It was Friday morning and i had no idea where i’d be sleeping that night, i knew i had a half day at work and i knew the plan was to get away for the weekend but i didn’t know where… It wasn’t long before i was finishing up at work and rushing home to pack a weekend bag, i like to travel pretty light for city breaks, to be honest i’m happy as long as i’ve got my passport, wallet and camera.
I’ve been on the Eurostar once before but it was so long ago i don’t remember much about it. The terminal at St. Pancras International is huge and you definitely get the feeling you’re about to be embarking on an adventure. It took us a while to get through security and border control but after that it wasn’t long before we were on the train. The carriage itself was pretty pleasant and there was plenty of legroom which was nice. The Eurostar journey took around two and a half hours which might sound like a chore but it flew by, once in Paris we had to navigate the RER (underground) to find our way across the city and to the hotel, this was pretty easy as our hotel was located within walking distance of a stop on Line C next to the river Seine. We got off at the Champ Mars / Tour Eiffel stop and walked the rest of the way. We stayed at the Mercure Paris Tour Eiffel Pont Mirabeau and had no complaints at all. The room was small but clean and finished to a pretty high standard, perfect for a couple nights stay.
Saturday we were up pretty early and decided to walk as much as we could as the weather was really nice. I think we managed to tick off most of the popular tourist spots and it definitely felt like a productive day. We started out by making the 15 minute walk from the hotel to the Eiffel Tower, it’s crazy how big the tower is in real life, i knew it would be impressive but i was genuinely taken back by its sheer size when i stood right next to it. The tower stands at around 300m high and has a really cool gritty look thanks to the iron lattice construction, i made sure to get a good mixture of photos in different lights and from different perspectives. The view from the landscaped parks surrounding the tower are great but i most liked the views from across the river Seine on Avenue de New York and at Jardins du Trocadéro, especially at night.
After spending some time at the Eiffel Tower we walked to the Arc de Triomphe and all the way down Champs Elysees, this is a really nice area packed with shops and restaurants, as you get further towards the Louvre you’ll enter an area with plenty of historic buildings and really nice parkland, the perfect place to stop for a break if need be. We didn’t go inside the Louvre but spent some time around the museum to grab some photos before moving on.
It was now early afternoon and we made our way down the bank of the Seine to Ile de la Cité which is a natural island in the middle of the river, famous for being home to Sainte Chapelle and Notre-Dame. I was keen to visit Sainte Chapelle, a medieval gothic chapel because i wanted to see the stained glass that it’s famous for. Apparently one of the most extensive collections of stained glass anywhere in the world, luckily the weather was great so when we were inside the whole place was lit up with beautiful colours and reflections from the glass, a must see. You can also visit the Conciergerie at the same time which is an old prison used to house inmates during the French Revolution.
After visiting Sainte Chapelle and grabbing some food we headed back towards the hotel and Eiffel Tower to make sure we could be there for sunset, which, thanks to some cloud cover wasn’t very prominent but it was still great to see the Eiffel Tower in some different light.
We didn’t have the whole day on Sunday so after checking out we left our bags at the hotel and headed back over to Ile de la Cité to visit Notre-Dame, this was one of my favourite parts of the trip, the Cathedral is a stunning building with some beautiful gothic architecture. The exterior of the building is worth paying particular attention to with a vast collection of chimeras, gargoyles and various other statues and engravings.
Access to the Cathedral and Towers are separate, we arrived at Notre-Dame shortly after 11am and there was no queue for the Cathedral which we explored first, but we did have to spend about an hour queuing for entry to the towers, which is well worth it. We were entertained in the queue by a street performer and there’s no shortage of nearby restaurants and shops to grab some food and drink while you wait so don’t worry too much about that.
The Cathedral was busy inside and they were hosting a service at the time which created a very surreal atmosphere, hearing thousands of people singing was pretty amazing.
After having a wander inside the Cathedral we queued for access to the Towers and made our way up the tight winding concrete staircases to the roof and eventually the top of the South Tower, there are nearly 400 steps to take and my knees definitely felt it, especially after yesterdays walk. The views from up here are amazing and it’s a great chance to see some of the statues up close. The South Tower houses the largest bell of the Cathedral known as Emmanuel which weighs an eye watering 13 tonnes.
After this we had to make our way back to the hotel to collect our bags and then over to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar back to London and reality. I had a great time in Paris and it was really good fun seeing all the sites and grabbing some photos along the way, if you’ve not been and are considering it, i’d definitely recommend it.