I was awakened abruptly by the vibration of my phone at around 6. My friends back home had rung me up on Viber ( To all travellers, this is a MUST-HAVE app. quality is pretty good and saves you a ton on phone calls). The call didn’t last long as it was suddenly disconnected.There was another girl in the room when i woke up. Here’s the thing about hostels as i would soon find out- you wake up each morning with someone different in the room.Kangwon and the newly arrived guest were still asleep so i went to the bathroom to get ready for the day ahead.The sound of the shower must have woken both of them up because when i was done, the two of them were up and waiting for me to join them for breakfast. How nice!
Breakfast was included in the room price and served in the cafe area. There was quite a spread prepared by the housekeeper, certainly more than what i expected. There were a few french pastries of course including my personal favorite, CROISSANTS! Baguettes, biscuits and cereal were the other options. For drinks, there was free flow orange juice, coffee and tea.
YAY TO EAT-ALL-YOU-CAN CROISSANTS!
The newly arrived guest introduced herself as Maria. She was from a small town in Spain which i’ve never heard off and was in Paris for a film festival. She worked as an editor on a film review website. Maria spoke English fluently too! We spent our time chatting over breakfast. A Korean, Spanish and Singaporean having breakfast in Paris. Maria was in Paris on work so her schedule was pretty packed.Kangwon on the other hand was exploring the city just like me. We both had different itineraries for the day but they crossed at the Louvre coincidentally so we exchanged numbers and arranged a meet up in the afternoon.
After a hearty breakfast, i set out for the day. It was a chilly morning and temperatures had dropped to -2. It took some time for me to adapt to the cold but i can’t say the same for my phone though!
I never knew such an error message existed! Fortunately, after a few rubs and time in my pocket, the camera was back to normal. Having arrived in a hurry late last night, i didn’t get a chance to take notice of the neighbourhood my hostel was located in. Montmarte formed the 18th arrondisment of Paris and was a district steeped in history. Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh’s studios were once situated here. These days, it’s a nightclub district though the area i was staying in was primarily a residential area.
The layout of the street was art in itself. It featured a narrow island in the middle of roads which served as a walkway and also the entrance to the Metro. The nearest Metro Station, Anvers, was right at the hostel’s doorstep. Montmarte is a good base to explore the city due to its convenient location. It’s close to Gare Du Nord, Sacre-Coeur is a short walk away, Pigalle(the red-light district and Moulin Rouge if you’re feeling randy) is one stop away and there’s a good mix of restaurants in the area.
The first stop on my itinerary was one of the main reasons why people from all over the world visit Paris. The world-renowned symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower. The station for the Eiffel Tower is Bel-Hakim(beats me why the name is Islamic), a 40 minute metro ride from Anvers.
The metro ride to Bel-Hakim is quite scenic offering decent views of the city during the overland portion of the journey. The train travels across Paris which includes crossing an elevated bridge over the River Seine which teases you with a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from afar! From Bel-Hakim station, follow the countless signs directing you to the tower. There are a variety of ways you can reach the tower,each offering a different view of the tower as you approach it so don’t waste time contemplating which sign to follow. My route involved walking alongside the River Seine.
The overhead bridge which the train crossed!
If you want to avoid the crowds, it is advisable that you visit the tower on a weekday morning. There were only a few people around when i arrived. Without the buzz of the crowds, you’d be able to admire the magnificence of the tower and appreciate its beauty in peace. Snapping decent photos would also be easier without the crowds intruding into your pictures.There is a trade-off though if you choose to arrive early- The ticket office isn’t open so you won’t be able to go up the tower. It wasn’t an issue for me though since i had a few more days in a city, I intended to return again another night.
The Eiffel Tower is truly a magnificent structure and redefines conventional beauty with its grey metal frame. It dominates the landscape of Paris and can be seen from pretty much any high point in Paris. I could spend all day admiring the tower but there was so much to see and do. The sun was finally out and sky was azure blue, a golden opportunity for a 360 degree photo shoot!
There’s a pretty large plot of greenery surrounding the tower for people to have picnics or chill. If you want a place to sit, there’s benches. Spotted a mini garden with a duck pond north-east of the tower too!
Above is the escalator up to the viewing gallery. There are two elevators servicing the gallery and tickets are priced @ 13.50 euro(23.24SGD) for a ride up to the top.
As i was searching around trying to get a perfect full frame shot of the tower, i walked into a cluster of apartments right beside the tower. These are the apartments which have become synonymous with Paris.
These apartments must cost a bomb(though i doubt they cost more than a unit at Sentosa Cove) but to wake up to the Eiffel Tower each morning, that my friend is priceless.
Here’s a full frame shot of the Eiffel Tower:
and me being a typical tourist(photo credits to a kind Chinaman)
“I feel so small”
Nearest Metro Station: Bel-Hakim
Well that’s enough about the Eiffel Tower. Before i arrived in Paris, i bought a Paris Pass. This is your run-of-the-mill all-inclusive ticket to the main attractions in the city and covers transportation too. I thought it’d be more value for money but if you aren’t staying for long to visit all the attractions, it’d actually be alot cheaper if you purchased tickets individually. Besides the value for money factor, i bought it for convenience’s sake. I figured being in a non-English speaking country,the pass would save me the trouble of long queues and purchasing tickets. On this note,it did help a little but frankly it was not enough to justify the price. It cost about 280 SGD for a 3 day pass.
One of the benefits of the pass was a free bus tour of the city with Les Cars Rouges. The tour began at the road in front of the tower. It was your typical tourist citybus tour. A red double decker london open top bus. A ticket would cost you 31 euros(53SGD). Pretty pricey for a bus tour in my opinion.
I sat through the whole tour as the bus navigated through the streets of Paris and her famous tourist landmarks. The audio commentary was a welcome feature. It narrated useful background information as the bus drove past the landmarks. The ability to get on and off is a nice feature. The buses regularly ply the route at regular intervals so take your time at the attractions. The bus tour is a good way to discover Paris if you are short on time. Here’s a recreation of the tour in pictures:
“Off we go!”
Hotel Des Invalides
The first stop was Hotel Des Invalides. A war memorial,museum and most notably the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Paris probably has the most beautifully decorated bridges in the world! Here, a bridge is not simply a way of crossing the river, it’s a work of art!
The French like to portray their leaders/heroes on horses apparently. There are numerous statues like these around the city of the country’s two most famous characters- King Louis the fifteenth & Napoleon Bonaparte
Much of the tour presents you with incredible views of River Seine!
The city of romance for you!
Next we stopped at the globally renowned museum, The Louvre!
The third stop was at Notre Dame Cathedral!
Obelisk at Place De La Concorde(now you know where the inspiration behind our Kranji War Memorial came from)
A mini-theme park! too bad it was closed. The thing’s you miss when you travel off season sigh
Jardin Des Tuileries(Tuileries Gardens)
Another sight spoilt by the season. It must look beautiful in the summer.
The world’s most famous opera house and home of the Paris Opera. It was the inspiration behind Phantom of the Opera! (My 2nd favourite musical). These days it’s used mainly for ballet performances. It was a pity i didn’t get to visit it. Maybe next time!
The bus turned into Paris’s most famous street, the Champs-Élysées, for the final leg of the tour.
The bus tour ended at the Arc De Triomphe
The Arc was originally Napoleon’s idea meant to celebrate his victories and provide a fitting heroes welcome for the returning armies into the city. Since then it has been a tribute to honour the French War Dead. Names of soldiers are inscribed on the inner and outer surfaces of the wall. The tomb of the unknown soldier from World War 1 lies in a vault underneath the Arc. The Arc is located in the middle of a roundabout on the western end of Champs-Élysées. For a fee (9.50 euro/16.35sgd) you can take an elevator/stairs to the attic and terrace. Since i had the Paris Pass , this was free of charge but it somehow slipped my mind. Thinking i had to pay, i gave it a miss. It remains one of my big regrets. I later found out that from the terrace, a panoramic view of Paris including the entire Champs-Élysées awaits you. The Champs-Élysées has to be one of the most beautiful avenues in the world with its luxury shops, cafes, boutiques, cinemas and neatly arranged rows of chestnut trees. I spent the rest of the morning browsing through the shops and picked up a few souvenirs along the way.
Nearest Metro Station : Charles De Gaulle
My mum had specifically requested French perfume as a souvenir so i set off for famous French upmarket departmental store, Galeries Lafayette, built towards the end of the 18th century. Imagine a French version of Tangs,only bigger,classier and architecturally superior. The entire building belonged to the store, all ten floors of it. Everything you could possibly want to buy, they had it. Upon entering the lobby, the stunning coloured glass dome immediately caught my attention. The glass component of the coloured dome cast a mystical light on the main lobby. If a shopping paradise existed, this was it in every sense of the word.
The perfume department occupied almost an entire floor. I didn’t find anything i thought my mom would like unfortunately. Most of the perfumes they sold were generic ones which you could easily get in Singapore. I wanted something unique to France that you would be unable to find in Singapore. As i ventured up, i discovered a Parisian tea salon selling baked goodies and MACAROONS! I was tempted to buy some but i controlled my urges since i was going to have lunch soon. The top of the building features a IKEA-Marche concept cafeteria alongside a couple of restaurants including an Asian one(if you miss home). The restaurants seemed alright but the cafeteria was calling out to me. It was an open-concept cafeteria. There were various stations each specialising in an area: Grill Station, Pasta , salad bar and desserts. You simply ordered what you felt like having at each station and the chef would prepare it at once. Once you have your food, you proceed to the cashier where they will tabulate your bill for you to make payment. Foodie 101 states that good food draw long queues. The grill station had a long snaking queue of locals who one by one were walking away with a huge plate of roast chicken and fries. There were other items on the menu but the roast chicken seemed to be the only item everyone was ordering. Eat what the locals eat right? I decided to give Poulet Roti Frites a try.
POULET ROTI FRITES
The long queues proved to be right. This was out of this world. Half a chicken, roasted to perfection. Crispy on the outside, succulent and moist on the inside. The tater tots added a nice crunch to the dish. The meal together with a bottle of Evian water cost about 8 euro/13.77 SGD.
After a delightful lunch,i headed up to the roof of the complex to soak in the view.
You get a pretty decent view of the Palais Du Garnier too!
I was approached by a group of local teenagers to help them snap a picture and they offered to take one for me too! How nice!
Boulevard Haussmann, where Galaries Lafayette is located at, features some classic French Architecture too!
Nearest Metro: Chaussée d’Antin – La Fayette
The Finer Things in Life
The later part of the day was reserved for the finer things in life.The Paris pass included a complimentary wine tasting at O CHATEAU wine bar. O CHATEAU was located a few streets away from the Louvre and since i was going to the museum later on, i decided to make use of this opportunity to educate myself about the world of wine. I entered the wine bar and was surprised to be greeted by a stoutly Indian man( they’re everywhere!). I swear he was silently doubting my age as he stood behind the bar wiping clean a rack of wine glasses. Since i arrived early, i spent the time waiting for the rest of the participants to arrive, gazing at the vast array of wine bottles on display.
The wine tasting was conducted by a young male sommelier by the name of Gregory. A sommelier simply means a trained and knowledgeable wine professional. Gregory began with an introduction of himself- He had spent his entire life surrounded by wine since he grew up on his grandfather’s vineyard in the south of France. He was majoring in chemistry where in the future he hoped to apply his skills in the wine-making process. Conducting wine-tastings and lectures was his side hobby. After Gregory’s introduction, he invited everyone around the table to introduce themselves and describe their background in wine. There was an eclectic mix of participants from around the globe, comprising of both seasoned wine drinkers and newbies like me! The introduction certainly lightened the mood and Gregory was turned out to be a very engaging sommelier.
First, we learned the basics of wine drinking such as : 1) How to prepare your glass of wine 2) How to appreciate it by using a multi-sensory approach-The smell, sound and appearance of the wine is a treasure trove. It can tell you alot about the wine 3) How to describe a wine
Next, we were presented with three different types of wine from different parts of France to put to practice what we just learned. We were then made to compare our tasting notes. I was sandwiched between a German blondie and an Asian-American girl. They were novices like me so their tasting notes pretty much turned out similar to mine. We ended up talking throughout the remainder of the wine tasting.
I particularly liked the Rose and Sancerre from the wine tasting so i decided to get both as gifts for my relatives in the UK. Alcohol here is incredibly cheap- the two bottles cost just 22 euros/37SGD.
O Chateau also features a established restaurant serving up traditional French fare which on most days only do dinner service. I would highly recommend a visit to O Chateau if you’re in Paris.
Nearest Metro: Louvre-Rivoli
A Date with a Famous French Lady
The wine tasting lasted close to an hour and i had arranged to meet Kangwon at the glass pyramid at 4pm. I always had had the impression that the entrance to the Louvre was the synonymous glass pyramid. I was wrong. This is how it looks like:
Upon entering the compound, i learned there were actually four glass pyramids of varying sizes. I kept my eyes peeled for Kangwon but she was nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t contact her either since it was a Korean number( THANKS STARHUB). I decided to wait fa little bit longer. In the meantime, i did what any bored tourist would,do snap pictures!
Half an hour had past and Kangwon was still nowhere to be seen so i decided to enter the museum. The Louvre was built in the 12th century as a fortress before it’s rebirth as a museum in the 16th century. Since then, it has become a world-renowned museum drawing the most number of visitors annually. It also holds the title of the largest museum. The main entrance to the museum is through the biggest glass pyramid. For a centuries-old museum, the interiors are pretty slick. It was a modern, futuristic museum showcasing historic art. What a contrast!
“Inside the Triangle”
There are numerous ticket counters located at various entrances into the Louvre. Prices range from 13euro/22.37SGD to 11euro/18.93SGD after 6. For those under 18, it is free and on Fridays,there’s free entry for those under 26(TGIF!). I could have gotten in for free since i visited on a Friday but i had already bought the Paris Pass. The Paris Pass includes a museum pass and all i had to do was flash it and i was allowed through, skipping the queues and the process of buying tickets. One can spend a whole day in the galleries of Louvre traversing through different eras in history. For all you artsy people, i would recommend a whole day at the Louvre. Even with a full day, i doubt you can see everything the museum has to offer. Personally, I can’t spend more than 2 hours looking at art. After a while, it gets too overwhelming and my eyes feel like bursting from all that beauty.Grab yourself a complementary museum guide to make your life easier! It lists famous paintings and helps you navigate through the massive treasure trove which is the Louvre. I started off with the Roman gallery first:
“Bubble bath anyone?”
“I’m sexy and i know it”
“Angels watch over you wherever you go”
Next up, the Italian Renaissance Trail. Most of the works here are biblical in nature.
Aspiring artists with their fold up chairs are regular visitors in Europe’s museums
Here’s a few cool portraits of Jesus :
Christ Carrying the Cross by Lorenzo Lotto
Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese
“Say Fromage monsieur!”
A trip to renaissance Italy and you’re back in France!
The Louvre is a work of art in itself
“The resemblance with Sir Stamford Raffles is striking eh?”
The main purpose of my visit to the Louvre was to see France’s most famous lady- Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa! It’s the most crowded exhibit and you might have to wait for a few minutes to hustle your way through to grab a decent picture of her.
My meeting with her face to face made me question what the whole hype about the painting. She was a pretty ugly looking woman(or is she? looks like a tranny). Besides that, do check Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper too(i forgot to take a picture).
The 2 hours in the Louvre was enough art for the day. When i finally left the museum, night had fallen. The Louvre took on a whole different light at night(by that i also mean it was lighted up but you get it right?) It gleamed in all its glory against the backdrop of the night sky. Cue “Shine bright like a diamond”.
I returned back to Montmarte to have my dinner. There’s a whole lot of food options in Montmarte for every single taste or cuisine. There’s your typical French Brasseries , Middle Eastern Kebabs & Falafel, Chinese Food and Subway just to name a few. I was spoilt for choice. I eventually settled on St Regis Brasserie. A 3 course meal with a pint of Kronenbourg set me back 20 euros(34.32 SGD).
Appetiser: Salmon Pate
A refreshing albeit creamy Salmon pate without an overpowering fishy taste that went well on bread. My first taste of Pate and i must say i’m a fan!
Main Course: Minced Beef with Cheese Sauce
How can you go wrong with a beef patty and cheese sauce? It was evident that the beef patty was made fresh. The cheese sauce was savoury. The accompanying fries were crisp and i liked what they did with the added sprinkling of paprika!
Dessert: French Cheese with Honey
This was heaven in a cup. The texture of the cheese was similar to that of yoghurt. Soft and velvety. The drizzle of honey gave the dessert it’s necessary sweetness but it didn’t overshadow the cheese.Certainly a rich dessert but i couldn’t stop taking mouthfuls of it!
The restaurant was a few streets away from the hostel. When I returned to the room, Kangwon was already back. She apologised for the Louvre. She couldn’t find me either! We exchanged stories about our day before heading to bed. Maria still wasn’t back. It was an eventful first day in Paris!