And so I went, off to Paris to spend six days (five nights) at an Airbnb appartment right in Montmartre. As with my trips to Vienna and Berlin, I again started a google sheet and I created a google map: all the places I wanted to visit were catalogued.
(Green colored were restaurants I wanted to visit. In another sheet, all yellow colored rows were places I wanted to check out.)
I also collected a good deal of files with routes and information. I even created a Wikipedia Book with information on the sights and places I was interested in.
- Paris 2014 from Wikipedia
- Funiculaire de Montmartre (essential if you stay up on La Butte!)
- Monmartrobus (also essential for staying in Montmartre)
- Jardin des Plantes
Browsing the internet, I also found many walking routes, but I did not end up using them. Google them, they’re easy to find!
And of course, as it’s the age of going mobile, you can also find numerous apps (both Android and iOS). The one I found most useful was the RATP (public transport) app: Android link – iOS link. All the big museums will also have apps, so have a look around.
Tuesday February 18 was the big day. At 8AM I was at the train station, ready to catch my first train into Rotterdam. From there I would catch the Thalys international train to Paris Gare du Nord. To make life onboard easier, I splurged on a first class ticket: so worth it!
Travelling by train into Paris from the Netherlands is very easy. It took about 3 1/2 hours (including transfer time) to get into the city. From there, I took the metro to Métro Abesses. From there it was a steep climb to Rue Gabrielle where my apartment was: remember, my apartment was located right below La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre which is right on the top of La Butte! The appartment was great, with an amazing view.
Straight away I went down again and I took the metro to Place de la Concorde. From there my real trip started. As with any large city, you will end up walking a lot, but that is a great way to see and feel and smell a city. That first day I saw a lot and I took a lot of photos.
My next day was not that much different, I started off on the left bank (Rive Gauche) to see the amazing architecture of the Institut du Monde Arabe. The building’s facade is intricate and fascinating and I’d recommend anyone visiting Paris to see it.
From there, it is an easy walk to the Jardin des Plantes (the botanical gardens) where you can walk around, visit the zoo and surround yourself by the natural sciences.
There was a great meet-up with a friend I’d met years ago in Georgia. She now lives in London with her husband and they were also in Paris for a few days. We had lunch together and it was a chance to catch up (and indulge in some crêpes)! From the crêpe place, I made my way to Île de la Cité (home of La Notre-Dame de Paris) to visit La Sainte-Chapelle. Such a pretty church and very much hidden on the ground of La Conciergerie.
The next morning, I woke up to rain. It was also my birthday (and the original reason for escaping to Paris!). Feeling a bit under the weather, I decided not to rush. After lunch, I made a visit to my favorite tea shop: Kusmi Tea. It was hard limiting my choices, I tell you!
Of course, next up was a trip to visit a pattiserie because everyone needs some cake on their birthday! I had already scoped the plethora of great patisseries in Paris, and I had decided to go to La pâtisserie des rêves (all by Philippe Conticini). Once there, I just could not make up my mind, so I bought two delicious little cakes: one Tarte au Citron and one petit Saint-Honoré. Boy, they were worth it!
Even though I had made all these lists of places to visit and see, none of them were mandatory. There was one exhibit I was determined to visit. At the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, the exhibit 1925, when Art Déco dazzled the World was just wonderful. So many drawings, photos, artefacts and furniture, too many to see. I am very glad I went to see them!
As the museum is at Trocadéro, it also gave another excellent chance to take some photos of that icon of icons in Paris: La Tour Eiffel.
An old favorite to visit, is Centre Georges Pompidou: an amazing building, home to some amazing art. And of course, it gave me the chance to see more of Paris, without having to climb onto scary open, high places (I am terribly afraid of hights).
For lunch that day, a treat was in order, so I went to one of the hippest places at the moment: Frenchie to Go. Not very french, but so tasty nonetheless, I ordered their pulled pork sandwich. Lunch was followed by more walking around and more sight-seeing.
Saturday was my last full day in Paris, and I started off with a visit to L’église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (La Madeleine). As I was walking around, someone started to rehearse on the full organ for that evening’s concert. I sat down and recorded some sound bites. No idea what was rehearsed1, but I did find out that they would perform Mozart’s Requiem.
After that great interlude, I made my way over to the Musée de l’Orangerie: home of Monet’s Water Lillies. I had not seen these since my first visit to Paris when I was about 10 or 11. Once again, the paitings were impressive and beautiful. In the museum shop I bought myself a gift: La vie secrète de Montmartre (French Edition).
More walking followed, I was just absorbing everything around me. After the previous days, I found that I was done taking photos. I just wanted to feel the city. In the afternoon, I braved the shoppers on Boulevard Haussman and I went into the two big department stores: Galerie LaFayette and Printemps Haussman. The last few visits in Paris, I ended up buying gorgeous handbags in these stores, but this time I could not find any that were to my fancy. As the stores were so busy (gosh, who’d have thought that on a Saturday afternoon!), I wanted some peace and quiet. Some tea, I thought, at the brasserie in Printemps.
In the evening, after a visit to one of the bakers who frequently wins ‘best baguette of France’, I sat down at a cafe and I watched the world go by.2
The next morning, I packed my bags, I cleaned the apartment and for the final time, I took the Monmartrobus down the hill and to the next bus stop. My stay in Paris was over and I had a wonderful time. At Gare du Nord, I waited for my train to board. Once again, travelling first class pays off: lunch on the train, followed by some tea with cookies. Before I knew it, I was back at Rotterdam Station waiting for my connecting train to The Hague. At Rotterdam, when I overheard some people talking, I thought to myself “How wonderful, these people speak dutch too!”.
- Would love to find out what the classical piece/s is/are that the organist was using to rehearse! ↩
- The book I was reading on my Kindle: The Montmartre Investigation: A Victor Legris Mystery (Victor Legris Mysteries) by the author Claude Izner. It’s the third in the Victor Legris series. All books take place in Paris at the end of the 19th century. This book (as the title suggests) is all about murder and mayhem in Montmartre! ↩