After leaving Notre Dame my partner and I were a bit like: “Well… where to now?” We had a whole day ahead of us in Paris and there was so much to do. While we decided exactly where to head to next, we did a bit of wandering around that part of the city, checking out the Panthéon and other bits and pieces. We checked out a nearby park, Jardin du Luxembourg, then decided we would actually tackle the Eiffel Tower that day. And as we had made a habit of, we decided to walk the whole way.
It was a beautiful walk, following the River Seine, and seeing more and more of Paris along the way. We stopped for lunch at a small café by Musée d’Orsay, one of the biggest art museums in Europe, stumbled across a boutique chocolate shop selling chocolate for exorbitant prices (think hundreds of Euros for an average-sized Easter egg), before finally rounding a corner to see the Eiffel Tower properly for the first time.
It was one of those surreal moments where you finally see something you’ve seen countless times in various media with your own eyes and it’s totally unlike anything you expected. I think the last time I had that feeling was with the Statue of Liberty in New York, but it was far more intense this time. Whereas the Statue of Liberty actually seemed smaller than I thought it would be, the Eiffel Tower was bigger – way bigger. I mean, I knew it was tall, but seeing it for myself really made me realise just how huge it is – 324m high. As a comparison, the Sky Tower is only just taller at 328m, but the Eiffel Tower also takes up way more ground area with its four legs. It was also quite different in colour to what I expected; a bit more coppery than it seemed in the various pictures I’d seen.
It stood right at the end of a long, wide strip of grass, lined with trees like a park, and we joined the steadily-growing throng of other tourists making their way towards the tower along it. Upon reaching the base of the tower, we found lines and lines of people waiting to ascend it. We knew there were going to be lots of other people wanting to see the Eiffel Tower, but hadn’t accounted for the fact that it was Easter Sunday and the crowds were going to be bigger than usual. There wasn’t much we could do about that, though, and we had already made it this far so decided to just join the queue. It took two hours just to get into the first elevator – and that only took us to the first level. It was another hour-long wait to take the next lift to the top, but, again, we decided we hadn’t made it this far to not do this thing properly. And once we finally got there, I didn’t regret it.
The view at the top was just incredible. I could see for miles in every direction, and really understood for the first time the sheer scope of Paris. The city is simply enormous, and the fact that you can pick out all the key landmarks amongst it all says something about the size of them too.
The thing was, though, that the top of the tower was so high, it was almost like being on a mountain; wind gusts were rocking the spire and at that height you could definitely feel yourself swaying. And the wind brought with it a pretty stinging lashing of rain that day (which did result in this awesome rainbow, so it wasn’t all bad).
But I would warn anybody with height fears about going to the top; my partner could barely let go of the wall to steady herself. She’s glad she went to the top to see the view but really struggled with the height. It’s worth noting the wait time too; although we were there on a public holiday, I assume wait times could get pretty lengthy whenever. So if you’re not a big heights person or you’re not particularly interested in just going up a tower, you may not want to spend a few hours standing in a line when you could use that time elsewhere in Paris. Seeing the Eiffel Tower is definitely a must, though, even if it’s just from the ground.
Crossing the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower off our to-do lists meant we had seen the key sites we wanted to in Paris. Now we had the freedom to do a bit of exploring, and the next day we decided to take the advice of a friend of mine and headed to a northern part of the city called Montmartre.
Montmartre is actually a hill and, from a distance, is characterised by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a towering white Roman Catholic church. We got there via the subway, and when we arrived at our stop, we climbed a spiralling staircase that actually took us up the inside of the hill.
The district has its own quirky character; narrow, cobbled streets and all manner of shops selling sweets or baking. The best part, though, is Place du Terte, a square where artists gather and draw or paint tourists. We didn’t get our portraits done, but took a walk around the square observing the artists in action. Some of them were simply amazing, and we ended up finding a café on the square where we could sit with a coffee and watch the artists do their thing.
Sacré-Cœur is actually right by Place du Terte, and while I won’t go into detail about this church, I will say that the view from its steps back out over the city below is impressive.
And it wouldn’t be a trip to Paris without a fancy restaurant dinner, so we made sure to treat ourselves to a nice meal and a bottle of red wine on our last night.
I think that about sums up our time in Paris. I’m not sure my two pieces really do the city justice, as there is bound to be so much more we could have done and seen. But, I guess the fact that I fell in love with the city based on the limited amount I did see goes to show how amazing a place it is. I’m not that well-travelled, but of all the cities I’ve been to, Paris is definitely my favourite. Everything from its architecture, to its food and its culture impressed me. Someday I hope to go back.
So that brings us to the end of “The Travel Blog”, which, in future, I think I’ll write as I’m travelling. There’s actually a fair bit more to our trip than this – after Paris we travelled via the Chunnel to London, which was also a really cool city. I had this strange feeling as the train pulled into St Pancras railway station that I was, in a way, returning to where I’m from – when I think about my tūpuna I tend to only think of my Māori ones and not those from England. It was certainly strange – but cool at the same time – to realise that I had arrived in the land of my ancestors on another side of my whakapapa. After London we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland, to visit an old mate of mine. Simultaneously modern and gothic, Edinburgh was one of the more unique cities I think we went to (plus we had an epic night out there).
But I think to recount the rest of the journey will simply take too long and, as I said in my last post, there are some other things I want to turn my attention to and write about. Au revoir – until next time!