Domestic goddess and backyard explorer with a passion for freelance writing!
Published October 24th 2014
A modern expression of Old Europe
The most romantic city in the world or so they say. I suppose it depends how one classifies a city's romanticism. Does it mean only couples can make the most of it? I don't think so. It's not a particularly adventurous city I guess, so maybe that does mean it's most suited to teenagers or older and couples. A modern version of old Europe is probably a nice way to summarise the Parisian experience.
Our journey started from London - a fantastic gateway to Europe. We chose to fly mostly because we were late in looking at booking the Euro Rail, which is also an efficient (about 2 hours) way to travel there and back. In fact, I think it's a preferable option in terms of comfort and travel time, however it may end up costing more than an airfare. Landing late on Friday night and after a very long queue at the customs line at the airport, we took the train into the city from the airport disembarking at Gare Nord station, and walking (which was a bad idea as it was an unexpectedly long journey especially with luggage) to our hotel room at the Holiday Inn. This is one of our preferred hotels mostly because it's clean, comfortable and generally more affordable. My first impression of the Parisian landscape was a little underwhelming. I initially thought it was a bit dirty and reminded me a little if New York. However, it was late on a Friday night where crowds were out partying and the ramifications of which were therefore probably unavoidable. However the streets are well lit and buzzing with activity even at 1am.
Our real experience began the following morning when we decided to check off the most important attractions on day one to avoid the possibility of having to forego our visits the second day due to crowds or other unforeseeable situations, as it was a weekend, although relatively off peak in late October. The world famous Louvre museum was our first stop. After a quick sit down Parisian breakfast about 20 metres from our hotel and overlooking the Grand Boulevard; which involved baked goods including pain a chocolat, French bread, boiled egg and fried eggs, and of course coffee; we bought our two day train tickets covering zone 1-3 (which covers all essential tourist attractions) for about €18 each. The Metro is an efficient link to most attractions and was our primary mode of transport. The Holiday Inn was also conveniently located literally outside a Metro entrance. Win.
The Louvre was everything I'd imagined it to be (mostly from reading the Da Vinci Code and people telling me about it) and much much more. Spectacularly located within an enormous compound along the Seine river, the modern sparkling glass pyramids grandly crown the ancient Parisian architecture of the museum and its gigantic wings on either side, forming a C-shaped structure. Here you will find hundreds of tourists milling about, taking photos and numerous roadside vendors tempting you with Eiffel Tower souvenirs, key rings, and a lot more trinkets. Of note is that generally roadside vendors are cheaper than souvenir shops if you're looking to take a little something home for family or friends.
Nothing I write will do justice to the magnificence of the Louvre, the composite of many works of art, not the least of which includes the works of great painters such as Leonardo da Vinci- the Monna Lisa being an obvious, Venus de Milo, discoveries such as tablet encompassing Hammurabi's code and of course retracing the footsteps of the characters in the Da Vinci Code. A wonderful cultural experience, we spent the entire morning here and yet covered only the tip of the iceberg. Tickets weren't overpriced, and children under 18 enter free.