The city of love and home to the Eiffel Tower. We checked into our ‘apart-hotel’ in the late afternoon and didn’t realize we had a great view of the Eiffel Tower until our second night lying in bed. It lit up at 9:00 PM and every hour for a few minutes, the lights would sparkle and dance causing all those below to ooh and awe; including us one evening. That same evening we witnessed a proposal on the grass beneath the Tower – she said yes!
We are both Canadian and therefore were forced to take French from age 10 to 16 (minimum) and after all those years, can’t even put together a single sentence. Which didn’t help us in Paris, where local Parisians make a point to look down on those whose only language is English.
In Paris, you are “supposed” to climb the Eiffel Tower and visit the Louvre. We did neither. We considered climbing the tower, we even researched buying tickets online while we were home in Vancouver in June; they were sold out until late-September. On our last day in Paris we visited the Tower to get some photos and assessed the wait times. The line for the stairs would have taken well over an hour, and the line for the elevator was three times as long; not to mention both lines were under the beating hot sun – no thank you. And honestly, we had just as good a view from the Galeries La Fayette.
For a look at a true Parisian department store, a beautiful building and an excellent (free) view of the city, head to Galeries La Fayette. The shopping there isn’t bad either! (On a side note, “tax free” is never as good as it sounds. You line up downstairs and while they fill out all the tax forms for you, you still need a customs stamp from an airport on a flight out of the EU – something we don’t plan on doing anytime soon or possibly ever. All in all, a huge waste of time if you are travelling within the EU or by land.)
It didn’t take us long to figure out that parts of Paris completely shut down for the month of August. We learned that this used to be more common and is becoming a thing of the past, but the prevalence is definitely still there in some neighborhoods. Hand-written signs and typed signed on doors of restaurants, clothing stores, cafes, delis, beauty shops, etc. were taped to the glass window or door reading something along the lines of “Summer Closure 2015” or simply “Closed” in French.
I have to ask, what is with Europe and falafels?! We haven’t been anywhere yet where they aren’t popular. In Paris, I visited a restaurant stating it served “the best falafel in the world.” Next door, there were three other falafel places (also stating that they were the best of course…). Mine was good (although maybe not the best in the world), and the place was kind enough to make me another half pita after a pigeon took a crap all over my hair, shirt, purse AND my half-eaten falafel pita.
In London, museums and art galleries were free while entrance to churches cost a small fortune; Paris is the opposite. The Notre Dame church is well worth a visit – especially since it’s free AND there’s a way to skip the massive line-up that forms each day in the square. To top it off, this line-skipping method involves getting a free tour. That’s right, if you show up at one of the designated times for the “CASA Free Guided Tours” in the language of your preference, a volunteer will spend 45 minutes explaining the history of the area, the varies stages of construction of the church as well as the biblical significance of statues, and paintings.
Another London comparison – but a decent one nonetheless: the Oyster Card is a must-get and a good deal; buying a metro card in Paris is a TERRIBLE deal. You have to take the metro at least 5 times per day to make it worth it and given the layout of the city not really realistic. We were staying near the outskirts of the Zone II limit and still only took the metro a maximum of four times a day.