Hello dear readers! I’m slowly getting back in to the swing of things as far as blogging is concerned so thought I’d continue with the travels of 2019!
Last time out on the blog I wrapped up that Madrid trip. This trip was very different to that one for a multitude of reasons but featured a return to another European capital that I’d previously been to: Paris.
My first trip to Paris was somewhat of a breakup-hangover in 2016. It took me quite some time to get over this breakup and I was wallowing in a bit of self-pity.
Before that particular trip I’d been to France on daytrips and stuff but never really felt like I’d been to France. I couldn’t name a single place in France that I’d visited, just service stations and such. Still fun but I don’t believe I’d ever really gone to France. I’d be reluctant to count it in a country-counting game and didn’t have that much interest in visiting anywhere beyond Paris if I’m completely honest.
My problem with Paris however was that it’s the city of love and as much as I enjoy solo travel, I did not want my first trip to Paris to be a solo one. I held out on this romantic ideology of a city I’d never visited and then that breakup, that self-pity, that “I’m going to die alone..” attitude kicked in.
The flipside to that self-pity was that I told myself if I continued to wait for Mrs Right, I was never going to get to Paris – “it’s never going to happen Jason, you’ve already waited this long..”
So I booked a trip. I decided that I wasn’t going another year without visiting Paris because of the lack of a significant other so at the end of December I went and celebrated New Years in Paris on my own.
I’m sure there are better breakup remedies, cheaper ways too! It wasn’t the perfect trip, however maybe the perfect “imperfect trip” as I called it when I blogged about it. It was a trip I needed at that point in my life and despite the circumstances I still enjoyed Paris, I could still see the romance and why people love this city so much.
Fast forward three years and Haleigh came over to England for a couple of weeks. Haleigh had never left the country before meeting myself and even then had only been to England so I was really keen to go somewhere for a weekend and I thought it’d be nice to go to Paris together. So I booked us Eurostar tickets, sorted out a hotel and soon enough the weekend came where we were heading off to Paris.
Work allowed me to sneak off early on Friday which was perfect, it gave us ample time to go and grab some dinner in London before catching the last train of the night onwards to Paris for our weekend away.
The Eurostar is a great way to travel, I much prefer it to flying if it’s a possibility. Haleigh had a little doze and I kept myself amused by looking at, well, my phone for the most part of the journey. Now I’m sure there are probably charging points on the Eurostar but I wasn’t too worried about it given how much battery life it had. I knew I’d be fine until we got to our hotel – you’ll see why I’ve noted this detail soon!
A little while later we’d arrived in Paris! Paris was noisy! I’m sure regular visitors will perhaps suggest Paris is always noisy but I’d only been the once and I couldn’t remember it being this noisy. The Gard Du Nord train station is a happening part of the city, lots of people around but even so – it seemed odd.
We’d arrived late so rather than navigate the public transport I figured it’d probably be easier to just get a taxi to our hotel – fairly close to the Eiffel Tower. A good place to base ourselves for a weekend trip, right? I walked over to the first taxi and then balked at the price.
“Sorry.. did you say 90!?”
Ninety Euros? There’s no way that can be right but the driver was adamant – sure enough anyone wanting a taxi in Paris was facing a similarly extortionate fare for drivers seemingly reluctant for passengers. I ended up booking an Uber instead for a much more reasonable 30-ish Euros and soon enough amongst all the noise we’d been picked up by our driver.
It wasn’t long before we’d established why the taxi drivers were keen on a quiet Friday night. The traffic to our hotel was insane! Hordes of people in the streets, cars honking, people hanging out of windows all seemingly heading for central Paris to celebrate something? It all seemed good-natured but nevertheless we had no idea what the hell was going on? I’d checked before we travelled and we’d missed Bastille day / weekend by a week so I knew it couldn’t have been that.
We were none-the-wiser by the time we’d arrived at our hotel, just happy to have eventually arrived, grateful to our Uber driver for navigating us amongst the manic scenes. I did a little bit of digging online once we’d got to our hotel and finally found cause of the scenes we’d arrived to: here
Algeria had beaten Senegal in that evening’s African Cup of Nations football tournament and there had seemingly been similar scenes following Algeria’s semi final win throughout France.
It was interesting to witness upon arrival, certainly memorable. As a football fan I’m quite conscious of football events happening in places that I visit but it didn’t occur to me in the slightest that an African tournament would have such implications on our arrival in Paris. I even knew the AFCON was happening at the time but the link didn’t register at the time. Perhaps naivety on my part but a lesson for the future!
Content that the mystery was solved we chilled out for a bit before moving on to the next mystery of the evening. Just before bed I connected my phone to its charger and nothing happened – how odd!
Maybe I haven’t connected it right? No it looks good. So maybe it’s the charger? I connect my phone to Haleigh’s charger and still nothing. Maybe it’s the plug socket? Nope, Haleigh’s phone is charging perfectly. Haleigh’s phone was also charging fine on my charger.. what the hell!?
I’d had no problems charging my phone in England so had done nothing to reserve my phone battery on the trip over and now seemingly couldn’t charge my phone at all – my only means of technology on this trip. I didn’t bring a camera, I wasn’t that familiar with Paris yet so was somewhat reliant on the luxuries of European phone data – as an American Haleigh didn’t have that same perk so was Wi-Fi dependent on our trip. Unless my phone started charging again I was completely off the grid.
On that note, I feel quite lucky to have traveled off the grid. I dare say I’m probably of that age where I’m maybe the last generation to do so? It was normal not to have a mobile phone growing up and even in some of the later travels, having a mobile phone didn’t necessarily mean it was workable or affordable overseas.
The first few trips I took as an adult were off the grid. I didn’t take a phone or even a camera on either trip to Ibiza, I was unreachable. Here’s the phone number of where I’m staying but mum, dad.. you’re not going to hear from me for a week or two.
I’ve met friends in places such as Sydney, Lisbon and Florence and had to hunt down a little computer shop to briefly access Facebook or whatever to make plans – I’ll meet you here at this time and you kind of hope you’ve communicated well enough.
I arranged to meet a friend in Rossio Square in Lisbon “outside of the McDonalds” and it’s the one time that cursed yellow M seemed to just blend in with its surroundings rather than stand out for all to see – “where the fuck is this McDonalds!?” – the irony being we believed McDonald’s would make an easier meeting spot rather than some local cafe or restaurant we’d have to locate in an unfamiliar city.
I remember sitting up at the Piazzale MichelAngelo in Florence knowing that I had to drag myself away from this gorgeous sunset spot I’d stumbled upon because I’d agreed to meet a friend downtown for drinks at a particular time and had no means to schedule a change of plans – “sod the Irish pub, come meet me here!”
That was the way of the world and I’m grateful for those travels. I miss those travels but I haven’t done it for a good few years now. I’d say Florence may well have been the last time in 2015.
One of the reasons I haven’t is because technology is so much more convenient now, phone data allowances (for now anyway) make it so easy to use your phone on the continent and elsewhere. The other reason is because much of that time since has been spent in long-distance-relationships. It’s hard enough being apart but myself and Haleigh usually talk at least some point in the day.
So maybe there’s a hint of irony here that this was the trip that saw me return off-the-grid. Of all the trips I’ve taken over the course of my relationship with Haleigh, the only one I’ve had to ‘suffer’ being off the grid is the one Haleigh is accompanying me? Okay, I can deal with that.
I couldn’t get my phone to charge so it was a ticking timebomb. It survived the night, it lasted a few hours on Saturday morning. Enough to get some photos of the Eiffel Tower but then it was done.
Weirdly, that is still the phone and phone charger I use to this day. It’s definitely in need of an upgrade at this point but my point being that it charged perfectly the second I returned to England and has been fine on every trip since. It literally went to Paris and decided to have the weekend off – “I’m not working this weekend, sorry!”
and all I can really say is that I was so appreciative of it. I was in Paris for a weekend with this amazing woman and nothing outside of Paris existed for the next 48 hours. It was a happy coincidence, a happy problem to have.
It’s so hard to travel anymore without everything at your finger tips. From travel directions to restaurant recommendations to that perfect “Instagrammable” photo spot and even to the more simplistic things such as the time of day – I always look to my phone for the time.
This weekend was back to being present. Just enjoying the company, paper maps, winging our plans, having to ask someone for the time or basing it on how much light there is – “oh look.. it’s dark. I guess it’s night-time!”
Anyway, kicking off our trip we woke up on Saturday morning keen to explore. We went to a nearby cafe for breakfast and
Googled the menu and reviews before sitting down had to take a chance on whether it was any good or not. If it’s shit, so be it. We won’t return.
It actually ended up being our breakfast spot on both days as the food was good. The service was typically European and Haleigh’s first encounter of such – maybe you’ll see a waiter, maybe you won’t. How European cafes stay in business is a mystery really but what’s the rush? This is Paris..
From our cafe it was a short-walk over to the Eiffel Tower and our first proper glimpse of it. Myself included, kind of. On my previous visit it had been covered in fog so I hadn’t actually seen the top of the Eiffel Tower before now! I managed to squeeze in a couple of photos as we had a little wander of the area. I’ve added a photo from my previous trip for comparison!
From there we decided to go and do a hop-on hop-off boat tour of Paris – a lovely way to see the city. We had no specific plans so decided we’d just stop off at some of the points of interest along the way.
Our first stop of the day was the impressive ‘Petit Palais’ – a nice little art museum which was free to visit – a nice bonus! I think it could justify a small admission price but it was a nice place for us to stumble upon. We grabbed a light snack and refreshments in the cafe and then had a look at the nearby gardens before heading back towards the Seine.
Our next stop was the Musee D’Orsay – one of Paris’ most famous museums and home to some more incredible art. I’d recommend buying tickets ahead of time, particularly in the summer months and at the weekend. There was quite a bit of a queue but Haleigh was able to sneak on to their Wi-Fi and buy tickets online which made the process easier.
It’s a great museum, you could spend a good chunk of time in there without getting bored. I reckon we probably did a good hour and a half before calling time on our visit, I think we’d seen much of what we wanted to but I’m sure we could quite happily return one day in the future too. It was one of our highlights in Paris.
After our museum visit we found a nearby restaurant / cafe to grab dinner at. Again having to wing it but seemingly a success. We both enjoyed our food and again, it was a pretty casual affair with no particular rush on getting customers out of the door. We took our time and just enjoyed sitting outside in the glorious summer weather that Paris was enjoying.
Heading back to the Seine we continued on our round-trip of the Seine and I kind of just got lost in the moment. Paris seems hit and miss for a lot of people, Haleigh wasn’t particularly wowed by it but I was swept up in the beauty and atmosphere of the city.
I’d already liked Paris a lot on my first trip but Paris in the summer? Ooof, it’s even better!
It helped that we had glorious weather, the sun was shining and roaming the Seine was the best way to see Paris. At one point we passed what appeared to be a massive group of people dancing to music alongside the river and I was so envious. Couples in their summery outfits dancing away on the banks of the Seine? Sign me up! It looked like everyone was having so much fun! Just to watch it from the boat gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling and is a lasting memory from that trip.
We passed the Notre Dame, unfortunately having recently suffered the big fire that caused worldwide shock. It was sad to see it in that state, although I’d at least seen it on my previous visit. We looped up and round before winding back at the Eiffel Tower – the boat tour had been a great idea and although we didn’t make too many stops it really was a perfect way of seeing the city.
I have no idea what time we got back, the sun hadn’t quite gone down yet so maybe mid-to late evening? I was just completely in my element. Loving this way of travel, loving having Haleigh with me in this wonderful city. I couldn’t shake this feeling that this is how every trip should be.
We headed back to our hotel for a little bit before I suggested heading out to see Eiffel Tower by night. I was really keen to see it lit up after dark and as we were only staying a couple of blocks away we didn’t need to go very far.
Despite having glorious weather for the rest of our weekend, Paris decided to pour down with rain soon after we’d left the hotel so we both got drenched. Consequently we only briefly saw the Eiffel Tower and made a quick u-turn back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the evening relaxed.
I like to think that myself and Haleigh will end up back in Paris at some point but I figured that if for whatever reason this is Haleigh’s only time in Paris that she had to see the other jewel of the city. We’d seen the Eiffel Tower, we’d cruised along a good chunk of the Seine so the plan for Sunday was a trip to see Montmarte and the gorgeous Sacre Couer.
We went and grabbed breakfast on Sunday morning at the same spot we had the previous day – pleased enough with our “local”. Having had a nice breakfast we dug out our little paper map and searched for the best route to the Sacre Couer.
Having mapped out our route we walked to our nearest Metro station only to find it temporarily closed. One downside to relying on paper maps is you don’t get real-time updates as you do with online resources. We returned to our map to find the next best option which saw us cross the Seine towards the Jardins de Trocadero.
The views here are gorgeous, perfect for those of you with a camera or a working phone. Sadly I’ll have to leave you to your imagination as I’ve got no photos to share but if you want some of the best Eiffel Towers views in Paris, this is your spot. I’m sure if you google Jardins de Trocadero you’ll find some pretty efforts.
Our little detour took us a little longer to find a Metro station but eventually we were on the metro in direction of the Sacre Couer. At the other end it was pretty busy, unsurprising given that it was a Sunday and also being a little later in the morning.
The first couple of streets on route are largely aimed at tourists, shops filled with souvenirs to take home. There’s heavy foot traffic and slow-walking before you eventually come out the other side and find yourself staring up at the Sacre Couer.
It’s one of my favourite buildings that I’ve seen on my travels, I think it’s gorgeous and well worth a visit. Unfortunately again I have no great photos to share with you, the best I can offer is some fog-filled photos from my first trip to Paris.
The first time I visited the area was pretty dead, unsurprisingly so given the fog I suppose. One of the other attractions the Sacre Couer offers are wonderful views over Paris, none of which I saw on my first trip.
This time it was much busier, they were queuing out of the door at the Sacre Couer so we didn’t bother going inside. The views over Paris on a sunny day are much nicer though from what I remember of it.
Having skipped the Sacre Couer we ventured through the Instagrammable streets of Montmarte. It’s a pretty part of Paris, definitely worth a wander through but again it’s pretty tourist-heavy.
I’m sure there’s some quality amongst the tat but you do wonder how many of the establishments are actually any good opposed to just having appeared on Instagram so frequently that they draw people in. We ended up stopping somewhere to grab some crepes, they weren’t good but location alone probably means they didn’t really need to be. I’m sure they get enough trade just by being in the right place.
After our disappointing lunch we wandered a little more and looked in some of the shops in the area. Haleigh picked up a couple of souvenirs, some pretty art and very pretty postcards for the family. From there we wandered back downwards before stopping off at a cafe for a quick drink to escape the heat for a little bit. It was nice to just sit and relax for a little while before moving on again.
Time in Paris was slipping away, we didn’t have too much longer left and still had to return and get our bags that we’d left at the hotel. We decided we’d grab one final meal at our “local” – three trips in one weekend perhaps a little excessive but we had liked the atmosphere and food and it was conveniently placed near our hotel too.
After one final meal our time was up. We picked up our bags and flagged down what was a much-cheaper taxi back to the Gard du Nord to then make our way back to England.
All in all, it was a lovely weekend and a memorable one too. We’ve all become so comfortable with the conveniences of technology that it seems inconceivable that we’d ever travel without it.
I don’t want to advocate traveling irresponsibly and not being safe, I appreciate that as a white man I hold plenty of privilege that others don’t in the ways they can travel but it was so refreshing to travel this way.
I know as well as anyone how amazing the internet can be. I’ve been online in some form for more than twenty years now and it has had a significant impact on my life in that time, something I’m ever-grateful for but it does make me sad that some people will never know a different way of travel.
This trip had me reminiscing so much of previous travels, knowing it wasn’t even that long ago really where this was an “every trip” experience opposed to an unintended one-off.
Realistically I know it’s not going to be every trip but I think the big takeaway for me was that I hope these kind of trips do become more frequent. I think the only regret was not having a camera. I could forego having a phone, I’d be perfectly fine getting around with just a paper map and having to do more planning for a trip but I think the only thing this trip lacked was more photos of us and more photos of Paris.
Nevertheless, I think it was one of my favourite trips of the last few years. Fingers crossed there’ll be many more in the years ahead.
Anyway I’ll wrap this up here.
Until next time!