I have the ultimate love-hate relationship with Paris. The minute I arrive, I’m annoyed because Charles de Gaulle Airport is so big and I have two walk what feels like 50 miles just to retrieve my one suitcase, only to then be subjected to the stench of urine in every train / metro station. Many a time I have been so offended by the smell of Gare du Nord that I’ve almost jumped back on the Eurostar to be taken back to St Pancras.
But then I see the Eiffel Tower and hear an accordion…and remember why Paris keeps pulling me back. Driving through Paris, you can’t help but have one of those moments when you feel like you are in a music video or in the montage of an old 80s film, because the backdrop is so beautiful. All of Paris’ main attractions are clustered together, only a kilometre or so away from each other, so can all be seen in quick succession – perfect for that music video I always imagine (act out…sometimes) when driving through the centre. All that’s needed in addition is a black and white filter and a moody looking man in a striped top puffing on a cigarette, just to really complete the stereotype.
Just as I begin to tomber amoureux with Paris and its beautiful sights, a street-seller will demand 10€ for a light-up Eiffel Tower key ring that I haven’t even asked for, and then hiss at me when I say “no merci”. And so it always continues through the whole trip, the constant battle between love and hate – no wonder I always come away from Paris feeling so exhausted!
The only way to truly enjoy Paris is to become Parisian. Some people interpret that to mean wearing a cravat and barging their way through the metro elbowing anybody else out of the way. Personally I interpret it to mean black coffee, escargot, scooters and a lot of shopping!
The Champs-Élysées is where my dreams come true. Somehow I always survive Paris, but my bank account never does and it’s all down to this one street of wonder where, for me, it is like Christmas every day. Chanel and Tiffany & Co.starring on the roadside, Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship store tucked away behind an “aristocratic” box-hedged garden … I could continue for days.
When taking on the heart of Europe’s fashion capital, one can be forgiven for forgetting to stop for a second and take in the beauty of the street. Taking a break to soak up some of the Parisian summer sun and recharge with a handful of Macaroons, my breath was taken away when I looked down the street. With Place de la Concorde in the distance, the magnificence of the street is stunning. An even better view can be found from the top of the Arc de Trimophe, where your breath is taken away, not just by the bitter gusts of wind, but the sensational scene before you.
The River Seine which runs through the heart of the city captures the very essence of Parisian life. With nearly all major landmarks just a short walk from the river, one of the most scenic ways to travel is by boat.
In accordance with the rest of the city centre, the bridges are majestic with a golden, regal theme. Since Pont des Arts became overcrowded with love locks, bridges all over the city have started to become decked with thousands of them. Paris is questionably branded the ‘city of love’ – it seems thousands of amoureux couples would agree!
Le Louvre is one of those features of Paris, where you could return time after time and always find something you haven’t seen before. This was the third time I had visited, yet I was still as fascinated by the artwork and the sculptures as I had been the first time around. There is no better history lesson than a stroll around each floor of the museum, seeing genuine pieces of history before you. Each time I visit the Louvre I head straight to the Egyptian Antiquities section; it always astounds me that artefacts so old have survived millennia and how we can learn so much about that period of history just from these findings.
The sheer size of the museum is a testament to the futuristic vision of its founders. Today, it is easy to see why Le Louvre is one of the most visited museums on Earth.
As I bid à bientôt to Paris once again, I am on the one hand relieved to be out of France’s hostile capital. Yet on the other hand, I know it won’t be long until I return again!