The very beginning...
Its been more than 6 years since I visited Paris but I am still battling a hangover... the Parisian Hangover..!!!!
Miss miss miss it all.. the carefree way of life.. random streets.. beautiful people.. talented artists.. colourful houses.. shopping.. gelato.. macaroons.. crepes.. the mad party people.. never ending long summer days...... etc etc, the list could go on forever...
I had exactly 5 days of "me time" in the city of love.. all by myself!!!!!!!!! And what can I say, it was a blast...
So, it was decided not a single minute to waste and at the end of the 5 days I was a different person.. because this was my 1st solo!!! Having heard so much about solo traveling, I took up the adventure in a second!
Day 1 was a daze.. jet lag and Paris is a lethal combination.. but the excitement of being in Europe for the first time overpowered my sane thinking side of the brain! there started the journey, the lights swirling over the Eiffel, the most glamorous street in Europe "Champs Elysees", the fantasy world of French confectionaries "Laduree" where I tasted a Macaroon for the very first time and i knew i was in heaven... avoiding the FIFA fever was impossible that evening and I gave in to the temptation of having dinner with a work colleague & then being stranded on the road in a strange city till midnight looking for a cab.. and when i returned to my room to French cartoon network, that practically killed me..!! I had already been awake for more than 48hrs and I knew my mind was playing games!
Tip - Transport strikes in Europe are sometimes unpredictable, plan your day well and keep in mind other modes of commute. Just like you know how to flag down a taxi in your city, Parisians are very good at it too (and you cannot go running after them if they take yours!). Get the phone numbers for local Taxi companies from your hotel just incase you are stranded. Most importantly (especially first time single travellers) try not to take the metro in the night if you are not sure. Its also very important that you know whats happening in the city politically!
The Eiffel Tower is what comes to your mind when thinking of Paris, its the most populated touristy area. Long queues can play tricks on your mind making you wonder if its worth the trip to the top! Thats your choice but think of what you will be missing!
Laduree is the place to try your first macaroon and be ready to be swept away by the grandeur of the place, thats one experience that will stay with you for ever!
(The painted ceilings of the Louvre)
Day 2 was better because I was on Paris time... so I decided to walk aimlessly and followed a long road to nowhere... but.. i landed just outside the "Louvre" don't ask me how (no map, just follow the Eiffel over the buildings)!!! Once there, I knew I had to look for the "Mysterious Smile".. the Louvre made sooo famous by the "Da Vinci Code" was more than a maze but I dint give up.. I found her, "La Joconde" or "Mona Lisa" as we all know her... still smiling after all these years.... Mission accomplished!!! I know there is more to the Louvre and i don't deny not walking around, but it was all too superficial (having done the one think on my bucket list already).
(Yes.. thats the closest you will get to the Mona Lisa!!)
On the way to the Louvre, make a small detour to Pont Neuf (over the bridge) and cross over to the left bank of the river Seine. While you are at it, the sight in front of you will be worth the walk. Cathedral of Notre Dame yet another famous landmark. Be ready for the crowd. Do take a peak inside.
By the end of today i knew, i was totally and incurably "addicted" to Paris.... :))))))
(the Pyramid of the Louvre inside out)
Tip - Walk! because you stumble upon places when you least expect it. The Louvre is the world's largest museum and a very famous landmark in Paris. You need the entire day if you are an art lover (maybe more than a day depends on your art calling) or you can pick what you want to see. The most famous piece of art at the Louvre is the Mona Lisa (Follow the crowd - fastest way to reach the location)
Notre dame is definitely worth a visit but make sure you go in the afternoon to avoid getting disappointed. Last tour entry to the towers stops 45 minutes before closing time depending on the season (summer / winter).
(keep the faith...)
A short distance from Notre dame is small but popular book shop Shakespeare & co. Make sure you pay a visit, a very interesting place!
Day 3 was very adventurous.. I checked out of my hotel at Les Halles and moved to a backpackers hostel in Montmartre. This was part of the plan to experience both, the more organised part of Paris and the arty corner of Paris. While checking out, someone asked me where I was going to stay for the next few days and I said "Montmartre" and the expression on their face changed to a mix of worry and intrigue. I did not know what that meant until I took a taxi the next day and had no idea where the cabbie was taking me as we drove through narrow crowded lanes uphill looking for the hostel on rue Audran, i knew the adventure was just beginning! Later in the evening, I decided to walk around as I heard church bells, very loud and clear!! following the sound not knowing what to expect, I walked uphill passing some of the most beautiful houses tucked behind small flowering gardens. The uphill climb lead me to the artists square at Montmartre. Towering behind all the early evening crowd, was the very white domed Basilica of the Sacre-coeur (Sacred Heart). This is the highest point in Paris and a look at the mesmerising city from the famous steps will stay with you forever!
(the white domes of Basilica of the Sacre-coeur)
Tip - First of all, don't get intimidated by the neon lights, people, shops, etc!! Montmartre is know as the artists district of Paris so you will find some very good deals on accommodation and small cafes serving some of the cheapest food & full french breakfasts (have the fresh orange press). If you want to see the locals, this is where you want to be.
(Some of the art for sale at the Artist's Square)
Get a caricature of yourself at the artists square. to choose the artist, walk around the square a bit and check prices. look for the best deal & try not to bargain because they are artists!
(Francisco the artist with me! bravo..)
If you are the more adventurous type, make sure to visit the Montmartre Cemetery.
A surprise awaits you, 5 mins walk from Sacre Coeur takes you to Clos Montmartre Vineyard (yes...in the middle of a very busy part of the city!!)
(View of the city from basilica steps.. the highest point in Paris)
Last but not the least.. Moulin Rouge! you cannot miss this one, a large red windmill on the roof is the site of the most famous cabaret!
Day 4 dedicated to some hardcore organised site-seeing that ended into a never-ending walk! I had the much forgotten Paris Pass and decided to finally use it. Also, the first time I boarded the metro to reach Montparnasse, one of the tallest skyscrapers in France. A very quick elevator ride to the 56th floor can give you the best views of Paris. A moment of frustration lead me to take a taxi from Montparnasse to the Eiffel tower after having been mislead by a local!
(View from Montparnasse 56)
Board the hop-on hop-off bus outside The Eiffel Tower to see the beautiful sights of Paris.
Not knowing it was a day of the strike, I was stranded not wanting to take the Metro back at peak hour. I walked back to my first hotel and requested them to find me a cab.
(Another gorgeous view from the top. Tip - It can be very sunny at the top and your pics may look like this :( )
Tips - Do your own research and don't rely on anyone!! I was mislead by a local about the directions and I ended up reaching a place I did not recognise, frustration lead me to walk in the very hot afternoon and flagging down a cab (expensive affair!)
Make sure you buy a Paris Pass!! (heavily discounted and good to skip most lines). After this trip, I have purchased a city pass everywhere I went & made sure I took the city tour on the first day to get a feel of the directions & the city. You can decide where you want to get off and get on, this gives you time to explore on your own. The route is good and takes you to all the most popular touristy places around the city.
(Make sure you sample the yummy local gelato wherever you can!)
The workings of the Paris Metro are not the easiest to understand, as there are many exits and if you miss one, not many will stop to give you directions yet it is the cheapest way to get around the city!
Definitely take a boat cruise on the Seine, best way to see Paris from a different perspective!
(Cruising down the Seine)
In a big city, think on your feet. If you are lost go to the closest Starbucks and if they are not too busy you will get the required directions either from the staff or other travellers.
Day 5 a day of learning!! it was also my last day and had a taxi coming to pick me outside the hostel. Staying at a hostel for the first time can teach you lots! I packed and waited inside the glass panelled lobby at 7am!! Having overlooked the instructions given on checkin, I was stranded as I could not open the front door of the building without my key that was already in the "Key drop off box"! The taxi waited outside for 5 mins before zooming off, leaving me in tears. I ran up to my room and heard my neighbours talking (luckily just back from a night of partying), requesting them to come down and open the front door with their keys & then ultimately requesting a police patrol car to get me a cab saved me from missing my flight.
Tip - LISTEN!! carefully!! then if you mess up, think fast! its now or never! Experiences like these make you stronger!
Get the instructions right specially if there is no night desk at the hostel.
General info - book flights in advance and look for good deals, I swear by Sky scanner.
Stay - If i go back to Paris now, I will surely book through Airbnb. 6 years back the only option to be adventurous was to stay in a B&B or a hostel.
Site seeing - Get a Paris Pass (covers almost everything)
Commute - use the metro wherever possible if not, walk! Taxis can be expensive and very difficult to find. Use the Hop-on Hopp-off bus to travel to areas near popular tourist destinations. ( Big Bus tours)
This blog was originally published on 'Terminally lost….'