A 4 day Spring visit to Paris
With Spring in full bloom and a few days to spare, there seemed like no better time than a quick 4 day visit to Paris to see the sites and finally experience this wonderful city for myself.
Okay.…confession time! I have lived in England for the vast majority of my life, but until now, had NEVER made the short hop across the channel to Paris! I know, I know – why? Honestly, I don’t know. It is a place that I have been meaning to go to for years, but for some reason, every time the opportunity has come up to travel, I have tended to go further afield or I’ve opted for a relaxing sun drenched holiday. I have done a lot of European city breaks too, but I think because Paris is soooo close, I always put it off because ‘I could go anytime’!
So, I have finally done it and boy was it worth waiting for. We have spent four glorious days ambling along the streets of this incredible city, taken in the sights, visited some tourist hotspots and found some quirky corners away from the crowds. We have eaten way too much, drunk a little too much French wine and walked…MILES!
Paris – A travel brief
Euro. We found payment by card was the easiest option but kept a small amount of cash for smaller purchases and tips.
French. The vast majority of Parisians speak embarrassingly good English but, whilst my French is appalling, I did try to speak my limited phrases as much as possible as the effort is always appreciated.
There are regular flights from Gatwick or you can catch the Eurostar from St Pancras. We chose to fly on this occasion as it was cheaper. Shop around as there are some great deals depending on the time and day you travel.
As with any previously unvisited destination, I would always recommend walking – it is hands down the best way to truly ‘see’ the sights. The Paris Metro is also excellent and will get you to anywhere in the city at a reasonable price. Our favourite discovery were the ‘Lime’ electric scooters which, once you have downloaded the app, you can pick up on pretty much any street corner. You can choose to top up your account manually on the app or set it to top up automatically when it runs out. Either way, you are charged by the amount of time you have it and it is a fantastic way to get around. Be aware, however, that they can go very fast, so be cautious at first until you get to grips with it!
If arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport, it costs 50 euros to catch a taxi to anywhere in the city, but if you arrive at a decent time of day, it is very easy to jump on the Metro into the centre of Paris for just over 10 Euros per person.
Where to stay:
There are an abundance of great little boutique hotels to suit every budget throughout Paris, or you may wish to opt for an Air BnB apartment.
We stayed at the delightful ‘My Home in Paris’ in Le Marias and were more than impressed with the facilities of this mid-range little hotel. The staff were friendly, the room was very clean and comfortable and the location was ideal – very peaceful yet within a stone’s throw of the bustling trendy streets of Le Marais and a 10 minute walk to the River Seine.
Being Easter week, as well as the Paris Marathon weekend, the crowds were out in force, so we were very happy to visit the main sights but not actually queue to get into them. I will definitely return at a quieter time of year to visit them properly, but on this occasion, walking around and seeing them from the outside was a perfect introduction to what this city has to offer.
So…Day 1 of our 4 days in Paris and with so much to fit in, but feeling a little slow after our late night arrival, we started our day with a gentle stroll through Le Marais towards the river to ease ourselves gently into the day. It was a beautiful sunny day, but absolutely FREEZING and we had not packed appropriately at all!
Picking up the pace to keep warm, we crossed the river to Notre Dame, to view her as she stood, Spire intact, before the events that we were to witness just 2 days later, before walking along the banks of the Seine and on to the gardens at The Louvre. A brief interlude from the wind allowed us to enjoy this glorious park, in full Spring bloom.
Due to the impending Paris Marathon, many of the streets were closed to traffic. This allowed us to walk almost the entire length of the Champs Elysees, somewhat strangely, in the middle of the road! Many were enjoying this rare occurrence and we were joined by cyclists, runners, scooters and families with young children on bicycles, safely taking advantage of the wide open road. Walking in and around the Arc de Triomphe we marvelled at its looming arches before resting our tired legs at a bustling little café and enjoyed our first taste of French wine and a must have Parisian Steak Tartare!
Being all about style – I spent most of my time looking up! The style of Paris (aka, the architecture) is STUNNING! Every building deserved its own photograph. We were also lucky that, being Spring, the trees throughout the city were in full blossom, framing each street vista with a marshmallowy pink haze.
I was particularly mesmerised by the windows with black wrought iron railings and couldn’t help but dream of the light, high ceilinged interiors which lay beyond them. We spent that evening sipping wine at a small table on the street terrace of a small café in Le Marais watching an elderly woman, wearing her dressing gown, busily cleaning each of the floor to ceiling windows of her beautiful Parisian apartment in the building opposite. It was captivating watching her dedication to the job and she was still busying herself with the task as we left sometime later!
Day 2 of 4 days in Paris and hoping to avoid the congestion of crowds in the city for the Marathon, we headed out to Montmartre for our second day. Whilst still insanely busy, we quickly fell in love with this quaint little area of Paris, with its romantic cobbled streets, black iron lampposts and steep stone staircases. We spent a good few hours happily getting lost as we let ourselves be led by the beauty of each little street as we came across it. A brief visit to the Sacre Coeur to take in the views over Paris was worth the hike up the steep steps, but a hotspot for tourists, especially on such a lovely Spring day, so we quickly descended back into Montmatre to catch the Metro out to the vast flea market, Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen. This is said to be Europe’s largest flea market, with over 2000 stalls grouped into 15 different markets and, as we quickly found, very easy to get lost in!
With still so much I wanted to see and do, just having 4 days in Paris was starting to feel too short. Happy and exhausted from so much walking, we had an early night to prepare for another long day ahead!
Up early for our third day of 4 days in Paris, we made our way over to the Trocadero to witness the sunrise over the Eiffel Tower – a fresh but beautiful way to start our day. A clear pinky blue glow framed her famous structure as we were slowly surrounded by brides, grooms, models, Instagram influencers and photographers frantically clicking away to add to their portfolios and social feeds! We walked down to the base of the Tower and through the Parc du Champ de Mars, where we picked up a couple of Lime Scooters to whizz, carefree, through the streets of the Invalides before heading back across the river towards our now, much loved area of Le Marais.
Intending to have an early night, after a very early start, we stopped at a café near our hotel to enjoy an early evening glass of wine, when our trip took an unexpected turn.
We didn’t realise what was happening at first, but were aware of a strange buzz in the streets around us. Looking up we noticed that there was a reddish glow in the sky behind the rooftops and it was only when we happened to glance at a television through the window of the café, that we realised what that glow was – the fire at Notre Dame. We decided that, awful as it was, it was a moment in history that we had the sad opportunity to witness and so made our way towards the river to see for ourselves the drama that was unfolding. It was a very surreal but also moving experience and whilst we would never have wished it to happen, in some small way I am grateful for being there to see, if only briefly, an entire city come together in solidarity for one of its most famous and loved buildings.
As we stood watching, surrounded by thousands of others in almost complete silence, church bells around the city started ringing out and continued to ring into the night as the fire burned on. We must have stood there for a good 3 hours, unable to turn away from the sight of flames engulfing the roof of the magnificent Cathedral, but we were also relieved to see that the firefighters seemed to be gaining some control over the fire and we eventually left, with some hope that the damage might not be too devastating.
With our 4 days in Paris slightly marred by the events of the previous evening, we returned to Notre Dame the following afternoon to pay our final respects. Despite the ferocity of the flames the night before, much of the incredible Notre Dame was thankfully saved and, although clearly damaged and somewhat blackened, still stood in all its glory, façade intact, watching over its people as they came to pay their respects.
Nearing the end of our Parisian adventure we spent that afternoon wandering around the affluential area of St Germain and the bustling little streets of the Latin Quarter. Both very much worth the visit and which contain some fabulous little eateries. With more time on our hands, I would certainly spend a bit more time leisurely exploring the beautiful backstreets of this side of the city, but sadly, we had to make our way back to the hotel to collect our bags before heading out to the airport.
I am quite sure that most of you have visited Paris many, many times before and I am preaching to the converted, but if there is a small chance that I have reached someone who is considering a trip, but hasn’t quite made up their minds, this is my attempt to sway you into booking it! I am so glad I have finally been to this wonderful city and whilst 4 days in Paris didn’t feel like quite enough, I fully intend on returning in the very near future!