I’ve travelled to some incredible places, far from home, yet before Christmas I had never been to Paris. The people I told were always shocked that I hadn’t taken the short trip across the Channel; it seems a rite of passage for any British person to have a weekend break there, and even I found it strange that I’d got to 26 without ever visiting.
I spent a long weekend in the City of Love with one of my best friends and her sister a couple of days before Christmas and we did a whistle stop, tourist-themed visit which introduced me to the best bits of France’s capital. We used Air BnB and stayed in a cute apartment in the beautiful area of Montmarte. I couldn’t have been more excited as I exited the Metro station to see the Moulin Rouge right in front of me, the famous cafe from Amelie on my way to our flat, and then a view of Sacre Coeur right by where we were staying.
As with any city I visit, I love to walk rather than take public transport wherever possible. We strolled the five kilometres from Montmarte, across the Seine, and down to the Musee D’Orsay, with a few stops along the way. We walked past the famous department store Galeries Lafayette and the obligatory trip to Sephora, stopping to peek at chocolate shops and cafes as we went.
We made the decision not to go into any of the big tourist attractions as the queues were huge and we were short on time, but it was enough for a Parisian newbie like me to just see the legendary architecture and walk the famous streets. There was the obligatory photo outside the Louvre (where the queues were almost two hours long to get in!) and the beautiful Notre Dame, prepped and ready for Christmas with an enormous tree outside.
We crossed over the nearby Pont de l’Archeveche, otherwise known as the Padlock Bridge. The bridge is starting to fall apart at the sheer weight of the padlocks strapped on by couples overcome with romance, but it is quite a sight. Many padlocks were inscribed with names; it really is very sweet. Across the bridge is the Musee D’Orsay where some of the world’s most famous paintings hang. I’m no art aficionado but even I was excited to see pictures such as Whistler’s Mother and The Starry Night; I even discovered a new love in Seurat, an artist I’d never heard of before.
Our second day saw us wander down to the Champs Elysee where the Christmas markets were in full swing and head on up to the Arc de Triomphe. I spotted the huge Louis Vuitton flagship and the winding queue outside the Laduree cafe, but we made our way past and headed instead to the one thing you must see in Paris: the Eiffel Tower. It was exciting to see because it is so iconic, but it’s certainly not the most beautiful structure in the city.
We finished our trip with a visit to the Sacre Coeur at dusk, with beautiful views over the whole city. Paris took me by surprise, I always assumed that it would be a little overrated, but it really does have an enduring appeal with culture, beauty and food to draw me back very soon.