Paris, the fashion-capital of the world is a visual treat. With intricately carved churches, streets filled with creative young artists, rich palaces turned museums on the banks of Seine, remind you of an intense period of transformation aka the French renaissance. When you look at the people clad in latest contemporary fashion wear, Paris reminds you of how much of a cultural assimilation the country has undergone. You are pleasantly surprised at how so much of history can exist amidst a 21st century, modern, city. Last Autumn, I spent a couple of days in the ‘city of love and lights’ and have been since dreaming of returning back again.
During autumn, Paris romances long days and shorter nights. At first, the city appears to rub cold shoulders. Even the busiest of places in the city, like a metro station, people seem to be secluded and absorbed in their own world. As you step in and out of a metro station, innumerable times, throughout the day, you slowly realize- that this is how it is! People are not rude or cold. They are just enjoying themselves, reading a book or listening to the sublime Beethoven, may be?
As I go back to the images of long metro rides, I digress. Paris out of its metro station is a totally new window into another world. History and Development co-exist. This insanely beautiful city, dotted with plush highways, heinously pompous arts from the cultural renaissance and some handsome men and women for company, this city brings out the Shakespeare and the Leonardo Da Vinci from within you.
So here’s bringing you a few delights from one of those rare cities, which I gleefully, accept made me feel happy and glad to be a part of. Plus, I have put down a detailed guide and itinerary for Paris, based on my experience. I hope it will give you wanderlust pangs to take off and explore the city on your own.
Visa for Indians: I was on a three country tour of Europe. Therefore, a Schengen visa is what I had to apply for. Indians can submit their visa applications at the VFS offices across major cities in India. However, I was short on time and therefore hired the services of a travel agent to get things done faster.
|Special Note: Schengen visa must be applied from The Embassy / The Consulate of the country where you will be staying for maximum number of days, or the country you will be visiting first. If your stay has equal number of days in each country then you must apply to The Embassy / The Consulate of the country which would serve as the first port of entry. Visa needs to be obtained, before you leave India.|
Best time to visit Paris: There is no less perfect time to visit Paris. You can either visit from October-November (the autumn season) or March to September (Spring season). The month of December can get cold, so depending on your resistance to cold and wish to travel in cold, you can visit Paris. Unlike common perceptions of bitter cold, gloomy weather and unsociable locals, traveling in winter can be an enriching experience for those interested. The ‘city of lights’ has to offer many things to the most amateur traveler to the most experienced vagabond. I decided to check out Paris in my favorite season- the fall!
Transport: For inter-city transport ditch the exorbitantly prices taxi cabs for one of the most efficient transport systems of France- the metro. You can either go walking or cycling down the alleys of this beautiful city. You can avail of a 3-day or a 5-day metro passes, depending on the length of your trip duration. Metro tickets can be availed online or at the station itself.
Accommodation & Stay: Paris is one of the most expensive cities, you will ever visit. So unless, visiting for long duration, opt for hostel stays. I stayed at the 3 Ducks hostel and it has been one of the most fun experience of my life. Since I was on a budget trip to Paris, eating out was mostly out of question. I prepared my meal mostly in the hostel kitchen or decided to frequent a crepe/baguette/roll shop next to the hostel. At 5-7 euros, I would keep my tummy happy! Paris definitely has some of the most lip-smacking food scene, so, if you are in a little mood to indulge yourself- try the cute little road-side cafes that line up the city streets. Try out the Parisian pizzas, wines, cheese cubes. Every evening, you can go grocery shopping and then relax in a park people-watching and soaking in the vibes of the most fashionable city of the world. Grocery hopping can be very cheap in Paris and if you want to drink, buy your drinks from these grocery shops at the cheapest rates. Alternatively, outside every metro station, there would be street vendors, so you can gobble up some French street food.
Side tip: When in Paris, don’t eat French Fries or Frites as the locals call it. And don’t ever ask for the American ketch-up. All you are seeking is trouble 😉
Suggested brief itinerary for Paris:
Day 1- Fly into Paris by evening and check-in your stay
Day 2- Relive your childhood in the Disneyland
Day 3- Visit the Versailles Palace and the Versailles Garden. You can opt for a wine tour of the same, which includes a wine-tasting session post a long day at the palace. Museums in Paris are huge and can consume an entire day, so be prepared to walk!
Day 4- Go-hunting for the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper at the Louvre museum. Pack your lunch of sandwich and wine from a local grocery shop and park yourself for an afternoon nap at The Tuileries Garden, a public garden located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. Paris is home to some huge open-spaces and parks. So you’ll see a lot of people, tourists taking a quick nap or lunch at the public gardens.In the evening, go visit the Musee d Orsay, an old train station turned into a museum of old modern art work. In the evening, go to visit the beautifully lit Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
Day 5- Today, go local sight-seeing around the Eiffel Tower or you can book yourself on a tour of open tourist bus that roams through the city. These buses ply daily and the tickets can be availed on the spot or booked online.
Day 6- While you are in the city of love, arrange for a date with some of the world greats- Jim Morrsion and Oscar Wilde. Visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Paris, where the graves of Jim Morrsion and Oscar Wilde rests. Purchase some flowers, at a shop opposite the cemetery and take along some of your favorite music and books if you like. Spend an afternoon with the ones who romanced life and the world with their great talents. Post a walk, explore the beautifully carved graves and grab a quick Pizza bite at a local restaurant. Towards the evening, head to a the Shakespeare & Company bookstore, opposite the Louvre museum and spend time reading some of the best literature works of the world. Closer to night, visit the Notre Dame and learn a thing about the cut-glass paintings.
If you would like to add some off-beat things to your itinerary- here’s a quick guide compiled by my friends at Bruised Passports. Hey, some of their suggestions were included in my itinerary too, so do take a look 🙂
That’s all you need to know, to make a quick trip to Paris, in France. And now here’s a quick sneak-peak down my memory lane 🙂
The open tour bus for tourists standing in the center of the city. One of the most touristy things, but definitely a way to experience your early days in Paris. These buses run every day, by different tour operators and is a whole-day run through various tourist attractions of Paris.
At the entrance of the Louvre museum. As much as the interiors of the museums amaze you, so do the exteriors. If any city knows, that “first impressions matter”, Paris definitely bags the honors.
With its overboard paparazzi, the Mona Liza might disappoint. But there are many hidden gems that take your breath away.
With big open-spaces and beautifully preened gardens dotting the city, there is no excuse to stay indoors in this city.
The beautiful street cafes are an intricate part of the city life in Paris
Pere Lechaise Cemetery- When in Paris, a stroll in this park is a must!
The beautiful glass-art at Notre Dame
The exteriors of the intricately carved Notre Dame. Notre Dame, a catholic cathedral is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Evenings are abuzz with the tourists making memories and the locals offering a prayer or two.