Landing in the city of love we were feeling romantic and ready for another chance to explore this exciting city. It was touch and go for a while with the plane landing into Paris but we got free peanuts so that made up for it! This time around we were staying in the area Montmartre and for those of you who have been to Paris you’ll know that in Lonely Planet it’s described as the creative, alternative, artsy, bohemian quarter – which is basically code for the red light district. But it is awesome. We’ve come to Paris to get amongst the culture and it’s to see it’s true colours, not to be waited on hand and foot in a five star hotel. Now this entry isn’t a history lesson or a step by step account of Paris, that you’ll have to discover yourself, but we do plan to share with you some interesting travel tips and experiences we’ve encountered that may interest you, raise your eyebrows or make you laugh. So as the story goes we still only had what was on our backs after two and a half years of travel. Turns out that at hotel Andre Gill you wouldn’t want more than that.
We arrived at our accommodation quite late and were greeted by a friendly male receptionist who was up for a great chat. As the conversation progressed he explained the in’s and out’s of breakfast and told us that we should tell the waitress to ‘f*** off’ if we didn’t like the service or food. His words not ours. He also explained the security of the hotel. If we returned and no one was at reception that there would be someone close by. We later learnt that this was code for no one was guarding the keys to the hotel rooms except the tabby cats draped across the reception desk, who let’s be honest weren’t scaring any thieves away. Anyway that aside we headed to the lift, but on seeing the size of it decided it best to travel to the sixth floor by stairs. Despite our best attempts on convincing the receptionist that this was what we wanted he was adamant that we should take the lift and was even more certain that we could fit all at once. This includes us, our 2 huge packs and two smaller backpacks. He was so determined he packed us and our bags into the lift for us just to prove a point. Squashed to within an inch of our lives and after the lift had dropped due to the weight – we spent what felt like an agonizing five minutes in their sweating like there was no tomorrow saying our last prayers.
It was realistically probably only 30 seconds but felt like eternity. Our room was modest but offered amazing views of Sacre Coeur. The next morning we were up early after coffee and croissants for breakfast and joined a three-hour walking tour. We saw the amazing sights of Paris that never get boring no matter how many times you’ve seen them. This included the Louve, Eiffel Tower, Latin Quarter, Notre Dame, Love Lock Bridge, the Concorde and much more. It was then time after many years of waiting to have a picnic under the Eiffel Tower – and it was as great as we’d hoped.
You see six years prior whilst on Contiki we’d attempted this but due to severe time restrictions had only managed to get a stale baguette and a bottle of wine with a cork (which is useless with no cork screw). The next best option was to smash the top off the bottle, which of course resulted in lovely red wine with glass mixed through it. Look out folks travel tip number one: travel with a Swiss army knife that has a cork screw, you never know when you’ll need it – if you’re frequent wine drinkers like us then probably several times a day. Armed with wine, a Swiss army knife, in date bread and a variety of cheese we lounged for a few hours on the lawn under the Eiffel Tower and look basically got drunk. After a lot more walking that afternoon it was then time for you guessed it again, more food. We found a position on the lawn on the hill below Sacre Coeur after being confronted indecently by what appeared to be a ten-year-old boy being literally all over the pathway leading there and nearly us if we hadn’t been careful. Ahhhhh so romantic. After being disgusted we regained our composure and gave the boy a stink eye-disapproving look and went to enjoy our evening picnic on the hill. We learnt that apparently there has been a place of worship on the site where Sacre Coeur since the 12th century.
Today there is a stunning old and grand beautiful church with many people outside pestering you to buy a handbag or Eiffel Tower statue – who can pack up their transportable shop in ten seconds flat as soon as they see the police coming. We then had a wander around Montmartre and caught a glimpse of the artists vying for the attention of passers by in order to have an opportunity to sketch their portrait for a price. The views over the city from here a top the hill were also stunning with all the big sights in view. What a day it had been. The next day saw embark on an epic walking adventure of which we didn’t anticipate before setting off. We spent the morning walking the back streets of Paris in search of street-art;Paris is well known for its street artist in particular the mosaic space invaders by Invader. The area we trolled is in east Paris called Menilmontant and took about an hour to walk to, street art has appealed to us after living in east London and being surrounded by the ever changing murals and images all over the city’s walls, we had seen a street art tour advertised but at a cost of 20 euros each, we were pretty confident we could just find it ourselves for free. In hindsight we’d probably been a little cocky and after a good two hours scouring the gritty and too pleasant, dodgy inner eastern suburbs we found not much more than a few weird looks. Paris 1, Us 0.
So we moved on in the direction of the Catacombs, which on the map appeared 30 minutes away, turns out we’d severely underestimated the distance. As we finally found it two hours later, just in time to watch them close the doors. Paris 2, Us 0. Travel tip number 2; If you want to see a number of things in one day, don’t just assume it all just happens a little bit of pre planning is a very useful thing to do, even 5 minutes at breakfast to map out the days activities. Feeling a bit deflated after not having the day turn out the way we’d intended. But on the pus side had walked about 18ks all over Paris and had stumbled upon a few unexpected places, a highlight was defiantly the Luxembourg Place and gardens, a beautiful oasis hidden by 8ft iron fences in the middle of inner Paris.
To debrief we made our way to a place we knew was defiantly there and open the Nespresso café shop on the Champs Elysees. Sure there are many Nespresso shops selling coffee machines but this is the only one we know of in the world that has café serving all kinds of coffee and chocolate treats. Feeling revived after an amazing coffee milkshake we strolled up the street to the Arc di Triumph. Originally built as a monument to one of Napoleons Triumphs, so he could parade under it after returning victorious from a battle. It’s now the biggest and most dangerous round about in Europe, sure enough as we were taking selfies we heard the familiar sounds of tire screeches and cars colliding with other cars. We thought best to get out the way and out of there.
After that spooky experience it was on the Musee D’orsay to see some amazing impressionist works by the likes of Monet, Renoir and Van Gough. Our final day in Paris was spent doing even more walking but only to places we could gorge on beautiful French food and obviously some French wine. Then our final evening we were back on the grassy hill at Sacre Cour with a few bottles of our favorite rose, at 1 euro it’s cheaper than water. When Ben started playing the empty bottles as flutes or some kind of musical instrument we knew it was time for bed.