Still with me? Then on to Paris!
I normally stay in hostels or guesthouses on my euro-travels, but a lot of my friends have been raving about Airbnb, so I decided to give it a try and booked a studio apartment in Bastille. I've got to be honest, I was getting more and more nervous about this from the moment my plane landed at Charles De Gaulle, mentally checking off every worst case scenario on the way to the apartment. Taxis from the airport are hideously expensive so I jumped on an airport shuttle bus to the city for about 18 euros and then got the metro to Bastille which saved me about 50 euros in taxi fare. I had the HostelWorld app locked and loaded on my phone, family members awaiting "they're not a psychopath" phonecalls and my dad preparing to do his best Liam Neeson impression if things went bad.
|Airbnb: for those who like a little added anxiety with their choice of accommodation.|
My advice for getting around? Public transport all the way. If anyone tells you Paris is a walkable city, they must run marathons in their spare time. Paris is a walkable city in the same way New York is a walkable city. Yes, you can walk from one sight to the other, but it will take you forever and you'll be knackered when you get there, so unless you want to spent your whole trip walking from A to B, the metro is your best option. The major tourist attractions are fairly scattered and the Parisian street system is absolutely insane too! If you visit Paris, you'll have to be Bear Grylls not to get lost. I was glad I bought an Everyman map guide with me. I looked like a complete and utter tourist unfolding my giant maps, but it helped me get my bearings without waving my phone around, and on more than one occasion it brought over someone asking if I was lost.
|The magnolia trees were in full bloom too, so everywhere looks extra pretty!|
|Is it weird that my first restaurant meal in France was sushi?|
|My spiritual home!|
I did all of the "must-sees" in Paris. The Eiffel Tower (awesome, and the view from the top is incredible!), The Louvre (underwhelmed by The Mona Lisa. In a huge room of incredible art, it's hard to see what makes it so special. I love the Napolean apartments, although I can completely understand why the French had a revolution!),
|Too many chairs? Off with their heads!|
|Lots of very windy stairs!|
|With lots of bridges, most of which have padlocks on them!|
To stick to my budget, I took a couple of free walking tours with Discover Paris. These are informal tours where you meet a Parisian, usually a college student, at a certain landmark at a certain time and they walk you around some of the sights on whichever route you've joined. If you don't trust anything free, don't worry, you can tip at the end if you wish, and the guides will remind you of that fact a few times. It's kind of expected, and though a few tight arses did run away at the end without giving anything, I was more than happy to hand over 5 euros for the experience. I'd thoroughly recommend these tours! They were a great way to see the streets of Paris without fear of getting lost and the local guides had great knowledge, flawless English and were genuinely passionate about showing visitors around their city. The only downside is that they end miles from where you started, so it was back to the metro to figure out my route home! On one of these occasions I ended up at an older metro station that seemed totally abandoned except for me which was a bit unnerving given that it was about 10.30pm and nobody at all seemed to be manning this place. I was quite relieved when the train arrived!
|I love the gothic Metro signs too!|
I jumped on one of the "hop-on, hop-off" buses on my first day. These big green buses are emblazoned with graphics and you might as well get on and off them with the word "tourist" stamped on your forehead in big red letters, but they're a brilliant way of getting around the city and the main sights if it's too far to walk, and you don't miss everything like you do on the metro, which can leave you feeling like you're playing whack-a-mole sometimes, just popping up above ground here and there. I ended up being sort of adopted by a New Zealand couple, Janet and David, for much of the journey after I helped them with their headphones (you get these headphones to plug in the the bus for an audio tour. If you can get past the horrendously stereotypcial "French" accordion music that plays between the info, it's pretty good). They'd come on their first holiday without their kids and I think they were missing them! We went for lunch in a sushi place and they insisted on buying me dinner which was sweet of them.
|There's zero chance of blending in with the locals on board this thing!|
|Believe it or not, this was the best one!|
|Selfies are the future!|
It was a shame that the weather was a bit rubbish when I was over there. At one point it was actually snowing, and for pretty much the whole week it was raining, about to rain, or just finished raining. But I'm English, I'm used to it. I did have to buy a coat though, because I didn't pack one and it was freezing. It was a blast from the past shopping in C&A again! It closed down in the UK ages ago, so it was weird seeing one in Paris! But I had a brilliant time, and I'd go back again in a heartbeat - which is perfect since it took me longer to get to the airport than it did to actually get from Bristol to Paris. It makes me realise how lucky we are in the UK to have all this practically on our doorstep. If you're looking for a relaxing holiday, it's probably not for you. There's so much to see and do, you can be constantly on the go and still not feel like you've done enough before you run out of time and have to come home.