Jumping between countries and cities throughout Europe is so easy, with navigable trains and cheap airfare. My first time in Paris was a 3-day jaunt from Ireland. It was amazing, inspiring, jammed packed and for a bit, downright frightening, but I’m so happy to have made it! I was never one of those Parisian lovers with Eiffel Tower memorabilia and a beret, but I was interested to visit it as a famous city full of history and culture. However, I have been converted! Full disclosure, I have become that starry-eyed Francophile. Paris, by far, ranks as my favorite city. Forget the people who tell you it’s a dirty place full of rude people; instead, prepare to meet a Paris that rightfully earned the names city of lights and love, full of charm, kind people, delicious food and famous sites.
Following is an itinerary for a short stay in Paris. If you have the opportunity to visit, don’t pass it up. For a fuller itinerary or more options, click here.
Many budget airlines fly into Paris-Beauvais Airport, about an hour outside of the city. The Beauvais shuttle service, right out front of the terminal, runs to and from Paris, with departures multiple times a day. Round trip tickets (as of 2018) are 29 Euros for adults, or 15.9 one way.
The shuttle bus drops off at Porte Maillot, in the city center. The bus terminal is across the street from the Metro station, so we just ran across and jumped on the line towards Odeon station, St. Germain des Pres (no direct line, you make a connection).
We rented a cute little AirBnB apartment in the St. Germain des Pres area, right off of Rue de L’ancienne Comédie. (We stayed here again in 2017, but unfortunately it’s no longer available, as the owners sold it and moved to the UK.) I highly recommend this area, and there are a number of other AirBnB rentals, which are vastly cheaper than hotels. The Metro is only a 5 minute walk, depending where you stay, and there are countless restaurants to choose from, as well as bakeries and grocery stores. It’s an easy walk to a number of attractions including Notre Dame and Luxemburg Gardens.
After arriving to your accommodations, head out to explore! We walked all over the St. Germain area, before taking the Metro from Odeon to Chatelet, which is a hub for numerous lines. We picked up the yellow line to Champs-Elysees/Clemenceau. Depending on your game plan, this isn’t the best stop to fully experience the Champs Elysees (you could start from the Place de la Concord, where many of the French Revolution guillotine executions took place), but we took it based on the name and it’s proximity to the Arc de Triomphe. From this station, you can easily stroll the glitzy avenue with its high-end stores, before reaching the Arc de Triomphe.
The Metro is hectic and can be a bit overwhelming, but we got the hang of it quickly. There are maps everywhere and part of the Paris adventure is in the Metro!
Beware the panhandlers and scam artists, though! This is true throughout the city, but I saw the most theatrical scammers around here. They have more tricks up their sleeve than I could imagine, so be alert. The most common were women, typically foreign, who would throw themselves on the ground in front of pedestrians and either beg for help, or cry out as if injured. Others use children as distractions, or to strike pity. I don’t want to sound calloused, but all you need do is observe, and you’ll see the ‘act’, and the co-conspirators moving to take advantage.
We reached the Arc de Triomphe in the evening, on November 12- the day after Armistice Day. At the base of the arch lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The flame is always lit, but that night there was special tribute gathering in recognition of the armistice, which ended World War I on the eleventh day, in the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour 1918. In the States, it’s recognized as Veterans Day, but in Europe it truly is a WWI memorial. We witnessed this in Ireland at Kilkenny Castle also.
After that, we called it a night, really feeling our 4am wake up in Dublin earlier that morning!
One of the greatest Parisian pleasures is simply to wander. Explore the streets, savor the sights and sounds, and pretend you’re a local. We spent a couple hours the morning of day 2 doing this, until we found ourselves decidedly lost. Once again, with no working Smartphone, we had no directions. Bu, thankfully, the taxi drivers know the city better than we did and he had us to Notre Dame within minutes.
We grabbed lunch at a brasserie next door to Shakespeare & Company- Cafe le Petit Pont. It was fine, nothing to write home about, but could’ve been alot worse sitting in such a tourist hot spot.
I got my bibliomania on at Shakespeare & Co., the famous English bookstore, before crossing the river to Notre Dame. There was a fair security line to enter, but it moved quickly. If you have to wait, look up at the gargoyles, or down and you may see Point Zero. Just a small emblem on the ground, it supposedly marks the center of Paris.
Entry to Notre Dame is free, as are guided tours. Audio guides are available for 5 euros. Mass is held regularly, and they often have musical concerts. Give yourself an hour or so to walk around, enjoy the various alcoves, admire the stained glass, and just sit to savor the quiet peace for a few minutes. For a few euros, you can also access the roof and see the gargoyles up close!
That evening, my dad and I headed back to the Arc de Triomphe to go inside and climb it. The spiral staircase to the top seems to go on forever, but the views from the top are amazing! Sure, the top of the Eiffel Tower is great, but from the arch, you can see all of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower!
The Arc de Triomphe is largely a military memorial, and has a few exhibits before you reach the top level, and of course a gift shop (complete with Arc de Triomphe shaped pasta!).