“We’ll always have Paris.” We can now say this and mean it. Seven years ago, my parents took my sister and me on our first big vacation to Paris, so I was happy I got to experience it with my husband and also have a little insight on things which came in handy for sure!
Instead of flying into the Charles de Gaulle airport, we took the high speed train, Eurostar, from London to Paris. It wound up costing us about £30 more, but since the train dropped us off in the center of the city, we gained that cash back not having to travel from the airport. The train also took about 15-30 minutes longer than the flight would have, but again, it would have taken the 30 minutes to get from the airport to our proper metro, so the high speed train is the way to go, hands down.
It was a nice ride out of London, and no, the chunnel doesn’t have windows. I was also disappointed I couldn’t get a view of under the English Channel, but the majority of the trip was through the beautiful French countryside, so we couldn’t complain. We arrived in Paris around 10:30a and made it to the neighborhood we were staying: Bastille. We like to stay out of the major parts of the city, mainly for cost (hotels were ranging from $300 a night!), but also, we like to stay where the locals do. Bastille was perfect.
We rented an entire flat for the five days from AirBNB while we were there, and our host was so gracious and polite. She met us there and gave us the key. The flat was wonderful. Small–but open and bright. We had a small kitchen and washer for clothes. This was great as we didn’t have to pack to much, and we wound up cooking a lot in the space to not spend all of our cash in overpriced, tourist restaurants.
Once we dropped our bags, off we went to walk to the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t think it would be that far, and we got to see some landmarks along the way like the Musee d’Orsay, Hotel de Ville or City Hall, and Notre Dame. The tower was a bit farther than we had intended to walk, so when we made it, we were already exhausted and not thrilled to wait in a line. However, we were glad we did the tower first before the weekend crush.
We went to Paris on a bank holiday weekend and Memorial Day weekend which meant tourists. Thursday at the tower would be a lot more manageable than Saturday, but it still took us three hours to get from line to exit. The views were breathtaking, but the majority of Paris is level. The skyline (except for Eiffel Tower) leaves a bit to be desired, so we could have benefited more from the view from Notre Dame or the like.
We headed back toward our flat after that since the day was mostly gone. All told, we wound up walking over ten miles our first day in Paris wandering around. Our compass was set for the tower, but we certainly took some scenic routes and saw the lovely streets and bridges of Paris. We did stop at the Pont de l’Archevêché or Love Lock Bridge in Paris to contribute to the display. Jeff kissed me as he tossed the keys into the Seine. But as we scanned the dates on some of the locks, we realized these must be cleaned on a regular basis. There were no old dates, which made me a little sad. We could never go back and see our lock standing the test of time, but at least we had that moment in Paris.
On our walk, we did come across some of the notorious scammers on the streets. Anyone going to Paris needs to watch out of gypsies, pickpockets and these scams. It’s very easy to get tempted and shafted. Jeff and I both feel as though Paris was much worse than Rome and London regarding the petty crime around. We came across a gentleman who was playing a pick the ball under the box game. He was surrounded by people who worked with him and he very obviously would show you which box had the ball underneath, so it was impossible to guess incorrectly. He then handed you €50 to urge you to play again. We waived it away not wanting to get caught up in this, but we were curious how the scam worked, so we watched. But his patsies pushed us into playing, so we finally walked away.
Apparently, after looking this up, we saw that they hand you the money, but then urge you to play and then lose. When you fork over your own money is when they get you. They will never let you walk away with their money, which I thought at first they would and they were distributing counterfeit currency. But anyone would just need to be on the guard and not show anyone where you keep your money.
The last thing I’ll mention for our neighborhood of Bastille is that we came across a protest for union transportation workers. Leave it to us to always find something going on in town. It was all around the square and there were hundreds of people around shouting and cooking. At first we thought the smoke was from foggers or flares. No, from BBQs. Leave it to the French to eat well and protest.
All that being said, we had a great first night in Paris. We walked back to our flat on tired and sore feet and picked up some things to cook in the corner store. Our butchered French got us through the check-out line and we cooked up our own version of French food and got ready for the next day of adventure.
From our other adventures, it’s easy to glean that we do not really vacay on our vacations and this was no different .