I’ve been meaning to write about Paris for months. However, I should warn you, it will be difficult for me to write about the most romantic city in the world without sounding effusive.
Paris was as wonderful as I imagined – and then some. Everything the French do, they do beautifully. The architecture, the art galleries, the art itself. It wasn’t until I visited Paris that I realised my favourite painters are French – I’ve always loved Monet and Degas. The art galleries in Paris are truly works of art.
The colours are soft in Paris, with beige stone buildings complementing the deep green of the Seine. Everything is lovely – except the subway. The Metropolitan signs are so garish and dated you can’t imagine how they can exist in modern Paris.
And the food is spectacular. The fruit is fresh, unlike our transported variety, the sweet strawberries and juicy pears were heavenly. There were gorgeous delicatessens lining the streets behind my apartment, where I would stop after a day of sightseeing and pick up my evening meal. Baguette, cheese and fruit followed by a delicious sweet cake. I wrote French words in my notebook so I could speak with the shopkeepers. The French are most gracious when you at least attempt to speak their language.
I rented an apartment through Air B&B across the road from Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris but ironically called ‘new bridge’) and it was wonderful. I felt like a Parisian local stepping out of my apartment every morning. I’d eat breakfast in the morning and then head out for the day. I was suddenly a morning person in Paris, which ordinarily I am not. However, it should be noted, Parisians are not morning people and the only shops open before 10am serve coffee and pastries.
The Louvre was a short walk away, past a couple of lovely cafés, a row of tacky souvenir shops and you were there. I visited the Louvre three times during my five days in Paris – once to see the Mona Lisa and then simply to wander and lose myself in the history, the beauty and the art. It really is a treasure for the world.
My top tip if you are visiting Paris is to get a Paris Museum Pass - it was 69 Euros for six days and worth every cent. The pass gives you free access to all the galleries and museums via an express entrance (the rooftop of Notre Dame was the only exception). The queues for tourist attractions in Europe are unbelievable – I was there in April, before peak season, and would have spent the better part of each day queuing without the pass.
I spent four days walking everywhere, absorbing Paris with a big grin on my face to finally be there – along the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, Jardin du Luxembourg, Montmartre and the islands. I ended up visiting the Eiffel Tower three times, catching a boat home one evening to watch the city of lights come to life.
The islands, Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Citie, are lovely and the best place to buy scarves. French women wear scarves like no other. Shopping in Paris is expensive but the quality is beautiful. Galeries Lafayette is worth visiting simply for the architecture, if not the shopping.
And then on the fifth day there was Versailles. The gardens in Paris are exquisite, but Versailles is truly remarkable. Perfectly majestic, complete with piped classical music playing across the manicured hedges, blooming flowers and sculptured fountains. Riding around the magnificent water gardens on a bicycle on a perfect spring day is a memory I will always treasure.
Paris is now my favourite city in the whole world. But then again, I still have so much more of Europe to see.