Both my wife and I had been to Paris before but we never got the chance to visit the city of lights together. We finally managed to get some time off recently and immediately hopped on to a Eurostar from London’s St. Pancreas International station to Paris’s Gare du Nord. From London, Eurostar is definitely the most convenient and cost-effective option if you have to travel to Paris, Brussels or even Nice and south of France.
Our apartment, booked through Airbnb, was at Rue St Georges near Montmarte and we had already decided to take the Metro to the apartment. So after reaching Paris, the first things we did were to buy the T+ tickets, which came in sets of 10, and to get hold of a Paris metro map. The T+ tickets are one of the most cost-effective ways to roam around Paris as these are valid on the metro, buses and water taxis.
Rue Saint Georges is a narrow quaint street with its quintessential Parisian apartments tucked away just beneath the Montmartre hills. Our host was Antoine and his 2nd floor studio apartment was a masterpiece in space management. It was very well stocked and just perfect for the kind of romantic getaways they show in movies. Though we never got to meet Antoine as he communicated exclusively through WhatsApp, it was nonetheless a pleasure staying at his apartment.
After freshening up a bit, we decided to walk about the Montmartre district and visit Sacre Coeur. We took to Rue des Martyrs, the foodie heaven filled with pastry shops, butchers, fishmongers, fresh fruit and vegetable sellers from all over the place. It is, as this article says, like a whole different world within Paris – magic compressed in time and space. After a short stroll through the Boulevard de Rochechouart, we climbed up the hill to be greeted by the majestic
Basilica of Sacre Coeur and the bohemian Montmartre village. I can never get tired of the view from Montmartre hill – Paris sprawled in front of me, glistening white like a young bride’s dress. There is a certain charm to this view, devoid of the attention grabbing Eiffel tower. Like a bride’s dress, this view invites your gaze on the whole rather than focus it on one particular aspect. Bohemiam to the core.
Day 2 was all about Louvre. We are both big time art lovers and Louvre is without doubt a paradise for us artsy types. It attracts around 9 million visitors from all over the globe every year – the most of any museum and a no mean feat considering the second museum on the list – the British Museum attracts a full 3 million fewer visitors per year. But this huge number of visitors creates its own issues with overcrowding and unending queues. We wanted to find a way of avoiding the dreaded queues and the long wait to get in. I started searching for the best time to visit and stumbled upon this gem of a resource – a secret entrance to Louvre.
Instead of using the main Pyramid entrance, there is an alternative entrance through the Carrousal de Louvre. If you are worried about missing the pyramid, then don’t; you can always see it when you exit Lourve. Entering the shopping mall, we went to the lowest floor and followed the signs there. As expected there were the Louvre ticket machines and guess what, there were no queues. There is also a souvenir shop in the lower floor which sells tickets to the museum, in case one is unable to locate the ticket machines. The signs to the museum entrance are quite clear and there is very little chance that one would miss them. Moreover, there is likely to be a small queue to enter the museum, which would take you to the security check area from where you can enter the main foyer of the Louvre.
After heading straight to the priceless Mona Lisa, we spent another 3 hours in the museum, admiring our respective favourite pieces of art and sculpture. Louvre is absolutely monstrous and it is not possible to see everything in one go. Luckily, we had researched our options, seeing things that we really wanted to see, rather than waste time on things that didn’t interest us much. I realised that if you are in the museum early, you can actually cover most of the things and still come out with sufficient time for other things. We were done by about 2pm and after a quick-lunch in the museum, decided to call it quits.
Exiting through the pyramid entrance, we strolled through the Jardin des Tuileries for a bit and then walked the banks of river Seine hand-in-hand. Passing the many canal boats and their inhabitants, reminded me of the scooter-chase scene in the movie Ratatouille. We emerged from our intimate walk near the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. As we were making our way to the Champs-Élysées metro station, awestruck by the sheer magnificence of these two majestic building, we suddenly encountered a vast gathering of reporters and journalists.
Apparently, President Hollande was passing by and through sheer coincidence, we found our selves with a prime spot within an arm’s length of him. Reeling from the shock of meeting both Mona-Lisa and Holland within hours, we had to come back home and rest for the remainder of the day. It helped that Antoine’s flat was cozy and romantic as well.