If you don’t want to read a rather long and possibly waffling post about my recent trip to Paris, then you probably ought to navigate away from this post now… why not go check out my books? 😀 Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Okay, well you’ve been warned. Here goes… (you can click any of the images to enlarge them)
We had three full days in the city, with days either side travelling – I won’t bore you with those details, other than to say the Eurostar is a fantastic way to get from London to Paris super speedily!
The Notre Dame Towers
This was first on the list because, although we’d been in the Notre Dame before, we hadn’t climbed the towers. It’s two separate charges, the sneaky so-and-sos. It was also an opportunity to see Paris from another vantage point, as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacre Coeur had already been checked off the list.
It was a pretty epic queue, as you’d expect, but fortunately the weather was dry and we were loaded up with drinks and nibbles. It was also an opportunity to people watch, and we ended up getting into conversation with a couple of really nice American girls who were (I should say are, they’re still at it!) touring Europe. Their stories were pretty fascinating, too, and I gave them business cards so they can friend me on Facebook so I can see their photos from their onward travels. It also turned out that they love filthy books. So who knows, I might even make a couple of sales out of it!
After a spiral staircase climb that had me gasping for breath and wishing I’d remembered my inhaler, we got to the top. It’s pretty narrow up there, so you have to wait for people to move along to grab a vantage spot and stare at the gorgeous view. There are lots of fantastic gargoyles up there, and I got several photos of them, as well as the view they get to see all the time. It was lovely to spot my favourite place, the Sacre Coeur, up on the distant hill.
Another staircase later and we were at the very top of one of the towers, which I wasn’t expecting. You don’t have to go all the way up, but there was no way I was going to go halfway! The views are different again from here as you get a 360 view of Paris, including the rest of the building of the Notre Dame, which is an absolute work of art. Well worth the visit.
The Padlock Bridge
This is actually called the Pont de l’Archeveche. The padlocks are engraved with the names of lovers and is a very romantic spot. I can’t seem to find a definite story behind how the whole thing started, but the idea is to put your name, your lover’s name, the date and possibly a message, then lock it onto the bridge and throw the keys in the river. There are thousands upon thousands of padlocks, and I actually noticed them creeping onto other bridges across the river, too, when I did the cruise. While we were there, we saw a couple who’d just married (they were still in their finery) put their padlock on the bridge to much applause. We added our padlock and went on our way. An interesting idea.
St Etienne du Mont
We’d actually headed to this part of town (after sneaking in a visit to Shakespeare and Co bookshop) to see the Pantheon. It’s under a huge restoration project at the moment, but a giant sign proclaimed visitors were still welcome during the work. So we followed the arrows around to the back of the building, only to be told the place was closed. Sigh. Fortunately, the next place on our list, St Etienne du Mont was just behind the Pantheon, so we had a cheeky pint in the British pub next door, then headed in. It’s a very beautiful, underrated place and I’m very glad I saw it. Stunning architecture inside and out.
We headed here first as it was the place furthest out of the city that we wanted to see. We got there to an absolutely enormous queue. The weather was pretty crap, so we put on coats, put up our umbrella and settled in for a 2.5 hour wait. But I have to say, it was absolutely worth it. The Catacombs are inside some old quarry workings, and the bones have been transported from various cemeteries throughout Paris, most notably the Cemetary of the Innocents, which had to be closed down because it was full to bursting and having adverse effects on the health of those living close by. I didn’t take any photos down there because somehow it just felt wrong, disrespectful, somehow. The bones are artfully arranged and it’s bizarre to walk along and have millions of skulls staring at you. But somehow, it wasn’t creepy, and I haven’t had any nightmares… yet. Yes, the queue was long and boring, but if you want to see something truly unique, definitely check this place out. It’s also worth getting an audio guide, as the information is pretty sparse.
There are several different things within this complex. The building itself is gorgeous, then there are the various museums, the church, Napoleon’s tomb, and so on. In hindsight, as we ran out of time, I wish we’d gone to the WWII museum instead of the French war stuff because it interests me more, but it’s a huge place and we underestimated how long we’d be there. The church is stunning (enter from the courtyard – it’s separated from the part that houses Napoleon’s tomb), and the area around the other side with Napoleon’s tomb is awe-inspiring. Gorgeous, flamboyant architecture, and the man himself… well, you could probably fit an entire family inside that tomb, not just one small man! Definitely worth a visit, but allow yourself a good half a day, if not more. Depends on how much reading you want to do in the museums.
A massively underrated cathedral in the Les Halles district. Find it by locating the shopping centre (which is currently covered in cranes and stuff as they’re putting a roof over the whole thing or something!) and then walking around the centre until you find St Eustache. You can’t miss it. It’s almost as beautiful as the Notre Dame on the outside, though, because it’s free to get in, there’s probably no money for repairs, so the inside is rather unloved. Still, it’s a truly beautiful place, well worth making the trip for.
Place des Vosges
We seriously screwed up trying to find this place and ended up wandering the Bastille area aimlessly. Still, we found a hotel with free WiFi, a street full of geeky shops which was awesome, and some cool motorbike shops. Once we found this place, we were glad we did. Despite the rain, it’s beautiful and an oasis of peace in a busy city. I think it’s the oldest square in Paris, with lots of mansion houses owned by rich folk 😉 We sheltered under the trees for a while, before heading off again. Worth a quick visit if you’re in the area.
There are several companies offering this, naturally, and we had tickets for Les Vedettes. This was an hour’s cruise from the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, along to Ile-St-Louis, around the other side of it, and back up the other side. We didn’t see anything we hadn’t already seen as this was our third trip to the capital, but we saw it from a different perspective. The sun had mercifully come out by this point, so everything looked different. A lovely way to rest your weary legs and feet and still see the gorgeous city.
A few of our plans had been scuppered, so we were left in Montmartre at a slightly loose end. And, as
often always happens in that area, I was drawn to the Sacre Coeur. It is still my favourite place in Paris. There’s just something about it, I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s just so beautiful and inspiring (literally, I’ve written a book about it), and having headed up to the building, I was then drawn to climb to the top. It’s over 200 steps up, but the staircases are broken up by a walk across the roof (you feel like you shouldn’t be there), then a few more steps, twisting and turning until you’re in the dome. I was delighted on reaching the top that I wasn’t as out of breath as the previous two times I’d climbed up there. Dog ownership has obviously made me fitter. I took dozens of photos, as always, and was re-inspired. Handy, given I’m going to be writing rather a lot about it in my next novel. After a while, we headed back down to ground level and walked back down the staircases, meandering through people sitting on the steps and soaking up the views and the atmosphere. It’s a very light-hearted atmosphere, but the area is very crowded and notorious for pickpockets, so if you visit, keep your wits about you. It was a wonderful way to end a lovely few days.
Here’s hoping for New York next year 😉