Towards the beginning of last month I got an email from Italo offering crazy cheap TGV tickets for people who like me, had their Italo Più loyalty card. Even though it wasn't in my bucket list for the year, I'd been fascinated by the idea of taking the TGV to Paris, but I never thought I'd manage to do it because of how much tickets normally cost. I checked these discounted prices and didn't need any convincing - 60 euro return in first class!
I booked the train that leaves Porta Garibaldi train station at 8.50am and arrives at Paris Gare de Lyon at 4.14pm. I was laden with snacks and my Kindle was full of books and stuff to watch. At Porta Garibaldi I was happily making my way to the platform when I heard a voice behind me - "Signora!" One of the wheels had fallen off my case!
A couple of minutes later than scheduled the train set off. I started settling into my comfy surroundings, and after about two and a half hours we crossed the border into France. The train also arrived at Gare de Lyon a few minutes late, and I was welcomed by rain! I navigated the station and (somehow) got on the right metro train, changed, and caught my connecting train to take me to Pigalle, which was the nearest metro station to my hotel - losing two more wheels in the process, one of which I never recovered...
I'd received various recommendations for Ibis hotels in Paris from friends, and I went for Ibis Pigalle Montmartre. It was partly due to the location, and also partly down to how finding a hotel with breakfast included in the price wasn't proving to be easy! My room was the fifth floor, and from the balcony I could see the Sacre Coeur peeping through the buildings!
Once it stopped raining I went out to explore Montmartre. I got to the funicular and foolishly decided to tackle the stairs instead of paying for a ticket. The view at the top of the climb was more than worth it though - absolutely breathtaking! And what could my first meal in Paris be but a delicious crepe?
Saturday morning I was on a mission. I was up at 7and after gorging on the breakfast buffet I was out of the hotel by 8.30 - destination Eiffel Tower! I'd been to Paris twice previously, but I'd never been up the tower. When I got there I couldn't believe the queues! It was a few minutes before the ticket desks opened at 9.30. Luckily the queues were fast moving, and about an hour later I got my ticket. The only problem was the broken lift... We got led school trip style to the remaining functioning lift and got on without any further hiccups! Needless to say the view from the top of the tower is incredible! The only downside was how cold and windy it was!
After descending it started raining again so I went on the RER to my next destination - Notre Dame. It was still raining when I got off the train so I didn't hang around long, preferring instead to find some food and warmth. I walked a little bit away from the touristy area and found a burger/steak chain called Hippopotamus, full of locals. A safe bet. The burger and chips I had weren't very French at all, but they really hit the spot!
I was curious to see the Pantheon in Paris, as the Pantheon in Rome's one of my favourite sites in that city. It wasn't quite what I expected though! It was surrounded by parked cars in a fairly anonymous square. From there it was a short walk to the Luxembourg Gardens where I had a quick wander round before the rain returned.
In the evening - after drying off in the hotel! - I went for another walk around Montmartre. I'd learned from yesterday and took the funicular up to the cathedral! I also went to see the wall of I love yous, and after finding both ti voglio bene and ti amo I found the Welsh! Cynical single me however felt the need to cheer myself up after that experience, and the Haagen-Dazs shop - no really, a shop - was perfect. I also picked up the first of many macarons...
I treated myself to an extra hour (!) in bed on Sunday as my first stop of the day was the Champs Elysées. I bought some souvenirs along the way and some (more!) macarons at Laudurée. I was surprised to find that they cost a few cents more than in the two boutiques they have in Milan, but there were a winder choice of flavours. The shop was so beautiful!
Luckily the weather stayed dry and I could enjoy my macarons in the park. I loved all the chairs around the lake, there was such a lovely atmosphere. Then it was to the Louvre, even though I wasn't planning on entering I didn't want to miss the pyramid.
Next on my list was the Latin Quarter. I had a late lunch at a pub/restaurant I stumbled across whilst again trying to get away from the main touristy area. It was called La montagne sens Genevieve, and even though there's only a fairly small choice of dishes on the menu I had a delicious meal. The staff were friendly and patient even though I could manage to string together more than three words of French!
In the evening, still full from lunch, I went on the hunt for two film landmarks in the neighbourhood near my hotel. The Moulin Rouge was - unsurprisingly! - easy to find, Amélie's cafè not quite so much!
Monday morning it was drizzling again. I only had the morning left in Paris so I decided to stay around Montmartre. At one point however I got a bit too far away from where I intended to explore, but I eventually found my way back in the rain and had a delicious second breakfast. I treated myself to even more macarons and some fancy chocolate before buying supplies for my long journey home.
It was raining even harder as the train pulled out of Gare de Lyon. My time in Paris ended with an almighty struggle to get my case on the luggage rack above my seat, and in the process it lost all its remaining wheels!