Bonjour Paris: A Magical Long Weekend!

Bonjour Paris: A Magical Long Weekend!

My first birthday since moving to the United Kingdom was fast approaching and a celebratory weekend in Paris sounded just right!

We decided to take the Eurostar from St Pancras International in London to Gare Du Nord in Paris. We knew that flights where a much cheaper option but had never experienced a train ride like the Eurostar before so we were keen to try it out. It’s also beneficial as it takes you right into the centre of Paris, unlike flying.

So happy to be in Paris!

There was LOTS we wanted to fit into our 3-day weekend in Paris; museums, monuments, and cultural cuisines to name just a few. We did some research and discovered the Paris Museum Pass. It provides unlimited skip-the-line entry to over 50 sights across Paris. We chose the 2-day pass for a very reasonable 48 euros. They also have options for 4 and 6 day passes if you’re spending more time there. We also purchased a 2-day Paris Big Bus tour, as we thought it might be a great way to see the city when we only had a few days there.

A visit to The Louvre

We arrived in Paris in the late morning and wanted to collect our Museum Pass immediately so that we could head straight to the Musée du Louvre. Fortunately there was a Paris Big Bus stop just a short walk from Gare du Nord station so we made our way there and voilà, the Big Bus was already coming in handy! We actually ended up using it a lot like regular public transport throughout our trip. The bus dropped us close to the Paris Tourist Office, where we collected our Museum Pass and made a b-line to The Louvre.

The view of the pyramids from inside The Louvre.

We skipped the queue with our pass and were inside the revered museum within moments of arriving. Entry is through the largest glass pyramid in the centre of the Louvre forecourt. Once inside the pyramid you descend down the escalator right into the heart of the museum. The Louvre is a very large, with so many rooms, corridors, and exhibits; you could spend days there trying to see everything.

BYD Tip

The Louvre offers free lockers for medium sized bags so it makes it easy to head straight there before checking into your accommodation.

The Louvre Highlights

I was amazed by the ceiling paintings and gold finishing’s of the frames, and the building itself. We spent a lot of our time with our heads tilted upwards admiring the beautiful work. The Louvre, after all, was once a royal palace serving as the main residence of the kings of France. So it is little wonder that it is a standalone feature, and one of my personal highlights.

The stunning ceilings at The Louvre.

The Museum of Modern Sculpture

I’m always in awe of the detailed precision of sculptures and statues created many years in the past. There were so many notable sculptures in The Louvre. I remember one that particularly drew my attention. It was a carving of a man wearing loose falling robes with such astounding definition. They appeared to be hanging so freely from his body as if he was, in fact, shrouded in real cloth.

Venus de Milo.

Athena of Velletri.

The Winged Victory of Samothace.

The Egyptian Antiquities

To enter the Egyptian Antiquities exhibition, you descend down a staircase into the lower levels of the museum. When you reach the landing there is a huge statue of a Sphinx that is quite amazing to behold. There are pieces of broken wall from Egyptian temples and other such buildings that display the ancient artwork and hieroglyphics. It’s amazing how well these styles have been preserved, particularly the painted colours. At the bottom level of the exhibition were some actual mummies, along with small jewels and traditional Egyptian carvings.

Jori standing with the Great Sphinx of Tanis.

Amazingly well preserved examples of Egyptian art and hieroglyphics.

The Great Sphinx of Tanis.

Mesopotamia

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the Mesopotamia Exhibit, however I loved the huge carvings of Lamasi – a four legged, bull or lion-type figure usually with wings and a human head. They were beautiful, in all their monumental glory.

The Lamasi towering high above Jori.

Amazing detailing on the Lamassu.

Feeling small beside the Lamassu.

The Mona Lisa

As we were visiting in the off-season, the gallery wasn’t crowded with people. Eager to see the famed Mona Lisa, we turned the corner to enter its display room. And there it was. The stunning Mona Lisa. Barely visible because of the huge crowd of people in front of it! There was a large crowd of people packed in around the painting, all eagerly trying to snap photos of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ever-popular work. Eventually we managed to manoeuvre our way to the front of the crowd so that we could take a closer look. The intricacy and detail of the painting’s subject is amazing, particularly as it was painted over 500 years ago. Although, considering that Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has been – and continues to be – so revered throughout the world, we were both left feeling a little underwhelmed.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Photo of people crowding around the Mona Lisa.

This was our first sight of the famous painting,
through a sea of camera screens, arms, and heads.

Large Format Paintings – 19th Century France

Written by Jori

I’m stealing this part, because I was stunned by all the amazing artworks just outside the Mona Lisa exhibit. And there was no one packed in around them. The long hallway to the Mona Lisa is filled with amazing artworks, and just outside the entrance to the Mona Lisa display room is the 19th Century Large Format Paintings room. The paintings in this room took my breath away. They were so large and so detailed that I was in awe of the scenes that they displayed. I’m not an art aficionado, and I’m not the best at explaining how or why an artwork is astonishing. I just know that these two pieces really made me stop and think. They were definitely my highlights of the Louvre.

Liberty Leading the People (La Liberté guidant le peuple) by Delacroix, (1830)

Liberty Leading the People.

This painting depicts the French rebellion against Charles X, and was painted in the same year. Lady liberty stands triumphant and powerful in front of the French population, waving the French flag, and leading them to victory. The colours, detail, and imagery had me standing there dumbfounded as I soaked in as much as I could.

The Raft of Medusa (Le Radeau de la Méduse) by Géricault, (1819)

The Raft of Medusa.

This painting depicts the crew of The Medusa, stranded aboard a raft. It’s based on the hallowing true story from the survivors, about how they had to turn to cannibalism to survive the wreck. The painting shows half the survivors in utter despair, while the other half desperately try to signal a distant ship. I remember standing in front of the painting as my eye wandered all over the scene, up and down the two piles of people, until I finally saw the distant ship. I’ve never had a painting affect me as much as this one did.

Napoleon III Apartments

A quick visit to Napoleon III apartments will leave you gobsmacked at the glitz and glamour of old royal residences. The crystal chandeliers, rich red furnishings, and artworks are pretty incredible

Napoleon III Drawing Room.

Napoleon III Dining Room.

A corridor in Napoleon III Apartments.

Our feet were sore but we were inspired by the beautiful art we had enjoyed. We hopped on the Big Bus again and made our way to the Latin Quarter. Jori had booked accommodation in this area as we had heard it had a great atmosphere, with lots of nice eateries and boutique stores. It’s now one of our favourite areas in Paris.

When we travel we usually try to save as much as we can on accommodation. However, as it was my birthday, Jori surprised me by booking a hotel with a 5th floor room that had a view of the Eiffel Tour in one direction and the Notre Dame Cathedral in the other. It was very special!

The Latin Quarter and Crêpes!

From our hotel it was a short walk into the heart of the Latin Quarter and only moments from a small crepe stand that was simply divine! We saw a large line of locals waiting at the stand, so we decided to join the queue. We’ve come to realise this is always a great indication of the quality and authenticity of the place. Everyday thereafter, we purchased a crepe from the local man who ran the stand. He spoke very little English, and did not seem to understand our attempts at ordering in French. Even so, we managed to get by and were always beyond delighted with our crepes.

A delicious Nutella crepe.

The Catacombs of Paris

With a few unplanned hours in the afternoon to fill (and only a vague dinner plan for my birthday celebrations), we made a quick decision to head to the Catacombs of Paris. The research we had done suggested that you could wait in line for hours to enter the underground network of tunnels. The closing time was fast approaching, but we decided to just risk it and see if we could make it in for the last session.

We caught the metro to Denfert-Rochereau station, which brings you up just across the road from the entrance to the Catacombs. The queue was so long that it was down the street and around the corner. Uh oh! I think we joined the end of the line at 5:30pm… and the last admission would be at 7pm. One of the staff was standing at the end of the line notifying people that they probably wouldn’t make it in. We decided to risk it. They only allow a maximum of 200 people in the tunnels at a time, so it all depends on how quickly the current group of people move through the tunnels, and there is no regulation for this.

6pm came and went, as did 6:30pm. We had only moved about ten spaces forward by 6:45pm. Tensions were high, and we were worried we had waisted time standing and waiting when we could have been enjoying the other sights Paris has to offer. But all of a sudden the line began to move. They were allowing the last group of people through. We edged closer and closer to the entrance, fingers-crossed that they wouldn’t close just as we reached the front of the line. We held our breath; and lo-and-behold we made it!! They let us in!

The Catacombs of Paris are a network of underground tunnels beneath the city, which are home to the bones of over six million people (the tunnels are actually old abandoned stone mines, and the Catacombs are located in a small section of them). The remains were moved underground in the 1700s to make room in Paris’ overcrowded cemeteries. Interestingly, the tunnels are the reason the buildings in Paris have never been built any higher than they are today. The tunnels would not withstand the weight and would therefore collapse. This means that the traditional architecture and skyline of city of has practically remained untouched.

We descended the 130 steps and began to explore the 2km of tunnels, with walls made entirely of stacked bones. It was eerie, and amazing to see. Long bones (from arms and legs) formed the foundations of the walls whilst skulls were placed thoughtfully, often to form crosses and love hearts.

Taking a closer look.

Love heart formation of skulls.

Cross formation of skulls.

It was a bit spooky.

Wound marking in a skull.

In many of the skulls there were what appeared to be wound markings. We entered with a big group of people, but soon found that we were left behind. We took our time marvelling at all the bones. It’s amazing to think that it had been someone’s job to personally remove these remains from cemeteries, to relocate them into the catacombs, and to arrange them so intricately. It became quiet and eerie as the crowd moved further away from us, out of sight and sound. What started as an exciting and spooky underground adventure had turned sombre and respectful, as we walked alone through the masses of bones and skulls.

BYD Tip

Remember to pack something warm. You will be 20 metres underground, so naturally it gets a little chilly. Even though we were lucky to get time alone in the Catacombs (because we arrived so late) we DON’T recommend you do this. The Catacombs were unlike anything else we’ve ever seen, and we recommend getting there early to ensure that you get in.

An evening at the Eiffel Tour

Our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tour came up quickly, as we rounded a bend and it rose out of the darkness, glowing golden above the trees. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. It really is such a beautiful monument. We had some fun admiring the architecture and taking photos from directly underneath it.

Clowning around beneath the Eiffel Tour!

A spur-of-the-moment decision found us heading to the top of the great monument, drinking champagne, and looking out over the beautiful city. If that’s not magical, I don’t know what is. I felt like the luckiest person alive. I was standing at the very top of the Eiffel Tour, champagne in hand, and enjoying a breathtakingly beautiful view with Jori, on my birthday. Someone even let off fireworks in the distance whilst we were up there!

Loving the view at the top of the Eiffel Tour.

Our first sight of the Eiffel Tour.

The beautiful Eiffel Tour at night.

The Eiffel Tour light show!

From the summit of the Eiffel Tour you can see Sacré Cœur, the Arc de Triumphe, Notre Dame, and the Louvre!

It was midnight when we descended and we hadn’t even had dinner yet. We quickly found an outside table at a nearby restaurant that had a bit of a view. It was very touristy (with very average food), but we were hungry and tired and were able to enjoy the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tour as we filled our stomachs.

BYD Tip

Spots close to tourist attractions very often serve average food for high prices. It can be nice to eat at them anyway, just to enjoy the surroundings, but if you’re looking for good food it’s worth researching where the locals eat. As we said earlier, if you see a line of locals, it’s usually a sign of good food!

You can read about what we got up to the next day in Paris here: Day Two of Our Paris Adventures.

My first birthday since moving to the United Kingdom was fast approaching and a celebratory weekend in Paris sounded just right!

We decided to take the Eurostar from St Pancras International in London to Gare Du Nord in Paris. We knew that flights where a much cheaper option but had never experienced a train ride like the Eurostar before so we were keen to try it out. It’s also beneficial as it takes you right into the centre of Paris, unlike flying.

Photo of Malika standing underneath a French flag on our first day in Paris.

So happy to be in Paris!

There was LOTS we wanted to fit into our 3-day weekend in Paris; museums, monuments, and cultural cuisines to name just a few. We did some research and discovered the Paris Museum Pass. It provides unlimited skip-the-line entry to over 50 sights across Paris. We chose the 2-day pass for a very reasonable 48 euros. They also have options for 4 and 6 day passes if you’re spending more time there. We also purchased a 2-day Paris Big Bus tour, as we thought it might be a great way to see the city when we only had a few days there.

A visit to The Louvre

We arrived in Paris in the late morning and wanted to collect our Museum Pass immediately so that we could head straight to the Musée du Louvre. Fortunately there was a Paris Big Bus stop just a short walk from Gare du Nord station so we made our way there and voilà, the Big Bus was already coming in handy! We actually ended up using it a lot like regular public transport throughout our trip. The bus dropped us close to the Paris Tourist Office, where we collected our Museum Pass and made a b-line to The Louvre.

A photo of the pyramids taken from inside The Louvre.

The view of the pyramids from inside The Louvre.

We skipped the queue with our pass and were inside the revered museum within moments of arriving. Entry is through the largest glass pyramid in the centre of the Louvre forecourt. Once inside the pyramid you descend down the escalator right into the heart of the museum. The Louvre is a very large, with so many rooms, corridors, and exhibits; you could spend days there trying to see everything.

BYD Tip

The Louvre offers free lockers for medium sized bags so it makes it easy to head straight there before checking into your accommodation.

The Louvre Highlights

I was amazed by the ceiling paintings and gold finishing’s of the frames, and the building itself. We spent a lot of our time with our heads tilted upwards admiring the beautiful work. The Louvre, after all, was once a royal palace serving as the main residence of the kings of France. So it is little wonder that it is a standalone feature, and one of my personal highlights.

Photo of the gold framed paintings on the ceiling of the Louvre.

The stunning ceilings at The Louvre.

The Museum of Modern Sculpture

I’m always in awe of the detailed precision of sculptures and statues created many years in the past. There were so many notable sculptures in The Louvre. I remember one that particular drew my attention. It was a carving of a man wearing loose falling robes with such astounding definition. They appeared to be hanging so freely from his body as if he was, in fact, shrouded in real cloth.

Photo of the Venus de Milo in the Louvre for the travel blog.

Venus de Milo.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of a statue of Athena in the Louvre in Paris.
Photo of The Winged Victory of Samothace in the Louvre in Paris.

The Egyptian Antiquities

To enter the Egyptian Antiquities exhibition, you descend down a staircase into the lower levels of the museum. When you reach the landing there is a huge statue of a Sphinx that is quite amazing to behold. There are pieces of broken wall from Egyptian temples and other such buildings that display the ancient artwork and hieroglyphics. It’s amazing how well these styles have been preserved, particularly the painted colours. At the bottom level of the exhibition were some actual mummies, along with small jewels and traditional Egyptian carvings.

Photo of Jori standing in front of Great Sphinx of Tanis in the Louvre.

Jori standing with the Great Sphinx of Tanis.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of a wall or brilliantly preserved ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Photo of The Great Sphinx of Tanis in the Louvre, in Paris.

Mesopotamia

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the Mesopotamia Exhibit, however I loved the huge carvings of Lamasi – a four legged, bull or lion-type figure usually with wings and a human head. They were beautiful, in all their monumental glory.

Photo of Jori standing between two Lamasi sculptures at the Louvre, Paris.

The Lamasi towering high above Jori.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of Malika standing beside the gigantic Lamassu statue.
Photo of the Lamassu sculpture from the front in the Louvre.

The Mona Lisa

As we were visiting in the off-season, the gallery wasn’t crowded with people. Eager to see the famed Mona Lisa, we turned the corner to enter its display room. And there it was. The stunning Mona Lisa. Barely visible because of the huge crowd of people in front of it! There was a large crowd of people packed in around the painting, all eagerly trying to snap photos of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ever-popular work. Eventually we managed to manoeuvre our way to the front of the crowd so that we could take a closer look. The intricacy and detail of the painting’s subject is amazing, particularly as it was painted over 500 years ago. Although, considering that Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has been – and continues to be – so revered throughout the world, we were both left feeling a little underwhelmed.

Close up photo of the Mona Lisa painting.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of people crowding around the Mona Lisa.

Large Format Paintings – 19th Century France

Written by Jori

I’m stealing this part, because I was stunned by all the amazing artworks just outside the Mona Lisa exhibit. And there was no one packed in around them. The long hallway to the Mona Lisa is filled with amazing artworks, and just outside the entrance to the Mona Lisa display room is the 19th Century Large Format Paintings room. The paintings in this room took my breath away. They were so large and so detailed that I was in awe of the scenes that they displayed. I’m not an art aficionado, and I’m not the best at explaining how or why an artwork is astonishing. I just know that these two pieces really made me stop and think. They were definitely my highlights of the Louvre.

Liberty Leading the People (La Liberté guidant le peuple) by Delacroix, (1830)

Photo of the giant Liberty Leading the People painting in the Louvre.

Liberty Leading the People.

This painting depicts the French rebellion against Charles X, and was painted in the same year. Lady liberty stands triumphant and powerful in front of the French population, waving the French flag, and leading them to victory. The colours, detail, and imagery had me standing there dumbfounded as I soaked in as much as I could.

The Raft of Medusa (Le Radeau de la Méduse) by Géricault, (1819)

Photo of the painting The Raft of Medusa.

The Raft of Medusa.

This painting depicts the crew of The Medusa, stranded aboard a raft. It’s based on the hallowing true story from the survivors, about how they had to turn to cannibalism to survive the wreck. The painting shows half the survivors in utter despair, while the other half desperately try to signal a distant ship. I remember standing in front of the painting as my eye wandered all over the scene, up and down the two piles of people, until I finally saw the distant ship. I’ve never had a painting affect me as much as this one did.

Napoleon III Apartments

A quick visit to Napoleon III apartments will leave you gobsmacked at the glitz and glamour of old royal residences. The crystal chandeliers, rich red furnishings, and artworks are pretty incredible

Travel blog photo of the Napoleon III Drawing Room in the Louvre in Paris.

Napoleon III Drawing Room.
(Tap the image for more photos)

A photo of the dining room in the Napoleon III apartments.
A photo of a corridor in the Napoleon III Apartments in the Louvre.

Our feet were sore but we were inspired by the beautiful art we had enjoyed. We hopped on the Big Bus again and made our way to the Latin Quarter. Jori had booked accommodation in this area as we had heard it had a great atmosphere, with lots of nice eateries and boutique stores. It’s now one of our favourite areas in Paris.

When we travel we usually try to save as much as we can on accommodation. However, as it was my birthday, Jori surprised me by booking a hotel with a 5th floor room that had a view of the Eiffel Tour in one direction and the Notre Dame Cathedral in the other. It was very special!

The Latin Quarter and Crêpes!

From our hotel it was a short walk into the heart of the Latin Quarter and only moments from a small crepe stand that was simply divine! We saw a large line of locals waiting at the stand, so we decided to join the queue. We’ve come to realise this is always a great indication of the quality and authenticity of the place. Everyday thereafter, we purchased a crepe from the local man who ran the stand. He spoke very little English, and did not seem to understand our attempts at ordering in French. Even so, we managed to get by and were always beyond delighted with our crepes.

A photo of a delicious crepe in Paris!

A delicious Nutella crepe.

The Catacombs of Paris

With a few unplanned hours in the afternoon to fill (and only a vague dinner plan for my birthday celebrations), we made a quick decision to head to the Catacombs of Paris. The research we had done suggested that you could wait in line for hours to enter the underground network of tunnels. The closing time was fast approaching, but we decided to just risk it and see if we could make it in for the last session.

We caught the metro to Denfert-Rochereau station, which brings you up just across the road from the entrance to the Catacombs. The queue was so long that it was down the street and around the corner. Uh oh! I think we joined the end of the line at 5:30pm… and the last admission would be at 7pm. One of the staff was standing at the end of the line notifying people that they probably wouldn’t make it in. We decided to risk it. They only allow a maximum of 200 people in the tunnels at a time, so it all depends on how quickly the current group of people move through the tunnels, and there is no regulation for this.

6pm came and went, as did 6:30pm. We had only moved about ten spaces forward by 6:45pm. Tensions were high, and we were worried we had waisted time standing and waiting when we could have been enjoying the other sights Paris has to offer. But all of a sudden the line began to move. They were allowing the last group of people through. We edged closer and closer to the entrance, fingers-crossed that they wouldn’t close just as we reached the front of the line. We held our breath; and lo-and-behold we made it!! They let us in!

The Catacombs of Paris are a network of underground tunnels beneath the city, which are home to the bones of over six million people (the tunnels are actually old abandoned stone mines, and the Catacombs are located in a small section of them). The remains were moved underground in the 1700s to make room in Paris’ overcrowded cemeteries. Interestingly, the tunnels are the reason the buildings in Paris have never been built any higher than they are today. The tunnels would not withstand the weight and would therefore collapse. This means that the traditional architecture and skyline of city of has practically remained untouched.

We descended the 130 steps and began to explore the 2km of tunnels, with walls made entirely of stacked bones. It was eerie, and amazing to see. Long bones (from arms and legs) formed the foundations of the walls whilst skulls were placed thoughtfully, often to form crosses and love hearts.

Jori kneeling next to a cross formation made of skulls

Cross formation of skulls.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of Malika kneeling next to skulls in the catacombs.
Photo of a love heart made out of 14 skulls in the catacombs of Paris.
Photo of the entrance to the Catacombs in Paris, France.
Photo of a skull with a large round bullet hole in the top.

In many of the skulls there were what appeared to be wound markings. We entered with a big group of people, but soon found that we were left behind. We took our time marvelling at all the bones. It’s amazing to think that it had been someone’s job to personally remove these remains from cemeteries, to relocate them into the catacombs, and to arrange them so intricately. It became quiet and eerie as the crowd moved further away from us, out of sight and sound. What started as an exciting and spooky underground adventure had turned sombre and respectful, as we walked alone through the masses of bones and skulls.

BYD Tip

Remember to pack something warm. You will be 20 metres underground, so naturally it gets a little chilly. Even though we were lucky to get time alone in the Catacombs (because we arrived so late) we DON’T recommend you do this. The Catacombs were unlike anything else we’ve ever seen, and we recommend getting there early to ensure that you get in.

An evening at the Eiffel Tour

Our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tour came up quickly, as we rounded a bend and it rose out of the darkness, glowing golden above the trees. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. It really is such a beautiful monument. We had some fun admiring the architecture and taking photos from directly underneath it.

Photo of Jori and Malika being silly right beneath the Eiffel Tour.

Clowning around beneath the Eiffel Tour!

A spur-of-the-moment decision found us heading to the top of the great monument, drinking champagne, and looking out over the beautiful city. If that’s not magical, I don’t know what is. I felt like the luckiest person alive. I was standing at the very top of the Eiffel Tour, champagne in hand, and enjoying a breathtakingly beautiful view with Jori, on my birthday. Someone even let off fireworks in the distance whilst we were up there!

Photo of the Eiffel Tour at night.

The beautiful Eiffel Tour at night.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of the Eiffel Tour lit up at night, shining a spotlight over the city.
Photo of the Eiffel Tour sparkling at night.

From the summit of the Eiffel Tour you can see Sacré Cœur, the Arc de Triumphe, Notre Dame, and the Louvre!

It was midnight when we descended and we hadn’t even had dinner yet. We quickly found an outside table at a nearby restaurant that had a bit of a view. It was very touristy (with very average food), but we were hungry and tired and were able to enjoy the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tour as we filled our stomachs.

BYD Tip

Spots close to tourist attractions very often serve average food for high prices. It can be nice to eat at them anyway, just to enjoy the surroundings, but if you’re looking for good food it’s worth researching where the locals eat. As we said earlier, if you see a line of locals, it’s usually a sign of good food!

You can read about what we got up to the next day in Paris here: Day Two of Our Paris Adventures.

By | 2018-06-06T19:14:24+00:00 April 22nd, 2017|France, Malika, Travel|0 Comments

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