À Paris – part one
Bonjour, mes amis! Comment allez vous?
No, don’t worry, you’ve not arrived at the wrong blog, it really is me and that’s about as much French as you’ll be getting today! 🙂 It’s been a whizz of a few weeks and I’ve hardly had two minutes to think – we’ve had the end of GCSEs, the end of school and prom for not so small daughter, moving into a new place of her own and the first of her delayed graduations for big daughter (another one to come – blooming Covid, we’re still feeling the effects of the last couple of years, aren’t we?!) and last weekend, a surprise trip to Paris for not so small daughter and me.
I say “surprise” as we booked it with only a couple of days to go so it really was last minute and quite a surprise to both of us that we actually got on and did it at all! It was a trip that we’d promised not so small daughter earlier in the year – big daughter was going away with her boyfriend but we aren’t going abroad this year as we couldn’t get the cats and dog into the kennels that we use and not so small daughter was feeling left out. My husband had the idea of staying with the pets whilst the two of us went away for a few days and we said she could choose wherever she liked (within reason!). She chose Paris.
I should probably warn you now that this post is photo heavy, so you might want to get yourself a brew!
By the time we had waited for the exams to be over and not so small daughter’s new passport to arrive (after hearing stories of them taking weeks to arrive, I wasn’t booking anything until it was in our hands), we had two weekends to choose from – last weekend or August bank holiday. “Let’s see how easy it is to book,” I said, still slightly stunned at the idea that we would only have a couple of days before going. Everything dropped beautifully into place. Hooray for internet bookings, for travel blogs and cheap airlines (although I must tell you that the “Cheap Flights” song was stuck in my head for days) … and off we went!
It did feel strange just being the two of us, but we negotiated Manchester Airport, Charles de Gaulle Airport, the RER train and the Metro and finally arrived in the St Germain area of Paris without too much difficulty. Our hotel was very close to Notre Dame – so close, in fact, that we could see the top of one of the bell towers from our room, which felt very grand – and was a perfect location for getting to pretty much everywhere that we wanted to see in the city very easily.
Before we went, not so small daughter and I sat down to work out a “hit list” of places that we wanted to see. I’ve been to Paris before so I was quite happy to let not so small daughter choose where she wanted to go and it was interesting to see the mix of traditional sights, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and places that she had seen on Instagram or TikTok on her list. It’s been quite an eye-opener for me recently to see how much information can be gained from social media (and perhaps a small concern how much time not so small daughter spends on it to gain all this information 🤣), but having seen how much it helped her through her exams, I was much more amenable to it being involved in our itinerary planning.
We arrived in Paris on Friday morning after a ridiculously early start but we didn’t let only having had a few hours’ sleep stop us! After dropping our bags at the hotel, we were back out and into the city, walking around Notre Dame to get towards the Metro station. The cathedral was badly damaged by fire in 2019 when the central wooden spire and roof caught fire and fell into the building. Amazingly, the remaining stone structure is still standing and the beautiful stained glass windows are still intact. It’s a massive undertaking to re-build the roof and spire – the decision has been taken to faithfully recreate the original rather than take the opportunity to do something new – which means that it’s not possible to go inside at the moment. You can walk right next to the cathedral, though (and there are apartments a mere stone’s throw away too – that must have been scary when the roof caught fire) and you can see some of what’s going on with the restoration.
I loved the wooden structures supporting the famous flying buttresses – there are an incredible number of companies and building experts involved in the restoration and I am glad that the decision was taken to restore rather than replace. If nothing else, I like the idea of modern technology being involved in recreating something that is hundreds of years old!
All along the hoardings are updates and photos on the work that is being done; it’s a fascinating read and we spent quite some time looking at all the photos and marvelling at how much of the cathedral seems to have survived the fire.
Our main mission on Friday was to go to see the Eiffel Tower. The official website has a very helpful section that tells you how high the attendance is at any time. Saturdays and Sundays are, as you’d expect, the busiest times, and during the main part of the day most days of the week too – the best time to go is early morning or later in the evening, in case you were wondering! We headed up there after 6pm hoping that it really would be a quieter time and were rewarded by a short ticket queue – you can buy your tickets online to make sure that you get one as the summit gets closed during busy periods, but we were too last-minute and there weren’t any left. You can also buy very expensive ones from tourist websites but we decided to risk the queue and were lucky.
I hope you’re ready for some Eiffel Tower spam! 🙂
It really is a stunning site as you get off the Metro and walk towards it. And that sky? There’s no filter on that at all! Isn’t it beautiful?
As you get closer, you realise just how big this Tower is. At 1083 feet (330 metres), it towers above the rest of Paris (pun absolutely intended!) apart from a couple of larger buildings (that were perhaps the result of a planning department aberration in earlier years 🙂 ) and you can see it from just about anywhere if you’re up high enough to see over the roof tops.
We got into the lift which took us up to the second floor and saw Paris disappearing beneath our feet. The work that has gone into designing and creating this structure is incredible, and I loved seeing how it all fitted together; some of it beautifully curved and swirled in decorative patterns, and as we got higher, bolted together in a criss-cross form to make sure that the Tower was sturdy.
It was only originally meant to be in place for around 20 years, can you imagine that? It was designed as part of the World’s Fair in 1889, attracted a lot of criticism from contemporary architects and designers – but still received over 2 million visitors when it was first opened. Its future was secured when it started to be used as a communications platform and it is still used today for TV and radio signals. You can read more about the history of the Tower here. It’s also very easy to see how it was the inspiration for Blackpool Tower in the UK too!
This is where we got off – the second floor. You can walk up steps to get here but it’s hard work – we walked down to the first floor after our visit and that seemed to take forever, I can’t imagine walking up from the bottom!
From the second floor, you get such a good view across Paris. One of the staff told us it was the best view and I can see why she would think that!
We didn’t stop at the second floor though – our visit included going right to the top! Goodness, it’s very high! You have to queue for another lift which travels up the inside of the metalwork and when you get out, there’s still another however many feet of signal mast above your head …
and the world really is at your feet!
Gustav Eiffel, architect of the Tower, has an apartment at the very top where he used to receive visitors … I’m not sure that I would want to do that myself! The floor is completely caged in now for safety but there are plenty of photos of it when it was first built when there was little more than a flimsy rail for visitors to look over … it makes me shudder at the thought!
Eventually, it was time to leave and we got into the queue for the lift to go back down.
The blue flash is my camera reflection, but if you look to the bottom right hand corner of the photo above, you can see a man with a blue peaked cap … he’s a mannequin but is sitting where the original lift drivers would have sat outside of the lift. Oh my life! It makes me feel quite peculiar just to think of that! Nowadays, the lift is driven by modern controls and the operator stands inside – definitely much safer!
Once back on solid ground, we followed the footpath around the gardens to the exit. Originally, I imagine that this garden must have been part of the exhibition and I wondered if the pool was something to do with the original hydraulic system for the lift.
What a stunning reflection!
As much as we had enjoyed looking at Paris from our elevated viewpoint, the highlight of the visit to the Eiffel Tower for not so small daughter was this.
We sat in the Garden of the Eiffel Tower along with hundreds of other people, many with picnics and bottles of wine, and we waited for the sun to go down and for the Tower to be lit up.
I don’t mind telling you that at first, I was rather alarmed at the idea of waiting until late (it was 10.30pm before the lights were turned on) in an unfamiliar city with a Metro journey back to our hotel, but we quickly worked out that there would be many other people going back to the same Metro station and probably even our final stop so we soon felt much safer. The whole atmosphere, even with the street sellers walking between the groups on the grass trying to sell drinks, flashing Eiffel Towers and various other trinkets, was very comfortable and I am glad that we waited.
The lights were quite dim at first but brightened quickly – we joked that they were probably energy savings lights (we’ve got a few in our house that take their time reaching the right light volume), but it makes sense that they would be!
And then this, at 11pm. Sparkling lights all over the Tower … it looked beautiful!
It was absolutely worth the wait. For five minutes every hour from when it goes dark until when the Tower closes at 12.45am, the Tower sparkles like the jewel of the city that it is, and I am so glad that not so small daughter wanted to see it.
I did have every intention of writing about our whole Paris weekend in one post, but I think I have probably taken up enough of your time today so I will write more in another post! À bientôt – see you soon! xx