Bonjour Paris!

After my few working hours were completed last week I could look forward to the weekend. Once Friday arrived, I was up early with my packed suitcase and travelled the short distance by train to Köln Hauptbahnhof where I changed trains and was soon whizzing through the countryside Paris bound. In my family we celebrate our ‘Nameday’, a tradition that I think stems from my mum’s catholic roots in Poland. The idea behind one’s Nameday is that it is a celebration of the Saint whose name correlates to your own. My mum, Barbara, has her Nameday on 4th December and as a surprise my Dad had organised a city break for them in Paris. Being as kind as he is, he also invited me for a long weekend away and I thought it would have been rude not to accept such an offer 😉 Anyway I left Köln at 1243 and just over 3 hours later arrived in Paris Gare du Nord, where my parents greeted me off the train. We then had a short walk to where our hotel was located, close by to the Gare du L’est.

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Gare du L’est

After depositing our bags and a long day of travelling (my parents had come from London) we decided to stay close to the hotel and wandered around looking for a nice looking restaurant where we could enjoy some dinner. We ended up in a place just around the corner from our hotel and had a tasty meal, whilst catching up on the latest news and gossip.

Both myself and my parents have been to Paris several times, as it’s one of two places (the other being Brussels) that we tend to start our interrailing trips after arriving on the continent by Eurostar. This meant that instead of focussing on seeing the tourist sights, we wanted to explore parts of the city we hadn’t spent so much time in before. This being said, we did pass by a number of the famous sights, they never cease to impress me!

On Saturday we all got up early and after breakfast started our ‘tour’. We started by catching the metro across the city to Trocadéro, two magnificent buildings which now house a number of museums, with stunning views over to the Eiffel Tower.

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From Trocadéro we crossed the Seine, and walked through and under the beautiful iron giant which towered over us.

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Eiffel Tower

We had been planning on walking up through the Park to the École Militaire but instead we decided to cut left and divert off toward Les Invalides, where Napoleon’s tomb is located. On the way to Les Invalides, we walked through some beautiful side streets giving us the opportunity to admire the pretty window displays, including one sweet little pâtisserie which had made the Eiffel Tower out of colourful macaroons… Only in Paris!

Once we got to Les Invalides we walked down towards the river, in the direction of Pont Alexandre III, considered to be Paris’ most ornate and exquisite bridge due to its Art Noveau lamps, and golden statues of cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end. However we didn’t cross the river here, instead we continued a little further along the banks of the Seine and crossed over the Pont du la Concorde. From there we detoured past the huge ferris wheel and Christmas stalls and entered into the Jardines des Tuileries.

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The gardens were so beautiful, with an abundance of trees and also seats where one could sit and admire the view. I can imagine that in the summer, this park is definitely one of Paris’ places to be.

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Jardines des Tuileries

At the other end of the Tuileries, and through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, constructed to celebrate some of Napoleon’s military victories, we were confronted with the enormous and grand musuem that is Le Louvre.

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Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

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Le Louvre

By the time we had taken a few pictures, we came to the conclusion that it was in fact time for some lunch and found a little restaurant just around the corner where I feasted on my all time favourite french dish, Confit de Canard.

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Enjoying lunch with my Dad

Once our stomachs were content we continued our walk, along past the Mairie de la 1.er Arrondisement and over Pont Neuf onto the Île de la Cité. We looked at going inside Sainte Chapelle, a royal chapel with beautiful stain glass windows, but unfortunately as 7 out of 15 were under restoration, we decided to save this for another time. Following on from this we walked along the edge of the Quartier Latin, past the river stalls, Les Bouquiniste, as far as St. Michel at which point we jumped on the metro and went as far as Sainte Sulpice, another church, which featured in the Da Vinci Code film.

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Les Bouquiniste

From Sainte Sulpice, it was a short walk to the Jardin de Luxembourg where we ambled through the gardens soaking up some of the warm afternoon sunshine.

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Jardin du Luxembourg

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Once we were done with admiring the gardens we cut through a few more streets and found ourselves faced with the gigantic Pantheon. For 18 – 25 year olds entrance was free, so I took up this opportunity to go inside and have a quick look around.

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Pantheon

Once I had finished my wander round the inside of the Pantheon, we headed around the corner and visited another church, Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. Having been wowed by its really beautiful interior and intricate decorations, we decided to retire back to the hotel for an afternoon cup of tea (supplied by my handy travel kettle!)

After a few hours of relaxation in the hotel we were off out again, this time to explore the Christmas markets and see the lights along the Champs Elysée. They didn’t quite match up to the real German ones but it was interesting to see something so familiar with a french twist to them.

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Christmas lights on the Champs Élysée

We walked down as far as Place du la Concorde and past top hotel Le Crillon, surrounding by a number of paparazzi as it was hosting the Debutante Ball. As we were walking past many of the guests were arriving and we stopped for a few moments to admire the beautiful dresses.

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Place du la Concorde

By this time, we were all ready for something to eat and caught the metro up to Montmartre where we found an old favourite restaurant of ours and enjoyed the french classic of Onion Soup. It was delicious! After our meal we had a short wander around the hilltop district and before returning down the hill by funicular, we stopped to take in the nighttime views out over the city.

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Streets of Montmartre with the Sacre Coeur

The following morning, we moved my parents into their new hotel (as I was leaving later in the day and they downsized their room), which was in the area surrounding the Arc de Triomphe. After the checking in process was complete, we travelled across to Opéra and spent some time looking at the window displays of the department stores Printemps and Gallerie Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann.

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Opéra

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It was amazing to see how many people also had the same idea as us, as there were so many people out doing the same thing despite the shops being closed on Sunday.  Once we had satisfied our desire for festive window displays it was time for lunch and following on from devouring another meal of tasty food, it was back to collect my bags from the Hotel and time for me to return to the Gare du Nord to catch my Thalys train back to Köln. The weekend had been so lovely, but as always went by so quickly – time flies when you’re having fun, as they say!

Au revoir Paris, until the next time!