February 18, 2012

Visiting Paris

I took my daughter to Paris for a few days this week, for some special girls' time together and to introduce her to a city I have been ridiculously in love with for years. We saw so much; the Eiffel Tower,

Sacre Coeur and Montmartre (where she had her portrait done!),

the Mona Lisa and the Egyptian rooms at the Louvre where the 3000+ year old jewellery, using the same forging, hammering, filigree and granulation techniques that I am learning were a huge inspiration, and where I was also slightly freaked out to catch my own reflection in an ancient Egyptian burnished metal hand mirror in which a pharoah's daughter may have gazed at her kohl-eyed reflection!

We also were in awe of the beauty of places like Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle,

and made the most of little cafe stops for coffee and hot chocolates. We had a ball despite being rather full of cold, but this being a real girl blog I have to be honest about Paris falling off its pedestal for me slightly. Firstly, we really were ripped off at every turn! 8 Euros for a milk shake, 14 Euros for a plate of fairly uninteresting green vegetables (and it is not an easy city for a hungry vegetarian!), a poor value hotel and so on. The metro was really hard work too, the trains run smoothly but the stations are looking really old and dirty and the big ones are a real maze, we got close to tears just trying to get out of Gare du Nord at the end of one day! Perhaps because it was cold and grey and there were no leaves on the trees, but Paris was looking a little cheerless and austere and Izzi didn't like it as much as London, she said it was very grown up and serious and tiring to get round. It may have been the head cold talking, but I did feel a bit disappointed although she was very appreciative and good company. Looking back though, we had lots of laughs and lovely times together too, and saw so many beautiful places, not complaining!

Below I have listed my little insider list of places to see and things to avoid, especially if you have a child with you.

My favourite places to visit: 

Notre Dame, The Conciergerie and Sainte-Chapelle all close together in the Ile de La Cite area and all completely fascinating - Sainte-Chapelle built in 1248 by King Louis 1X to house Christ's supposed Crown of Thorns is utterly breathtaking, maybe the most beautiful man made structure I have ever seen - please go if you are in Paris.

The Marais and St-Germain-des-Pres areas of the city, on the right and left banks respectively, and easy to walk around, full of atmosphere and classic Parisian street life.

Place des Vosges in the Marais area, and Place Vendome in the Tuileries Quarter, both stunning squares worth visiting for their architectural perfection alone.

Sacre Coeur and the surrounding Montmartre area - Moulin Rouge territory, storybook Paris perhaps but ridiculously romantic and atmospheric, with an outstanding view over Paris from Sacre Coeur. Many steps to climb.

The Louvre - well, truly a world class, vast museum. If you are there with a child, my advice would be to pick off a couple of exhibitions, it is very overwhelming and cavernous. Izzi loved the Egyptian rooms.

Rodin's house and gardens - small, intimite gallery and garden, just lovely.

Eiffel Tower - if you are with a child, they will want to go! It is astounding and easy to get to on the metro.

Insider knowledge:

Leaving from St Pancras it is possible to buy a carnet of metro tickets and museum passes which are invaluable if you are planning on seeing a lot - but please be aware children under 18 do not need a museum pass, they are let in free everywhere. Still cross I got flogged one for Izzi totally unnecessarily.

If you cannot face the metro which can be a bit overwhelming, red tourist buses offer a hop on-hop off service which could work well.

Have as big a breakfast as you can in your hotel because the restaurants in the touristy areas tend to be very expensive, even the basic looking ones.

Take time just to wander the streets of the pretty areas, and especially along the banks of the Seine, just to absorb the atmosphere of the city.

Be aware that the Pigalle area near Montmatre, Gare du Nord and parts of the Marais do become fairly sex trade/entertainment orientated after dark, so good to avoid with children in tow.

I would advise going outside of the winter time, the boulevards being lined with leafy trees and the Seine glittering blue really do make a difference.

Finally, if you live anywhere near London, the Eurostar is a no-brainer, cheap and fast and really user-friendly.

Have you got any Paris top tips to share?


  1. I've not been to Paris since I was 19, when I absolutely adored it. Recently my 14 year daughter has been (not so quietly) murmuring about how much she'd like to go.... maybe we'll manage it one holiday, and I'll be sure to remember your handy tips!

  2. Oh I've been waiting for this post ever since your last picture.

    I have never been.

    I suggest you take me along next time.

    I promise to be very appreciative.

    xo Jane

  3. I have been over it, round it and through it but never TO it. I really must make the effort.

  4. it is such a beautiful city, but when I went (at 18) I too was horrified at what a rip off it was, the pressure to buy metro tickets from touts, and the horror of the stations.
    oh and it was August, and unbearably hot....

  5. If Jane gets to go, so do I - or I will sulk! Still on my [rather extensive] bucket list. Sounds like a good time with your "little" girl. Glad you got the chance to do it.

  6. This is very interesting for me to read because (as you know) I spend a lot of time in Paris at the moment. I'm going to be totally honest here and tell you something that I don't say "out loud" (on twitter or my blog) very often, but.....I'm with Izzi on this one: I prefer London.

    I always have such a fun time in London - I'm also vegetarian and I get so tired of not being able to eat properly (or cheaply) in Paris - you don't even want to know the service I got in one particular restaurant back in September because I was veggie; had I not been with several other people I would have walked out. I eventually got a plate of overpriced vegetables, but not before being humiliated.

    There are some beautiful parts of Paris, and as I get it know it better, in some ways I like parts of it more. But a lot of it is dirtier than I expected, and the French are ruder than I expected too (this is of course just my personal experience). You're also right about being ripped off everywhere - the cost of eating out, or even stopping at a bar or cafe for a quick drink, is unbelievable.

    My boyfriend would like me to move there to live with him, but I don't want to live there on a full-time basis. Everyone is so in awe of Paris but to be honest with you, I feel much happier and have a lot more fun in London! The one thing spending several months of the year in Paris has done for me is to make me appreciate how lucky I am to live in the UK - and I *never* thought I would say that before I went there for the first time! I assumed I would fall in love with Paris, but it just hasn't happened.

    I'm glad you had a good time anyway - and you've certainly made me want to visit Notre Dame (surprisingly, I haven't been there so far!). Paris does have a special atmosphere at times and areas of great beauty - it's just that the negatives outweigh the positives for me so much of the time.

  7. I was mugged once in the Sacre Coeur, by gypsy girls, who beat me over the head with rolled up newpapers and stole my purse ... possibly the most embarrassing mugging in history! Sadly though I've never felt quite comfortable there since, the Sacre Coeur that is, not Paris, which I love, though I have to say I haven't been in years. Despite the gloom it does sound as if you had a lovely time x

  8. Wow! I love Paris, and coming from Melbourne Australia, I have to travel a long way to get there! Maybe that makes me appreciate it more?

  9. Oh how I love Paris in the winter...your images are so lovely. I've just been catching up on your gorgeous posts of winter images...all the way back to the birthday.

  10. Hoping to got to Paris again this year and so have just printed off your most useful and intersting post. Thanks. M x