by Samantha Colenutt
When booked in advance, a Eurostar return to Paris is often less than £100 for a day trip and this is probably the fastest way to get to the French capital. However, there is not a lot of room for extra luggage, so it is advised to take a small bag for your travels. The Ferry is another popular way to get across the channel, but not recommended for a day trip as journeys can take up to 9 hours. This may be an option for those wanting to take their cars across for a longer stay (although having seen traffic in Paris, this is certainly not something I would recommend!)
It should be warned that this day is not for the faint hearted! The Eurostar to Paris is around a two and a half hour journey so it is best to set off as early as possible, especially with Parisian time being an hour ahead of the British clock. Arriving at Gare du Nord Station for around 10am seems about perfect, with all of the shops, both designer and boutique, opening for your arrival. This is also ideal timing for that tasty croissant from a boutique cafe as a brunch time treat.
There are many options for travelling around the city but there is no doubt that the metro is the fastest one. You can buy a book of ten tickets (which allows you ten journeys) for around 12 Euros and this should be perfectly sufficient for a day’s travelling. For those who want to see the city from above ground, an open-top bus tour or a ride on the river’s Batobus may give you slightly more picturesque views, however this will take a little more time out of those precious exploring hours. The very brave may even want to walk some of the way with beautiful gardens sitting between a few of Paris’ unique landmarks.
Now for the tricky part, just which of these landmarks do you want to see? On first look at a map of Paris this all seems like a mammoth task but in truth some of the sites are just in one large loop around the river.
Notre Dame Cathedral is a good place to start at just a couple of stops down the metro line from Gare du Nord. At a five to ten minute walk from the metro stop the cathedral is impossible to miss, with its gothic exterior leading high into the sky just off of the riverside. This is without a doubt one of the most outstanding cathedrals you will ever see. It boasts an incredible interior with antique chandeliers and vast stained glass windows and it seems hard to conceive that something so extraordinary could have been created with the simpler resources they had at that time. Everything about the cathedral is remarkable – even to an atheist’s eye.
Following the loop across the river, the next logical place to stop is the Louvre Museum which is brilliant to see even if you do not venture in. Home to the world famous Mona Lisa, the museum is mostly based underground but has a glass pyramid entrance surrounded by fountains. The Museum itself is so huge that many say you could spend at least half a day wondering around, so this is not ideal for a day trip but a definite must-see for art enthusiasts.
At this point a walk through the park towards the Arc de Triomphe provides a perfect spot to stop for a bite to eat on a sunny day. This is a rather long walk if you are trying to walk the whole distance however there are metro stops along the way for those who only want to see part of the park.
This walk leads you along to the grand Arc De Triomphe - a landmark so huge that no picture could really do it justice. Again, this is one of Paris’ most iconic sights and the architecture seems exceptional to the untrained (and no doubt to the trained) eye. For a small fee you can climb the stairs to the top of the Arc where you will find wonderful views of a large area of Paris.
Of course, the final landmark stop just has to be the Eiffel Tower. This is a view that you will be seeing right from the beginning of your journey, as the ultimate sight of Paris appears easily across its skyline. Visitors must be prepared to queue, however the view of Paris will be well worth the wait, especially the sights from the very top.
After all of this, most would probably find themselves feeling extremely hungry and so heading back towards the Notre Dame is a very good idea. Restaurant owners and waiters will beckon you into their eateries if you walk around the Latin Quatre and there will be plenty of options from seafood, to fondue and even to steak at fairly reasonable prices. At one open restaurant with a view of the Notre Dame I was able to have a Salmon Fillet with French Fries and Fresh Salad as well as a couple of beers for less than 15 Euros – amazing value for central Paris.
Although another day may be needed to explore the entire city in all its glory – one is all you need to fall in love with Paris, and I think that it is worth every penny.