Interrailing Travel Diary No.5 | Paris, France
Our very last stop (sob!) on our Interrail* journey was Paris. After a total of 10 hours travelling from Austria, we made it. It was my second time in Paris and Helen's first so we were both beyond excited to get exploring. Helen stayed for two and a half days and I stayed on four extra days; I wanted to get as much gallery-exploring in as possible for college and I absolutely love wandering around cities on my lonesome. (This post is extra-long as I spent just under a full week there.)
We stayed in a quirky warehouse conversion for our final Airbnb* stay together; it was bright, had artwork displayed all along the walls and there were even bunkbeds! It was like one of those apartments you see in interior magazines. It was slightly odd to settle into at first but really enjoyable to experience. We stayed quite close to central Paris here, with a heap of Metro stations and supermarkets nearby so it was super-handy.
After I said buh-bye to Helen, I went to my final Airbnb* location situated ten minutes from the Eiffel Tower. It was a small studio apartment, on the very top floor of a building on Boulevard Garibaldi. I absolutely ADORED the place. I settled in so quickly, felt right at home and yep, daydreamed about living there. The view from the windows was unbelievable as you can see below!
Whilst travelling to Paris, Helen and I had somewhat of a lightbulb moment; I had never been to Disneyland in my life and it's always been a dream of mine to go since childhood. Helen suggested that we went the very next day and I genuinely could have passed out with excitement. It was a complete spur of the moment decision but a highlight of the trip for me.
We spent an entire day there, 9am-9pm. I paid around €75 for a ticket that got us into both parks (I received a student discount so the full price was around €90, if I remember correctly). We went on a heap of rides (even me, the biggest scaredy-cat of all), walked around what I can only describe as real-life movie sets and saw a gazillion different characters walking around, from Simba to Woody.
If you're careful with spending money and feel as though you could afford to head along to Disneyland whilst you're in Paris, I say 100% go for it! It's nearly €100 for the day but I can't put into words how worth it it is. It was such a fantastic way to end our trip together and I honestly felt like a kid again. Do plan on spending the entire day there if you do go; get up early, go to the Metro on time (the station is right beside the park) and organise what rides you want to go on in advance.
The Centre Pompidou was the main gallery I needed to visit whilst in Paris, as our college course focuses predominantly on modern art - and this gallery houses the biggest collection of it in the world. The Centre Pompidou and its surroundings are absolute heaven for an art-lover; the building itself is phenomenal and unlike anything I've ever been in before. I visited twice during my stay, as I felt I needed hours upon hours to see everything and take it in properly.
I went to the Le Corbusier and Mona Hatoum exhibitions on the first day; both were absolutely brilliant and couldn't have been any different from each other. Afterwards, I explored the general modern art exhibitions on each floor; I had millions of "pinch-me" moments when I saw certain works in the flesh: even seeing Duchamp's infamous 'Fountain' urinal piece made me smile as we had talked about it and discussed it so many times in college earlier this year. Everyone and everything is there, from my beloved Matisse, to Picasso to Pollock.
If you're going to visit, I again suggest heading early and leaving late. The restaurants inside are quite expensive so I recommend leaving, wandering around the area and finding an affordable restaurant nearby for lunch. Alike to the previous cities, I found Italian restaurants great to dine in as pasta is generally affordable and there's plenty of them scattered around the Centre Pompidou.
PALACE OF VERSAILLES
One my second-last day, I went to the Palace of Versailles. I'm a complete history nerd and I've wanted to visit there since I was a young teenager. Alike to a lot of tourist attractions in Paris, it was absolutely packed. It took 2 hours to queue up to get in, in the scorching heat. The queues wrapped around the grounds like a snake and I genuinely thought I was going to pass out. If you're a fellow anxiety-sufferer, I cannot stress enough that going here during peak season is a bad idea.
I had a generally pleasant time and I was delighted to finally see the palace in the flesh but I didn't have a thorough-enough experience looking around and enjoying my surroundings, as the crowds were just too much. Every single room, stairway and entrance was packed. It was like being in a zoo! I'd absolutely love to head back during winter, when the crowds diminish, as I didn't feel my journey out to Versailles for the day was completely worth it after unfortunately!
There's a million and one things to do in Paris, particularly if you're with only one or two friends or by yourself. It's an incredible place to wander around, get lost in and discover exciting places. Of course, you have to see the likes of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame if you go but don't revolve an entire day around them. I personally think the Eiffel Tower and its surroundings are quite anti-climatic and overly-busy so I only popped over for a while this time round to take some snaps.
Notre Dame is a great place and area to visit, as a lot of other attractions are nearby, including the Louvre. One of my favourite areas to explore whilst in Paris is Le Marais; it's such an arty spot, full of shops and cafes. The street art is also incredible. around every corner - it has the perfect balance of old and new and it's brimming with young creatives.
Vintage shopping in Paris is a dream and both times I've gone, I've come back with a heap of pieces. I adored the Kilo Shops, as you basically buy pieces per kilo weight and everything is SO inexpensive. The shops are great to even just visit for a look around and they're completely different to anything we have here in Dublin. Keep an eye out for vintage cheerleading costumes, they're AMAZING.
FOOD & DRINK
We tended to eat a lot of similar meals in Paris to the previous cities and I bought a lot of food in supermarkets towards the end of my stay, to save money. Eating out can really catch you out whilst in Paris, as many places, particularly around tourist attractions are extremely dear. If you're wise, shop around for affordable spots and bring snacks with you on your wanders, you should be fine.
If you're tight for money and looking to eat decent food, look out for mussel dishes on menus that come with French fries. I ate this meal at least three times during the week, as it turned out to be the least expensive in most restaurants (working out at around €10). You literally get a giant pot of mussels plonked in front of you, with a huge bowl of fries; it's filling, it's affordable and it means you can even lounge beside the Eiffel Tower for dinner without breaking the bank.
One major tip for dining in Paris is do NOT purchase drinks at most restaurants, whether it be bottled water or Coca Cola; they're usually ridiculously overpriced (€4-5) and not worth it. Ask for tap water instead and buy a can of Coke in a shop afterwards. It'll save you money in the long-run.
Also, breakfast-wise, I highly advise opting for omelets over pancakes, as they're healthier and will fill you up longer. I tended to eat mostly ham and cheese or mushrooms omelets, with a cup of tea or orange juice to start the day and saved the Nutella-drowned crepes for the evening!
Paris is by far one of my favourite cities and I genuinely believe I'll live there for some period of time in the future. I adore it, despite it being sometimes painfully-expensive and chock-o-block during the warmer months. It was a total dream to visit and a perfect way to end our interrailing trip. You have to plan your stay here well advance and know where you want to go; the Metro is such an easy transport system but I generally found myself walking to and from most places. It won't kill your bank account if you're clever with spending. However, if you have the extra cash left over, definitely give Mickey and Minnie Mouse a visit.
Thanks so much for reading my interrail travel diaries this month and for following our adventures. I hope to delve into even more travel posts in the future and to bring you guys along with me exploring the world beyond. I want to thank Interrail* and Airbnb* for such an incredible opportunity. Interrailing just wouldn't have been a reality for me otherwise and it has truly been a highlight of my entire blogging career so far. Helen was a dream to travel with and I'm so glad I got to share this experience with her. For now, au revoir!
Helen's hilarious Paris vlog..