There’s something about Paris that can’t be explained.
It’s a place that packs a perfectly poised punch, and a city that’s inspired me to try to adopt the effortless style of the French ever since I first set foot there. I’d like to say that I could walk around the city with a carefree “oh it’s just Paris,” shrug of my Chanel adorned shoulder, but despite any efforts I might make to look the part, I’m not French, I don’t own anything Chanel except makeup, and consequently I think I’ll always be in awe of this stunning city.
My last visit here was in the depths of a Parisian winter, with a dusting of snow on the ground and a bright blue sky to light up the city’s limitless number of lovely views. This was perfect wrap up warm and get walking weather. And that’s exactly what we did.
I couldn’t feel my feet as we walked along the Canal Saint Martin, but I didn’t care. The shimmering sheets of ice on the water winked at me as I walked in Amelie’s footsteps. No stone skimming for me in this weather, but what does that matter?
We stayed near the canal, close to the Gare de l’Est. The ease of which we could hop on a metro to explore the city was a big plus point, despite our hotel room being a little small. But that didn’t matter. This is Paris after all, so why would you want to spend much time in a hotel room? In fact, it’s probably fair to say that what little time we did spend in our hotel, we spent at the bar; cheeks cold from the city streets, sipping our nightcaps with buzzing eyes until our faces burned with the fatigue of the day and we dragged ourselves off to bed.
We only stayed three nights here, and there’s little doubt that a few days will only skim the surface of Paris (thank goodness we didn’t have time for me to hit the shops). But you can soak up a good deal from a long weekend. Or, if you can swing the right days off work, a midweek stint, when flights are likely to be cheaper.
Just don’t kill yourself by flapping from must-see to must-see in a frenzied sightseeing fit. Cramming too much into a day will stop you looking up and around. And in Paris this would be a mistake. The city itself (as well as, the Eiffel Tower viewed from every angle) is the star of the show.
That said, here’s what we did make time to see when we weren’t sauntering the streets going gooey-eyed, or prancing around pretending to be Parisian:
The essential must-visit museum, the Louvre is vast and will eat up as much of your time as you let it. Catch the Mona Lisa (though I was slightly underwhelmed by it) and the Venus de Milo as well as countless other important works.
The Musée D’Orsay
I preferred this museum to the Louvre. I liked the fact that it’s an old railway station (there’s always something grand and romantic about old station buildings in my opinion) and I enjoyed seeing works by Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir.
Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur
Wandering the streets of Montmarte makes you believe there’s an artist within you that you’ve possibly yet to discover. It’s vibrant culture sets fire to your senses. Then there’s the Sacre Coeur Basilica, the stunning high point. A beautiful church with a location that provides a perfect view over the city.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris
An important example of Gothic architecture, this famous Cathedral won’t disappoint. And if you only visit one church in Paris, this should probably be it (though my favourite is still the Sacré Coeur).
Wander down the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe
Walk what’s probably the world’s most famous street – take in the atmosphere and the sights along the way. And if you can afford to, maybe shop, eat and treat yourself too!
Of course, I haven’t even really mentioned the Eiffel Tower – and whether you decide to ascend it is really up to you. I’ve had a go, as far as the weather would permit me, but only because it was particularly quiet in January. I’d have undoubtedly passed on it had there been a queue at a different time of year. If I’m honest, I was content just to look up at the tower, particularly when it twinkled at night, and to catch secret glimpses of it as I turned random corners on my promenades through the Paris streets.
What will I choose to specifically see on my next (and third) visit? Well, I really don’t know. And frankly, I don’t care. I just want to be in Paris. I think that no matter how many times I return, my subconscious will always be working on the details of another trip.
Have you been to Paris? What time of year did you visit and what was your favourite thing to do? Please let me know in the comments! Maybe you can give me some ideas for next time!