Paris en Printemps

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As a former resident, I found showing a friend around the famous city to be the perfect Parisian visit. In just three nights we were able to cover most of the city and enjoy the wonderful colours and warmth of spring.

Arriving in the afternoon gave us the whole evening to walk around. We made our way to the Champs Elysées, an ideal place to start an evening stroll around the city. From there, we circled around Faubourg St Honoré, an interesting place for those studying I.R. as it is the home to the British and American Embassies as well as to the French presidential palace. We did get in trouble there for taking a photo though, so if you do visit refrain from photographing the residencies. Following that little encounter with the French police, we walked past the Concorde and arrived at the picturesque Alexander Bridge, a perfect place to get a picture with the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. We crossed the bridge and made our way towards the Invalides building where Napoléon rests, mummified inside five caskets. Our monument walk ended by the Eiffel Tower, where the sparkling monument and a carrousel ride greeted us. The night ended with an amazing creme brulée and a bottle of wine at a non-tourist restaurant (they tend to be cheaper and better).

Paris is a city that does indeed sleep; to make the most of a visit it is best to get up early as shops and museums will close at around six, and bars close quite early as well. We seized the day and started out in the magnificent Musée D’Orsay. Most visitors tend to go to the Louvre, but this museum can be just as enjoyable; the Louvre may be the home to the Mona Lisa but the most famous impressionist paintings reside in the D’Orsay.

After the museum we lunched at L’Esmeralda on Avenue Victor Hugo. A great French lunch is steak frites (literally steak and fries) with some nice wine. We spent the afternoon in the Latin Quarter. We admired the Notre Dame, an essential tourist spot. We then made a quick stop, just across the Notre Dame, in the English bookstore Shakespeare and Co., where bibliophiles can spend hours. From there on we ventured to the gorgeous Jardin de Luxembourg, a lovely place to visit in the spring, relaxing in an area where you can lie on the grass. We snacked on crepes in the Latin Quarter, the best food for people in a hurry.

The next day we made our way to the Montmartre to see the Sacré Coeur, a personal favourite. Visiting the Sacré Coeur is in many ways more enjoyable than visiting the Notre Dame. The long queue in front of the Notre Dame is no fun, the church is crowded and loud once you get in and in many ways too magnificent to enjoy in one visit. The Sacré Coeur is much less busy, and there was no queue outside when we arrived. A wonderful smell of candles and almost complete silence greets the visitor. The church is at the highest point of the city, providing a spectacular view. We went with the flow from there on, grabbed some lunch and ended up in the Tuileries Garden. We walked up the Champs Elysées from there and climbed the 250 steps of the Arc de Triomphe for a panorama view of the city. The Arc de Triomphe is a good alternative to the Eiffel tower; the view is almost as good, there is no queue and it is much cheaper. We dined in and then took a midnight stroll to the Eiffel Tower to say good-bye to the city.

I love Paris in the spring time, the weather is good and the city is not too crowded. I highly recommend it for a student break. The Arc de Triomphe and many museums are free of charge for 18-25 year-old EU students, so be sure to bring your student ID card along when you visit.

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