Now, the third day of my holiday was definitely a very touristy one. Like I’ve said before, there were parts of Paris that I was very eager to explore and see with my own eyes.
So, I plotted out a route that would allow me to pass the majority of these sites.
So, after a good night sleep, we set out fairly early to go and see Place de la Bastille and start our day. As a history student, I studied the French Revolution and was very interested in the events that set off the Storming of the Bastille. So I naturally wanted to go there.
Now, in our experience during the week, the metro in Paris runs a lot like the London Underground. I cannot speak for the people living in Paris every day, but it seemed fairly reliable for us. We walked the majority of the time, but used the metro to get to and from our apartment (which wasn’t particularly central, but close to Gare du Nord) as well as at the start and end of our holiday. We bought a Paris Visite pass, which gave unlimited transport for 3 days in the city itself.
To get to the Bastille, we used Line 5 from Jaurès, and ended up just circling the Place de la Bastille. Now, as the actual Bastille prison was destroyed in the Revolution, the area where it stood is just a plaza of traffic, shops and café. In the very centre of the plaza, The July Column commemorates the Revolution, and it was very interesting to see the Bastille stood all those years ago.
From there we travelled to Notre Dame. I’m not alone in thinking that a trip to Paris would be incomplete without a visit to this beautiful cathedral on the banks of the Seine. Now tied up with the story of Quasimodo and the Hunchback, Notre Dame is not only a world famous example of French Gothic architecture, but a site of high significance for the Catholic church.
The cathedral itself is free, but there are queues outside which can be around half hour long during peak times. During our visit, it never felt overly busy or crowded and you can take photos in the church. But beware! As with all touristy parts, the risk of pickpockets and muggers is higher here, so keep a very close eye on your personal belongings.
We spent around an hour in the cathedral, after which we walked around the outside and ate our lunch overlooking the Seine.
For our lunches, we chose to buy some simple pasta and sauces from the local shops, and load up on fruit and veg. It cut down the costs for us, and allowed us to cook in our little apartment. It also made buying food out quite a novelty.
After our lunch, we started the trek across Paris. All in all, we ended up taking a water break in the Jardins des Tuileries, before finally crossing the Pont Alexandre III and ending up at the Eiffel Tower. By sticking to the Seine, you get to see a lot of famous Parisian sights, such as the Grand Palais, Les Invalides and the Louvre, and get to see Paris unfold as you walk. The riverbank also has lots of little touristy gift stalls, cafes and seats, so you can restock on souvenirs and water as you continue on your journey.
During this holiday, we didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower, as we have both been up there before. But be aware, the queues for the tower can be ridiculously long and time-consuming. The tower attracts over 30,000 visitors a day, and advance tickets can be completely booked up to two months in advance. So, if you want to go to the Eiffel Tower during the day, the suggestion is go early morning or late evening. Also, the line for the elevators will always be busy, so take the stairs if you can. And like with Notre Dame, there are pickpockets and opportunistic thieves around, especially if you have cameras and bags. So just be careful.
We rounded off the day by crossing the Pont d’léna bridge and sat in the Jardins du Trocadéro, feeling very French and indulging our weary bodies with a very sugary crepe. The Jardins are offer an unrivalled view of the Eiffel Tower, and with little stalls that sell ice-cream and crepes, you get to refuel after a busy day. Venturing up from the Jardins, we had a stroll around the Palais de Chaillot (a very modern looking building that now hosts a variety of museums) before catching metro back. From Trocadéro station back to Jaurès it meant changing from Line 9 to Line 5, and took around 40 minutes.
After this long, and very hot day out, we went down to Le Conservatoire and had very un-French meal of burgers and chips. However, this was the sort of fuel that was needed.
Like all major cities, you underestimate the sheer scale of Paris. I know it’s a lot smaller than some bigger metropolis’ such as London and New York, but to a tourist with very little knowledge about where they are going, getting lost and going back on yourselves makes the journey seem a lot longer. Paris also gets very hot in the summer, so I would definitely recommend stocking up on water and suncream. But on that particular day, taking the route we did, we did see a lot of the sights. The river is such a lovely walk, and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is going and wants to see a lot.
In this next installment, I’ll be describing our visit to Versailles. And what a day that was.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!