Originally we had intended to catch an overnight bus from London to Paris and back again. This would have been the cheapest way to travel, as well as saving us one night of accommodation. For whatever reason we couldn’t/didn’t book the tickets until it was basically too late, and the bus tickets weren’t much cheaper than just getting the Eurostar. So after a bit of contemplation we decided to just pay the extra money for the train, as well as two more nights of accommodation. In the end this was for the best, as we could get some real sleep, and it gave us more time to explore both cities.
After a pleasant journey on the Eurostar we arrived in Paris, dropped our bags off at our hotel and headed out in search of dinner. We were staying in an area right next to the main international train station, Gare de Nord, which we found to be a little bit seedy. Luckily there was a very long street filled with restaurants basically at our doorstep, so we didn’t have to walk down any dark alleyways to find dinner. After walking the length of this street before settling on anywhere, we found a fairly inconspicuous, and yet impressive archway. As per usual, we ended up going back to one of the first restaurants we walked past where we blundered our way through ordering food and drink in a busy Parisian restaurant. A cocktail and a margherita pizza each and we were ready for bed.
The following day we had to change hotels to the one we had booked prior to the change in transport. It was across town in the Latin Quarter. So, after a bit of a sleep in, and a buffet breakfast we headed out to see Paris. The best thing about European hotels is the 12pm check-out. We dropped our bags at our new hotel, Happy Culture, where we would be staying for six nights. This hotel turned out to be really good value for money. Included was free tea and coffee, macrons, lollies, all for a comparable price to an Air BnB and probably more room.
Still a little bit scarred from our Stockholm Pass debacle we did some more research before concluding that the Paris Museum Pass should be a good purchase. One bonus of the Paris Museum Pass is you can buy it at a lot of the museums around Paris. For us, our closest point of sale was the Pantheon, so we headed straight there. You can buy the pass for 2, 4 or 6 days, so we went for the 6-day pass. We actually had no idea what the Pantheon was for before visiting. It was constructed in 1790 as a monument/mausoleum for France’s most celebrated people. Mostly we hadn’t heard of the people in the crypt there, but there were a lot that we had heard of like Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Voltaire etc. All in all it was a pretty incredible building, and a great start to our Paris experience. We would come to learn that the French really like building enormous monuments for their dead.
The next day, Friday, would be our first full day of exploring Paris. So far the weather had been perfect. We caught the Metro straight to the Arc De Triomphe where our museum pass granted us entry to go up to the top. It was a hazy day, but still one of the best views of Paris you can get. The Arc De Triomphe was ordered to be constructed by Napoleon, after telling his troops they would only return to Paris through triumphant arches. After many design and dedication changes it was eventually dedicated to the military and Napoleon’s Triumphs as it was originally meant to be.
The Champs Élysées is a popular avenue in Paris runs through the Arc de Triomphe towards the Louvre, which was the main Royal Palace from the 12th century until the late 16th century when King Louis XIV moved to Versailles. We decided to stroll down the street towards our next undecided cultural destination. We opted to make our way into the Musée de L’orangerie, which is an art gallery containing some famous work such as Monet’s Water Lillies.
We had a typical Baguette lunch before heading off to the next museum, the Musée D’Orsay. The Musée D’Orsay is an old Railway Station that was converted into a giant gallery filled with sculptures, paintings and ignorant tourists going around touching said paintings and sculptures. At this stage we were on the brink of exhaustion, and a bit overwhelmed by all the amazing artwork so we pressed on once again.
Next stop was the Tomb of Napoleon, which is directly connected to the military museum, and just around the corner from the Rodin museum. The Rodin museum is home to the sculpture ‘The Thinker’. We didn’t have the energy to explore everything so we just visited Napoleon’s tomb. Again, this is a huge and elaborate building constructed as a crypt/monument. The crypt contains some of the largest Sarcophagi we have seen so far, for Napoleon and possibly Napoleon II and III. From what we could understand, there was also some wings with a memorial to some soldiers as well.
It was now late afternoon so we decided to walk about 3km back to our hotel to have dinner and an ‘early’ night. The next day we were due to meet up with our friends to tackle the Louvre.