Back in May my brother-in-law gave Mr BOTR some Eurostar vouchers. When we visited the UK in July for my father-in-laws birthday we put these vouchers towards our train fares to Paris.
I had a) never been to Paris before and b) never ever bothered with a first class train ticket. Well just over a week ago we flew into Gatwick where we spent the night in a hotel, then we got the normal train down to St. Pancras station. Now Kings Cross / St. Pancras is where I used to get the train into London back when I lived in the UK. My oh my how that area has changed. No longer shabby, filthy and run down, it is now a really airy, bright, and beautiful station.
I wont lie I wish we had, had a swing on that giant bird-cage swing. Next time I am in London I am going to wear a bird outfit especially for the occasion! The station is also the home of the Harry Potter platform. (Which I avoided as it was heaving with tourists.) We were a bit early for the train, so we got a coffee and a juice and relaxed, and then when our boarding time came we queued up, went through the X-ray machine, and passport control (twice, once for the UK, once for France) and then we found our carriage and seats.
We upgraded for a few reasons. Normally we would just sit with everyone else, but as we had vouchers, and this was our first holiday since our mini-moon (long weekend honeymoon, for those of you who don’t speak BOTR 😉 ) we decided to treat ourselves. No screaming kids. No cramped seats.No tripping over baggage. A nice restful train ride…under the sea! :-O
Our seats were so nice, we opted for a little table for two, and we were served a light lunch, and in no time at all we had arrived in Paris.
We haggled with a taxi driver for the best price to get us to our hotel and off we went. Traffic in Paris is bad. Like so much worse than London. And FYI pedestrian crossings don’t work the same way. You get the green man here and it means ‘people crossing’, in Paris it means motorcycles, scooters and push bikes are all welcome to go across the crossing while people try to get across too. Paris you gave me grey hairs. Seriously, it was sooo scary!
After we dropped our bags off, logged into the free wi-fi (have to check in on FB, if it isn’t on FB it isn’t real) and gathered our thoughts we went for the first of our many epic walks.
Now going off on a bit of a tangent, we both have Fitbit bands. Both of us try to get to 10k steps each day. On one of our days in Paris we hit 35k steps. We covered over 35 miles on foot in three days. I wont post the pictures of my blisters, but lets just say I had to take ibuprofen to be able to walk even semi normally on the day we travelled back to London. My feet are only now back to normal. And before anyone asks I wore walking shoes or trainers. I think it must have been my socks…
We saw the following sites. Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Place Vendome, Tuileries Garden, Luxor Obelisk, Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre, Bastille, Arc de Triumph… and many more besides. And all reached on foot. There are so many ways to see the city, like us, by walking around, by tour bus, by bike, regular bus, or taking taxis, or the metro. But the weather was bright and brisk and if I can avoid buses or travelling by car I will (travel sickness is real people). I would have cycled, except I didn’t bring my E111 card with me so I didn’t want a massive medical bill when I a) fell off the bike because of the cobblestones or b) got hit by a crazy raging taxi driver.
Now for a confession… We spent a long time, two visits in fact, outside of the Louvre. We were inside for less than an hour. I only wanted to see the Mona Lisa.
Mr BOTR has been before, so wasn’t fussed about going again. And I just couldn’t be bothered to deal with the thousands of people in there, despite the many attractions that are there. I know that is bad. I know that is uncouth, that I missed all that art and history, but the idea of spending more time than that, surrounded by masses of very pushy tourists did not appeal. So next time (and there will be a next time 😀 ) we visit, we will have dedicated museum time. But the outside of that building, the contrast of the pyramids and glass with the old building. Wow. How beautiful?
The only other place that really blew me away was the Sacré-Cœur. The building looks like a mixture of a mosque, sea shell and Taj Mahal. It is incredible. And the views from there are just staggering. And also we saw some rats there. Which isn’t always a selling point for people, but they were the most brazen and funny rats I have ever seen. They sort of jumped out at people, and I wasn’t the only person who squealed!
Our hotel was situated in Bastille. So every day we went out for breakfast. The smell of baking bread scents the air, well that and coffee. And cake. Oh the cakes. It was really nice. On the Sunday of our stay we went to the market for a look around. It literally had everything you could think of.
Bastille in general had a great atmosphere and look, especially on our last evening when we got treated to this beautiful sunset! No photo-shop involved in that picture at all.
The absolute best part of staying in Bastille was the rather fabulous surprise of discovering that we had a cat cafe just around the corner from us…
Of course we visited. And we had lunch. And I’ll share the pictures and details on my next post!