In a previous post I already spoke of the hostel and some other practical info, together with the only dining experience we encountered worth mentioning on our 3-day city trip to Paris.
Now allow me to quickly discuss what we’ve actually seen, when, and how it was for us.
Day 1 started late. We only left from Ghent around 9.30 am. Yes, you read that right, and I have to agree that’s late. Still, we knew the guy who owns the car was doing us all a favour by having suggested driving, since it would reduce travel costs by roughly 30 to 35% compared to a return train ticket (in our case taking the plane would be rather silly).
Soon as we were in “downtown” Paris, we dumped the car in the VINCI Park facility we had selected, and started with what was closest to us: Montmartre.
After climbing the stairs and visiting the Sacré Coeur, and ignoring the short queue for climbing its dome, we strolled down the curvy streets that take you up and down (and up again) around the Montmartre hill.
The weather was struggling to please us with a few rays of sunlight breaking trough the greyish sky, and by the time we arrived at the infamous Abbesses metro station, a light drizzle had started.
Abbesses is known for its Art Nouveau metro entrance with a playful wrought iron frame and a glass canopy. Besides that, it’s also the station where Amélie Poulain had to get off, and where she first encounters Nino…
If you arrive at the station by metro, take the elevator up! Don’t let the small doors fool you, behind them lies an elevator box the size of a medium sized delivery truck! Seriously, it can easily hold 70 people or more.
However, if you plan to take the metro from here, feel free to climb down the stairs, you’ll get an impression on how much below ground level this station actually is 😉
From there we travelled to the Grand Arche de La Défence. We fooled around a bit there, sat down on the stairs to overlook the Esplanade. Although I knew you could take the elevator up to the top floor, I remembered it to be a bit “meh”, and since admission was quite high in our opinion, we didn’t really linger for more then half an hour, because in the distance we saw the next destination: the Arc de Triomphe!
When you get to the Arc de Triomphe by metro, you can keep walking in the underground corridors connecting the various metro lines to walk to the (underground) ticket office for the Arc. And yet, I advise you not to.
It’s so much nicer to go up to the street level and take a short tour around the Place Charles de Gaulle (better known as the Place de l’Etoile) and see the Arc from a distance.
At the start of the famous Avenue des Champs Elysées, there’s a traffic light in the middle of the road where you can take a great axial picture of the Arc with the Arche of La Défence. From there you can take another tunnel under the square to the ticket office.
And that’s where I went down and had a close encounter with the sidewalk, after taking that axial picture. It was quite foolish really, because I was walking to the far left, where the pavement of the sidewalk doesn’t “drop down to road level” anymore, and I guess I must have miscalculated the height of the sidewalk stones compared to the road… They’re much higher in Paris then I’m used to.
Anyhoo, despite the pain, I still entered the Arc and climbed all those stairs to the top. It’s a guy’s thing.
Entrance price was free for us since we are EU civilians under 26 (check the link above for more details on prices and opening hours).
A rest was due, but since we were at the start of the Champs Elysées, we ignored our tired feet and strolled down Europe’s most expensive shopping street… Ok, I’ll admit that I dragged my friends along the street for a while :p
Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Hugo Boss… *sigh* good times!
Halfway we did give in to our tired feet and dove into the metro to go to La Madeleine. This Neo-Classic temple is still an active church. Inside the only natural light comes from a few occuli round windows in the roof (sorry, not sure if occuli is the correct term here). It’s one of the more unusual churches I’ve seen so far in my life.
A block down the road from La Madeleine lies the Palais de Garnier, a very ornate monument to the performing arts. We were too late for one of the guided tours, and hoped to at least be able to enter the entrance hall. Sadly it was prohibited because it was the opening night of a new play. I don’t know which, but I should have seen it coming with all the fancy dressed people on the stairs.
Situated directly behind the Opera, Galleries Lafayette was something I had really wanted to include when we would visit this part of the city.
Architecturally, the women’s department is the more famous of the 3 buildings that make up the total department store. It’s the one you see on all the pictures. The men’s department has its own building next door, but if you’re a guy that’s into Art Nouveau decoration, please visit the female building too, you won’t regret it when you see the amount of detail in the light fittings, the balconies around the light well and of course the really nice stained glass cupola.
Right next door to Galleries Lafayette lies Galleries Printemps. So naturally I dragged my friends into that one too 😉
They too have a glass cupola, 2 actually, both a bit smaller than the one in Galleries Lafayette.
At this point my mates reminded me of the time, and that we had arranged to check in to our hostel around 8 PM. But out of all the moments, this was perhaps the worst for a pouring rain to start. It wasn’t fun.
After we picked up our luggage from the car we arrived soaking wet at the hotel.
We didn’t need long to check in, did some quick unpacking and allow our feet to have some rest. A bit after 9 PM we ran towards the nearest metro station and everybody agreed to return to the top of the Montmartre hill by metro as far as we could, to have dinner in La Taverne de Montmartre. Still, we arrived there totally soaked after carefully climbing the slippery cobble stones that pave many streets of the hill, but the tasty food made up for that.
With filled stomachs, we returned to our hostel, showered, and went to bed.