The few times in my life that I’ve ever heard the words ‘Paris in a day’ in that particular order are when they are prefixed by the words ‘It’s not possible to see…’ BUT my friends- where there’s a will, there’s a way! After spending three and a half months on a ship which docked regularly in Le Havre (the so-called ‘Gateway to Paris,’ a name which I personally think is pushing it a bit), me and my partner in crime decided we should accept the challenge and see for ourselves whether or not it is in fact possible after all. And let me tell you something: of course it’s not possible to see any city in it’s entirety in a day, but if you plan well enough you can certainly make the most of the time that you have, even if the city in question is good old gay Paris. (Nb- if you didn’t read that ‘gay Paris’ bit in a French accent, then you bloody well should because it’s way more fun sounding).
Early mornings have a tendency to make me feel actually physically sick (I’m not even exaggerating there, they genuinely make me ill), but sometimes in life you’ve just got to fight through the pain to reach the end goal so that’s exactly what I did at 5.30am in the pitch dark when I woke up. There was light at the end of the tunnel, even if it seemed like an incredibly long and freezing cold tunnel at that point. Although we were the first people to the gangway, the ship seemed to be extra slow at docking that day and we knew that if we didn’t make it onto the first train leaving Le Havre the next train came so much later that there would be no point in us going at all. It was a stressful twenty minutes, and we eventually pegged it down the gangway and into a taxi with a motley crew of Paris-bound passengers who’d cottoned on to the fact that they’d have way more time in the city if they went alone than on an organised tour. Good one, passengers!
When we informed the taxi driver that we hadn’t prebooked our train ticket he duly informed us that we would not make it onto the train. But, what did I say guys!? WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY! We did attempt to buy tickets from the incredibly slow machine, but with approximately two and a half minutes to spare we gave up completely on that idea and jumped straight onto the train instead, presuming that we could buy them from the ticket inspector. Well…the ticket inspector never appeared so that was that, one unintentionally free trip to Paris, sorted!
We were off! Paris was beckoning! VICTORY! And here, in chronological order are the things we managed to pack into one short day…
Searched for the Phantom at the Palais Garnier
I’ve been in a fair few theatres and opera houses in my time, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say The Ópera Garnier is probably the most spectacular one I’ve ever seen. It’s spectacular on the outside and even more spectacular within- you know all sweeping staircases and golden chandeliers, that sort of amazing malarkey. The Phantom of the Opera was set within the walls of this very theatre, and legend has it that the story was partly inspired by true events…the true events being that they found a ballerina’s skeleton here, and that the giant chandelier in the auditorium really did fall from the ceiling and kill an audience member, not that there was an actual masked man rowing a little boat underneath the auditorium. Can you imagine!?
We paid €12 to go in to the museum which is part of the Palais Garnier and to see the auditorium itself; they were in the middle of some sort of technical occasion on stage which was pretty interesting to see, so I reckon that price is an easy one to pay for such a downright AWESOME building. (Although, just in case you’re interested if you’re under 25 it’s €8 for entry…being 27 is so harsh sometimes you guys.)
Looked round the Louvre
We didn’t go inside the Louvre- this bad boy houses the Mona Lisa which I’ve heard can get pretty chockablock and time was precious after all, but as it was such a nice day we also really wanted to make the most of being in the fresh air. (Fresh air is something you come to highly value when living on a ship, but that’s a whole other incredibly long story) Being at The Louvre fairly early on an Autumn morning is a pretty nice experience in itself. On a side note I didn’t realise at the time that the entrance to the museum is actually through the big giant glass pyramid in the centre of the square of the Renaissance buildings. That was a bit dumb of me, in hindsight. But there you go. If you want to get in, then that’s how.
Appreciated the Autumn air in the Jardin des Tuileries
Continuing our self-guided-mildly-unsure-of-the-exact-route walking tour, we strolled through the Tuileries Gardens mainly because we could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance and decided it was only right that we headed towards it. Back to the Gardens, they are just downright marvellous I tell you, especially in the Autumn when the leaves are getting colourful and jazzy looking. Made up of lots of different formal gardens all patchworked together and interspersed with the odd sculpture or pond thrown in for luck, it’s very pretty in a very neat and tidy way. And here’s a fact of the day for the non-French-speakers (like myself)- the gardens and palace are named after the tile factories that used to stand on the same spot. Well done, Tuileries.
Lost several solid gold rings and gave money away like there was no tomorrow
Here is the awkward thing about Paris. I know that there are scams and pickpockets and all that palaver in even the mildest of tourist-attracting cities in the world, but considering we spent not even a full day there we had the same trick attempted on us three times in the space of approximately three hours. That strikes me as A LOT, and eventually had me laughing in hysterical sheer disbelief, as opposed to having the desired effect of making me hand over some cold hard cash.
Basically, whilst walking through the streets of Paris it’s highly likely that a random person walking in the opposite direction will bend down as you cross paths and pick up a gold ring from the pavement. Then they’ll stop you to ask if you dropped it. And when you say no, they’ll attempt to hand it to you and say it must surely be yours or if not, you should take it as you deserve it and it’ll bring you luck and they couldn’t possibly keep it for themselves blah blah blah…
DO NOT AT ANY COST TAKE THE RING!!!
They will definitely demand some money to make up for the fact that they’re letting you take this solid piece of gold for yourself, and maybe they’ll even bring out a few children at that point to ham it up a bit more. THINGS CAN GET AWKWARD. By the last time a ring appeared before me I was crying with laughter at this apparent Hansel and Gretel style trail of golden rings that I was clearly leaving all over Paris. How very careless of me.
The other slightly awkward scenario slash probably scam is that I did hand over €10 to a random lady who claimed to be raising money for orphans around the Eiffel Tower. (The orphans weren’t at the Eiffel Tower, the lady was) She seemed to be part of a big team of slightly unkempt looking lasses with broken biros and tattered looking sheets of paper featuring lists of people who’d donated, and the exact amount that they’d given…all in the region of €10-€20. Well let me tell you that is clever, because clearly once they hook you in and you see the list of people and donations you’d feel bad to hand over a mere euro or two, wouldn’t you!? All I’m saying is I don’t know where that money went- I’m pretty sure it wasn’t to some orphans- but hopefully it really made her or someone else’s day regardless. I was a bit in shock that I’d just handed over €10 to a randomer on the street but in the end you’ve just got to laugh about these things really haven’t you?
Strolled by the Seine
Like a lot of my knowledge of places in the world as a small lass, my first impression of Paris was actually given to me by Disney. (You know- New Orleans:Princess and the Frog, Hawaii: Lilo and Stitch, China: Mulan. The list goes on) So Aristocats and The Hunchback of Notre Dame were my real introduction to the streets of this city and meant that whilst wandering around the main thoughts in my head were, ‘which pet’s address is the finest in Paris??’ and second to that, ‘Oooout there, strolling by the Seine!!!!’ If I could’ve sung it out loud without fear of attracting more golden-ring bearers, I probably would have done.
The song does not lie, pals- the banks of the Seine really are a lovely place for a stroll, and I’ve heard going on a good old fashioned river cruise is a rather popular activity for the romantically-inclined also. Whatever floats your boat really. Geddit!?
Aside from the scammers that flock all around, the Eiffel Tower really is a pretty spectacular place to visit. The queues for the elevators are lengthy, so it definitely is something that you have to dedicate a block of time to, but to be honest I was glad to have seen it even from the ground. On a side note, apparently there is a woman in this very world who is officially married to the Eiffel Tower, AND it’s been sold by a scammer for scrap metal twice. So Paris isn’t just the city of romance, I reckon it’s also the city of scammers galore, which is a bit unfortunate I s’pose. (Though I’m definitely not saying Parisians in general are scammers- several times we clearly appeared quite lost or just vaguely unsure of where we were heading and people would stop and ask if we needed directions, which is quite a rare occurrence in a lot of places these days. The people of Paris seemed to me to really appreciate their city and genuinely wanted to help us explore it further. Now that is nice.)
Found the Arc de Triomphe
If seeing every monument or landmark of every place you visit, ever, is your thing- then the Arc de Triomphe will be right up your street. Alongside the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, the Arc is probably one of the most well-known landmarks in Paris; however for me once you’ve seen several monuments (particularly without the accompaniment of an extremely interesting or tragic or hilarious story), you’ve sort of seen them all. Which might be a terrible thing to say, I’m not sure.
Built to honour those who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, this bad boy is exactly what it says in the name- a great big archway. And unfortunately that’s about all I have to say on that, at this moment in time…personally I got more of the vibe of Paris from wandering around the streets than looking at the Arc de Triomphe but that’s just how I generally roll so I can only apologise for my lack of monument appreciation.
Met the slowest taxi driver in the history of the world
Around the time that we began to head towards the glorious Arc de Triomphe we realised that time was ticking slightly faster than it had been earlier in the day, if you get my drift. If we didn’t get on a specific train, it would mean being late back to the ship in Le Havre which would definitely result in some kind of disciplinary sitch (short for situation) with El Capitan. Upon realising that we might not make it on foot, and even the closest Metro station was a risky distance away we decided to jump in a taxi.
In hindsight this was a brilliant idea, but at the time it was stressful.
‘Gare du Nord, s’il vois plait!?’ Is what we asked the taxi driver. As that’s where we wanted to go. We also told him we needed to go really fast as we needed to catch a train very very soon.
He nodded and looked at a map for a while. He looked back over his shoulder at us. (This was all while still parked, stationary, at the side of the road which was jam packed with incredibly slow-moving traffic) ‘Gare du Nord? The train station? Hmm.’
He looked back at the map. I began to suspect that this guy was not from round here.
And possibly wasn’t even a taxi driver.
He took out his glasses, put them on, and looked back at the map. It was a tense time.
Eventually he pulled into the road and proceeded to crawl forth even slower than the rest of the incredibly slow moving traffic, until at long last we were within sprinting distance of the station and could scream out ‘merci!!’, throw some money in his front-seat direction and peg it on to the train. What a guy!!
Walking everywhere (aside from the last leg of the journey) instead of taking public transport or some kind of sightseeing bus really helped us to get the most out of the tiny amount of time that we had in the city; we could soak in the atmosphere and we were lucky it was such a beaut day. It helped that a pal had vaguely planned the route for us before we went so we were sure we could fit in the things we wanted to see or do; don’t get me wrong guys, I do not doubt there is a lot more to Paris than you can see in a day, but we managed to appreciate it nonetheless, and it really is one of the most loveliest cities I’ve ever visited.
IT IS BETTER TO HAVE SEEN PARIS FOR A DAY AND LEFT THAN TO NEVER HAVE SEEN IT AT ALL!!!
Though I’ll obviously be going back. One day.