Paris. Whenever someone says they’re jetting off to Paris images of lovers, candlelight and the Eiffel Tower fill my head. Recently I went for the third time. Previously when visiting I hit all the main tourist destinations and soaked up all the city had to offer, continuously attending art galleries and museums, dining on delicious crispy pastries and indulgent dark chocolate, creamy cheese whilst sipping on a perfectly chilled Chardonnay. Not this time. This time, I came to visit an old friend and soak up a side of Paris I hadn’t seen before, Paris after dark.
But first for all those who havn’t been to Paris before I want to recommend some must see attractions.
1. The Notre Dame is an obvious must see. One of the most famous cathedrals in the world, it always has massive lines, so to get into the actual building, I would go early in the morning to avoid disappointment.
2. The Louvre. Once again a well know destination. However, when I went in the past seeing the extortionate prices and two hour waits to queue we decided to skip it and enjoyed the sunshine in the nearby gardens. Make sure you go early to see the highly anticipated Mona Lisa, otherwise don’t bother.
3. Musee d’Orsay and Musee Rodin. Both beautiful art galleries with completely different styles of art. Orsay will take a few hours to walk around so make sure you plan enough time around your schedule. Rodin is a sculpture park where we spent many hours having a giggle at naughty statues (as 14 year olds do).
4. Arc De Triomphe. Although situated in what seems to be the middle of nowhere on a roundabout, tourists must see this wonderous attraction filled with intricate marble carvings.
5. Vintage shopping in Paris is phenomenal. Walking the streets there are numerous hipster shops hidden around street corners which have artsy decor such as windows covered by newspapers for example, but inside there are boutique items such as pony skinned handbags and sunglasses that would suit Elton John. Make sure you check out Rue Oberkampf for a wander and an ice cream.
6. Like I always say, the best way to explore a city is to get lost in it. So do so. But keep a metro map on you, it is easy to find your way back to your lodging by the metro.
On this trip we started our weekend with dinner at Roger la Grenouille in the old quarter as I desperately wanted to try frogs legs (as someone who prides herself in the crazy food she’s eaten- no way was I going to turn down frogs legs). We ordered a large portion of frogs legs in a creamy sauce which came with rice and bread (we were both students at the time plus the white wine we drank was the same price- more money for wine is a necessity.) It was beautiful. Using your hands and munching on a frogs leg like it’s a KFC wing is how you are supposed to eat this delicacy. If you are wanting to try frogs legs, I couldn’t recommend to go anywhere else but here.
Whilst mis amis had work the next day, I returned to my favourite tourist destination in Paris: the Sacre Coeur at Montmatre. Getting off the tube station and being bombarded by school groups and Japanese tourists I quickly assumed the air of a local. Although you may say this is obnoxious and arrogant (who is she kidding?) you will see the benefits. Queuing behind a rather large American woman for a drink she said to the lady: “Can I have a bottle of water please?” The server gets a warm bottle of water. The lady: “Is there no cold ones?” The server: “Finis”. The lady leaves. I then step up (remembering what my French GCSE teacher told me “Vicky you have a great accent but you are just making up words”) I proceeded to try my hardest. “Bonjour. Un l’eau sil vous plait. Merci beaucoup”. And Voila! I received a cold bottle of water with a smile. So tourists: try to learn at least hello or thank you in the local language, it does show that you are trying.
Climbing a billion steps you get to the top of Sacre Coeur where you have a breath-taking view of Paris, each street is lined in perfect geometry and as the horizon pans out in front of you, all you see are: rooftops of pastel coloured houses, posh apartments, glitzy shops, luxurious hotels and top end bars. After you’ve rested, walk up past the Sacre Coeur to Montmatre, a quaint village on top of the hill where you can sit and eat local Tarte Tatin and have your picture painted. It is a picturesque setting, very ‘French’ one would say, with small cafes donned with red block paint and wicker chairs, where local paintings hang on every blank area of wall and friendly cats purr for attention. Although the streets are crowded with eager tourists, wandering the area and away from the main centre, you still feel an artistic and authentic charm to the place, a buzz you can’t quite put your finger on.
That evening I returned to another attraction that all must see. The Eiffel Tower. Ignoring the long lines (I went on my first trip to Paris) myself, my friend and a group of her friends proceeded to have a picnic late into the night, embracing the Eiffel Tower in a tru Parisian fashion. Watching the sunset behind the Eiffel Tower whilst drinking a nice bottle of rose and eating an amazing selection of cheeses, I was in bliss. I recommend other tourists to do the same as it really is a fantastic sight. Although be warned! There are very little toilets about. So when nature called, my friends took me to the nearest bush and said that it was fine to use a bush. I held back, wanting to make sure that they were not going to get arrested, which they didn’t. They came out the bush. It was my turn. I went in, started “letting loose” and only to look up and see a man watching me to his excitement, pulling some faces that will stay with me for life. I cried out in shock and my friend proceeded to hide me out of sight. I protested and screamed at him as he lay now on the floor in ecstasy. My friends turned around and said “That’s normal in Paris.” I replied, “Nowhere is that normal.” Since then, I always buy a drink to use a rest room.
Another fantastic evening can be spent heading to Moulin Rouge, the birthplace of the Can Can dance, thigh high stockings and bright red lipstick. Combining seduction with entertainment, the Moulin Rouge is the most anticipated event within Paris, and still is to this day. As tickets are quite pricey, and that I have a friend who dances at a similar show at the event La Nouvelle Eve, we went to her show. It was an incredible experience to sit in a dimly lit auditorium with champagne and being dazzled by the continuous whirl and blur of glitzy costumes, manic dance moves and bright smiles.