A whirlwind weekend in Paris came to fruition after a joke between Otis and I earlier in the week. We were planning what we would do that weekend, and jokingly said let's just pop over to Paris. Sure enough, after a quick search online, and a little help from the GoEuro app and Air Bnb, we were booked in for a two day visit to the city of love.
As our first mini European getaway, we decided for only £35 we would give an overnight coach with Ouibus a try. We left from Victoria station at 9:30pm on Friday, and were set to arrive at 6:30am the following morning in Paris. This is an option we would reluctantly take again, given the little amount of sleep and comfort we found ourselves with. In my sleep delirium, I felt the whole train through the english channel tunnel a little claustrophobic, but I can't complain for such a cheap weekend away.
The advantage to arriving so early for breakfast meant we were able to start our weekend by the Arc de Triomphe at sunrise, which is far more beautiful in person than I ever imagined. The mornings were frosty, but the bare trees gave way to a side of Europe we don't often get to see while everyone revels in their summer Eurotrips.
A french breakfast of omelettes and croissants was devoured before a journey into a crowded market in the ninth arrondissement. It was slightly unnerving walking through such a bustling strip of fresh produce, flowers and garments. A cacophony of vendors shouting their specials as locals bargained.
Further exploration venturing upward to Montmartre, and Sacré-Cœur warmed us despite the chill of the wind. The weathered cobblestone streets give way to the beautifully built Roman Catholic church. However the view from the top also shares a different perspective of the elegant city.
We quickly stopped into our Air Bnb apartment to drop our bags before we made our way across the city to see the infamous Tour Eiffel. Despite the obvious issues around crowds and the usual tourist gabs, the tower itself is monumental and striking. It captivates you with a charm that I believe only Paris can.
After little sleep during our coach ride from London to Paris, we head back to Champs-Elysees, the busy shopping strip down from the Arc de Triomphe, and where our apartment was located. I am very sorry we could only afford the time of one night in the city, as it sparkles at night the way no city I've visited before does.
We obviously started Sunday with a croissant and tea, because the french do the best pastries. We decided to spend Sunday morning seeing Paris from the top. We climbed the 284 stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to see the city from another angle. The uninterrupted 360° views let you absorb just how much ground you cover in the city on foot. From Sacré-Cœur to Tour Eiffel and beyond, the morning light captures the expanse of the Capital.
A metro to the 12th Arrondissement had us exploring the hidden lane ways and streets of Paris. Enter Rue Cremieux. This colourful delight is hidden just a five minute walk from Gare de Lyon station. A contrast among the washed beige and grey tones of the city's buildings, Rue Cremieux is a refreshing sight with bright facades dressed with murals and trompe l’oeil. The street is Paris' very own Portobello-inspired photography haven.
From Rue Cremieux we could walk to Notre Dame. We ambled our way through the Parisian streets taking in the views of the apartments along with Seine River, peeping at the books and bric-a-brac for sale on the riverside market stalls. Notre Dame is every bit as magnificent, and then some. Huge is an understatement, this monumental piece of architectural mastery is so detailed that the artist in me couldn't help but soak in its glory. Despite the obvious overcrowding issues that occur in all major tourist attractions, the walk in the area is beautiful. Be sure not to miss out on a Nutella crepe for €3.
Our final stroll was from Notre Dame to Hotel de Ville metro station. Hidden among the mass of souvenir shops are a few more hidden lane ways that capture true Paris, hidden Paris. These are the moments I cherished in this city, discovering little secrets that were real and beyond the foray of tourist hubs.
Paris in winter is every bit as beautiful as you could imagine it would be. Don't be afraid to let your feet guide you off the bookmarked 'must do's'. Paris has a story that goes far beyond it's infamous monuments and churches. It is a hidden delight for anyone looking for a weekend escape from London (or Europe in general). Don't overlook this city if you find yourself in this part of the world in winter. Paris was everything I hoped it would be.