Paris was the first of many stops on my wild two week journey around Europe. Over the next few weeks I’ll do a post dedicated to each of the cities I visited. I’ll tell you where I stayed, how I got there, what I saw, and what I ate. I am hoping that from this, you will take a bit of inspiration for your own wild European tour.
When I made the (stupid? great?) decision that I wanted to visit 30 countries before I turned 30, I knew I had some work ahead of me. I was starting at 27, with just a total of 5 countries at that point.
Knowing I’d be in Greece for several weeks over the winter, I figured it was the perfect time to do what I’ve been calling my “train tour of Europe”. With the EU rail pass and some discounts based on my age and the time of year I’d be traveling, I worked out that I could see a total of 8 cities, and not wanting it to be too terribly expensive (or to be away from Greece for so long), I had the brilliant idea to do all of this in just 2 weeks.
Based on where the train connected, Paris was my first stop. I flew in from Athens nice and early and navigated a pretty confusing train station my way to my hotel to drop my bag and begin to explore the city. Get your google maps handy to tell you what train you need and where to go. Be sure you get a train ticket specifically for leaving the airport if you opt to take the train rather than hire a cab. It costs about 10 Euro.
For this trip I booked all of my rooms through Hotels.com. Usually I’m all about AirBnb so that I can have access to a kitchen, but it was important to me that I didn’t have to deal with coordinating schedules with the host- I wanted the ability to go to the front desks of the hotels and check in whenever I arrived.
The hotel I picked was Cafe Hotel De L’Avenir in Saint Ouen, which is about a 30 minute train ride from the center of Paris.
I arrived and had to check in through the restaurant/bar on the main floor-there wasn’t actually a reception desk, which was a bit odd, though everyone was very nice. When I managed to find my room, it hadn’t been cleaned and I wasn’t about to wait outside in the cold for that to happen. I asked to drop my bag in the room and come back later in the day.
From there I made my way into Hank Vegan Burger for lunch. I went for the L’allume burger, a side of fries, and a cookie. I took my food over to Hotel de Ville to eat and admire the beautiful architecture.
I wandered my way through past the Notre-Dame, which is still closed after the fire, but you can see it from afar from across the street. From there I walked through past the Louve (though did not go inside), walked past the Arc De Triomphe du Carrousel, and through an adorable Christmas market, and finally hiked myself over to the Eiffel Tower. I was surprised to find that the tower is completely fenced off, and you aren’t able to even go up to the legs without a ticket.
The Eiffel Tower
After that, I walked over to what’s called Espl. du Trocadero, which is a small area across the street from the Eiffel Tower with an incredible view. It takes you back far enough that you get to take in the Eiffel Tower in all its glory without having to break your neck from the base of it to see.
I hung around there for about an hour to wait to see the sparkle happen, which is supposed to happen for 5 to 10 minutes on the hour, every hour, after the sun sets. After standing in the rain for a whopping 45 minutes and seeing only the basic lights on the tower turn on, I knew I didn’t want to wait a whole second our for the sparkle that didn’t happen when it was supposed to have done the first time.
So I hopped on the train from there, and made my way back to my room, which finally was cleaned. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize when I booked the room, was that there was no toilet. The rooms opened with a simple code entered into the door handle, no keys or key cards.
About the room
Unfortunately, I really didn’t love my stay in this hotel. With the discomfort of a shared toilet, the stench of it being a smoking hotel, a lack of deadbolt and no “do not disturb” sign, I felt as though I had absolutely no privacy. And for a whopping $157 USD for two nights, I absolutely would not recommend this hotel. It was literal steps away from a train stop, which was nice, but overall I was very uncomfortable in this room.
The next morning I was up bright and early to head back to the area near the Eiffel Tower to take some more photos before the rest of the tourists arrived. And this was when I realized I had made a huge, massive mistake. When I took the time to plan out each day of this wild trip, I didn’t take into account that all of the public transportation would be filled with regular commuters.
After I hauled my ass out of bed well before the sun even rose and made my way down into the metro station, I spent 30 minutes watching train after train arrive with barely any room to breathe. I knew I didn’t have the energy (or desire) to completely squish myself into an already very tight train car.
**Something very important to know. If you find that you struggle with claustrophobia on any level, I do NOT recommend taking the underground trains of Paris. They are quite tight and quite small. Not such a problem when it’s off peak and the trains are empty, but when the seats fill up and people are standing, it is extremely, extremely tight and can be immensely overwhelming.**
After watching what felt like the 100th packed train go by, I decided to walk. For two hours.
More Vegan Eats
There are those great Lime scooters all over town, but it was a bit wet from rain and still totally dark at this time, so walking it was. And after I snapped a few photos, I made my way over to Cloud Cakes for breakfast and I forget all the horrors of walking so freaking far across town.
Let me tell you. I fell in love in that cafe. Everything was vegan, which is a requirement for me when traveling to a country where language is a limiting factor. I opted for the Menu Cloud Breakfast. With that you get a basket of bread (because who doesn’t want that?!), a hot drink, and a cold drink. With the bread you get a little jar of chocolate sauce and 2 jams.
If a basket full of bread all to yourself isn’t enough, hand me a vegan croissant with some vegan nutella and my whole damn life is complete. Even now, just thinking about it is making my stomach beg for more.
And, of course, I got a cupcake to go to enjoy later that night.
After my magically carb filled breakfast, I wandered around town a bit more before slowly working my way to Maisie Cafe in the Champs Elysees Food Court of The Galleries Lafayette. I was desperate at this point for something that was primarily vegetables, so I grabbed a tofu salad, and a slice of poppyseed bread for breakfast the next morning. Be prepared to sell an organ to afford this meal, though.
A little tip- the food available to the right of Maisie Cafe in this particular location has a good selection of cold coffee and veggie juices for literally half the cost, so I stopped at both places.
At this point I was so exhausted from all of the walking, that I went back to my room and closed the Paris chapter.
Knowing what a mess the public transportation would be the next morning when I needed to head to the train to London, I got in bed early to prepare myself for the 45 minute walk to the train station before the sun would even think about making an appearance.
Personally, for me, I felt like this trip was all I needed to see of Paris. I’m not big on museums and prefer to spend my time in new cities simply walking around and seeing the sites from the outside, and the day and a half that I spent in Paris allowed me to do exactly that.
If you’re big on high end shopping and/or architecture, this would be a perfect city for you. It truly was beautiful and I am glad I went, but I do not feel the need to go back, simply based on my preferred way to see a city.
I did struggle a bit with the language. I have heard that the French are much more kind when people attempt to speak the language first, but most people do speak English as well. Try starting with a “bonjour!” and notice if the attitude changes. I did not, and found most of the people to be quite cold, but I have heard different things from different people.
Overall, I did enjoy my stay in Paris. If I were to do it again, I would stay much closer to the center of the city and plan my activities to avoid commuting time. However, I feel as though I saw everything I wanted in the city, and currently have no desire to go back to visit again.