It took me 9 months to organise a visit to the capital, held back by the fact I had visited Paris multiple times before and wasn’t sure if I needed to see it again – especially if it meant missing out on seeing new places. But as it happened, my France train pass still had a few weeks left and I didn’t need to be back at university until mid-September, so I decided to take a short trip by myself, and in order to get to most cities I had to go through Paris.
So I booked two nights there and had a surprisingly nice time. Once I got out of the dodgy areas around the train stations and found my hostel in a clean and quiet area, I felt a lot better. I had the room to myself both nights and the hostel was only a few minutes’ walk from a main metro station.
After dropping my bags off around 11am, I walked to the Musée d’Orsay, accompanied for half of the journey by a friendly old French couple from the hostel who offered to guide me. I passed the Notre Dame but didn’t bother to go in because of the line, heading straight along the Seine to the museum.
I love the interior of the d’Orsay so much, and spent most of my time in the upper floors around the impressionist paintings.
On the upper floors of the museum was an open balcony area with some nice views of Montmartre.
Afterwards I walked past the Louvre (opting to skip going inside due to time restraints), and through the lovely Tuileries gardens. There were a few sun showers throughout the afternoon, but nothing too bad.
The distance to the Eiffel Tower was far longer than I anticipated and I was feeling tired by the time I got there. I took some quick photos of it and then settled at a cafe tucked away on a residential street nearby, reading my book and having a chat about my exchange with the guy working there and what must’ve been a regular customer.
It was so satisfying to be able to have such conversations, to not feel like a burden or an annoying tourist. In fact, an Australian family came in while I was there and stumbled through their order; the mother spoke to me in really exaggerated English when I offered to move my table for them, completely missing the fact that I was replying to her with an Australian accent. It felt pretty great to be mistaken for a local though, I’ll be honest.
I wandered back to the hostel and (probably) napped, coming out later in the evening to catch the sunset.
The next morning was a Sunday and I made my way up to Montmartre. I tried not to feel intimidated riding the quiet metro line alone but nothing bad happened – I could feel the difference between the hostel area and the hills of Montmartre, bustling with tourist traps and people just hanging around.
In saying that, I arrived at the stairs of the Sacre-Cœur at 9am and there weren’t many people around, so it was very peaceful. I sat inside for a while, and then on the steps outside, people watching and looking out over the city.
I killed some time in a cute cafe that felt very similar to those in Sydney. As it happened I sat next to three Australians; it’s amazing how calming it is to hear Australian accents when you’re overseas.
With some time to kill before lunch I wandered through the streets of Montmartre and came across a long stretch of markets which ended at a bustling street of cafés and restaurants. I took my time, chose a place to eat and just sat at an outdoor table reading and feeling Parisian/10.
After lunch I walked 20 minutes or so down to the Pompidou Centre of modern art. Some of the areas I had to pass through were less savoury so it was a brisk walk. The museum was only 10 minutes from my hostel so I took my time inside.
Last thing on my agenda that day was to visit the Shakespeare and Company bookshop that I had heard so much about. I lingered inside for a while, reading through some of the books and listening in to an author who was giving a talk upstairs.
Last day! I had a midday train so I woke up and walked down to the latin quarter. It was an aimless wander that took me to the Pantheon. Sadly it was closed and I didn’t have time to go inside if I was to make it back to the station in time, so I opted to get a croissant and coffee just outside.
My stay in Paris was better than I anticipated, which was definitely due to the luck of getting a room to myself in a hostel in a quiet and central area of the city. Because of this I didn’t feel as uncomfortable being by myself, and it was nice to take things at my own pace in the museums. Paris has an undeniable charm about it, and I’m glad I had this trip to remind me of it.