One of my best friends Amy just came back from living in Paris for four months as part of her Master’s degree, so just before she came back, I flew out to stay with her for a few days. This was part of one of my New Year’s resolutions to visit at least two different countries this year, a resolution which is now complete thanks to going to Ireland and Paris. I’ve been to Paris before, but it was several years ago on a school trip, and we spent the majority of the time in museums or at Disneyland. It was nice to go back as an adult and soak up some of the Parisian culture in such a relaxed way, and we did a few amazing things that have been on my bucket list for a while.
I decided to fly in rather than get the Eurostar because booking the Eurostar at the time I went was expensive and would have ended up more than the flight anyway if I included the cost of the train from where I live into London. I love airports and I like flying alone, and as the flight was only an hour it gave me some time to just relax, listen to music, and not worry about work or anyone else for once! Landing in Paris, it was raining (typical) but my out-of-practice French helped me to identify which bus I needed, and I bought a ticket at the machine. The bus and metro tickets are so tiny!
I arrived in the evening, so Amy and I didn’t do much, just caught up with some wine (of course) and hid from the rain with her lovely Parisian flat mates. We started our adventures the next day by going to the amazing book shop Shakespeare and Company, exploring its beautiful interior and having coffee in its cute little café.
Then we went over the river to go to Notre Dame. I’d forgotten just how beautiful Notre Dame is. All the churches and cathedrals in Paris are stunning, and Notre Dame’s stained glass is so perfect, I could have stayed staring at it forever. But Amy and I had bigger things planned.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 25 and are a European Citizen, then a lot of the historical landmarks and tourist attractions in Paris are free to you. You don’t have to pay the extortionate prices, you just have to queue and wait. Once Amy had told me this, it seemed obvious that we would do something I have always wanted to do, which is to go and see the actual bells and climb right to the top of Notre Dame! It’s not the highest point in Paris but it is still just as beautiful and you get panoramic views right the way around. We were lucky enough to go up whilst it was cloudy in the sky but clear below, and it was cool enough that climbing all those stairs (seriously, there’s a lot) didn’t heat us up too much.
We also went to Saint Chapelle, which has even more gorgeous and older stain glass windows, only just around the corner from Notre Dame. It is beautiful, although nothing compares to the Notre Dame gargoyles and grotesques.
For dinner we went to Hank, which is a vegan burger joint. Amy has been vegan for quite a while now, so I ate the same as her on my visit, as I have been trying to cut back on my animal product intake anyway. Hank’s burgers are quite possibly the best burgers I have ever tasted. They are so saucy and delicious with intense, interesting flavors, and yet the texture is perfect, not trying to be meat, but still feeling that burger craving hole. I wish Hank was in the UK.
On the Friday, we went to the catacombs. Before I went to Paris, I looked up interesting things to do, as I wasn’t keen on going to every single art gallery or tourist place, but the catacombs came up in my research and I thought that Amy, as a history nerd, would really enjoy them (luckily she hadn’t got round to doing it yet). We queued for ages in the cold, but once we got in, seeing the necropolis that lives under the city was amazing, and a little bit creepy. My main concern is, whose job was it to stack all those skulls up like that?! Worst job ever.
In the evening, Amy and her course mates had an end-of-year celebration planned, and were kind enough to invite me along. Along with a couple of their course leaders, they had organized a dinner trip on a boat down the Seine. I’d been along the Seine last time I visited Paris, but this entire boat trip was amazing. Canapés and champagne on arrival, and a three course meal that made me never want to stop eating, all with relaxing music, awesome French waiters, and French wine bought for us by the course leader. It was such a warm evening that we could go out on deck and not feel like we were being swept away, and we went right past the Eiffel Tower as it started to sparkle. It was beautiful and I think it made everyone on the course grateful that they were living in Paris even more than they already were.
The next morning, after adjusting to dry land once more, Amy decided she needed to do some studying (fair enough), so one of her flat mates, who is American, took me for a walk along to the Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. Montmartre was one of the places I have been dying to revisit for years and years. It is so fascinating and busy and just makes me think of Paris bohemia and freedom. Sacre Coeur, too, is my favorite religious site that I have ever been to. That ceiling?! So worth it. Even if you aren’t allowed to take pictures, which hurts my little social-media soul.
After we wondered around the Sacre Coeur, discussing religion (sorry Coco, probably quite a heavy topic!), we went for crepes in Montmartre. I had mine stuffed full of Nutella and bananas, because why would you not? Crepes are the food of the gods. Also, it meant that the artists stopped coming up asking to draw us, when we had mouths full of crepe and chocolate around our faces.
We also walked back down the hill to get the metro from the stop near the Moulin Rouge, just so I could see it. We were hoping to find Van Gogh’s house, but got distracted by the adorable Parisian flats, so seeing the Moulin Rouge was good enough!
Saturday was definitely a treat day, because I also tried tofu for the first time with Amy for dinner in the evening (kind of bland but delicious when she cooked it), and we also took a trip to a vegan bakery that she loves called Vegan Follies, and we bought all of the cake ever. We had vegan brownie and vegan cheese cake, which honestly, although the texture is weird, tastes like sugary, cakey goodness. No wonder she is so good at being vegan in Paris when she has all these options!
Sunday was my last day with Amy, my flight home being in the evening, and so we got up early specifically so we could go to the Palace of Versailles. I have never been anywhere so beautifully indulgent and rich in my life. It’s like a frosted wedding cake, only instead of sugar, its iced in gold, and instead of filling, it’s got paintings and statues and endless perfect gardens. We didn’t pay to go into the gardens, as we were running low on time (and funds), but the inside of the palace was worth the trip out of Paris, worth even my flight over in the first place. Seeing that much grandeur makes you realise just how rich the French royal family were. And how talented artists and architects were.
It was the perfect end to my trip, and I got back on the plane feeling content with life. Seeing Amy after so many months was good for our friendship and also made me miss living with her!
Now she’s off to Glasgow, so maybe I should use that as an excuse to visit Scotland!!