*This is a blog post detailing a past trip. The post refers to my year abroad in Germany that I undertook between the summers of 2016 and 2017 (6 years ago at the time of writing). Therefore, details shall be a little foggy, but I have written the post for completeness. Ensuring my blog captures everywhere I have travelled.
One of the first countries I travelled to outside of Germany during my year there was France. Over the years the Germans and the French have shared quite a history. Sadly though these two neighbours have often shared a history of war. Thankfully things are a lot different today. Meaning it was easy for me to jump on a train in Worms, where I lived in Germany and 1 change and about 5 hours later end up in the centre of Paris. I’d never actually been to France other than when I was a 3-year-old child, so was really looking forward to exploring the city for a long weekend. As with all my travels around Europe during this time I stayed in a hostel in the city centre, by far the best way to travel on a budget. It is also the best way to meet other travellers too. Although Brad, my flatmate mate in Germany had also come with me to Paris so we spent the weekend exploring together. We arrived pretty late on that first night, having caught the train after work so just headed to bed in preparation for a big days exploring tomorrow.
First up we took a trip out to Sacré-Cœur, the iconic domed white church that offers sweeping views of the city before you and is also beautiful to take a look inside. Additionally, the district surrounding the church often has lots of live music and artists performing / painting as well as many small galleries to wander around. From the Sacré-Cœur it’s only a 15-minute walk to the famous Mouline Rouge theatre show, to be honest, it’s not one of my interests but seeing the iconic building was still something I wanted to tick off. And obviously, for those that want to, you can purchase tickets to see the show. Although I imagine they have to be booked a little in advance. After stopping for some food in one of the many delightful cafes that line the french capital’s streets, we caught the metro into the heart of the city itself. Getting off at Concord Station. As you exit the station you arrive above ground at Place de la Concorde a major public square and pretty much the centre of the city. From here you have excellent views up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Whereas in the opposite direction you have first the Jardin des Tuileries, which at the far end is home to the Louvre Museum with its infamous glass pyramid rising from out of the ground.
From Place de la Concorde, we walked up the famous street of the Champs-Élysées to the Arc De Triomphe. Which lies at the centre of one of the craziest roundabouts in Paris, cars seem to go any which way and it would give some of the streets in Hanoi a run for their money. The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault also lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. It’s a very striking monument and one that can even be climbed. Purchasing a ticket it’s possible to go inside and up to the top of the Arc, which offers amazing views down the Champs-Élysées as well as striking views of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I also got quite a shock while here as I bumped into a friend from university who also happened to be in Paris for the weekend. Another such occurrence to add to an ever-growing list of improbable encounters.
After sampling the beauty of the Arc we moved on to the most famous landmark of them all. The Eiffel Tower itself. But not before stopping in a local restaurant and trying out some snails and frogs legs. To be honest, they weren’t bad, but there just isn’t really much to it. I could eat it again but I’d much rather eat some of the more hearty and filling french food on offer. Having kind of filled up on french food, we made our way to Trocadero Square, which offers some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower. Framed on each side by several museums you then walk down and through Trocadéro Gardens again offering amazing up-close views. Before crossing a bridge and ending up at the base of the tower itself. There are several options for going up the Eiffel Tower and they vary based on how high you want to go. There are 3 floors all accessible by lift, the first floor sits at 57m, the second at 116, and the top floor at 276m. Access to the top floor is via lift only, however, the first 2 can be reached using the stairs. Tickets often sell out fast or the line for the lift can be long, therefore myself and Brad elected to use the stairs to climb to the second floor of the tower. While a little effort, you do get to see the interior up close and personal on this iconic tower. I’d love to know what the views from the top floor are like, but even from the second floor, you get a great vantage point of the city below. It’s also worth coming back to view the iconic landmark after dark. 20,000 lightbulbs illuminate the tower and seeing the structure lit up adds another magical dimension to its beauty. Additionally, for 5 minutes, on the hour, every hour after dark, the tower even puts on show. The 20,000 lights twinkle and flicker, like those of a household Christmas tree.
The following day we made our way to the world-famous Louvre Art Gallery, even before you enter the gallery you are greeted with a beautifully crafted glass pyramid that rises up and out of the ground. Again walking around an art gallery isn’t something I’ve done too extensively, but when in Rome, or more specifically Paris, it’s something that has to be done. There are thousands of exhibits and pieces by thousands of artists so there is bound to be something that takes your fancy. I distinctly remember enjoying one exhibit that was full of various sculptures. Obviously, the highlight and centrepiece of any visit to the Louvre is the Mona Lisa. Swaths of people queue up to get a glimpse of the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci. You can only get so close though, as a red rope cordoned off the area a few metres in front of the painting. I think you can pay a fee or if you’re deemed special enough they let you inside the red rope for a closer look at the painting. After a few hours spent at the Louvre, we then wandered to Luxembourg gardens, where on a nice sunny day it’s a great place to spend a little time relaxing. Its also home to Luxembourg Palace, which was a former royal residence, but has now been repurposed as the meeting place for the French Senate. Again from here, a short walk will lead you to Notre Dam Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle. Having visited back in 2016, this was before the big fire which destroy most of the great Notre Dam Cathedral. I imagine now the site isn’t what it once was, with large amounts of building work being carried out to restore the cathedral to its former glory. It was certainly a very impressive building, so while yes, you could argue the vast sums of money donated to restore the cathedral could be better used elsewhere. Symbols of identity are a very powerful thing so restoring that and the message it holds is of great significance to those of the Catholic faith. The little island that the Cathedral sits on within the river Seine is home to lots of beautiful buildings so it’s certainly still worth a look around.
That evening, having sampled the culture of the French people and Paris, we headed out to sample some of the nightlife. We took the metro to Bastille Station and explored some of the local bars in the area, before ending up at a club called Le Balajo. I seem to remember paying like 20 euros to get into the place. To be fair it was a decent evening, but nothing blew me away about it. I also seem to remember getting very much rejected by a lovely young french lady as well haha. Cleary my C in GCSE french done me no favours.
Having stumbled in late the night before we were late to rise and took it easy during the morning. I had booked and paid for a river cruise along the Seine which given the beautiful sunny weather was very pleasant. Certainly recommended as you get a unique perspective of the city this way. Additional there is a guide giving commentary over the tannoy, so again you get to learn a few things you otherwise wouldn’t have. Having cruised the river for an hour or so, I met back up with Brad in the Champ de Mars Park which lies behind the Eiffel Tower and was a lovely place to chill out, fully getting over any hangover from the night prior. It was now well into mid-afternoon and having visited Paris in late October it was only a few hours until sunset. We therefore, walked from the park to Montparnasse Tower. To ensure we were at the top of the tower for sunset. The tower sits 210 meters high and offers probably some of the best views of the city. You also get a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower. I recommend going at dusk, as this way you get to see the city in daylight, watch the sunset and then also see the city come to life at nighttime. It’s only 20 euros to go up the tower and it’s a great way to end a trip to the city of love. Hopefully, if I return one day, it will actually be with a lover as opposed to Brad, my flatmate at the time haha. Although he was great company and we had a cracking weekend. It was our first big trip outside of Germany since being there and it couldn’t have gone much better. It was so amazing to just hop on a train and in a few hours be in a completely different city and country. Unlike the UK, the trains were also really nice and the ticket price for such a journey wasn’t expensive at all.
The following morning we made our way back to Gare de l’Est train station to make the 5-hour or so trip back to our little home away from home, Worms in Germany. The next adventure on the list would be that of Amsterdam and a two-week interrailing trip around some of Europe’s most iconic cities for my 21st birthday.