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.
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?