Frank Sinatra once sang about loving Paris. And for the most part, it is easy to see why!
Our first day we arrived at Gare Du Nord about 11 am in full sunshine. After a quick check of the guide book, we headed off to the Montmartre quarter where we had booked our hotel. It was only about 20 – 30 minutes from the main train station we decided to walk it. Candice having bought a new carry on sized suitcase having no troubles, and me lagging behind with a stupidly large bag of camera gear.
We stayed at the Timhotel but did not opt for the “view” option, which would have cost an extra €200 on what we paid for a normal superior room (approx €700 for 4 nights with breakfast). This by an large was our most expensive expenditure and I’m sure you can find cheaper hotels. This trip being our honeymoon of sorts, we decided to splurge and get a nice place. The check-in for the hotel was not open until about 2 pm but they have a bag storage room and so a quick shuffle of camera gear into my should bag and change into some shorts (or a dress with stereotypical french stripe shirt for Candice), and we were off into the city!
Taking advantage of the nice weather we decided to walk to the tourist information centre where we had pre-booked a 4 day Musée pass allowing us into most of the attractions we wanted to see. I think it cost us about €60 each, but we definitely got our monies worth! The Eiffel tower is NOT included in this pass, so as an aside, you will have to pay for that.
We then took a stroll along the River Seine we were found a nice Bistro for lunch, Where I had some Steak Aux Pomme Frites and Candice ate some form of Quiche. It was tasty, but because we were next to the river over priced. After lunch, We took a stroll around the streets of Paris. As we rounded a corner of a quiet back street that was where we saw it. The giant structure, towering above the relatively low-lying building of Paris, The Eiffel Tower.
Designed and Built by Gustav Eiffel as the show stopping entrance to the 189 World’s Fair this huge structure is so beautifully constructed it is not hard to see why this is the most iconic structure in France, if not the world. We went the top using our summit pass, where if you were inclined you could purchase a glass of champagne for €13. We were not. That isn’t to say that they were not doing a roaring trade. Therein not much to report about the ET except that if it isn;t on your bucket list, then it should be. Not just because it is anything more than a place to get panoramic views of Paris, but also because you don’t want to be that person who says “Nah we didn’t bother” when someone asks if you went up the Eiffel tower!
After leaving we walked towards the Trocadero where I managed to get one f my favourite images.
And this obligatory forced perspective shot of Candice. Obvs.
The Trocadéro is chocked full of people, Hawkers, and presumably other people willing to part you from your money, both through legitimate and nefarious means. Seriously, keep an eye on your belongings in France, there are ALOT of pickpockets and scammers. In fact, whilst we did;t have anything stolen (at least not anything that either of us has noticed yet) we were accosted many times asking if we spoke English and were then presented with some form of petition to sign. The first time this happened I was intrigued as to why they would want a foreigner to sign on a french petition, especially as it was all she could say was “sign for deaf people”. Now obviously I didn’t sign anything, but could not for the life of me figure out what scam they were running. It certainly was no Albany ham scam (obligatory Simpsons reference). After some sleuthing back at the hotel, it turns out that once you sign they try and hit you up for money. A few of them will crowd round demanding payment and if it gets very crowded there is also the chance to pickpocket you too. I guess this leads me to the the biggest con of Paris. The scammers, the cheaters and on a separate note the beggars. Not being able to delve into the intricacies of french domestic politics I will say nothing about the homelessness as I genuinely don’t know who is or isn’t homeless. However, the level of people who are begging on the streets, either because it is lucrative or because they have to is really remarkable and a stark reminder that Paris is also a city of the haves and have-nots. All I’ll say here is whilst you’re wandering the streets and hanging in the tourist spots, keep and eye on your belongings and ignore anyone trying to get you to sign something. Also, if you want to buy a tacky Eiffel Tower, by all means do, but know you’re also legitimising the thousands of hawkers selling all the same tacky stuff.
We then wandered down the Seine again and back up towards the hotel to check-in. The first night we decided to stay close to the hotel for dinner and as luck would have it, a beautiful Bistro was located out the front!
A long dinner and some wine and cheese ( oh God the cheese os so good!) we wandered up to the Sacre-coure to identify a spot for some early morning Parisian Cityscape shots. This led to my first disappointment. The Sacre-coure, whilst a beautiful (albeit new) building having views of the city, does not allow you to see the Eiffel Tower. Well that isn’t strictly true, but I couldn’t get the composition I wanted. In addition, a check on the weather showed that an early sunrise shot would be pointless as no break in the clouds was expected until the followingWednesday. So I settled for this instead!
The next day was Museum Day and off to La Louvre we went! Slightly later than planned but none the less early by French standards. Activating the Museum Pass was easy, you just write your name and the date on the back. It also allowed us to beat the ticket queues which is the longest part of most of the queueing in Paris.
The Louvres is massive. You can’t do it in a day properly. If early history through to renaissance painting is your thing, then the Louvre has you covered. Some pretty amazing pieces in this place including the French Crown Jewels and of course the Mona Lisa. I was surprised by the Mona Lisa but not because of what people say about it (The size of a postage stamp etc..) but actually because of the complete opposite. It is larger than other people had led me to believe. Still, trying to view it is always going to be a fight to the front. One thing you will notice is the number of artists recreating works all over the place. Many of them ask to not be photographed but some seem ok with it.
One thing you will notice is the number of artists recreating works all over the place. Many of them ask to not be photographed but some seem ok with it.
After the Louvre we headed to Notre Dame Cathedral to see the Gargoyles. Notre Damn is huge and Whilst we were there a Mass started. This Catholic church has all the bells (pun intended) and Whistles and is free to enter. The tower tour to see the Gargoyles is not though, but it is included in your museum pass. It is a long wait though and the last access is about an hour before sunset, If you want some great photography, get there at the end for the sunset sky. You can even go inside to see the giant bells that Quasimodo would have rung…
After the gargoyles, we ventured further onto the smaller of the two Seine Islands where Candice got the ice cream she wanted all day. I tried in vain to get a good city landscape of the Notre Dame and unfortunately we were too late to visit the Holocaust memorial. We did, however, stop for a quick bier in a nice little cafe by the Ponte de la tourmelle. Friendly staff, worth a beer sitting out watching the people go by before heading back to the Louvre for a night time shot. After I had got this I met Candice back inside who had searched for a great place to get another shot from (thanks, Candice) and she found this awesome spot inside the Louvre (again Museum pass to the rescue). Also as the Museum is open late on a Friday it is the perfect day to get this sort of shot!
Friday Night we then headed back to Montmartre for a bite at the Jean Cafe near the Abyssess station.
The next morning we woke slightly later having walked Paris for two days straight, the tiredness was getting to us. We decided to visit the Musée d’Orsay. This was my favourite of all the Museums as a whole. The impressionist exhibit was amazing! I also got a chance to try out my Zomei 10 Stop filter inside. A 17-minute exposure got me this beauty enabling me the (mostly) erase the tourists leaving just the sculptures.
It was here that we were also interrupted by the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate for the tabloid readers). To be honest, I was more annoyed by the babbling tourists lining up to take photos and getting in the way of the Art, but then I’m not a Regiphile. After the disruption, we went to the top for coffee and an Eclair selection before continuing on to the main Impressionist exhibition showcasing works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Van Gough, Sisley, and Renoir. Such beautiful works. My two favourites where by Claude Monet. The first being something I have wanted to view since I was a child and probably his most famous…The Bridge and water Lillies. The second is his impression of London Parliament. For an Image that has little to no definition, it really captures the atmosphere of the late 19th Early 20th century London with its smog and drizzle.
After a long lunch at Laudee (man that one got a little expensive), we then headed back through the streets towards the Rodin Gardens and museum. I didn’t realise but the “Thinker” is situated here…very near “The gates of Hell”. Once again, the Museum Pass let’s you in for free.
At nightfall, we headed back the hotel for a quick shower and rest stop before wandering the night streets of Montmartre To get the classic shot of the Red Windmill…(Moulin Rouge). I’m not entirely sure of the significance of windmills in this region except maybe that they were used for irrigation when the Montmartre region was mostly farmland, prior to its inclusion into Paris but there is only one original Moulin left near the top of the Hill.
We then went to a lovely Bistro where we had the BEST food of the trip, Candice having roast duck, and me a Babette steak with bearnaise sauce. The food was simple, but clean, cooked perfectly and to die for. This is why we came to France!
Sunday we decided to hit up the markets. Filled with amazing fresh food from bread, cheese, and meat to fish, flowers, and old knickknacks this market was a great place to experience the parisian culture.
People bustling and buying their weekly fresh produce, charity orchestras playing covers of Nirvana on French Horns or Choirs singing for people in need it was our heaven for almost all the senses. Candice getting in the french mood and deciding to hone her french speaking skills wandered the market ordering 2 different types of cheese, a lovely french baguette, and some French cured meat which we would later eat for lunch. After browsing the market we decided to check out the highland walkway that is built upon a disused highland railway. Currently, the trees are starting to bud with only a few blossoming. Give it two weeks though and in early April this will be one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in Paris.
After Lunch overlooking a small park, we wandered back through the streets and towards the Centre Pompidou which houses Modern art. Filled with Picasso and Matisse as well as other exhibitions we were treated to some post-revolution Russian Art. In addition in the photography
Filled with Picasso and Matisse as well as other exhibitions we were treated to some post-revolution Russian Art. In addition in the photography Gallery one of the most amazing photographic exhibitions I have ever seen was on display by Josef Koudelka. Born in Czechoslovakia and exiled once the communists took over, his Exiles photographic exhibition was superb. With very little else except his Watch, a sleeping bag, and his Camera he travelled Europe documenting what he saw. We wandered the galleries and marvelled at the parisian views before heading back to the hotel for a shower and a change, for we had booked into dinner at the Eiffel Tower!
After we wandered the galleries and marvelled at the parisian views we headed back to the hotel for a shower and a change, for we had booked into dinner at the Eiffel Tower!
Dinner was good, with some great views (glad we didn’t pay the extra €90 each for a view of the Champ du Mars, probably not worth it). I will say one thing though, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the “Photo” service they provided. They came round and took our photo but neglected to inform us that this was an extra for which we needed to pay. They were then annoyed when they showed us the photos (of which we declined to buy) and asked us why we didn’t want to buy one. Apart from the fact that neither of us like our photos, I found it annoying, and rankly quite rude, in the way they went about dealing with our refusal. Please inform your guests that you will be providing this service at an extra charge and if they refuse, just move on!
Still, after dinner Candice indulged me with taking a few photos at the Bir-Hakeim bridge or as you may know it “That bridge from Inception”.
On the last day, we climbed the stairs of the Arc de Triompf and wandered up the Champ Elysees before heading back to the Train to take us back to London.