Having lived in Paris for a year, I’ll be doing a lot of posts about it for ShallowPockets, revealing my favourite haunts and lesser-known places to explore. The weekend my friend, Martin came to visit is the perfect adventure to start with as some friends of his were in Paris for their first time. Only staying for a day, the pair of us gave them a crash tour – I didn’t think it possible to squeeze so much out of a few hours, but we did it and on-the-cheap too!
Before I go on, if you plan on doing a lot of travelling around Paris for a day, invest in a Mobilis – it’s a day travel ticket that allows you to use unlimited metros, RERs, trams and buses and will save you heaps of money. See the prices for the all zones here (it’s all in French so use Google Translate). I will be writing a future post specifically about Parisian transport, but for now, this tip will have to do.
Bright and early, we had a Parisian breakfast of coffee and pain au chocolates and then walked to our first point of call: The Arc de Triomphe. We wanted to go to the top but sadly, a public strike meant admittance was closed (quelle surprise?). I’ve been up there before and definitely advise you go. The views are beautiful and if you’re a student or an EU citizen under 25, it’s free entry as long as you have some ID; a super way to get a bird’s eye view of Paris without having to pay. Thanks to the French’s appreciation of the arts, this pricing policy is found in most French museums. For those of you who don’t fall into this category, the first Sunday of every month is free entry to all. Win-win!
From the Arc de Triomphe, we walked down the Champs Elysées admiring all the shops’ window finery such as the incredibly cool car showrooms, tasty Macaroon-strung window displays and fashion shops flaunting their wears (we ignored the large McDonalds which
brought the tone down somewhat). We wandered all the way down to Grand Palais and then left for food in a more reasonably priced area. If you’re interested in learning some bits about the buildings along the Champs Elysées, this site has good info.
We arrived at the Latin Quarter: my favourite restaurant haunt. You’ll be spoiled for choice here, defineately go. Get the Metro Line 4 to St. Michael. There are wonderful deals around – I’m talking about tasty €10 3-course-meals-kind-of-wonderful! This time our commitment to the cause made us look for something even cheaper; kebabs! While they were a guilty pleasure, what a pleasure they were! Served with a side of hot and crispy chips, they came to about €4. Sorted!
After refuelling, it was off to Notre Dame. We appreciated the Cathedral from outside but for those interested, entry is free to all but expect long queues. If you want to go up to the bell tower, it costs €7.50 for adults, €4.80 for under 25s and nothing at all for under 18s. It’s worth the money as walking amongst the gargoyles and shuffling along like Quasimoto is great fun. As for the Cathedral, the architecture and stained-glass windows are lovely to look at, but signs everywhere asking for donations or trying to sell you something really take from the whole thing.
A tour of Paris really isn’t a tour without a visit at the Eiffel Tower. No matter what category you fall into, there’s a ka-ching involved. Depending on whether you want to go to the second floor, or all the way up, prices differ. Check them out here. As before, we enjoyed the view from the ground and kept our wallets happy. Having only been up it at night, I still have to say the views are spectacular… but it’s REALLY windy and cold so wear a thick jumper if you’re going up!
From there, it was onwards to the Louvre! An entertaining thing to are the Louvre metro stations which are decorated like exhibitions – a novelty in themselves. You can’t understand how big this place is until you’ve been there! On this occasion, a walk through the Louvre’s courtyard and a photo in front of the glass pyramid left the group content to move on. I’ve been here a few times to see the Roman and Egyptian exhibits (and yes, the Mona Lisa too – a bit of a letdown really). While both sections are very worth-while going to, my favourite thing about the Louvre is actually its outside. It used to be one of Louis XIV’s chateaux, so has a gorgeously decorated exterior! The colour of the stone and the details on the engravings are things that just make my day. You’ll be pleased to know the Louvre has the same pricing policy as the Arc de Triomphe; free for students! Do yourself a favour and go investigate it, you’ll be glad you did. See its opening times here.
We finished our evening back in the Latin Quarter by heading toPlace Monge – this is a great student area, full of bars and clubs offering decent drink deals. Before we hit these however, we strolled along Rue Mouffetard (I don’t know about you, but that name cracks me up every time!) enjoying all the quaint shops and panoramic views around us – the area is high up so you can see a lot of Paris here. Walking around, we found ourselves atJardin des Plantes; a truly delightful garden. It’s laid out in a very typically French fashion – neat rows and well pruned plants that you’re not “supposed” to push your friends into but what the hell! There’s also a really cool-looking Natural History Museum there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go into, but you can read about its contents here and see if it tickles your fancy:http://www.mnhn.fr/museum/foffice/transverse/transverse/accueil.xsp?cl=en
After all that, we found a place doing happy hour – Desperados, amigos! A few happy hours later, followed by a stop at Monoprix, we bought dinner (and maybe a few more Desperados…) and chilled in the friends’ hotel room before finally heading home. Thinking that it must be close to 2am and then learning it was closer to 11.30pm, brought us a mixed sense of shame and satisfaction as we ended our fun-filled and inexpensive day.