Spare cash? Check. Flat shoes? Check. A desire to abandon vegetarianism? Eh… Bridget Fitzsimons goes Parisien
Bored with the Irish scenery and having just got a big tax rebate, I decided a last minute holiday was in order. A week after booking, my boyfriend and I were on the plane to Paris, wondering if the hotel we had hastily snagged would be nice, or indeed in any way habitable.
As our taxi rolled up outside the hotel, I was filled with dread. Our temporary abode was surrounded by sex shops and strip bars, and I was truly frightened of what the hotel would be like. Luckily for us, lastminute.com hadn’t let us down but we’d unwittingly booked ourselves in a hotel in the middle of Pigalle, Paris’s red light district. While the hotel was lovely, the region certainly made exploring interesting.
There is so much to see in Paris so if you’re there for a limited time, forward planning is essential. I decided that I was going to cram as much as I possibly could into my three full days in the city. We planned a museum-only day on Monday, only to discover that museums in Paris are closed on a Monday, skewing our timetable in a way easily prevented by forward planning. What really works, if you have limited time is, to adapt your sightseeing to your specific interests: I didn’t go to the Eiffel Tower, because the queues were ridiculous, but as a lover of literature, I made time for a visit to Père Lachaise, where Oscar Wilde is buried.
Paris is home to some of the most beautiful architecture in Europe. A favourite is the Palais Garnier, the famous opera house, a classic example of neo-baroque architecture. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Pompidou Centre as a modern building with all of its pipework on the outside.
Parisien food is amazing – so good, in fact, that it made this once-vegetarian writer fall off of the lettuce wagon with a most incredible steak and perfect fine. Different districts are great for discovering little cafés; places like Montmartre and the Greek quarter are excellent for finding gems.
Bringing comfortable shoes is essential. While Paris is the fashion capital of the world, bring your flats. The cobbles are not conducive to walking in heels and you will find yourself walking everywhere. There is really no need for public transport when visiting Paris, as the sights are so beautiful, it’s far more fun to meander and discover things at your own pace.
The city can be expensive, but the trick is not to buy things at the typical tourist areas of the Louvre and anywhere around any of the other attractions. Look for shops on unknown street corners for bargain Coke, instead of paying €3.50 for a lukewarm can at a stall beside the Eiffel Tower. It’s possible to count the pennies in Paris as long as you’re careful.