Paris: Day 2

Yes, I’m writing a post for my second day in Paris on my third day. No, I haven’t got my days mixed up. The reason is that my second day actually ran over into my third.

I started off by getting up nice and early for a long day of walking. Up at 6.30, showered and ready to go for 7.15. In anticipation for a lot of walking, I had saved places I wanted to go on my maps, so in case I lost signal I could at least find a landmark and a Métro station. My first place to go had to be the Eiffel Tower. I’d checked the Métro map the previous day, so knew I needed to take two separate lines. Firstly, I needed to go from Lamarck-Caulaincourt to Montparnasse-Bienvenüe. Then, I needed to switch to Ligne 6 towards Étoile, and get off at Bir-Hakeim. There was a short walk to the base of the tower. My thinking was if I got up early enough, I might be able to avoid the queues. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. The line went back quite a distance, so I decided I’d come back later on.

In the meantime, I found a café and sat down for breakfast. I noticed by looking around that the French like to smoke. A lot. Outside many of the cafés, there were workers having a cigarette before their shift, customers smoking, people on the streets. Everywhere I went.

Cycling in Paris is a lot safer, and easier to get into, than you might think. On many busy roads, there is a dedicated cycle lane kept separate from the main road, and plenty of people use it. And if you don’t have a bike, don’t worry! There are currently two services to hire a bicycle in Paris: Lime and Ofo. Lime bikes have their own racks to hire and return from, and you can borrow one using the app. They even have electric scooters to borrow. With Ofo, it’s even easier. You simply download the app, sign up for an account, add your payment card, and it finds your nearest bike. It’s currently 7p per half-hour of use, and you can actually leave the bikes anywhere in the operation zone. Once you’re done, you tap the button in the app to say you’ve finished your use, then click the lock on the back wheel.

Another interesting thing to note is the obvious high level of security everywhere. In all museums and famous landmarks, you must go through airport-level security. You have to put your things in a plastic tray, and go through a metal detector. While it might seem annoying to some, it’s keeping us all safe. On the streets, it’s not uncommon to see armed police on patrol. Who can blame France for heightened security, given the spate of recent terror attacks?

Once I had finished my crepe au chocolat, I worked out where I wanted to go next. Having already gone through a few Metro stations, I’d made a mental note to get off at an interesting-looking one. Therefore, I chose ‘L’Assemblée Nationale’. With it’s weird, yellow-undertone lighting, mirrored tiles and words to do with politics all over the walls, it seemed pretty interesting. I also guessed that ‘L’Assemblée Nationale’ was quite an important building in France, definitely one to get a glimpse at. After a few photos of the building and the Seine, my next choice was ‘Concorde’. I had heard of the ‘Place de la Concorde’, but had never seen it. I went back down into the Métro station and took a few stops along to the square, which has a stone obelisk in the centre, with a fountain and gold-accented street lamps. Having spotted a sign on the wall nearby, I had a quick look, and I happened to be quite near to the Louvre museum.

Having never been to the Louvre, or seen pictures of the inside, I had no idea what to expect apart from the massive glass pyramid. Luckily for me, Parisian museums are free to those under 26 living in the EEA. Not that this was much use stood in a massive queue. Although, I noticed with many places requiring tickets in Paris, there was actually no difference once through security. We all went through separate doors, but in the Louvre you pick tickets up from down inside the museum. Well, paying for convenience I suppose. When inside the glass pyramid, we all went down an escalator to the main foyer/hub. Here we have the gift shops, cafes, ticket collection and purchase, and the entrances to each section. When you go through an area entrance, you have to present your ticket, or a proof of age if you’re under 26.

The Louvre. Is. Massive. Looking at the building from the outside, you wouldn’t think that seeing everything would need a full day – morning, afternoon and early evening. Of course, I didn’t have time to do the whole thing, so I did a whistle-stop tour of the important pieces. There were Greek statues, Egyptian artefacts and massive Italian paintings. Some of the original rooms were left intact, furniture and all, green velvet sofas and gold-accented mirrors galore. But the most important piece of art that I absolutely had to see was the Mona Lisa. If you don’t know what it is, kindly climb out of the rock you’ve been living under and look it up. As expected, the number of people stood trying to take a picture of it was very close to a swarm. People on tiptoes, people using selfie-sticks to reach above heads, parents holding their children in the air, everyone dying to get that snapshot of a lifetime. Lucky for me, I’m tall, so I just needed to hold my camera a little higher, and I had my photo.

Now, getting out of the Louvre was a nightmare and a half. The maps weren’t very helpful, as each room numbered on it wasn’t actually numbered in real life. Somehow, I made it out of a side entrance. Yes, that’s right. There’s a side entrance that clearly nobody knows about, because it was void of people queueing. I know for a fact it’s an entrance, because the ticket booth is after security, and it says ‘Bienvenue au Musee de Louvre’ above the door. Tip from experience; to avoid massive queues in large museums, see if you can find an unknown smaller entrance. In the case of the Louvre, you can still get into the main foyer this way, and also visit the Carousel de Louvre, an indoor shopping area. Another pro tip, kind of: don’t take the walking entrance. There’s a Metro station right next to the Louvre, called Palais Royal – Musée de Louvre. I took the Ligne 1 to:

The next place on my list was the La Grande Arche de la Défense. While it’s not exactly a top-ten tourist spot, I thought it seemed an interesting place to see. You see, I love going to places you see in popular culture. For example, around the corner from my Airbnb is the Café des Deux Moulins, which any Amélie fans will remember is the café that Amélie works at. The film I had seen La Grande Arche in isn’t exactly world-renowned; Mr Bean’s Holiday. I know, I know. But I was also curious to see if it’s possible to walk from La Grande Arche all the way to Gare de Lyon, and still almost get to your train on time.

After grabbing some water from a nearby patisserie, I hopped back onto the Métro to my next destination. Earlier in the day, I passed the Maison de la Culture du Japon a Paris on my way to the Eiffel Tower. There was an exhibition that day, which was free for me, so I thought why not have a look. It turned out to be a display of calligraphy by the late Yu-Ichi Inoue. It was kind of interesting, but not really my thing. However, anyone interested in Japanese culture and language should definitely check it out. It’s running until early September.

It was getting to the mid-afternoon by the time I got out, so I thought I’d try for the Eiffel Tower again. Luckily the line wasn’t as long as it had been, so I joined the end and slowly made my way through security and into the square underneath the Tower. When I was stood next to the south entrance, it hit me just how bit it is compared to the size of a human being. I joined yet another queue to take the stairs to the top. The lift is for wimps (if you’re able-bodied enough to use the stairs, that is). I’ll say it now, it’s definitely a workout! But it’s all worth it when you get up there. Since I had only paid for a ticket to the second floor, I couldn’t actually go all the way to the top, but it didn’t matter. The view was amazing! The people below looked like little insects, and the multitude of cars merely a scattering of coloured jelly beans. After a good hour or so up on the deck, I headed back down in the lift to ground level.

I took the train back home, and just sat for ages, massaging my aching feet. I had walked a lot, and I really needed to rest my legs a bit. I didn’t actually eat until a little later on, as I’d bought a basket of chips at the Tower. As it grew dark, I went out to see the Tower with it’s lights on. And what a beauty it was. For most of the time, until about 1am, it sits glowing gold, with a lighthouse-esque lamp turning at the top. Every now and then, however, little white lights all over it start to flash like fireworks. Once I had taken my fill of photos, I went off to get food. For anyone who might arrive in Paris late at night, there are plenty of all-night restaurants scattered around for you to eat at. Annoyingly, I finished my food after the last train left the station. However, all was not lost.

The Paris Métro system runs from about 5.30 in the morning, every day of the week. On a night, the last trains arrive at their terminus for 2.15 in the morning. But what do you do if you arrive at 3am? Well, you take the Noctilien service. Kind of like a bus-replacement service for the London Underground, these buses run from 12.30am to 5.30am. If you’ve bought tickets for the Métro, you can use them for a full journey on a bus. The problem arises when you need to change buses. You can’t use a ticket twice, nor can you pay by card on the bus, so you need to make sure you have change for a ticket. These are 2 euros each, with standard Métro tickets at 1.90. I myself ran into this problem. I didn’t realise I needed to take two buses to get home, so I was kind of stuck near Gare de Lazare. But remember when I said there is a bicycle hire service around the city? I made use of it that night. I simply opened the app, scanned the QR code to unlock the bike, and away I went. Once I was within reasonable walking distance of home, I parked the bike against a fence and flipped down the lock. By the time I arrived home, it had just gone 3 in the morning. A very long day indeed!

I’m going to leave this post here, and my next post will be up shortly. Lucky you! À bientôt!