Europe Trip 2023: Paris, France

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It has been a lifelong dream of mine to travel to Paris. In movies, the city is romantic, charming, and the Parisian people are classy and elegant. Since I was young, I already have a planned itinerary in my head and the places I want to visit: Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, River Seine. I even remember posting this quote many years ago on Facebook with a photo of the Eiffel Tower: "Someday, Paris. Someday I'm gonna experience your beauty."

At long last, at 31 years old, I’m travelling to Paris. I was so excited to explore the city, until… Well, until I actually set foot in it.

Paris was so different from what I had seen in movies. It wasn’t romantic and charming. I sound so dramatic, but it was really a letdown. The city was dirty, smelly, and there are places where I felt unsafe. Don’t get me wrong, the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and the architecture in general, are beautiful. It’s sad and such a shame that they were not able to maintain the city’s beauty.

But maybe I am being too judgemental. After all, we only spent two days in Paris. 

Anyway, let me share how we explored the City of Love.


To give a bit of context, Paris is one of the cities we have visited as part of a group tour that we booked via Expat Explore

From the UK, our coach has boarded a ferry in Dover that crossed the English Channel to bring us to Calais in France. Then from Calais, we drove towards Paris. The whole journey took about 6 hours. We arrived in our hotel in Paris at around 5pm.

Our group had a driving tour in the evening but we did not join as we met up with our friend and her husband. They had travelled to Paris all the way from Frankfurt for a day trip to celebrate her birthday and of course, to meet us. We had dinner at Le Train Bleu in Gare de Lyon. It is literally located inside the railway station.

From our hotel in Saint-Ouen, we took the metro going to Gare de Lyon. This is when we started to see the realities of Paris. Actually, while we were still on our way to Paris, our tour guide already tried to set our expectations. He mentioned that Paris is not exactly as glamorous as it appears in movies. He advised us to ignore the negatives and focus on enjoying the city’s charms. Going back to my story, as we walked towards the metro, we found that Paris streets are similar to Manila -- it's dirty, smelly, walls are covered with grafitti, potholes everywhere, and many homeless people. Anyway, despite what we saw, we were still looking forward to exploring the city and meeting our friends. 

We arrived in the restaurant just in time for our reservation. The restaurant was so grand; the ceiling itself was a masterpiece. But in terms of the food, I think it was just okay.

After dinner, we decided to head to the Eiffel Tower. On that day, we did not know it was the Paris Fashion Week, and it was happening right at the Eiffel Tower. It was so hot and crowded! At one point, my friend's husband got separated from us. Since it was so crowded, mobile reception was so weak and we couldn't contact him. Good thing, after a few minutes, we managed to find him. I was genuinely worried, and this experience really dampened our moods. 

Before ending the day, we just took a couple of photos, and we bid goodbye to our friends as they had to catch their bus back to Frankfurt. My husband and I then wandered around for a bit before returning to our hotel to rest. 

By the way, it was 1st October that day and the Eiffel Tower was lit up in pink for "Pink October" which was a campaign to support breast cancer awareness.

The next day, we had a full day to explore Paris. We did not join our group again as we wanted to explore the city ourselves. I had booked a photo session in the morning, and we had our photos taken around the Eiffel Tower area. We went to Trocadéro, Avenue de Camoens, Bir Hakeim Bridge and at the banks of River Seine. It was a bit chilly in the morning so good thing we had planned to wear coats for our outfits. In Trocadéro, we noticed that the place was so dirty and there were lots of broken bottles. Our photographer shared that, usually, people hangs out and drinks in this area at night. They break the bottles when they are already drunk. It was being cleaned when we were there, and he mentioned that the Paris government has started cleaning this area daily in preparation for the Olympics.

Anyway, I think our photos turned out nice, don’t you think?

After the photoshoot, we took the metro to The Louvre. There was a train breakdown and we were stuck on the train for a good 20 minutes. The announcements were in French and we couldn’t understand, so we had no idea what was going on. Haha! We were growing impatient and we decided to alight and just continue on foot. Along the way, we roamed around Jardin de Tuileries. I must say, this area is absolutely beautiful. This is exactly what I had envisioned Paris to look like.

The queue outside The Louvre was so long, good thing we had booked tickets in advanced. But actually, even with tickets, you still have to queue to enter. The usual way to enter is through the entrance near the pyramid but the queue is usually long. Good thing, when I was planning our itinerary, I came across a video on Instagram about a secret entrance with a shorter queue. It is through the underground mall called Carrousel du Louvre. You can check out the video here.

The Louvre is massive and it was so crowded. I think you would need a couple of days to explore the entire museum. We headed straight to the area where the Mona Lisa is displayed. We had to queue up to see it up close. I know it’s a portrait, but it was smaller than I expected it to be. Haha.

Aside from Mona Lisa, I have actually listed down the art that I want to see. So after seeing Mona Lisa, we went ahead and looked for the other paintings and statues in my list. 

It was around lunch time when we decided to leave the museum. Our feet were aching already from all the walking. Haha! We ate lunch at the mall’s food court and we took a cab back to our hotel. We were so tired, so we decided to take a rest first before we explored again.

Around 4pm, we went to the next place in our itinerary: Montparnasse Observation Deck. This is one of the few tall buildings in Paris, and the locals hate it. The French government has imposed a ban to not allow tall buildings to be built to preserve the historic landscape of the city. I agree with that ban because it will be such a shame if there will be another tower like this which is not really aesthetically pleasing and it is so out-of-place. Although, I might say, the view from the top is nice since you could see the entire city. 

Afterwards, we took a bus to River Seine for our river cruise. I really liked this bus ride, we were able to see the normal life of the locals. 

The cruise lasted for an hour. It was nice to relax and to see the whole of Paris from the river. The buildings and structures of Paris are so beautiful.

We travelled to Champs-Élysées afterwards to visit some luxury stores and to see Arc de Triomphe. Unfortunately, we could not visit the shops because most of them were already closed! We did not know stores close at 7pm which is quite early than we are used to in Asia. Take note of this when you visit Paris! 

For dinner, we randomly picked a restaurant and ended up at Bisto Des Champs. We ordered steak and we tried escargot! It was surprisingly tasty!

It was almost 10pm when we finished dinner and we were beat! We booked an über back to our hotel. We had an early call time the next day so we really needed to rest already.

The following morning, we needed to be early as we had a long drive to our next country, Switzerland. At around lunch time, we did a stop over in a small town in Burgundy called Beaune. We were given more than two hours to eat lunch and explore.

Since we were already hungry when we arrived, we immediately looked for a nice restaurant. We decided that, as it’s our last day in France, we might as well enjoy good French food and wine. Burgundy is famous for their wines! Unfortunately, this turned out to be another experience that spoiled our visit to France. We only ordered steak, escargot and wine, but after more than an hour, only the wine had been served. When we asked the servers about our food, they said it will take more time. Disappointed and hungry, we realised that if we waited any longer, we might miss our call time back to our coach. So, we cancelled our orders, quickly drank our wine, and we ended up just having sandwiches for lunch. We also missed the chance to explore.

This is another thing to take note when travelling in France: the service is laid back and you should allow more than two hours for your meal. 

We left Burgundy in the afternoon and made our way to the Swiss Alps!


And that was our trip to Paris. I recognise that Paris offers so much more than the few places we visited. I hope that the next time we visit, we will be able to see more of the city and have an even better experience!

Have you been to Paris? How was your experience? 

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