Return to Paris
Airport Rating ***** (Eurostar)
Reception of locals ***1/2
One more trip before Brexit
My most recent visit to Paris was a very short stop, and given I have written in detail about Paris here, and here, this will be a fairly short entry.
As I've done in my previous visits to Paris, I caught the Eurostar train through the channel tunnel. Unlike airports, which are usually outside the city centre, and where security can take an age to get through, the two train stations; London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord, are close to the centre of each respective city, and security/immigration lines are substantially shorter than those in the airport.
The journey takes just over 2 hours, and to me it's more comfortable than flying. Paris Gare du Nord isn't the nicest train station, and to be fair, not many train/subway station are in Paris - transport is definitely one of the city's weakest features. But, for a thousand years, Paris has been the political, economical, social and cultural hub or France - and for much of that time, Europe as well.
In fact, around the 17th century, when France was the global hegemon, Paris was the largest city in the world. Today, the city is the world's most visited - linked to beauty, fashion, food and romance.
The stereotypes are true, French food is good
My first stop was visiting the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral. I wrote about it in some detail in my previous post on Paris, so I won't go into too much detail. What I will say is, that I'd happily visit this cathedral every time I'm in Paris, it's that beautiful.
What I didn't cover so much last time, was the food. I've happily mentioned many times before, I'm not a food snob, and for me it's nothing more than fuel. However, I went to Paris with a friend who was a little more cultured when it came to their palette. Paris has great food, and it's far ahead of the UK when it comes to cuisine. From bakeries, to patisseries, to sit down restaurants, food is just better in every way.
Le Vin de Bellechase, in the 7th arrondissement area, was a favourite of a friend of mine who lived in Paris, and we visited the small restaurant on my return. Honestly, as far as good food goes, I don't think I've eaten much better than I did here. It's not cheap, you'd pay as much as you would in a decent London restaurant, but it's just in a whole different league when it comes to quality.
I also enjoyed Framboise, a creperie with establishments all over the city, we visited the one by Champs-Elysees and weren't disappointed. It does everything from savoury to sweet crepes, and best of all, prices are reasonable.
Towers and terror
We spent a lot of time walking around the St Germain area. It's aesthetically pretty, and relatively quiet - a great place to take a stroll and get a feel for the city. It's areas like this that make you realise why cities around the world are always compared to Paris. I remember Battambang in Cambodia was called the 'Paris of the east', as was Hanoi.
The area backs onto the Eiffel Tower - again I've wrote about it in more detail in a previous article, but it was great to see the tower in better weather conditions. A mixture of pollution and fog meant I missed out on seeing the full scale of the tower last time around, and thankfully weather conditions were much better on this occasion.
There's no doubt an element of beauty for a structure that is so closely associated with romance, style and elegance. However, recent terrorist attacks in the city also serve as a juxtaposition. The elegant beauty of the tower contrasted by the brute steel that now surrounds the perimeter.
Panoramic views of Paris
Another thing I've written about before is the transport system in Paris. Much like New York, the subway system is incredibly outdated, and makes me realise just how much I take the London underground for granted. No contactless combined with dirty, smelly, run-down stations make the process of getting around the city slightly unpleasant.
However, we had to use the subway to get to the Montparnasse Tower, a near 700ft skyscraper. I'll be honest, the tower is straight up ugly. In fact, it's so ugly, that two years after its completion, the city banned any tower greater than 7 stories being built in the city centre. But it's not the outside of the tower I came to see, but the view across Paris.
At €15, tickets are fairly priced compared to similar towers around the world, such as the Shard in London, the Empire State Building in New York, the Gran Torre in Santiago, the Skybar in Bangkok etc.
The view makes me forget the small things I dislike about Paris and focus on its beauty. The lack of tall buildings, and the almost uniform architecture means the views are unrestricted for miles. You can see the wide boulevards and the parks. The Eiffel Tower stands out in the foreground in an indescribable way, framed by the towers of La Defense in the background. Famous monuments like the Arc de Triomphe and Les Invalides are all there, and the 360 panoramic views gives you views over other parts of the city too, such as Sacre-Coeur and Jardin du Luxembourg. I'd definitely recommend it.
Is Paris worth visiting?
We made a stop at the Arc de Triomphe. Again, this is covered in detail in my previous blog (including a climb).
I was potentially a little harsh during my previous review of Paris, although I stand by large parts of what I said. It's still absolutely not a place I'd want to live for an extended period of time, and for a city that prides itself on beauty, it's a little dirty I won't lie. But I've come to appreciate these flaws. They make it what it is. Even the subway stations, and the older style trains have character.
The architectural beauty of the city is unparalleled - in fact, only Vienna and parts of Edinburgh come to mind as being close to the aesthetic nature of Paris. The food is incredible, and even the people seemed friendlier this time around, although again, as a Sikh, it's probably not top of my list in terms of 'Sikh friendly places'. Aggressive secularism can be just as annoying as aggressive religion - I quite like the happy middle ground I've found in England.
That's pretty much it. Like I've mentioned, you can read more detailed accounts of things to do in Paris in previous articles, but as always, happy to receive your comments and questions.
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British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.