The Eiffel Tower at night – a must see.
I’ve been lucky enough to go to Paris twice now; I do think Paris is somewhere that probably gets better with experience so the more you go the better it is.
There’s a few reasons for this: firstly, it’s such a hugely popular city with tourists that every single tourist attraction is completely mobbed and it takes hours to do the thing you want to do. Queues are enormous for everything by about 10am sometimes even earlier. My recommendation is that you go for a few days and pick one thing to do each day; get to the attraction at the latest 9am and this way you will miss most of the stress (hopefully).
Secondly, the French and specifically Parisians aren’t overly helpful or that keen on tourists. I was here whilst heavily pregnant and will never forget having a large amount of people stand around and watch me struggle up 3 flights of stairs with a heavy suitcase and not one person offered to help. I ended up pulling a muscle all the way across my bump and had a night in hospital back in the UK because they were worried about the pain I was in. Now I’m possibly doing the French a bit of a disservice here, I suspect every major city in the world is the same but they do have their own brand of curtness. One way to combat this is to make sure you attempt to speak some french (this is the same wherever you are actually – an attempt at the local language is a must but more so here than anywhere else I’ve been). I find it always softens people’s attitude. Some of the best help we had was actually from a woman living in Paris who came from elsewhere in the world – so it might be an idea to ask seasoned expats for advice if you can spot them.
The Arc De Triomphe
Thirdly, don’t expect anything to work quite the way it should. Don’t take timetables at face value or rely on anything being open even if it explicitly states it is open or will be open it is worth doing more research to save yourself a lot of stress and disappointment (more on this later when I chat about our adventurous trip to the Asterix Theme Park).
Eat often and take lots of leisurely breaks in coffee shops, tip well and be prepared to spend more money than you want to. Don’t do anything in a rush (hence the one trip a day rule). It’s possible to do 2 or 3 different tourist attractions in a day but when I say do 1 at 9am, i mean do a big one so you could go and climb the Eiffel Tower at 9am then have some food and stroll along The Seine to see the exterior of the Notre Dame Cathedral. However
The Sacre Coeur – ‘sacred heart’
if you’re desperate to go inside the cathedral then you will have to queue. I was happy just to see the outside although I had been into the Sacre Coeur. Not being religious in any way meant I was happy to just appreciate the magnificent architecture from afar I guess.
If you can follow these rough guidelines then you’ll probably have a great time without feeling too frazzled on your return. Also it might be worth thinking to yourself that Paris can’t really be done in one long weekend and if you relax in the knowledge that you’ll go back once or twice more the desperation to ‘see everything’ goes away. I still have to go back and
The Louvre (of course)!
enter the catacombs – the queue was enormous on my 1st trip out there every time we went and the second time I was there I was heavily pregnant so it wasn’t really the best option for me!
Over the course of the two trips I’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower, been inside the Sacre Coeur, wondered round and bought artwork from Montmartre, seen the Notre Dame cathedral, been to The Asterix Theme Park and ridden the biggest wooden roller coaster in Europe, I saw the Tower lit up at night, wandered through some beautiful gardens and eaten and had coffee at Les Editeurs (frequented by Simone De Beauvoir and Satre so a must for any philosophy student) and La Rotonde
A philosophical kind of a cafe …
(frequented by all the artists years ago). I’ve wandered up the Champs Elysees and seen the Arc De Triomphe and had a fabulous night out at Moulin Rouge. The second trip was far less stressful and this was because I’d done all the big touristy things the first time round so actually spent more time just sitting down and enjoying Paris, wandering through the streets, people watching and appreciating the architecture down the residential streets.
If you’re like me and a fan of theme parks and roller coasters then the Asterix Theme Park is a must – as mentioned it’s home to the largest
Not the wooden one, but a jaw rattling proper old fashioned coaster that managed to crack my friends tooth.
wooden roller coaster in Europe, but it’s also much quieter these days as Disney World gets the biggest chunk of the revenue. It’s kind of vintage in its appeal which I like. It was a bit of a nightmare to get there; the bus didn’t show up (there should be a scheduled bus to the park each day but well, it’s France). We were very lucky that a seasoned expat turned up to take her niece there and she guided as through the subway system, train and bus system to finally get to the park and we were lucky that the scheduled bus took us home despite either not turing up on the outward journey or leaving early (we never found out which it was).
Another must is a trip to one of the big shows. We opted for Moulin Rouge as we were lucky enough to wrangle guest list. We still had to bribe the doorman to skip the ginormous queue in,
My glamorous outfit that helped us skip the queue for Moulin Rouge
but apparently he appreciated my outfit (and a big tip) so we were ushered through. The show itself is fantastic and you will be extremely entertained (if you like that sort of thing). I managed to drink a couple of bottles of champagne by myself as my friend isn’t a big bubbly drinker, however he was supremely amused at seeing me completely drunk, whilst dressed up to the nines on the streets of Paris. One of my best nights out to date :)
Really there’s not much else to add, I’d love to go back and do a cruise down the Seine at night, enter the Catacombs (finally) and maybe go inside Notre Dame. I’ve also not managed to get into the Louvre as the queues were just monumental and I’ve not got much patience for that unless it’s something I’ve set my heart on. But again, if you went and turned up at 9am to the Louvre it would probably be OK in terms of queue times. I also wouldn’t say no to a trip to Disneyland so I reckon I’ll head back with my little monkey when she’s a bit older (kids are such a great excuse to do all the really fun things :) )
Also as an added footnote – they serve a JD and coke in a typically fabulous and sophisticated way which I loved…..
The French way to serve Jack Daniels and Coke – enchante!