A few days ago, I got back from my last European stop – the city of lights Paris!
It was also there that I got to hang out with a high school friend who I haven’t seen in 5 years! This was some trip eh? 😉
13 July, Saturday.
Catching an early flight could be a hassle but I’m all for it this time. My flight leaves at 7:10 am and I’ll be in Paris by 9. The earlier I get there, the better, no minute to lose. Upon touchdown at Paris Beauvais airport, the cool air greeted me. It was about 15° that morning and I started to worry a bit about my choice of clothes. I didn’t bring pants. I’ve packed shorts, a dress and a skirt. It was summer after all and the Madrid I left was already at 34°. Anyway the weather would have improved by noon. My pashmina wrapped tightly around my shoulders was enough.
I bought my one way ticket bus ticket going to the city center and tried to make myself comfortable for the ride. The airport bus transfer stops at Porte Maillot which is also connected to a metro station of the same name. Right in front of the bus station was the Hyatt Regency Hotel where I will be staying the following night with my high school friend Joyce. But that night it would have to be my usual accommodation in Europe, in a hostel. For that I had to go to Gare du Nord, the busiest train station in Paris where my hostel for the night is located.
The airport transfer took up a little over an hour and right after, I needed to switch to the metro going to Gare du Nord (bought the 3 day pass for 23.40€) which took yet, another hour. These transfers ate up my morning. *sobs* I was planning to join the Sandeman’s free walking tour at 11 am. I arrived at Gare du Nord at about 12:30 and with the next tour starting at 1 pm, I didn’t have time to look for the hostel and leave my luggage there. Instead, I opted to leave my things at the left luggage which cost me 7.50€.
Yeah yeah I’m not exactly thrilled about this extra expense but I’ve got to do the walking tour no matter what on the first day.
I arrived at Place Saint-Michel at about 5 mins past one. Quickly scanned the area for the familiar red shirt or red umbrella of the Sandeman’s tour. It was quite easy to spot. I walk-hopped to them and made my intention known: English tour for the lovely mademoiselle from the Philippines s’il vous plait. 🙂
I wasn’t the only Filipina in the tour. There were two young pinays who are in Europe for their studies. The other one was doing a hydro-related project in Amsterdam while the other one, after their sojourn in Paris will be moving to another region in France for her Masters in Geology. Impressive these kids.
We were in the area of Latin Quarter, aptly called for Latin was spoken in those very streets.
While some things have changed, that means no more Latin and it has become touristy (the area is filled with restaurants), there’s this charming bookstore that has managed to keep up with the times, Shakespeare and Company.
I knew it from the movie Before Sunset where the character of Ethan Hawke, who has published a novel (based on events of the prequel Before Sunrise,) had his book tour. It was also the gathering place for writers Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce among others.
Fledgling writers could have their books published in exchange for work in the bookstore. There are also sleeping quarters for them. Clearly the bookstore is more than your typical neighborhood bookstore; it’s a literary movement.
Digital books or not, this is one of those traditional businesses I don’t want to see go just because we’ve become too technologically oriented.
We also passed by the setting of Victor Hugo’s famous novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The writer wanted to draw attention to the worsening state of the cathedral that he had his story revolve around it.
We now moved to the Tuileries Garden. It was built on the orders of Catherine de’ Medici, wife to Henry II of France. She hails from the wealthy Italian family of bankers in Florence, thus the popular last name. She also commissioned the building of a palace of the same name which has been burned to the ground and then totally demolished.
Thank goodness the garden was spared. I love it!
After the tour ended at a little past 4 at the Place de la Concorde, I actually went back to the Tuileries to sit at one of the chairs to rest and just marvel at its beauty.
The Louvre was just on the other side. Joyce and I have it scheduled for the next day, 14 July which is Bastille Day. Entrance is free!
I was thinking of checking out the impressionist paintings at the Musée d’Orsay. It was originally a railway station before its short platforms were deemed unsuited for a busy train station.
I got there at 5 but the museum closes at 6. The guard didn’t let anyone in at that time anymore. I wanted to see some Monet paintings but the timing didn’t permit me. Why does it close so early? (resorting to complaining haha). But seriously could they not extend the opening hours, to until maybe 7 pm at least during summer? It would be hard to squeeze it in the next two days of my stay but I’ll make sure that on my return to Paris I’ll be visiting it.
This was just my first day and I was happy with the sights I’ve seen. Kept exclaiming to my fellow countrymen in the tour how lovely Paris is! Got a big day tomorrow for more sightseeing. The girls told me there’s a military parade at the Champs-Élysées in the morning for the Bastille Day. Can’t miss that.