Being on the bucket list of every beauty and fashion blogger, I was so excited to set my sights on Paris. Paris is like the epitome of being girly. Macarons, the Eiffel Tower, berets, little dogs, hello? I knew I would love it already!
Although London still trumps my fave list, Paris did not disappoint. Originally I wanted to spend like five days in the France capital, but everyone said that you could easily do Paris in a weekend. I’m glad I listened to their advice, as they were right!
Okay, so as chic as Paris sounds and looks, I’ve heard mixed things about it. Some say it’s gorgeous and romantic, others say it smells and is dirty. Well, I can say that I’ve seen both sides. There are areas that beautiful and embody the Paris you see on postcards and see in movies, and then there are areas that have garbage everywhere, tons of graffiti and sketchy-looking people.
I got into sweet Paris on a Friday via an Air France flight from Florence to Charles de Gaulle and right away hopped on the RER B train that took me to Gare Du Nord station, which as I found most Parisians will tell you, it’s kinda in a dodgy neighbourhood. They were right, but honestly, I didn’t have any trouble at all with anyone or anything. My hostel, St. Christopher’s Gare Du Nord (full review on Friday) was located a stone’s throw from the station.
So I feel like there are a few staples that you just have to do when in Paris. Obviously, one is to visit the Louvre, which I did right after I ditched my stuff at the hostel. I bought 10 Metro tickets from the machine and hopped on the Paris Metro to the world’s most famous museum.
Since it was a Friday night, the Louvre was open late until 9:45 p.m. As I predicted, the pyramid entrance was busy so I walked across the street to the carousel entrance where took me to the Carrousel Du Louvre which is like a mini mall before the actual Louvre entrance. I highly recommend checking this out (even if you don’t want to do the actual Louvre) as there are some fab stores in here that sell some pretty unique and cool items (think design-forward, trendy pieces). It’s also home to the inverted pyramid (Dan Brown fans will get this reference, although I don’t actually think the Holy Grail is buried underneath 😉 ). I quickly paid my entrance free via a ticket terminal, grabbed a map, and began my search for the most iconic art piece in the world, the Mona Lisa.
The Louvre itself is giant, and by this point in my trip I was so over looking at art, so I just decided to pick out a few things I wanted to see, then bounce. Luckily, everything I was interested in is in the Denon Wing, and to make matters even better, there are tons of signs that tell you where the Mona Lisa is located (the signs literally look like they were just printed off a computer). I brought along Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code to read as I travelled, of which the Louvre plays a huge part in, so I was excited to see the glass pyramid, as well as a few other Da Vinci masterpieces and Louvre features that were mentioned in the novel.
So just as I expected, there was a crowd around the Mona Lisa, which is housed behind a wall of plexiglass. There is a velvet rope and two security guards beside the painting, as well as signs saying “beware of pickpockets” (there were a lot of these at the Louvre). I quickly made my way to the front, took some pics and selfies, and then made my way to the other pieces of art I was interested in. The Louvre is one of the world’s largest art galleries so I knew I wasn’t going to cover it all, and to be frank, I didn’t want to. I made my way over to see the Venus de Milo (had a Simpson’s moment – mmmmm Gummy di Milo), and then checked out some Egyptian mummies before I left. According to The Da Vinci Code, the Cole’s Notes – if you will – to the Louvre include the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory. I had never heard of the Winged Victory so I chose to skip it, but upon writing this post, it turns out that it’s actually being restored so it was closed to the public anyways. If you are an art enthusiast, I highly recommend downloading the Louvre app on your iPhone (I believe it was $1.99 and they give you free WiFi so you can download it) or pick up one of their Nintendo DS’ which seemed really handy. I didn’t care that much so I just walked around aimlessly looking for stuff that caught my attention.
From the Louvre, I was recommended by the super nice guy at my hostel to go to the Trocadero Metro stop which gives you the best views of the Eiffel Tower at night. He was right. There are multiple ways to get to the Eiffel Tower, but the Trocadero stop is apparently where all the best shots of the iconic landmark are taken. By the time I got there it was dark so I was awarded with a stellar view of the Eiffel Tower and the accompanying light show that happens for 10 minutes every hour at the hour. Just a note, at all the major tourist destinations (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Trocadero, Sacre Coeur, etc.) there are people trying to sell you Eiffel Towers, which I knew I was going to fully take advantage of. I don’t recommend buying from these guys as they are literally mosquitos, they will grab you, follow you, and bug you until you politely tell them to F off. These guys are forceful. If you want a great place for Paris souvenirs (Eiffel Towers are so in right now), there’s a street in the Montmartre district (get off at the Anvers Metro stop) that is just shop after shop of souvenirs. I got like five Eiffel Towers for 20 euro (the more you buy, the better deal you will get. Never take the price they offer you, barter down). Plus, if you are a pretty girl and talk with the guys, they will throw in free stuff. Some guy gave me an Eiffel Tower keychain just cause I talked with him, I didn’t even buy anything. He then proceeded to ask me if I wanted to catch dinner after he got off at 11 p.m. that night… Unlike Florence, I didn’t take the bait on that one.
Later that night, I did the usual and went to the hostel bar, grabbed a beer and joined a random table. The group of us ended up taking the Metro to the Bastille region and hit up a bar until 2 a.m. or so when we decided to head back. After my fiasco at 3:30 a.m. in Rome, I knew better to be separated from the group. Unfortunately that was the case again, but I latched onto my new New Zealand friend Allie, and in our drunken stupor (Jaggerbomb after Jaggerbomb) tried to find the bus so we could make our way back to the hostel. We asked some random guy to help us get us back to Gare Du Nord, and he walked around with us looking for the bus stop (Night Bus #2), after what felt like walking in a giant circle, we got to the stop, loaded onto the bus, and then at our stop the police came on. Here’s where Paris was almost ruined for me. The lady cop said we had the wrong tickets (they were the Metro ones, which apparently are interchangeable), I flashed the bus driver my ticket when I got on the bus, but I guess because I didn’t put it in the machine, we both got fined 33 euros. The cop lady “didn’t speak any English” and said either we pay now or we go with the French police and pay more. Luckily I had cash on me so I paid it, but I was pissed. Everyone I spoke with after said we shouldn’t have paid it, but being a Canadian in a foreign country, when the police say to pay something or go with them, you are gonna pay it. The cop never asked for my ID and I don’t even remember her checking my ticket, she just fined us.
Waking up the next day still feeling mad about that 33 euro I had to pay, I made headway to Galleries Lafayette. I was planning on hitting up the Eiffel Tower first but it was raining, so I figured somewhere indoors would be a safe haven. Galleries Lafayette is like the Harrod’s of Paris. Located on Haussman boulevard (an easy Metro ride there, I think the stop is literally called Lafayette), this department store is both architecturally beautiful and massive. The products range from affordable to extreme high end, and have every major luxury brand you can think of. When I was there, they were having a sale, so a lot of things were reasonably priced (obviously, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, etc. weren’t on sale, but the more contemporary brands were). I figured I bought enough in Florence, so I just chose to look around instead.
After, I made my way to the Chanel flagship store a 31 Rue Cambon, which was a 20-minute walk from Galleries Lafayette. It’s always been a dream of mine to go to the original Chanel store (where Coco Chanel had an apartment above the shop) and buy a Chanel bag. I already have a Chanel bag (got it in Vegas two or three years ago) and with the prices skyrocketing on their products, I knew a bag wouldn’t be possible. I was going to pick up earrings, but I spent so much in Florence already that I was over my Canadian duty limit ($800). Instead, I went in, looked around, and politely asked if I could take a picture on Coco’s staircase, where she would watch the fashion shows taking place in the shop below. It really was such a highlight to visit the original Chanel store and see where it all started. If you are a fashionista, this is a Paris must!
From there, I made my way over to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which is one of the world’s most famous streets and is home of some expensive real estate. I was told the shopping is amazing, but to be honest, I found Oxford Street home to better shops. There were a few car dealerships, an H&M, an overpriced McDonalds, a Lauderee (the line was too long to grab a macaron – if you want some macarons and don’t care about the quality and luxury of Lauduree or Pierre Hermes, pop on over to the Champs-Elysees McCafe which has macarons for one euro each). I did stop at the giant Sephora store which is home to every brand you can think of (aside from drugstore) and even houses a MAC counter (whhhhhaaattt?!!?!), and then popped into City Pharma where I got two 500 ml bottle of Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Solution for 16.95 euro (mega whhhhhhaaaattttt?!?!?!). I didn’t need any Bioderma because I have been loving L’Oreal’s version, but girl, you do not pass up Bioderma for that price (a 250 ml bottle of the stuff at Shoppers Drug Mart retails for C$22.95). They also had a special promo where it was buy one, get one half off, so realistically I could have gotten four bottles of the stuff for like 23 euros, but you needed their rewards card which is exclusive to French residents. Boo!
At the end of the Champs-Elysees (which also houses a very overpriced McDonalds location – C$11.99 for a Royale with Cheese combo, no thanks!) is the Arc de Triomphe. Since it’s in the middle of a roundabout, you have to go underground to reach it. You can also pay to climb to the top, which gives you fab views of the city and of the world’s most famous avenue.
From there, I made my way over to the Eiffel Tower, which is just so magical and beautiful to see. I swear, my heart skipped a beat every time I saw it. It looks exactly as it does in the movies, but nothing beats seeing it up close (I swear, I took like 50 photos of it).
I didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower because by the time I got there there was way too many people (it was a Saturday afternoon), plus, I feel like you go to the Eiffel Tower to see it, I ended up taking the Metro over to the Montmartre district and walked halfway up to the Sacre Coeur, which also gives you an amazing view of Paris. From there I checked out some shops around the area (if you are in Paris, make sure you stop by Pylones, they have really cool kitchen and home stuff) and then made my way over to the Moulin Rouge, which as you can imagine is in a neighbourhood with tons of sex shops. I didn’t go in the actual building because I believe that it’s more of a theatre. From there I walked back to my hostel and met up with my new friends from the night before.
Since I didn’t really take advantage of the food in Paris as much as I probably should have (compared to Italy), I decided that I wanted to go out and have a nice Parisian dinner. The guy that worked at the hostel front desk highly recommended Restaurant Bouillon Chartier because you could get a three-course dinner for 10 euro, which if you know Paris, is a fab deal. Allie (my new friend from Switzerland via New Zealand) and I decided to check it out and it turns out we weren’t the only ones looking for cheap eats. When we got there, there was a hefty line out front and we were told it was a 40-minute wait. Luckily, because there were two of us, we got in after 20 minutes, but because the place is so popular, they seat you at tables with other people. We were seated beside two guys who were French, which actually came in handy because the menu was all French, so they told us what was good and translated stuff for us. I ended up going for the steak with gravy and fries and we both got water because Allie was hungover from the night before and I didn’t want to drink an entire 10 euro bottle of mine by myself. They also give you free bread, which is always a plus in my books. My bill ended up coming to 11 euro, which is pretty good for a steak and fries (this is Paris, after all). They also had a dessert menu, but we chose to get some fresh pastries instead, which by the time we left (9 p.m. or so) was a harder feat than we imagined. All I wanted was a pain du chocolate, but everyone was out, we ended up finding a crepe place and my sweet’s craving was soon fulfilled.
The last day in Paris, Allie and I chose a district and walked around. We stopped by the Notre Dame (didn’t go in, I was so over churches by that point), and then headed to Rue de Rivoli, which houses a lot of commercial shops which is a great place to shop if you are looking for big chains like H&M mixed with smaller boutiques. Because it was a Sunday, a lot of things were closed, but we did find a few shops that were open (including a pet store where I got Ziggy a cute Parisian collar with moustaches on it). For lunch, we stopped by a bakery, got a baguette and some macarons and sat in a park and ate.
After, we both headed back to the hostel and took it easy, as I was leaving at 8 p.m. that night via the Eurostar chunnel back to London, and Allie was heading back to Switzerland at 4 p.m.
Overall, I loved Paris. I definitely feel like it’s more of a weekend getaway rather than a week-long affair, but I would definitely return.
Have you been to Paris? Enjoy the photos!
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