No matter what the time of year, or how many times you have visited Paris, there is always something amazing to see. Whether it be gazing at the lights of the Eiffel towel as they twinkle in the night sky, or taking in the incredible architecture of Notre Dame, there is certainly an experience to satisfy every taste (in addition to the delicious baguettes of course!).
Making the most of our days
We started off the weekend by navigating the metro system to get from the car park to our hotel. Before we left, we found a parking garage that offered $25 flat rate parking for the whole weekend, which we learned was much cheaper than parking in the city center. It was also conveniently located across the road from the metro stop. After a brief 30 minute subway ride, we arrived at our hotel- Timhotel Montparnasse. Tip: You can use this Booking.com referral to receive 15 euro discount on your stay.
We were too early to check in, but the hotel staff was very helpful and allowed us to store our bags until check in at 14:00. In the meantime, we decided to take a walk from our hotel to Luxembourg Garden (Jardin du Luxembourg) and Notre Dame.
The hotel in Paris had the perfect location- we were right next to the Montparnasse tower, there were two metro stops right outside, and it was only a 15 minute walk to Luxembourg Garden and a 30 minute walk to numerous other highlights. Quite easily we found our way to le Jardin du Luxembourg; we strolled through the big gates at the entrance, past people playing tennis and basketball, and others strolling the magnificent grounds. Despite it being February , the gardens were amazing, and the palace was incredible- I can only imagine how nice it would look in the spring and summer with all of the trees and flowers.
After walking around the grounds, we continued our walk near the Seine to Notre Dame, and stopped for lunch along the way. We found a really cute cobblestone pedestrian street that was lined with bakeries, brasseries, fondue restaurants, and restaurants displaying their fresh seafood under waterfalls and bold colourful lights (Rue de la Harpe), and stopped into a bakery for a lunch of coffee, croque monsieur, and a cheesy hot dog in a baguette- we definitely enjoyed our first taste of French food!
We were then quite close to Notre Dame, so continued our walk until we saw the Cathedral from across the river. We stopped to snap a couple of pictures, then crossed the bridge to Ile de la Cite to view it up close. It was much windier walking the streets here, and we were starting to get a bit chilly. The detail that went in to the outside of the building is unbelievable, carved into the walls are thousands of little statues and designs, and each individual statue is different. Admission to Notre Dame is free, and although there was a line, it moved very quickly- we were only in it for about 5 minutes. Inside, the stained glass windows, statues, and chandeliers were spectacular! There were certain areas blocked off for prayers and places you could light candles, and audio tour guides were available for a small fee if you wanted to learn more about what you were seeing. We chose just to walk through and observe, and it was great!
In love with mega Meringues
Once we finished taking in the Paris sights both inside and outside of Notre Dame, we began our walk back to our hotel as it was now time for us to check in. We came across a bakery that had giant, colourful meringues in the window. The sheer size of them was enough to catch my attention, and the variety of flavours was an even better bonus! So of course we had to go in and check it out- I ended up buying an orange passion fruit flavored meringue that was about the size of my head!!Decided to take it to go a save it for when we were back at the hotel. We had a room on the fourth floor of the hotel, and took the very tiny elevator up the first time- it was barley big enough for two people and their backpacks, I don’t think I have ever seen an elevator so small in my life! We decided to rest our feet for a while and recharge so that we could use google maps, before heading to see the Eiffel tower. It was raining a bit at this point and the walk to the tower would have taken about an hour, so we thought it would be best to take the metro there. Luckily the metro station was right across the street!
Be very careful in Paris
Although the metro system is very easy to navigate, it’s important to note that there are not ticket machines at every stop- the first metro stop wear entered only had a machine to get tickets if you had a metro pass (which we did not have), so we had to cross one more street to get to another stop that had the machines to purchase tickets. Things got a little bit interesting at this station.
Let’s just say, the threat of pickpockets is very real in Paris…
As we were at the machine trying to buy our tickets, a man came up beside the machine, very close to us, and kept pointing at the spot where you insert the cash saying “20 not working, 20 not working”, which was quite irrelevant as we had a 10 euro bill that we were trying to insert. Seeing this, he then changed to “10 not working, 10 not working” and began trying to take the 10 euro bill. We then put that away and decided to pay with card instead, at which point he tried to reach over me to touch the pin pad and say “not working, not working” to try and get us to bring the cash back out. We were getting frustrated with this, and were trying to watch our pockets at the same time, and finally ended up hitting his hand away from the pin pad, causing him to run off. Maybe it was the fact we had cash visible, or that we didn’t look like we knew exactly what we were doing, but moral of the story is watch out for pickpockets, especially at the metro. Luckily we still had all of our things, and were able to get our tickets without an issue since the machine was, in fact, working completely fine.
Exploring the Eiffel tower
After that uncomfortable situation, we made it on to the subway and rode it about five stops to the Eiffel Tower stop. It was then only about a 5 minute walk from there. We originally were thinking of going up the tower to the champagne bar, and went through the first security checkpoint which allows you to get to the area under the tower. However, it wakes raining heavier in Paris at this point and the line to buy tickets was very long- plus, we weren’t sure if the weather would be better or worse at the top. So rather than waiting at least an hour in the ticket line, and then waiting again to go up, we changed our plan and decided that we would go up the Montparnasse tower at night so we could see the Eiffel tower all lit up. Rather than leaving the tower right away, we exited the secure area and crossed the river where there was a great spot to take photos- can’t go to Paris and not get a picture with the eiffel tower right? So of course we took a few pics here, and then started walking back to the metro station. As we were walking, we notice lots of people stopping as they were heading in the opposite direction, and looking at the tower in awe. When we turned around to look, we saw that the rain had cleared up and there was a rainbow going right over the tower!! It was amazing!
We headed back to the hotel to freshen up after being in the rain, and put on some nicer clothes before heading out for our evening adventures. We first went to a little bar on the corner of the road our hotel was on, as we had seen a sign there earlier advertising happy hour specials. We ordered some beer and wine, and our very friendly waiter brought us some free tapas to have with our drinks! The first was some small baguette slices with a fish spread, the house special, which was delicious! And then we had some thick slices of salami. By the time we finished our drinks, the sun had set and the City of Lights had come to life! We walked across the street to the Montparnasse tower, bought our tickets, and headed up to the 56th floor.
What a view!!
The views over Paris from the windows here were amazing, and around the walls there were touch screens that had a digital picture of what you were seeing outside. You could click different buildings on the screen to help you identify what you were looking at- which was a great idea considering some of our thoughts as we were looking included ‘what is that big building?’ And ‘is that where we were earlier?’. After observing a bit from here, we headed up a few more floors to the 59th, where there was the 360 degree panorama observation deck- this was an absolute highlight! Although it was a bit chilly and windy being on the 59th floor rooftop- you hardly even noticed it because the views were so incredible. Surrounded by glass walls, you could truly see every area of the city, including the Eiffel tower, lit up at night. We would definitely recommend going up this tower instead of the Eiffel tower, because you can actually see the Eiffel tower from here! And you are up higher so the views are even more amazing.
There is also a champagne bar on the panorama deck, however it was closed when we were there because it was too cold. However, this would be an amazing summer activity too as you could sit and enjoy some champagne while taking in the city lights- very romantic.
Cheese for days
By this point, we were getting quite hungry, so after taking in as many evening city views as we could, we headed to Les Fondues de la Raclette for dinner. This was such a cozy restaurant, and we had a fabulous waiter! He was happy to help explain to us how it works and English, and provide his recommendations for the menu. Each table of the restaurant had a grill built into it, and the smell of cheeses and meats filled the air. We ended up ordering a mixed raclette, which consisted of sliced cheese, raw pieces of meat, potatoes, and an assortment of sliced meats, much like a charcuterie board, a cheese fondue, and a bottle of wine.
The cheese fondue came in a big cauldron that was placed on the grill, with a basket of bread, and we were told that we needed to stir the fondue often to keep it nicely blended together. We struggled with this by the end and ended up with a bit of our fondue stuck to the bottom of the pan- oops! We were much more confused as to what we were supposed to do with the raclette, we had a small frying pan to put on the grill that we were instructed to melt the cheese slices in, but after that it was a bit of a mystery. We really weren’t sure if we were doing it properly when we dumped our melted cheese onto our meats and potatoes, but it certainly was delicious!!
The restaurant got extremely busy as we were eating, and at one point there was even a line up out the door! We got there around 8:30 which must have been the perfect time, but making a reservation would be a good idea for future visits! Overall, we had a lot of fun experimenting with the melted cheese in Paris, and with the fabulous service we received, we would definitely go back again! We left feeling very full and satisfied, and smelling (quite strongly) of melted cheese and smoke from the grills.
Hello Mona Lisa
Sunday morning we started the day around 9 and walked to the Louvre. On the first Sunday of the month the louvre and other museums in Paris have free admission so we thought it would be best to go early, as we were anticipating a line. We were right, there was a line, and also a ton of security! We ended up waiting about 40 minutes to get in, which wasn’t too bad considering the line was about three times as long when we left two hours later! When we first got in, we had breakfast at Paul bakery in the Louvre, since all that waiting made us hungry and in need of hot coffee! After we warmed up, we walked through some amazing paintings and sculptures to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. Although it is a beautiful painting, it was much smaller than I expected and difficult to get a good look at- there was a crowd in front of it behind ropes, and a glass case over top! We were happy that we could see it, but didn’t stick around too long in the crowd. We went to have a look at some artwork from Northern Europe and the Netherlands, which was in a much more quiet area. But since neither of us are really big art enthusiasts, we decided not to spend all day there.
When we left the Louvre, we found that the rain had cleared and the sun was coming out. It was a lovely surprise as we walked through the Jardin de Tuileries. This was another beautiful walk with many nice fountains and gardens, and lots of runners enjoying the lovely Sunday morning. In the distance, we could see the ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde, and the Arc de Triomphe in the distance. It ended up being the perfect Sunday morning walk, and the trek from the louvre to the champs Elysees was a straight line through the Jardin de Tuileries, and ended at the arc de triomphe.
Walking on the Champs Elysées
The entrance to the champs Elysees was blocked off by many Police cars, and police were searching everyone’s bags at gates at the beginning of the street. Although this security measure was a little intimidating, it made for a beautiful stroll up the Champs Elysees as there were no cars, so we could stand in the middle of the street to get a great view of the arc de triomphe. We had a look in some shops, and checked out some expensive watches from the windows, before heading to Laduree for some macarons (my favourite!). We got three types of macarons; coconut lime, salted caramel, and pistachio- the coconut lime was the best! After enjoying our little snack, we continued the walk up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, and took in the view before making our way to the metro station.
Wow! even more fantastic views
We picked up our bags from the hotel and headed off too see our final highlight- Sacre Coeur Basilica. It would have been more than an hour walk from our hotel to the monument, so we took the metro one more time. When we arrived in the Montmartre area, we stopped at a little family-run bakery for some baguette sandwiches and a brownie to take with us to Sacre Coeur, although we couldn’t wait to taste the brownie so we ate it on the way! The stairs up to the monument were quite the trek, but worth it for the views along over the city. Breaking up the sets of stairs were lovely little sitting areas with benches overlooking Paris- the view was absolutely magnificent, and Sacre Coeur was incredible.
From the top level next to it, we were able to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We then decided it was time for lunch, so sat at a bench overlooking the city to enjoy our sandwiches. This was another place where we needed to be really aware of pickpockets, as there were many “clipboard scammers” walking around- they claim they are asking for signatures for a charity, but while one has your attention, the others may try to take your things- so try not to give them your attention as you are walking by! We had a lovely afternoon at Sacre Coeur, and it even ended up being a nice sunny day! We then had seen everything we wanted to see, so decided it was time to walk back to the car (although we found quite quickly that this walk was not through the nicest part of town, so it became a very brisk walk!).
Overall, we had a fabulous weekend and were able to fit a lot of attractions into a small amount of time! We ate so many delicious foods, and ate enough cheese and baguette to last us quite a while. We would highly recommend a weekend in Paris for any type of weekend getaway, as there is always something new to see, and activities of many different paces.