After two fantastic weeks in Germany, it was time for the next part of the Europe adventure.
After staying the night in Frankfurt, I caught a train to Paris. Having been all over Germany on IC, EC, and DB Regio trains – all of which leave NZ/AU trains looking very old and slow – the ICE train was another level of speed (and comfort). The trip from Frankfurt to the French border went through small town after small town, in very thick heavy fog. We then went into a deep valley between mountains and came out in France. Once into the French countryside we blasted along the tracks at 300kmh+.
On arrival at Gare de l’Est in Paris, I had to walk a “short” distance through to Gare du Nord to catch a metro to my hotel. Despite the walk between the stations being well signposted I still managed to get lost in a rather shady neighbourhood. Once I finally found my way to the metro station, bought a ticket, and caught two metros to get to the station that my hotel was closest to, I managed to get lost again. After walking 500m in the wrong direction I finally found my hotel. After checking in, it was time to explore the city.
Given I had exactly 48 hours in Paris I was determined to see as much of it as possible. My initial plan was simple, walk from Notre-Dame to the Eiffel Tower along the Seine. To begin, I caught a metro to Hôtel de Ville and then ate lunch while I walked through to Notre-Dame. After exploring Notre-Dame I continued to follow my nose and managed to get lost again, and after walking in a circle found myself (initially without realising) back at Hôtel de Ville. From here I walked down to the Louvre. Along the way I went into Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois church.
Because of the short time I had to spend in Paris, I had previously decided not to visit any museums. However, on seeing that the queue to get into the Louvre was short and it was a late opening night I immediately broke that rule and spent the rest of the day and evening there. The size of the Louvre is beyond massive, I tried to see as much of it as possible, to the point where I was walking through rooms and room and rooms of paintings without even looking at them. The highlights were the rooms in which paintings covered every surface from the roof to the floor, the sculpture from Greece, Rome and Egypt, and Napoleon III’s apartments.
After not travelling very far along the Seine during the first afternoon in Paris, I started the following morning at the opposite end of the city at the Arc de Triomphe. How anyone manages to navigate this nightmare of a roundabout is something of a miracle. There are no lanes and people just randomly enter, stop, change lanes, and exit the roundabout in a completely unpredictable manner. From here I walked down to the Eiffel Tower.
At the Eiffel Tower I decided to climb the stairs rather than take the elevator. Despite the morning fog over much of the city this was a fun way to explore the tower and I managed most of the crowds. Following on from this I walked down to Église Saint-Louis des Invalides where I had lunch.
After lunch I walked down the Avenue des Champs Élysées to the Place de la Concorde. Beyond this I continued through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. After stopping for a second lunch, I walked through to and down the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Along the way I went into the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés which is one of the oldest churches in Paris. I then walked through to and explored the Le Jardin du Luxembourg.
From here I jumped on a metro through to Montmartre. At first I found the Moulin Rouge and then headed up to the Sacré-Cœur. Despite the spectacular view from Sacré-Cœur I didn’t stay long in the area as it was full of dodgy street vendors and pickpockets. From here I caught a metro back to the Opéra de Paris where I walked through the city to the Centre Pompidou to round out the day. Overall, I walked 25km in one long day and my legs were exhausted.
The following morning I caught the RER out to La Défense, the modern business area of Paris. After spending a few hours taking photos and shopping, I headed back into the city to explore the massive department store that is Galeries Lafayette. Finally I headed to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar to London.