- February 22nd, 1997 was an alarmingly unproductive twenty four hours for me. This was the day scientists in Scotland revealed to the world that they had cloned the world’s first mammal, in the shape of Dolly the Sheep. As I slowly placed the lid of my pen into my mouth and read the article which explained all, I slowly slouched in my chair and began to wonder ‘What would I do if I could make another me’. It wasn’t long before my mind got the better of me and I was thinking that one wasn’t enough and instead I wanted 6 of me. By the end of the day, however, I didn’t really believe any of my ideas really warranted another Colm Hanratty. But now I do.
If I could make another me I would. And after making one, I’d swiftly churn out another eighteen, making a grand total of 20. What would I do this for? Well, after visiting Paris recently for two days I would make 20 ‘me’s’ to explore Paris, one for every ‘arrondissement’ (district) this city is made up of. There is so much to see and do in each one that this is the only way possible to witness it all. But don’t get me wrong, I did get to see quite a bit while I was there, so read on as I divulge.
Just as you picture it
Walking around the streets of Paris is everything you expect it to be. Parisians lounge outside cafes swigging back espressos like there is no tomorrow, others saunter past you on the street carrying baguettes so fresh you can feel the heat from them and budding artists abound every corner armed with their pencils, sketchpads and, of course, their talent.
These passionate people who populate the streets just add to the beauty of Paris’ never-ending buildings, attractions and museums to visit. Walking down the Champs Elysees I had nobody to share the ‘moment’ with, but due to the grip this empowering avenue had on me, I didn’t need to. I just couldn’t believe I was finally in one of the most famous cities in the world.
I was only just midway down when I rotated my head a fraction to the left to see arguably the world’s most famous structure, the Eiffel Tower. No matter what way you look at it, no matter what angle you see if from and no matter how many times you look at it, your eyes never tire of it. Naturally, my eyes had to be treated to a view from the top to see if that was as impressive. A ticket to the top costs €10.40 and is worth every cent. Apart from the unforgettable views from the top, every time you see the tower after being transported to the top via elevator and you say to yourself ‘I was at the top of that’, you’ll know it was money well spent. But this impressive tower is unquestionably more impressive from ground level, so if the thoughts of being brought up over 300 metres into the sky daunt you, don’t feel the need to do it just for the sake of it.
Veer east along the banks of the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower and the number of landmarks you encounter is amazing. After a mere twenty minutes on the other side of the Seine you will find Place de la Concorde decorated with the Obelisque. Just across the road from here are Jardin des Tuileries, a long narrow set of gardens which bring you to Musee du Louvre (more about that in a second) and walk a further ten minutes east and you will find Centre Pompidou where the Museum of Modern Art is located. Face due south from this controversial building, crossing the River Seine again, you will now be on Ile de la Cite where the city’s Notre Dame Cathedral stands proud. And to top things off, across the river again to the Latin Quarter will bring you up to the Pantheon. Phew! But don’t worry – the Jardin du Luxembourg is only a minute’s walk from there so to help take everything in you can tilt back on one of these gardens’ seats and ponder what an amazing city this is.
It’s amazing what a bit of research can do
If you visit three or more museums in a day you could find that absorbing so much culture burns a rather large hole in your pocket. Museum admission prices hover around the €10 mark. But do your homework and plan your visit around the first Sunday of the month (just like clever clogs here did) and you could save yourself over €50. This is because all of Paris’ main museums are free on the first Sunday of the month. This includes Musee d’Orsay, the Museum of Modern Art, and even the Louvre. As each one is so vast, I only managed to visit the latter two. You will find that one whole day isn’t enough time to visit the Louvre (it could have its own independent metro service it’s that big), but whatever way you visit them just make sure to leave the Pompidou (Modern Art Museum) until last – it stays open until 8pm.
Eating out in Paris and simply going for a coffee can be frightfully expensive. Prior to checking into my accommodation, I was flabbergasted when I received a receipt for a Caffe Latte for no less than €3.60. But that was my first experience sitting down for something in the French capital and I learned from it. From then on I just paid more attention to the menu and less to the eclectic mix of people who passed before me before I ordered. Aux Delices de Shanghai on Rue St Martin does a 2-course meal for €6 and, as I was the only westerner frequenting the establishment, I thought it was a safe enough place to eat. Elsewhere, Café Panis on Quai Saint Michel serves delightful crepes and, if you want something fast, efficient and cheap, Rue de la Huchette and the streets which branch off it are dotted with fast food outlets that can produce a more than adequate kebab quicker than you can say ‘French fries also please’.
As you would expect from any European capital, Paris’ streets pulsate after dark. Around Place de la Bastille you can be sure to find a bar or club to take your fancy because there are more than enough to be found here. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Irish bars I discovered in Paris. The Galway on Quai St Michael is a quaint pub that, unlike so many Irish bars around the world, honestly feels like one.
Paris doesn’t have a huge pub culture. Instead people enjoy sipping their bottles of Kronenburg while decked out on chairs which pepper the footpaths. One place where you will find hordes of backpackers equipped with €3 bottles of wine is at the Eiffel Tower every weekend. Every night from 10pm during the summer it sparkles like a diamond in the shape of, well, the Eiffel Tower for 15 minutes every half an hour. If your wine doesn’t get you tipsy the atmosphere will. If the tower is too far away from you, make your way down to Quai Saint Bernard along the banks of the Seine and you will be treated to some free entertainment as couples of all ages salsa dance and ballroom dance at various places.
So what did I miss in Paris taking into account there is only one of me? I didn’t get to visit Place de la Contrescarpe which, as Samier (the manager of my hotel) informed me, always maintains a buzz at night. I didn’t cruise down the River Seine on a boat. And I never made it to Musee Picasso. But I don’t see this as a bad thing. As it’s all about turning negatives into positives, I see it as a good thing. Now I have many reasons to go back.
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