Paris was one of the most enthralling and action packed visits on my itinerary. Getting there was a bit of a pain. We took a coach bus called Eurolines from Brussels to Paris. The coach was cheap, but I cannot recommend it. I was longingly watching the high speed Thalys trains zoom by me the whole journey.
Once Rob and I arrived in Paris, it took a hectic metro ride with two transfers until we found our way to our hotel in Pres Saint Germain. The hotel was called Les Deux Continents and was a shabby but well-kept three-star affair located close to the Seine. Once checked in, Rob needed to put in a full shift on the computer, so I set about exploring and planning our following day. I ambled along the Seine until I found the Louvre, which was not hard considering its size. The building is also very beautiful and elegant. I didn’t know such a massive structure could be. I went into the central glass pyramid and purchased two day Paris Museum Passes for us. I highly recommend this if you’re planning on spending any time in Paris. It gets you in at the Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles and many other lesser known attractions for 39 Euro. The other benefit is that you don’t have to wait in the long ticketing lines at any attractions, which alone is almost worth the cost.
After a fly-by the Louvre, I took the Metro to a stop near Sacre Coeur church. The church is perched on a hill overlooking Paris. Be ready to walk up a lot of steps on your way there if you don’t want to pay for the street escalators. The church was more modest than the flashy cathedrals I’d seen elsewhere, but it has a lovely mural on the ceiling and has a striking white exterior. From Sacre Coeur, I caught my first far away glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, which I got irrationally excited about. After dodging a few romantic advances I hopped back on the Metro and headed back to Deux Continents to rejoin Rob. I didn’t go straight to the hotel; instead I took the time to stock up on some water and snacks for the room. If you ever spend time travelling, my advice to you is to always buy something to eat and drink for the hotel room. It saves you the high cost of food and drinks at restaurants and it keeps you hydrated and healthy. You can’t imagine how much we walked, even with the Metro passes I bought. My feet are definitely a lot tougher than when I first arrived there. After a rather relaxing first day, I slept soundly on DC’s comfy beds.
The following day we were up and out early, catching the train to Versailles before the crowds got too big. The palace is a short walk from the station. The approach on the front of the palace is very dramatic. You have to fight your way through a bunch of men trying to sell tiny Eiffel Towers at every turn. I had been warned about this, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the aggressiveness of the street men. Develop a good technique for firmly saying no, or they’ll follow you for meters and meters if you show the slightest hesitation in your refusal. We breezed past security (no line so early). I love walking through old buildings, and Versailles was especially grand. We toured through the Madams’ chambers first. I was trying to sort out if Madam was a euphemism for Mistress, but the wording was coy so I never really sorted that out. Can you imagine a whole section of a palace dedicated to official mistresses? Much of the building was gilded in gold and coated with fine fabrics and murals. The king’s and queen’s chambers were open for tours, but even with the early arrival everyone was suffocatingly packed together. Walking through the rooms, one can catch a glimpse of the extensive gardens rolling out behind the palace. Our time was short, so we were unable to enter the gardens, and I was disappointed to miss out on seeing Marie “let-them-eat-cake” Antoinette’s hamlet.
Rob told me my post was too long so I’ve broken it up into two pieces. Look for Paris 2 coming soon.