Adventure can be achieved even in the shortest of timescales. Follow the sojourn of a wandering wordsmith with only 24 hours in one of Europe’s much loved cities; Paris.
Hannah and I met when we were 17 whilst working together in a department store in our home town; our lives took different courses after we both progressed from 6th form and our little weekend job but our friendship always managed to cross paths and pick back up again, even if we hadn’t seen each other for a while.
We both found travel for our own reasons and had our own adventures separately but luckily it happened at a very similar time in both of our lives so it was a common interest we could share too. The Winter of 2014 saw us both back home after our latest individual stint of adventure; turning 25 was on the horizon for the two of us and a spontaneous trip to France was on the cards.
“The Best Adventures Start at 4am.” – My Highway to Happiness
There are two precious commodities in a traveller’s life: time and money. Neither of us being particularly rich in either we spotted a last minute Eurostar + hotel deal and decided to jump in head first.
Rarely had Hannah and I embarked upon a trip where we didn’t need to begin our journey before sunrise; Paris was no exception. Silently promising ourselves that we could sleep on the train home once adventure had been successfully achieved we caught the first train out of Dodge, getting us into London before the tinges of rush hour began to colour another Saturday morning in the big smoke. Our goal from there was to get the earliest Eurostar possible into Paris and, for want of a better term, hit the ground running so as not to lose any more precious exploring time.
The sun finally greeted us as we sped across the continent towards our much awaited destination; reaching Paris just as the weekend was getting into full swing.
After dropping our belongings off at our hotel – conveniently located a resonable walking distance from the Gare du Nord, we began to wend our way through the bright but wintery ‘rues’ of central Paris, determined to explore.
Pont Des Arts – Love Lock Bridge
Paris has long been synonymous as a city of love and romance with the Pont des Arts (or ‘Love Lock’ bridge) being a popular spot for visitors to commemorate and symbolise their eternal love for each other. We found ourselves near the bridge whilst ambling around some of the other popular sights and attractions we were taking in that day; not wanting to feel disadvantaged as two single women, we decided to attempt to immortalise our eternal adventuring spirits instead.
-Update 2016: The ‘love locks’ of the Pont Des Arts have since been removed and preventions are in place to stop any further locks from finding their everlasting resting places on the bridge. Our enduring taste for travel has not been harmed in the process.
As the afternoon drew in around us we pondered on whether to take in the unique panoramas on offer from the Eiffel Tower or to continue exploring the city scape a little closer to the ground. With the commodity of time and money again playing on our minds we decided it wasn’t wise to waste what time we did have in the city queuing up for attractions. Instead we headed to the Trocadéro where, on the recommendation of my friend’s we would be able to take in a more budget friendly panorama with fantastic views of the Eiffel Tower included.
As my eyes gazed across the throngs of protesters, performers, revellers and skateboarders awashing the steps of the Trocadéro (each an individual visual treat in themselves) I marvelled at the city’s skyline ahead of me. Capital cities the world over are always steeped in history and culture but Paris, unlike many other famous places I’ve visited before, was relatively untouched by encroaching modern skyscrapers; the beautiful panorama that unfolded before me looked like it had been taken straight from a souvenir snowglobe, preserved and unaltered.
Dusk brought about a whole new spectacle to the city as the renowned light display of the Eiffel Tower added a festive feel to the surrounding streets. We retreated into the enticing glow of the tower and found a little pop-up bar selling warming pints of mulled wine. Nightlife was never really going to be on the cards after such an early start to the day so, after the dregs of heat (and wine) had been drained from our glasses, we beat a slightly weary retreat to our hotel in the 9th arrondissement.
Galeries Lafayette – Department Store
We arose the next morning, refreshed by a deep slumber in the rooftop room of the hotel Eugene en Ville; the previous day had been about getting our bearings and taking unknown streets in this new city but it had also been about reconnaissance for our final day too. Whilst we had been traversing the Parisian streets the day before we had passed the twinkling window displays of the Galeries LaFayette department store and decided it was too close to Christmas and our birthdays not to have a look inside for a possible treat.
As we browesed our way through all of the high-end labels and goods on offer we suddenly found ourselves amongst the grand splendour of the heart of the store. Layers of intricate balconies stretched up to meet the dazzling colours of the ornate glass dome above us.
As we were exploring Paris right in the middle of the festive season, the dome was also adorned with elaborate and equally colourful Christmas decorations.
Moet and Macarons in Galeries Lafayette.
Working our way up each floor of the gallery to admire the spectacle beneath from every possible angle, we also found a little champagne bar for shoppers to take a brief rest from hauling around all of their luxury purchases.
‘Travel lets you reinvent yourself as many times over as there are unexplored destinations in this world; if you didn’t get it right the first time; there’s always another path to take and always that next adventure to be had.’ – P. S. Conner
This city didn’t know us and within the 24 hours we had there we could be whoever we wanted to be, in that moment we decided that we were just as luxuruious and frivolous as our surroundings so decided to take a seat, order ourselves a few french delicacies and soak in the opulence around us.
After the last bubble had fizzled out in the bottom of our glasses, and we had spied an €800 giant stuffed panda for sale, we felt that we had experienced quite enough of the lux-life for one day and took our adventure back to the streets.
With only a few hours left remaining of our time in Paris we picked our way along the iconic, cobbled side paths of the Seine, making our way in the direction of the Notre Dame which would be our final sight of the trip.
La Notre Dame Cathedrale
‘My feet feel weary but my heart feels full’ – P.S. Conner
We stood in the shadow of the grand cathedral, gazing up at the splendidly lit arches and statues. The wintry chill of a long day exploring the city was just starting to seep into our bones and it was decided that a hearty french meal was in order before we made the impending journey home.
Nestled on a corner just opposite the Notre Dame was the enticing Cafe Panis, an authentic Parisian cafe and restaurant with wonderful views of the cathedral and the bustling streets around it. We sat, tucked away in a comfortable corner next to the quintessential french windows and relaxed into the rich atmosphere of the cafe. The staff were very friendly and attentive, the food delicious, warming and very welcomed; when the waiter returned to clear our empty plates he talked us into to staying for two of the most magnificent desserts I’d ever seen -a decision we did not regret.
After tearing ourselves away from the warm ambience of Cafe Panis, all that was left to do was to head to the nearest metro station and make our way north back, taking a quick pit stop at the hotel to collect our left luggage and then onto the Gare du Nord to begin our return journey homewards.
Winter in Paris, Winterlust