Paris was my first destination in Europe after my flight arrived in Brussels in Belgium. We spent 3 days in Paris. My first approach is far from being glamorous and vintage.
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Arriving in Paris at the Gallieni bus station
I traveled with a low-budget, and we took the Eurolines bus from Brussels to Paris since it’s cheaper than the train. We arrived at the Gare routière Internationale de Paris-Gallieni bus station. There we faced one of the things I hated the most in Paris: the Metro.
Our hotel Gabriel Issy-Les Molineaux was quite far from the center of Paris (Someone told us the area is not even called “Paris”). So we had to take Paris metro and change twice. We tried to get instructions with the metro staff that unfortunately, I have to say, was very rude. The Paris metro is a little chaotic, too many people running and stressed. But it’s the fastest and cheapest way to get anywhere you want. If you cannot afford to use taxis, you will have to learn how to use it. Although you can also use the RER train system which takes you to many of the tourist spots in Paris.
As we could, and after a couple of hours, we arrived at our hotel. The hotel was not a big deal, somehow cheap for Paris. It had narrow stairs like many French buildings. Luckily, although far, it was well connected with the “real” Paris. Already installed we went to have dinner at a McDonald’s that was the only place we found nearby. Well, so far all that I had seen, was not at all like the Paris I had in my mind.
Visiting Chateau de Versailles
The next day we went looking for the tourist office, to see if we could get a map. We found it but we forgot it was Sunday, of course, it was closed. Then we went to the closest stop of train RER Issy-Val de Seine to visit the Palace of Versailles. Being so close to Paris, I consider Versailles an essential visit if you are spending 3 days in Paris.
We bought the tickets and waited about 5 minutes for the train to arrive. The train to Versailles was beautifully decorated and there was also a music band. When we arrived in Versailles, all we had to do was to follow the horde of tourists to guide us to the palace.
When I saw the palace from far my impression was “Woooooow”, and until now it’s one of the moments that I remember the most. I can’t describe how impressive it looks in person, with those golden details. The line to buy the tickets was very long. We didn’t make any reservations so we had no choice but to wait. We bought the €25,00 euro ($30.00 USD) pass to visit the entire estate. On the official site, you can check the different passes and buy your tickets online.
Following the advice of the ticket office staff, we began the visit through the gardens. He told us that the palace would be more crowded since everyone starts the tour there. Even so, I recommend you to arrive early and start your visit to the Palace first. Everything is worth seeing, but the gardens are free. If you get tired or don’t have time to see them, and are spending more than 3 days in Paris, you can come back another day.
The gardens are huge, majestic and very well maintained. Also at several points, you can listen to classical music that makes the stroll very relaxing. You could easily spend a full day in the gardens. You will see marvelous fountains, sculptures, labyrinths, and ponds.
The construction of the gardens began in the reign of Louis XIV by the landscape architect André Le Nôtre. They carried out several stages of construction in the following periods. The Grand Canal, the largest pond in the gardens, was built between 1666 and 1679 in the shape of a cross. Beyond the pond are the domains of Marie Antoinette. These are the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon, and the Queen’s Hamlet.
They built the Grand Trianon in the era of Louis XIV, as a place to flee the court. It was made of porcelain, however, due to its fragility, in 1687 they replaced it with marble. It has a French baroque style with Italian elements. You can also walk around the gardens of the Grand Trianon. They have impressive fountains like the Amphitheater and Buffet D’eau
The Petit Trianon was built under the orders of Madame de Pompadour, the favorite of King Louis XV. They built it between 1763 and 1768. When it was finally finished, after the death of Louis XV, Louis XVI gave it to his wife Marie Antoinette. In this area, you can visit the Queen’s Theater (it was closed when I visited it), the Chapel and the French Pavilion, among others.
Hameau de la Reine
Marie Antoinette ordered the construction of the Hameau in the year 1783 as a rustic retreat place. She liked to enjoy a rural environment with her closest friends. Here you can see the Marlborough Tower, the Billiard House, and the Queen’s House. I got lost between the grand and the Petit Trianon and I did not find the Queen’s Hamlet. You don’t know how I regretted not having seen it. You don’t miss it, look for it!
After the gardens, we became hungry and bought a sandwich at an indoor café called Angelina. We sat outside on a terrace and it was a very comfortable place. But the baguette sandwiches we bought, besides being expensive, were not good at all, very chewy. In short, better eat well before going or bring a snack. You cannot introduce food to the palace, but you can to the gardens
The construction of the palace began on the reign of Louis XIII. However, it is with King Louis XIV that it really flourished. Louis XIV moved the Court and government to the Palace of Versailles in the year 1682. In 1789, the French Revolution forced King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette to flee the palace. since that moment, it wouldn’t be a royal home again. In the XIX century, It became the Museum of the History of France, housing many artworks.
During your visit to the Palace, you can explore the Great Rooms of the King and Queen, the Hall of Mirrors and the Royal Chapel. I can’t describe the majesty and richness of the salons and bedrooms.
The visit to the entire complex can take you a whole day, honestly, it’s worth it. So prepare yourself to walk, and schedule your meal times.
Visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris
After visiting the Chateau, we took the train back to Paris. We got off at the Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel stop to visit the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know if it’s because we’re flooded with romantic products with the Eiffel Tower, but I really wanted to see it. Well, it is impressive, especially when you walk under it and see it so closely. We didn’t climb to the top as there were many people.
It’s unavoidable to take a photo in the Eiffel Tower. Spending 3 days in Paris is the first monument you have to visit. After walking through Champ de Mars we returned to the hotel as it was getting dark.
The next day we took the RER to Gare d’Austerlitz train station. There we bought tickets to travel to Amboise, in the Loire Valley. Our train left at 6:30 p.m so we still had a few hours to walk around Paris. We decided to visit the Louvre Museum, so we took the train to Musée d’Orsay stop. We cross the Tuileries Garden and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.
The ticket cost €12,00 euros ($14.30 USD), not bad for a museum so famous. When we entered we were already hungry. We bought a croissant for breakfast inside (very expensive, if you have a limited budget, avoid eating in these places).
The museum provides you with a map to organize your visit. It is divided into 3 wings called Richelieu, Denón, and Sully. On the ground floor, on the wings Sully and Richelieu, you can find the collection of Egyptian and Middle Eastern Antiques. Greek Antiques are on the ground floor on the Denón and Sully wings. Here you will see the Venus de Milo sculpture.
In this map, you can see how the collections are distributed in the Wings and Levels of the Museum
The Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in the museum.
You can find the famous Mona Lisa in the Ala Denón, where they exhibit Italian, French and Spanish paintings. Unfortunately, in my visit, my camera betrayed me: I ran out of battery. Inexperienced traveler, I had no spare batteries and I had to leave without the photo of the Mona Lisa. But at least I have a good reason to return. It is worth mentioning that the painting is small, you will have to get close to see it well. Although, first you will have to defeat an army of tourists who will stand between you and the painting. Good luck!
This museum deserves to spend the whole day there. It’s huge and has very interesting collections. Plan your time well. Nearby there is a McDonald’s and several Crepe stands where you can have a quick meal.
Champs Élysées and Notre Dame
Some tourist attractions in Paris are relatively close to each other, which is an advantage if you only have 3 days in Paris, like me. For example, from the Notre Dame Cathedral, you can walk to the Louvre Museum, cross Place de la Concorde and get to Champs Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe is at the end of this historic avenue. This was the route we took on our last day in Paris.
This day we took it as a stop before returning to Brussels to take the flight back to Mexico. We stayed one night in a hotel in front Montparnasse Train Station called TimHotel Paris Gare Montparnasse. It was expensive but unfortunately, we didn’t find anything else available because we didn’t book
The Notre Dame Cathedral is a Gothic building. It’s located on the small Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine river. Its construction began in 1163 and ended in 1345. Here they keep some of the relics of the passion of Christ: the crown of thorns and one of the nails of the cross. The visit to the interior is free, but sometimes there may be long lines.
From the Cathedral we walked through Place de la Concorde, where a majestic obelisk rises. In this square people witnessed the public executions of the French revolution. Including that of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
We walked along Champs Élysées avenue and decided to take a break to have a coffee and eat some delicious macarons. In this avenue, you will find several luxury shops, restaurants, and cinemas. It is 1,910 meters long and ends at the Arc de Triomphe, another of the icons of this city.
The Arc de Triomphe was built by orders of Napoleon Bonaparte between 1806 and 1836. This arch commemorates the victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. You can climb to the top by paying a €12.00 ($14.30 USD) ticket
This time I was not too picky with souvenirs, almost any stuff with Paris design is nice. I bought some coffee mugs, key rings, and pens near the Saint Michel fountain in the Latin Quarter. There are many souvenir shops there. I also bought some vintage postcards near Champs Élysées. A good gift idea is the french macarons if you can resist the desire to eat them.
My first impression of Paris
Have you heard of the Paris syndrome? It is about the disappointment caused by seeing the real Paris after having an idealized image of it. If you had not heard about this, here is the link to Wikipedia: Paris Syndrome.
Well no, it did not happen to me, nor disappointed me, because I had never really wanted to visit Paris. I was also aware that Paris is a large city, the most visited in the world. It’s true that the coldness of the Parisians and Paris metro can be discouraging sometimes. Is it unsafe? I don’t think that more than any big city. Is it expensive? Well, there’s something for every budget. It’s less expensive than Vienna, in my humble opinion. Worth it? Definitely. Would I come back? Absolutely, and indeed, I came back, this was the beginning of a fleeting romance with Paris.
There is so much to see, 3 days in Paris is not near the ideal length for staying. If you want to have a look at what is going on in the city and visit some of the most emblematic points, it’s fine. But consider staying longer.
I hope you enjoyed this narration of my experience in Paris, a destination that must be on any traveler’s bucket list. Leave your comments below and if you liked it, I’d appreciate it if you share it on your social networks. Thanks and Bon Voyage!