Trip to Paris - June 1999

HomeGot any questions? Send me a mail


Please note that Nikki and I went to Paris again in April 2006. You can find the trip report on this page.

Arriving in Paris on a Thaly train

I wonder how they check all the people that come to Paris by train. After all we came from a different country and no one checked our passports when we left Amsterdam. We were stopped by customs officers' right after we came off the train and they were a bit shocked when they looked at my Norwegian passport and my girlfriend Nikki’s South African passport. The custom lady just said “so extreme” :-)

The Eiffel tower seen from  L'Arc de TriomphThe first thing we did when we got to Paris was to get a Carte Orange which is a card that gives you access to the Metro and the buses in Paris. I love the Metro by the way. It is such a great way to get around town. Here is the link to the Metro operators: . In order to get a Carte Orange they required a picture. And it turned out that I had a picture of Nikki, and Nikki had a picture of me and then we got the cards and could travel as much as we wanted for the next 7 days and the price was only about 80 francs.

A sculptured head outside St-EustacheI had booked a hotel through the internet but it had been cancelled because I had not sent a confirmation. But I think it is all for the best because it was located near St. Lazare train station and there was a lot of construction work going on and there was lots of traffic. So we had to start looking for a new hotel and we walked around to hotels in the closest area and everything and I mean everything was either full or very expensive. In the end we were fed up and we ended up at a travel agency and they helped us with a hotel. The hotel was located near Pigalle which is not one of the best neighborhoods in Paris.Arc de Triomphe seen from Champs Elysee The area towards Moulin Rouge is filled with places that offer Peep shows, sex movies and so on. I was out walking to see if there was an internet cafe near by and I asked a girl “Parlez vous Anglais” and she just said “No, no”. She probably though I was in that area for something totally different :-) I was a bit depressed at that stage cause it seemed like we would have to go for an expensive hotel and I hate that cause when you are on vacation you spend most of the day out of the hotel anyway. But we were able to find a good, fairly cheap hotel the next day through the tourist office on Champs-Elysee. The new hotel called Hotel Taylor was located near Place de la Republique.

We had 10 days in Paris and it was great to have enough time. The last time I went to Paris I only stayed there for 3 days and of course we were not able to see all that much.

Resting on the stairs in front of Sacré-CoeurThe first thing we did was to visit the church Sacre-Ceour. The church is located quite close to Pigalle so we walked up to it the first night when we were in Paris. The church itself is so beautiful and in the stairs in front of the church you get a great view of the city. But it is always filled with lots and lots of tourists of course.

We did one great walk in Paris in one of the first days. We started walking from our hotel at Repulblique and we walked to the Pompidou centre. The centre itself is closed at the moment because of maintenance so there is not that much to see. From there we walked over to Les Halles the big shopping mall that offers everything from shops to restaurants, cinemas and a big swimming pool. We then walked down towards the Seine where we walked through the Louvre on the outside and then through the Jardin Tuliere. We had a look at Place de la Concorde of course with the big obelisk that was given to France from Egypt. Nikki at Place de la ConcordeThe place itself is beautiful but one of the two fountains were under maintenance and that took away some of the beauty. After taking some photos here we started walking up Champs-Elysee all the way up to Arc de Triomph. I think that the view from the Arc de Triomph is great. The sight of all the avenues stretching out from this intersection is breathtaking. And it is also breathtaking to see how the cars maneuver their way in the traffic below as well :-) After this walk I was glad that we could jump on the metro and get back home without too much walking.

The following days we tried not to walk as much as we had done on the first day. We tried to agree on one main activity on the following day from day to day.

In front of La Geode at Cité des SciencesOne of the first things we decided to do was to visit the Cité de Science ( This place is a huge museum where they have interactive exhibition within science and technology. And I was impressed by the place because there were lots and lots to see and do there BUT most of the stuff was in French so it was hard to understand most of it. I’m sure that this would be even more popular if they could label all the stuff with English text. Submarine information at Cité des SciencesThere is a big planetarium inside this place but I must say that it was a disappointment. The show was about the Hubble telescope but it seemed to focus more on what the ancient people on earth thought of the stars. And it was all in French of course. I think that it was a waste of a good planetarium and it was actually so boring that I fell asleep. The place also has a giant ball on the outside where they show different movies. We didn’t check out that cause we have seen most of the films that were being shown there. And they had a French submarine on the outside which we were able to walk through and we even got a little guide in English and I enjoyed that.

Walking around in the hall of mirrors at VersaillesOne day we decided to visit the Versailles palace. The palace is great and I was very impressed when I saw it the first time. There were lots and lots of tourists in the palace this time and I think that we had to wait in line for something like ½ hour before getting in. Walking around in the Marble CourtyardAnd it was even more crowded inside of the palace. We walked from room to room and there were 1 and 2 guided groups in each room and it was hard to see anything. Some of the most beautiful paintings in the ceilings had been covered up for maintenance by the way. When I went to the palace the last time, I went in the beginning of May and then it was more possible to see the rooms. The garden is so big that it is almost impossible to cover it in one day.

Nikki in front of the Eiffel TowerWe choose to go up to the Eiffel tower by night and it was worth it. The view from the top was great. But once again it took some time to get up there. Getting up to the second level is not a problem but getting up the top took some time. And it was really crowded on top and we were there at midnight just an hour before closing time. Earlier that day we also walked from the Eiffel tower towards Invalides and it was kinda funny to look at the guards trying to keep the tourist from walking on the lawns :-)

We went to the movies several times during our stay in Paris. We stayed closer to the cinema at Les Halles so that is where we went most of the time. The French has a tendency of dubbing stuff at least on TV but we made sure to go to the V.O. shows (version original). We learned fast that the movie doesn’t start on time by the way. The ads started when the movie was supposed to have started and it always lasted for like 20 minutes.

Walking around in LouvreOne day we decided to go to the Louvre. It was kinda lucky that we got to see it at all because the museum had been on strike for three weeks before we came there. The entrance of the museum is great in my opinion and the museum itself is so big. I enjoyed the remains of the old fortress that you can see under the buildings itself and I enjoyed the Egyptian exhibition. And we saw the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo of course. Well, we saw many things in there and once again we could have spent days in there if we wanted to see all the paintings and sculptures.

Gard in front of the liberty flameWe went over to the Ile de la Cité several times during our stay. The Notre Dame is really magnificent but I was disappointed when I saw that half of the front of the church was covered up due to maintenance and because of this is was not possible to get up in the tower. But there is more to see on this little island. There is an archaeological crypt under the place in front of Notre Dame. It was interesting to see the story of the island and how things had evolved. There are remains all the way back to the Roman Gallo period. We also stopped by the Memorial of the Deported, during World War 2. We walked over Pont Neuf and we went to the tip of the islands and looked at the boats pass us by.

You can also see more of the Romans influence in Paris if you go to Arene de Lutèce. I think Lutèce was the Romans name for Paris. The arena is a big outside arena where Romans used to have all sorts of “shows”. Quite impressive when it says that it could hold up to 15.000 people.

Countdown to the millennium, The Eiffel Tower seen from ChaillotThere are many bus tour operators in Paris these days and we thought it would be fun to take a ride on it. So we went for something called the Paris L’OpenTour. It was a double decker bus and it was possible to get on and off how many times you wanted during a day. Because of our Orange passes we got it at a reduced price but it was still 110 FF. The bus route included Louvre, Notre Dame, Jardin du Luxembourg, along the river with Orsay museum, Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysee, Trocadero, Eiffel tower and Invalides. Walking up towards Arc de TriompheThe route itself was good but I think it was kind of expensive. The only reason for going on this instead of going on the metro was that we were given extra info via headsets and of course because of the view. The info that was given through the headset was not sufficient enough and it was very hard to hear what was said in the first place. But it was very easy to take this tour. Just be at one of the stops and get on board and pay (the first time) and then off you go.

The guns in front of Hôtel des InvalidesWe went to several churches in Paris and I have already mentioned Sacre Ceour and Notre Dame. We went to Pantheon. The church itself is impressive but sadly enough it seems like it is falling apart cause most of the ceiling was covered. The final steps on the way to the top of Arc de Triomphe There is a pendulum inside and there is information about this pendulum and how it is affected by the earth's rotation. And the crypt under the church was interesting because it contains the tombs of many famous French people including Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola. Talking about tombs, we also went to the Dome church in the Invalides complex. The most impressive thing in this church is of course Napoleons tomb in the middle. When I saw pictures of it a pictured a small coffin but in real life his coffin is huge. The Invalides also have more to offer. When you pay to get into the Dome church you also get access to the museum of arms. Once again the museum was so big that we got fed up before we had seen half of the exhibition. But they had weapons from different areas of French military history.

We walked on and over many of the bridges over the Seine. The most beautiful is of course Pont Alexandre. We also walked along the river all the way over to Pont de Grenelle where we wanted to take a look at the statue of liberty. It took us quite a while to get there and when we finally got there the statue was removed. According to the “tent” that was there it had been transported to Tokyo for an exhibition.

La Grande Arche in La DéfenseOn top of the Arc de Triomph you have a good view towards La defense. We decided to go out there one day and the grande arche is quite a sight also up close. It was possible to go to the top of it but we decided to just walk around in the area. On the big place in front of the arche there were lots of people on roller blades. In general there were lots of people on roller blades wherever we went in Paris. We even saw a parade of skaters when we were going back to our hotel one night. It made it even harder to cross the street. Compared to Norway the sports equipment was pretty cheap and I bought a pair of roller blades too.

Relaxing in Jardin de LuxembourgWhen we went on the bus tour that one day we got of at the Jardin de Luxembourg. It was nice to get something good to eat and walk into the park, away from the noisy streets and into this “quiet” park. There were lots of people here but guards kept them all straight. It seemed like there was a “Do not walk on the grass” policy.

Gard proves his addiction to Haagen Daaz ice-creamI have to admit that we went to Planet Hollywood one night. It is located on Champs Elysee. I was not really impressed there. I guess we came in the middle of rush hour so our waiter ran from and to our table so we didn’t really feel like we were eating in a relaxed atmosphere. We ate quite a lot of baguettes of course both for breakfast and for lunch. And McDonalds is always handy when you want a fast meal but McDonald in Paris was not something I enjoyed. Yes, the quarter pounder is called Royal with cheese but that doesn’t help when it is flat and tasteless. But I enjoyed eating at KFC :-) And my favorite dessert will always be Hagen Daaz ice cream :-) The cookies and cream is just fantastic.

We went to a couple of internet cafes during the stay. There is a Toyota display complex on Champs Elysee where you can get a terminal with free internet access for 15 minutes. But the keyboard was really weird and it made it more or less impossible to write anything. But we got a list over the different internet cafes from the tourist agency and that made us capable of finding machines with regular keyboards.

The entrance at the LouvreIt is expensive in Paris especially if you are going to see all the sites. Here are some examples of what we had to pay: Eiffel tower 60 FF, Pantheon: 35 FF, Louvre 45 FF, Versailles: 45 FF, Bus tour: 110 FF, Cite des sciences: 50 FF. Maybe it is not that expensive individually but when you travel around all day and see many of the things then it becomes quite a lot. Another problem with Paris was that a lot of the information in the different museums was only in French. That made it hard for me to understand all of the stuff that is written.

I read in my guide book that Amsterdam had a reputation of being a town with a lot of dog shit in the streets. I think that Paris is a lot worse when it comes to this. It didn’t seem like people bothered picking up the dog shit wherever it might have happened. We even saw dog shit on one of the conveyor belts on the metro. But after a few days we learned to watch out for this.

Holding on to the Eiffel Tower on top of Arc de Triomphe We saw examples of that it is wise to look after your wallet in Paris. One night we were taking the last metro train back. A group of Americans went into the metro car as a person came out. The person coming out made some funny moves and when the train got moving it turned out that one of the American girls had been lifted of her wallet. We also saw other “suspicious” persons like a guy who went out of one metro car at one station only to enter the next metro car. He looked like he was looking for an easy victim. But I felt safe most of the time. It is not very often that I don’t feel safe by the way. Must be because I’m so naive :-)

The fountain on Place Igor StravinskyI’m not sure what I will remember best from Paris. It was kind of weird for me to come back after being there 5 years ago. It is easy to glide into a pattern of visiting all the places that I had been to just out of nostalgic reasons. But I’m glad that we had a lot of time in Paris. We got to see quite a lot and we didn’t have to worry about seeing all in one day. I think the feeling of being on the metro during rush hour is something that I will remember for a long time. Lots of people squeezed together in hot, hot metro car. But I will also remember Paris for all the bridges, sculptures and churches.

We stayed in Paris from Tuesday the 8th of June until Saturday the 19th of June. Then we headed back the same way where we came from. First a Thalys train back to Amsterdam and then back to Stavanger.


HomeGot any questions? Send me a mail