Paris: A whistle-stop winter tour

christmas in paris
A church across the road from the Louvre

I’ve always been a city girl at heart and a lucky one at that, having a city as great as London on my doorstep. Paris is another vibrant global city, which, despite being only a hope across the English Channel for me, I’ve shamefully never visited until this month. Despite only the shortest of visits, I was absolutely enchanted. I can’t say the Parisians thought the same of me though, since I kept unintentionally speaking a mixture of French and Spanish! Oops.

disneyland christmas trees
Sparkly Christmas magic in Disneyland

Our Paris visit was definitely very fleeting, but we got a great deal for a two-day visit through Groupon, with Disneyland Paris tickets included. We spent our first day having festive Disney fun and buying far too much merchandise; it was ridiculously cold so shops became our sanctuary. However, we were prepped with fluffy coats and drank ample amounts of mulled wine so we did do some venturing outside!

Day two was our chance to see ‘real Paris’. I don’t think I’ve ever crammed in so much into such little time! We decided our best plan of attack would be to walk around a smaller part of the city rather than trying to jump between tourist attractions on a gloomy underground train.

the palace of justice

paris street

With mini suitcases in tow, we got an early train into the centre of Paris to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Words really can’t describe the magnificent detail of this enormous cathedral. I couldn’t help but compare it to St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. They both have a formidable and awe-inspiring presence. And the longer you look at Notre-Dame, the more gargoyles, statues and other beautiful things you spot. Which is just as well because the queue to get inside was huge!

notre dame cathedral

Despite getting there before ten o’clock in the morning, we waited for an hour outside in the cold, with tummies rumbling but that gave us plenty of time to take photos of the exterior. Plus entry is free so can’t complain too much! The day we went, there was a special service happening inside which gave the cathedral a touching atmosphere, especially as it was the Christmas season. There was also a grandly lit nativity scene set up inside which did oddly remind me of St Basil’s cathedral in Moscow.

nativity scene

The inside of Notre Dame is almost a little intimidating, with its huge gothic ceilings and long dark corridors. The most beautiful parts inside are definitely the colourful stain-glass windows with a large one either side of the cathedral.

 

inside notre dame

inside notre dame cathedral

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to the top of Notre Dame and look out onto the city but I would definitely recommend doing it if you can. Although beware, there are 400 steps to climb first!

After visiting Notre-Dame we walked about five minutes down the road and found a typical Parisian café for breakfast (although by that time it was midday, so more like lunch!). It was a tiny little place with really lovely staff. I had a delicious chocolate pancake cooked under my nose with a glass of fresh orange juice. When he said fresh, I didn’t realize quite how fresh. I watched the waiter patiently squeeze what seemed like a dozen oranges into my glass. It definitely took him more time to prepare than it did for me to drink, poor guy!

paris cafe
Not the cafe we ate at but the name demanded a photo.

We used this pit-stop to work out where to head to next, which was a little tricky without Googlemaps and just an old fashioned map. Sorry, my navigation is terrible! I need to be spoon-fed directions! I think our waiter sensed our angst so he kindly gave us the café’s wi-fi password. I know Parisians have a reputation of being a bit rude/impatient but I met so many friendly and helpful Parisians!

macaroons

meringues

We headed off to the Louvre by foot but ended up stopping at this yummy bakery about three cafes away from our lunch spot. We couldn’t resist the giant chocolate meringues so got one each to fuel our walk. They were super cheap too, considering we were in quite a touristy spot. I think they were two euros each.

Back on track, our walk to the Louvre should have been 25 minutes although in reality it was longer because I kept stopping every ten seconds to take a photo. Oops. Some photos from our walk below.

paris

paris street

paris buildings

paris buildings

Eventually we made it to the Louvre, although unfortunately didn’t have to go inside the museum. But we did go inside the gift shop quickly… I’m ashamed but it was better than nothing! I’m not sure how I really imagined the Lourve but it’s definitely bigger than I thought and it has huge and imposing courtyards, just as grand as the rest of Paris’s major landmarks. And of course, there are the famous Louvre glass pyramids. I tried my best not to see Tom Hanks/the Da Vinci code all around there!

louvre museum

louvre museum

From the courtyard where the Louvre pyramids are, you can spot the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel – not to be confused with the bigger Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, I later found out! Cue more photo taking.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Unfortunately, there ended our whistle-stop tour of Paris. For only the half a day we had there, I was enchanted. From the beautiful side streets of Paris, to it’s grand architecture, history, proud culture and, what I found to be, friendly and helpful locals. Perhaps the strong sense of unity and openness is a mark of how Paris has tackled this tough year. The city has carried itself with dignity and pride, still willing to show off its treasures. I can’t wait to go back and discover much more of Paris, especially as it’s so close to me. No excuses! Better brush up on my French though…

Have you ever been to Paris? How would you spend your ideal day there? Which bakeries and cafes are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!


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