My Parisian Adventure – Day 4 (Palace of Versailles) + Final Day

When planning my trip, I knew I had to go and see The Palace of Versailles. There wasn’t any argument, so I decided I’d plan our holiday to centre around the day out.

I knew that Versailles was going to be an entire day out, and would require an early start and probably have a late finish, so we pre-packed our lunch and started out from the apartment early in the morning.10671454_896721550338024_1980962028170123782_n

From Jaures, we used Line 5 to take us to Paris Austerlitz, and from there we went on the Rer C to Versailles Rive-Gauche. From us, it was very easy. The Rer C is a separate system from the Metro, so you will have to buy a return ticket. Our Paris Visite Pass didn’t serve the Versailles or Disney lines. Currently it’s €3.55 for a one-way ticket. However, obviously purchasing a return journey will just be easier for when you leave. Be aware that the Rer C-Austerlitz line is currently partway closed due to maintenance, so alternative lines may be required. There are buses that also run from the city to the Palace.

Plan your trip here. – (There are a few stations that are situated around the Palace. I recommend the Versailles Chateau Rive-Gauche station, as it’s the closest to the palace)

It took around a hour from leaving the apartment to get to the Rive-Gauche station. From there, the Chateau is clearly signposted.

The Palace isn’t free to enter, and I found it better to book online before you arrive. It helps to cut down the queues. If you book online you don’t have to go to the ticket office (necessarily) and go straight to Entrance A.

We bought the €18 ‘Versailles Passeport’ which gives you access to the Palace, Gardens, Trianon and Marie-Antoniette’s Village. It also gives you access to exhibitions and the Fountains show. For the money, it was completely worth it.

For us, the queue wasn’t too long, but be aware there are quite strong security measures put it. Please visit the website to research and read up beforehand, so you aren’t caught out.

As this is the height of tourist season, it is very advisable to arrive early. We got to Palace at around 10am, and it was already very busy then. So, be prepared to experience some crowding, especially in the Hall of Mirrors. It isn’t advisable, or probably possible to stand around the rooms too long, as the amount of people makes it quite difficult.

Photography is allowed, but no flash, and not for commercial use unless authorisation is given. Selfie sticks are also banned, as are drones.

The entire palace is stunning. Gold leaf upon marble upon gold greets you in every room, and the Hall of Mirrors is ridiculously beautiful. When we went, there were so much to see it was quite overwhelming. You would definitely need more than a day to see the entire estate. My personal highlight was seeing Marie-Antoinettes Estate – a small hamlet built in a very typical F10351086_891388837537962_865758319822172331_nrench pastoral scene within the crowds, where the infamous queen used as a retreat from Palace life. It’s so quaint and beautiful, it’s definitely worth a walk around. 

When we went to the Palace, we were allowed to eat our picnic on the steps leading down to the palace gardens, which was a welcome highlight. There are clearly signposted refreshments around, and they offer a wide selection of food and drink for any palate. But remember, bring water to sustain you throughout the day, along with suncream on hot days. As a lot of the estate is stretched through the gardens, you spend a lot of time outside.

One tip that I have is that after spending the day walking around the estate, go back into the main palace at the end of the day. The crowds have thinned considerably, and you get to properly enjoy The Hall of Mirrors without being elbowed from all sides. The Palace closes at 6.30pm, so you have plenty of time to get back.

Be aware, the train back and into Versailles will always be crowded throughout the day. Be careful with belongings, and try and secure yourself a seat.

Versailles was definitely the highlight of the week. With the beauty and grandeur of the Palace mixing in with the fascinating history, it really is a day out that you won’t forget for a long time.

(Disclaimer – our fifth day of Paris was just seeing family, and despite a few hours spent walking up Champs-Élysées and a visit to Père Lachaise Cemetary, we didn’t take any images. So I’m going to end my Paris series here. Watch this space for my Rome adventure however!)

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My Parisian Adventure – Day 3 (Place de la Bastille, Notre Dame, Jardin des Tuileries and the Eiffel Tower)

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. 10615441_891399697536876_4881684208277563119_nWe 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. 10626495_891398157537030_9217817442239124454_n
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 T10703539_891395670870612_6869505743947458428_nrocadéro, 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!

My Parisian Adventure – Day 2 (Montmartre, Sacre-Cœur, The Moulin Rouge and the Avenue de l’Opéra)

Second day in Paris, and I was raring to go. After an exhausting day travelling, my mother and I slept well that night. So the next morning we were up and awake for our first proper venture in Paris itself.
My mother had always told me that since I had planned the holiday, it was ‘my holiday’ and we could virtually do whatever I wanted.
So, my itinerary consisted of:
-Montmartre
-Notre-Dame
-Bastille
-Versailles
-Pere-Lachaise Cementary
-The Moulin Rouge
-The Eiffel Tower
-The Catacombs.
-Sacre-Cœur

So, the next morning, we decided that today we would tackle Montmartre, which in turn would tick off three of my places to visit. Montmartre is a hill in the north of Paris. And like many cities, Paris is a bit like a lot of tiny villages all tied together with a metro line running through them.
Montmartre is one of those little villages. And at the very summit of this hill, sits the beautiful Sacre-Cœur – a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica. Constructed from travertine stone, the building is flawlessly white, and sticks out like a sore thumb against the landscape of Paris.
T10710717_896720940338085_7403967391679834447_nhe neighbourhood of Montmartre is also historically significant as being somewhat of a cultural hotspot for artists, singers and dancers – as well as housing the Moulin Rouge.
So, naturally, as a aspiring writer, I was inspired to go to this place of such cultural richness.
So the next morning, we set out. Now, getting from our flat to Montmartre was of course a metro journey. We went from Jaurés to Abbesses – which required a cross from Line 2 to Line 12 at Pigalle, but the journey wasn’t too long. And as I mentioned before, Montmartre is hilly. It takes good calf muscles to trek up those cobbled streets, but as we learnt later there is actually a small railway which carts you up from the bottom of the hill to Sacre-Cœur in under two minutes. So if you’re with elderly people/children and buggies – it may be worth considering.

But mother and I soldiered on. We moved through tiny streets of cobbled beauty, passing delicious smelling bakeries with stunning cakes and delicacies in the windows, and everywhere you looked, there were tiny balconies and filigree window panes, which made you feel that you had been transported away from the 21st century, and back to the period of having Van Gogh and Dai on your doorstep.

And of course, like any major landmarks in any cities, it was covered in tourist booths and shops, but they fit in with the quirky aesthetic that the district seemed to offer. But I was on a mission.

Onwards we soldiered to the very top of the hill, and stood in the shadow of Sacre-Cœur.
By then, we were exhausted and bought a very reasonably priced full tuna baguette from a nearby bakery (the name slips my memory, but rest assured, b10710582_896720747004771_6692114884752344325_nakeries in Paris are all delicious. Heck, even the filled baguettes we got from the local supermarket were outstanding), and we sat in a doorway directly opposite the basilica and had our lunch. Now, to me, that experience becomes one of the memories that you always look back on fondly.

Sacre-Cœur is a beautiful piece of architecture, and anybody who knows me knows that one of my biggest fascination’s in life, is with good architecture, so of course we went inside. It’s beautiful, peaceful and not as big as Notre-Dame, but the mosaic that is depicted within the ceiling of Jesus with a flaming heart is certainly breathtaking.
We lit candles for our relatives, and just took in this spectacle. It was cool, dark and a true sanctuary against the midday sun. And when we exited, we crossed ourselves in Catholic tradition and stood to admire the view of Paris spread beneath us. The view of the city is almost too much. Too much to look out, and too many different things to take in. But I urge anyone to go and stand there and admire the city below. It is so worth it.

After, a short journey down Montmartre led us to w10302243_891401324203380_6280579347706735622_nhere the Moulin Rouge stood, with its giant scarlet windmill alluding back to a different time. We took pictures, and made our way on the metro to the Avenue de l’Opéra, a very beautiful part of the Paris, which to me is the sort of Chelsea/Sloane Square of the entire city. Full of elegant shops, expensive boutiques and once again, beautiful infrastructure, the area just seems to give off the scent of wealth and elegance at its highest. We quickly visited the Fragonard Museum of Perfume on the Rue Scribe, which offers an interesting and rich history over how perfume has changed over the years, and then we sat down at Cafe de l’Olympia, and had our first crepe and hot chocolate of the trip.

There is so much to do in the city, that a simple excursion tired us out. However, the next day, I took mother on a proper walking holiday across the city, and we saw a lot of beautiful sites and got quite sunburnt.

 

My Parisian Adventure – Day 1 (Planning, The Apartment and the Journey)

In the summer of 2014, my Mum and I decided to go to Paris for a holiday. Now, I’ve been to Paris once before, but that was when I was fairly young and we did Disney and seeing family. But for this holiday, it was the first one I planned. I wrote about the first three days on my old blog, and found it to be a good way to travel down memory lane. So, I thought I’d include a line of blogposts about my experiences in travelling to Paris and what I got up too.

The planning took about six months.
Research went into restaurants, tourist attractions, apartment rentals, hotels, flights, Eurostar deals, Metro lines, RER timetables and supermarkets. I’m a very particular person and when it comes to visiting a foreign country, I go by the belief ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry’. However, do not be alarmed! If you do find yourself in the French capital without any sense of direction or clue, it is so well signposted in both English and French it is quite difficult to get lost. The Metro (in my experiences) also runs quite regularly and with accuracy, and if you follow the major tourist attractions, you will navigate Paris with ease.

But for my particular holiday, I did plan every conceivable outcome.

So, where did we stay? My mother and I both agreed that we would rather stay in a apartment rather than a hotel. It would give us more privacy, and we wouldn’t have to rush in the morning or evening for set meals. We would be able to come and go as we pleased, and we could just relax.

So, I went on trusty old Google, and took on the difficult task of finding a centrally-located Parisian flat for reasonable prices.
Now, staying in Paris is just like staying in any major city. There are neighbourhoods to avoid, and places without good transport links into the centre. Also, if you are travelling into Paris via the Eurostar, it’s handy to have your base somewhere that is within reach of Gare Du Nord.

And after much umm-ing and ahh-ing, I finally decided on the sweet little rental of Studio Villette.872528_gallery

Studio Villette is a nifty little studio located in the 10th arrondissement, and near Canal Saint-Martin. It is within 5 minutes of the closest metro line (either Colonel Fabien, or the one we preferred, which was Jaurés) and the flat itself is in a very secure and quiet courtyard, with heavy doors, keypads and two sets of keys keeping you away from the street. As tourists, we found that using Jaurés was the best Metro station for us, as finding it was just a simple right-turn down the boulevard from your front door, and it is also near various supermarkets and delicious little restaurants. The Metro also ran every five minutes or so, and from Jaurés (with Line 5) you could reach the Bastille and Gare d’Austerlitz (from which you can go out of the city, and to places such as Versailles with). The neighbourhood was typical of anywhere you could find in any major city, and since we spent the majority of our time outside of our little location, it quickly became a comfortable place to go and have dinner.

We booked through the Roomorama.co.uk site, and found the prices extremely competitive, and for a week and splitting the costs, Paris suddenly became very affordable.
The studio was exactly what we wanted. With two beds (one being a queen-size and one being a single sofa-bed) it suited our needs down the ground, and with a little kitchen and bathroom, it was a place to go back and relax after a day of exploring the city. It also came with free high-speed Wifi, which the code was supplied after booking.

The owner, Maud was extremely welcoming and she gave brilliant directions on how to retrieve the keys, and left city guides for us. Also, for extra cost, she also supplied bedding and towels.
This apartm872519_galleryent easily took myself and my mother, and I’m sure it could could cater for three people sharing too. So I thoroughly recommend it, and will include links below to where we booked and the main website that it is listed under.

Now, I live in the South-West of England. So getting anywhere can be a right pain. Getting the train to London takes about six hours, and flying is ridiculously over-priced. Now, Paris was going to be a pricey holiday anyway, and the Eurostar for us cost about £70 each and we needed to get up to London for the early afternoon and through the cheapest method.
So my mother and I booked a National Express coach. We would leave at 4 in the morning, and get to London Victoria Coach Station at around 12.30.
Which we did. And the journey was long, yes. So tiring and so long as it disturbed our night sleep, but all in all it wasn’t too bad. There were comfortable seats, an on-board toilet, plug sockets and you were allowed to bring cold food and hot beverages with lids.
And it cost both of us £25 each.
Bearing mind this is from the farthest point away and was a return journey.
£25 was nothing.
So we arrived at Victoria, and caught the tube to St. Pancras, and began the checking in, which required tickets, passport etc. It’s a good idea to get yourself to the station about 45 minutes beforehand, just due to the fact that booking in and boarding the train can be time-consuming. Within St. Pancras they have a lot of amenities for holidays, but after checking in, the booths they have are over-priced and a lot like the ones you get in airports, so either be prepared to fork out for expensive sandwiches to eat on the train, or eat and buy beforehand.

eurostar-2ndclass-refurb2The Eurostar itself is a fairly nondescript service. It takes around 2 and a half hours, and you spend the majority of that above ground and looking at the countryside. Like other trains, they have bars on the train, in which towards the end of the journey you can buy Metro/Oyster cards, depende
nt on which way you’re travelling. However, these seemed like a lot of money for us, so we decided to wait until we got to Gare Du Nord, buy a single Metro ticket to get to our apartment and deal with the rest of the weeks journey the day after.
This suited us, but if you wish to be prepared, you could just go through the Eurostar and buy beforehand.

We arrived at Gare Du Nord around 4.30 in the evening, and began to start the last leg of our journey to our apartment. As I said, we bought the single Metro tickets (T+ ticket) which were around 1.70 Euros per travel, so not too bad.
Also, word of warning – if you wish to buy Metro tickets from the little machines, you need the exact money via coins to pay or a card. A lot of these machines don’t have paper money slots.
Our Metro journey was short but tiring, and finding the apartment was the typical first-day-getting-lost-which-direction-am-I-going strife. But after we dumped our bagscroque, we had a stroll down the boulevard and found a little restaurant on the corner where we had a delicious dinner of Croque-Monsieur, salad and chips. The restaurant was called Le Conservatoire, and I’ll list the address below. They serve a variety of meals, large portions for fairly good prices. Mother and I ate there three out of five nights, and despite the waiter not speaking much French, we got a friendly welcome.
All in all, we were travelling for twelve hours that day in different ways, so naturally we were exhausted.

So, that is my first day all sorted. Links for any necessary sites are below, and I’ll continue my Parisian posts in the next few weeks.

Studio Villette on Roomorama 

ParisHomes.Fr – Website featuring Parisian flats to rent. 

Le Conservatoire hklj