“What an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!” -Charles Dickens
The day I arrived in Paris, France was a day a dream came true for me. For years I had had a burning desire to visit this city. I became obsessed with all things French. I attempted (and failed) to learn the language. I knew my life would not be complete if I did not visit the City of Lights at least once.
Well my dream was realized when I visited this magnificent city during my 2007 summer in Europe with my friend, Teresa. We travelled by train from Toulouse, France, and as we neared the city, I casually glanced out the window when my eye caught sight of the tip of the Eiffel Tower peeking above the buildings. I actually gasped out loud! I was so excited I just couldn’t stop grinning – I was finally here! 🙂
Arriving at the Montparnasse train station, we searched out the Metro, purchased transportation cards, and were whisked to the Nation Metro station in the 12th arrondissement. We walked along Boulevard Diderot to the flat we were renting for the week (more on our accommodations at the end of this post).
Let me pause for a minute to address some Americans’ ideas of what the French (or Parisians) are like. I know Parisians have a reputation for being rude, especially to Americans. Perhaps that was the case at some point in time, but in this day and age it couldn’t be more false! Of course, just like any city in the world, you could possibly encounter some less than pleasant people. But to be perfectly honest, during the week I was there, I did not meet one unpleasant person. In fact, we encountered as many helpful, generous, and kind people in Paris as any of the other cities we visited during our ten weeks traveling throughout Europe (and neither of us speak French!).
From the police officer at the train station who patiently gave us directions; to the jogger who wished us “bon appetit” as we strolled down the sidewalk eating croissants; to the shopkeeper who gave us free keychains; to the young man who entered the security code, opened the door, and carried my heavy suitcase up four flights of stairs to the apartment we rented, then wished us a pleasant stay in his city as he continued on to his apartment.
I honestly believe that people who visit Paris now and come back saying the French are horrible and rude, were treated that way because of the way they treated and approached the French (or people in any other country). And that’s my rant for the day. Moving on. 🙂
By the time we found our apartment, were given keys and instructions, dumped our stuff, and called our parents to tell them “WE’RE IN PARIS!!!!!”, it was after 9:00pm (but still light outside!). We decided to head down the street to the grocery store to pick up a few items. Um, how long had we been in Europe? And when were we ever in a city or town where anything is open this late?? I’m not sure what we were thinking and why we were shocked that the grocery store was indeed closed for the day. Oh well! On to better things!
And that better thing was…the Eiffel Tower! We hopped back on the Metro, survived an encounter with a very scary man on our train, and got off at the Bir-Hakeim stop. By the time we exited the Metro station it was completely dark out. We walked down the street along the Seine, turned a corner, and BAM! There it was!! The Eiffel Tower!!! All lit up like gold! I think this was the most exciting moment for me on this trip!
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of seeing the Eiffel Tower in person, it is so much bigger than you think it’s going to be! It towers over everything around it and you can see if from all over the city. And lit up at night, it really does look like it’s made out of gold. I couldn’t stop grinning and we couldn’t stop taking pictures as we walked closer and closer.
We bought some popcorn (why not?) and walked under the Tower to the Champs de Mars where we sat for a bit and just took in the awesomeness of this world-renown monument. After a few minutes, the hourly “light show” began and the Tower started to twinkle with thousands of lights as people cheered. So amazingly magnificent!!
We bought some ice cream and walked around some more then finally headed back to the Metro a bit after midnight. I don’t think a smile left my face from the time I first caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower until I finally went to bed around 2am. A most perfect beginning to my time in Paris!
Accommodations Info & Tips:
Paris was one of the places we initially had some trouble finding accommodations. It seemed like every hotel I contacted was already full, and we weren’t finding any hostels that we really wanted to stay in. I don’t remember what made me start researching apartment rentals but I am so glad I did! Renting an apartment while traveling can be a wonderful and cost effective way of staying in a city. And living in our own flat for a week made us feel like true Parisians. 🙂
We found and booked our apartment through Lodgis. There are many websites who provide these services but I was very pleased with our experience with this company. Renting a flat was much less expensive than staying in a hotel, and we had so much more room to spread out, a kitchen to cook in and store food, free WiFi and international calls, and we were in a “real” Parisian neighborhood with a bakery two doors down (which we visited on a daily basis).
We rented a studio which actually had two rooms: a living room with a sofa that converted into a bed, and a kitchen/dining area. And a bathroom, of course. 🙂 Click HERE to see the apartment we rented through Lodgis. Nothing fancy, but clean, convenient, and currently only 375€ per week! You absolutely can’t beat that price! I will definitely be checking out apartment rentals from here on out when staying someplace for a week or more. Such a great experience!!
While in Paris, we used the Metro (when not using our feet) to get around the city. So convenient and easy to navigate! We purchased Carte Orange cards the day we arrived. This card has now been replaced with the Navigo Découverte card and is good for unlimited transportation within central Paris for a week from Monday to Sunday. So if you arrive on a Monday or Tuesday, this pass might be good for you. If arriving later in the week, you might want to consider other options as this pass will only be good through Sunday, but you will have to pay for the full weekly fare. A pass for zones 1 & 2 is currently 19.15€. If staying for less than a week, or if arriving later in the week, you might consider the Paris Visite Travel Card which you can select for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days.