Please note that
Nikki and I went to Paris again in April 2006. You can find the trip
report on this page.
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” :-)
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: www.ratp.fr
. 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.
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. 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
The 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.
The 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.
One of the first things
we decided to do was to visit the Cité de Science (http://www.cite-sciences.fr).
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
There 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.
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.
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.
We 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.
One 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.
We 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.
There 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
The 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.
We 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
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.
On 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.
When 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.
I 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.
It 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
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 :-)
I’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.