I decided to surprise the boyf with tickets for a day trip to Paris on our monthsary, given how hard he has been studying over the past 2 months we were incommunicado. I used to have this obsession with the Eiffel Tower in my younger years (that obsession has now transitioned to the aurora) so i was pretty excited to see it for the first time, especially since it was with the boyf. We only had 6hours to look around since our train there got delayed 45mins so it was quite a rushed trip.
What We Did
We were on pretty high alert around the Eiffel Tower. There were just massive crowds and some people even came too close for comfort. We initially wanted to touch the structure (even if it’s just one of the legs haha) but the entire area below it is gated with security checks which we didn’t have the time for. It would’ve been nice if we went up the Eiffel Tower (you know i’m obsessed with observatories) but since we were rushing, we just took a couple photos and left.
There was a clown that kept approaching people between the train station and the Eiffel Tower and we initially managed to stay away, but one mistake we made was going through our pictures on the spot. We saw the clown approach out of the corner of our eyes and even though i knew what was going to happen, my damn reflexes shook his hand when he reached out for mine, which set off a chain of reactions. He started twirling me around and forced me to take a picture with him, holding onto my hand really tightly. He even made the boyf and i kiss and wanted to use our camera to take a picture of us but we strongly refused. In the end, he showed us a €10 note and my initial thought was “did he pick our pockets?!” but it was actually a gesture asking for money. I wanted to drag the boyf away but after much harassment, he gave the clown £5 (which i didn’t think he deserved ugh!) and i felt so bad and annoyed at myself.
Conned by a professional – first Paris experience imprinted on me for life.
We caught the train to the Notre-Dame Cathedral next, which is just across the river from the Saint Michel-Notre-Dame station. The boyf and i are in ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame‘ era, so when i heard the bells of the cathedral ringing, i shouted “it’s Quasimodo!” hahaha. The cathedral is of French Gothic architecture and based on pictures, the interior is breathtaking. Admission is free, though the queue snakes all the way to the end of the street. You can also climb the 422 steps to the towers for an additional €10, which apparently is also home to bees. And if you’re not in a hurry, take a closer look at the cathedral carvings on the outside. It’s actually pretty intense – devils influencing humans and some hierarchy thing.
I saw on the news that a day after our visit, there was a hammer-wielding man outside the cathedral which caused major shutdowns and evacuations. We were definitely lucky with our timing and it was a good thing no one got hurt during the attack.
From the Notre-Dame Cathedral, we walked to the Louvre Museum which took about 20-25mins, crossing through the Pont des Arts. The famous wired railings of love locks has since been replaced with glass panels to prevent people from making the same move, but we noticed that people have now resorted to putting their love locks on lamp posts instead (where there’s a will, there’s a way!). There are also a lot of booths lining the streets along the Seine selling things from postcards to old books and artworks. I was enticed by the lot of it but settled on a few sketches that i’m planning to frame.
Le Palais Royal is right behind the Louvre Musuem and i wouldn’t have known about this place if it weren’t for the bloggers/instagramers. We also managed to finally catch a break at Café Kitsuné, after running around Paris since we arrived. The cafe is run by this stylish Japanese elder and it was so impressive watching her speak such fluent French to her employees. We ordered the matcha latte which reminded us so much of Japan by how there was hardly any taste. People don’t know this (neither did we until we went to Japan) but the Japanese don’t put sugar in their drinks, rather they give you sugar syrup to add to your liking.
The sights in Paris are definitely beautiful, but is a little difficult to take in when all you can think about is the safety of your belongings. People also say that Paris is dirty and after being there myself, it is sad to say that the rumours are true. There is a strong stench of urine in most places, train stations especially, and after scouring the streets of Paris for a public toilet, we couldn’t find a single one. The locals aren’t too friendly either and don’t seem keen on helping you. Or at least that’s what happened to us anyway.
I feel really sad that my first experience in Paris wasn’t a good one, despite it being such a beautiful city. I am looking forward to exploring this city on a more relaxed pace, though sadly not anytime soon.
Le Palais Royal
8 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris
How We Got Around
We took the Eurostar from London St Pancras and arrived in Paris Nord. I was actually annoyed because they changed our seats last minute so there was some confusion during boarding. We had to get help from the train manager and felt bad when he had to kick off the elderly couple in our seats. Thankfully, there was no problem on our way back to London. The journey itself was pretty fast (around 2 hours), though don’t rely on the spotty onboard wi-fi for entertainment. There are cafes on board the train which sells hot food, coffee and tea, as well as a small variety of alcohol if you’re feeling peckish.
Also, there’s no visa required for entry (i’m holding a Malaysian passport) but going back in to London, i was asked so many questions by immigration. I even had to produce a copy of my Australian PR (when they asked what i do in Malaysia and i told them i’m currently working in Australia) as it doesn’t show on my passport. Always keep a copy of whatever visas and important documents with you when you travel as you never know when they’ll come in handy.
The public transport in Paris isn’t very user-friendly and neither were the staff. We took a while figuring out how to buy tickets (the machine doesn’t accept notes, only coins or card) and finding the right platform in Gare du Nord station. Even when we tried asking for directions, the assistance staff would just grunt at us and either talk really fast or yell the name of the station that we had to get off at repeatedly, which we already knew. We ended up finding our own way which cost us a bit of time.
We mostly took the RER in Paris which is a slightly older train service. We took the metro once back to Gare du Nord but be aware of your surroundings cause it can get really crowded. I had a seat and was gonna move over and let the boyf sit but a guy in a crutch quickly sat down. I doubt he was actually hurt though cause i saw him walking fine without it. I was feeling pretty uncomfortable the whole time and when he kept talking to his friend in a foreign language (it wasn’t French), i somehow had the feeling that it was regarding me so my instincts told me to be alert. I had my bag on my lap and was looking at it the entire time, when he started fiddling with his left pocket, his hand rubbing my shoulder in the process since it was a packed train. I didn’t dare take my eyes off my bag, and when we finally got off our stop (they both got off as well), the boyf told me that he took out a penknife when he was rummaging his pockets. I also saw his friend bump into a lady deliberately as he was exiting the train.
I’d say you would definitely be helpless in Paris if you didn’t have a GPS (i used Google Maps) since the locals aren’t too friendly with directions. I was on Vodafone’s roaming deal so i had internet access the whole day. For those staying longer, it’d be ideal to invest in a local sim or alternatively, get a pocket wi-fi which you can also use on your future travels.
Pictures of me – B