are very moderate as you can get a massive burger with fries and a drink for 12EUR (£9). 

Next on the list is Pizzeria Popolare on the 

Restaurant Popolare Paris

6. Walking a Marathon
Paris is spacious and there seems to be no clear structure. The sights are wide-spread in all directions, some are in random places like the Eiffel Tower, so you should be prepared for very long walking distances. I made it to an impressive 75 miles over a 5 day period on top of my Amsterdam mileage. After a while, you're just knackered so you decide to use the tube system which is...

Paris view from the louvre

7. Pure Chaos: The Tube System
..... extremely confusing and chaotic. The map is all over the place and I felt lost a few times. To me, the lines made no sense and it took me a good while to figure out where everything was and where to go. 

I heard a lot of people raving about the incredible art nouveau style of the Parisian underground but I felt most of its charm and glamour had gone. The stations felt monotonous and uniform. There are long distances to walk when interchanging (similar to the Bank/Monument walk) and there are barely escalators to speed things up. A quick trip to the Eiffel Tower becomes then a ten stop journey, which is half of my daily commute in London and keep in mind you're still in zone 1 of Paris! The tickets are cheaper though. A single one-way fare came 1.45EUR which is not too bad given the fact it is valid for one hour after validation. 

8. Cause Your Beauty Burns Through The Darkness
The highlight of the trip was seeing the Eiffel Tower at Night. The building is alright in the daytime, but it becomes impressive as soon as it gets dark and all the lights come on. When I went to see it, it was a warm (summer) night with no breeze but a clear sky and the moon to its fullest. Some stars shone brightly and the view from the Seine was spectacular. It was a great atmosphere standing there and just taking it all in. A beautiful moment and I can only imagine how stunning the Tower must look from afar. 

Eiffel Tower at night Paris

9. The Must-See-And-Explore Areas
My journey through the city brought me to different areas which showed me a diverse face of Paris. The north is worth exploring. My hotel wasn't too far away from the Moulin Rouge, so one day I walked past it and visited the Montmartre Cemetery. This is one of the big four cemeteries of Paris were famous physicians, composers and scientists rest in peace. It was a beautiful sunny day and exploring the grounds gave you a little chill down your spine. The cemetery is free to visit and wandering through the old mausoleums and crypts was a unique experience. The place itself is impressive and atmospheric. Whilst you wander around you'll find inscriptions or plates and learn more about the people who are buried here. If you have the chance please don't miss out on this unique and haunting experience.

Cimetière de Montmartre Paris
Cimetière de Montmartre North Cemetry Paris

Just a short 15 minute walk uphill to the north-west, you'll find the impressive Sacre Coeur church. The area with its narrow streets is filled with life: there are cute little cafés to sit down on the street and watch life go by. It is a bit touristy but it has a flair as if you found one of the long-lost Parisian boroughs that still maintained their French vibe and character. There are street sellers, artists and handcrafts to purchase. You walk past little vineyards and chic French houses before you can walk up the many stairs of the church and appreciate the magnificent views of the city.

Another area that I liked, but is located in the touristy part of Paris is the area Les Halles. This is an area popular for shopping but very nice and full of life. The Rue Montorgueil is a food mile with lots of restaurants and unique little places which I can recommend strolling along. Near the station, Les Halles is the church La Pointe Saint Eustache which is equally as stunning as Notre Dame. There's also a big underground shopping centre hosting a Sephora and two of my recent discoveries, NafNaf and Oysho.  Only a little walk to the west you'll find the Centre Pompidou (stop at Burger Joint) and walk afterwards towards the south to pass Notre Dame. It is a very nice area, especially on a sunny day with an ice cream in your handmade for a treasuring memory.

Notre Dame Paris with cherry tree in blossom

That's pretty much my visit covered. I've seen lots, ate lots and walked it all off. As I've mentioned earlier I don't think Paris is "my" city but I wouldn't mind coming back. In fact, my friend will be running the marathon again next year so the trip is pretty much booked. Let's hope the weather then will be as equally stunning so I can climb up the Notre Dame and eat more ice cream strolling along the Seine. Thank you so much for checking out today's travel-inspired post about my Paris holidays.

Till next time,
Carolin
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