Putting aside the whole glamourized outlook of Paris for a second… Visiting Paris for the fourth time, on a tight budget, with just a backpack, and during the winter isn’t really the ideal situation. You’ve seen most attractions, you have no money for shopping, nor room to keep anything you buy, and you can’t take part in the lovely warm weather simplicities of having a picnic in a park or by the Seine. All that said I still loved visiting Paris again, I feel really comfortable there. You just have to get creative under those circumstances. Read more to see what we did!
As soon as we made it to St. Christopher’s Inn Gare Du Nord my jaw dropped. It was by far the nicest and coolest hostel I had been to. It’s very modern and vibrant, definitely a fun atmosphere. The only thing is, it’s a lot harder to meet people since it’s such a large hostel. It does seem more ideal for people travelling in groups.
On the weekend, the hostel bar hosts events that you can attend. Unfortunately the prices at the bar are high and they don’t allow you to drink in your rooms. So it’s hard to benefit from the famous one euro bottles of wine. ;)
One of the best things about the hostel was its’ location. It was a 2 minute walk to the Gare du Nord, which is absolutely convenient. We could easily catch the train to London and to the CDG airport, and more importantly there were 3 metro lines in the station to easily get around the city. Some people worry about the area surrounding a train station being sketchy but it was actually quite nice.
Day One: Beating Jet Lag
After getting a French SIM card, we wandered around Madeleine. It’s a lovely area. I happened upon Village Royal, a fancy spot I’d seen on Instagram before the trip. I couldn’t afford anything there but it is quite pretty.
We kept walking aimlessly because it was pouring rain so we were a bit unsure of what to do. Then I remembered how much I loved shopping around Le Marais so we took the subway there. After some window shopping we were both craving a Chevre Chaud salad (sooo yummy), so we stopped to eat. It was quite filling and we were tired from a long day so back to the hostel for a nap! How exciting?! I know, I know.
I’m not going to lie, we really struggled on figuring out what to do in the pouring rain. Morgan needed to buy a bigger purse to hold her Polaroid camera, so Champs-Élysées seemed like a logical choice for shopping.
For dinner it took us a long time to find a) a non-touristy restaurant, and b) a restaurant open before 7pm. We seriously needed to adjust our eating habits, we were starving by 5pm. Luckily, we happened upon Pizza Vesuvio, an affordable place with tasty pizza.
The restaurant wasn’t a far walk from the Eiffel Tower, so we headed there to see it twinkle (always a magical sight). An interesting, but sad, thing I realized while walking towards the metro, was the Princess Diana memorial. I had no clue what it was so I stopped to look and was shocked to see her name. I then realized that it was atop the tunnel where she died. I was three years old when that happened, so I had no idea at the time, but for some reason it still makes me sad.
Now for a COMPLETELY different pace (sad moment over), we got back to the hostel and realized there was a party starting in the bar. We decided to join in, thinking people would mingle. There was a deal on shots so I bought us a round of tequila, and then we wandered. It was a bit awkward because everyone there was in their groups and we didn’t know who to talk to. The prices at the bar were so expensive, so we left and headed to the mini market down the street and found a cheap bottle of Rosé. As mentioned before, you aren’t allowed to drink in your room at this hostel (a hostel rule I never experienced before), so we had to be stealthy. The bunk beds have curtains for privacy so we went into Morgan’s bunk. Funny thing is the lights in the room were out because there were two people sleeping. So here we were with a night light, whispering, playing music as quietly as possible, and trying to turn up for the rager happening downstairs. It was hard not to laugh at the situation.
On our way downstairs there were two Argentinian girls waiting for the elevator so we started talking to them. They were traveling just the two of them and found it hard to chat with people at the bar too so we all got some drinks and then decided to ask the front desk for club recommendations. Off to Rex Club! We got there before midnight and it still wasn’t open! We didn’t have to wait to long in line, but we had enough time to make friends with a British couple. Since we were early the place was quite empty. The cover for the club was 15 euros! And to top that, once you leave the club you lose your cover. So we had to wait until around 2am for it to be super busy. I still had fun in the mean time, we had made friends so we just made the most of it. When the dance floor started getting busy, we joined in and danced the night away. It got so crazy that the British girl even did a somersault on the dance floor! That was a first, aha. It was a classic discotheque, so there was only techno music. Before studying abroad, I would have hated dancing to music without lyrics, but it felt quite nostalgic, so I had so much fun. We got back to the hostel after 3am and I felt really proud; we kicked jet lag’s ass!
Day Two: Hangover and Jet Lag Hits
Not going to lie, I was exhausted after partying the night before. Morgan had to visit a family friend who lived in the outskirts of the city, so I was going to spend the day wandering on my own; instead I napped until 4pm. Once I got my lazy ass out of bed, I wandered out of the hostel and bumped into Morgan who just got back. It was her turn to nap.
I headed to St. Germain because I wanted to see Cafe de Flore. I would have sat down to eat there but it was an awkward time of the day to eat, so I headed towards the Seine River, where I wandered towards the Pont des Arts bridge. The bridge looks so different with the locks taken down.
I kept walking past the Notre Dame and towards Île Saint-Louis. The streets on the island are lovely for window shopping.
Morgan was asleep when I got back and I couldn’t wake her, so more napping for me! I woke up around 8:30 because we still had to get dinner. Eventful day folks!
Day Three: Montmartre
Today we got our asses back in gear. Jet-lag free, hangover free, excuse free. I’d never been to Montmartre and after finally bitting the bullet and watching the famous french film Amelie, it seemed idiotic of me to only be visiting the neighbourhood on my fourth visit.
We took the metro from the Gare du Nord and arrived east of the Sacre Coeur. Following the map we looked up to see a serious set of stairs. Deep breath in and out and up the stairs we went to reveal what I already knew, I am extremely out of shape! But once we got to the top I glimpsed at the church and was in awe. I’d never been that interested in seeing the Sacre Coeur in person, based off the photo’s I’d seen, but I couldn’t stop staring at it. It’s lovely. The best part is, you turn around from gazing at the church and you get an incredible view of the city from atop the hill. We were so fortunate that the rain had cleared for this day. It was even warm enough to take off my coat!
After taking countless selfies and “candid shots”, seen above, we headed down the hill to wander the Montmartre streets. I love this neighbourhood, its so eclectic. It’s nice to see different takes on the Parisian culture. Some areas of the city just stick with you, and this was one of them.
Our next stop was to see the exterior of Moulin Rouge. We were hoping to get tickets to see the show, but on a student budget $170 for a show was a bit much. We could still fangirl over the fun architecture on the outside though.It was basically get a good picture then go.
Off to Bon Marche! Another great Parisian spot I’d never been. I figured I’d seen Galeries Lafayette so what other Parisian department store could top that? I have to say, aside from the stunning dome ceiling of Lafayette, Bon March is probably my favourite. They have a lot of cool sections, including a wall of luxurious and expensive water. I didn’t check all the prices, but Bling H2O cost 50 euros to give you an idea. I also spent a good amount of time in the hat shop pretending I had a prestigious derby to go to.
Bon Marche does have a lovely grocery department but no place to eat, so we wandered the streets looking for lunch and I found my love! For those of you who have read about my other trips in France, you’ll know Bagelstein is my go-to spot. Such a good price and so tasty! We both ordered the fitness combo and I was so happy.
Morgan wanted to get a daytime shot of the Eiffel Tower and we also were hoping to catch a river cruise, so we headed back to the Seine. Unfortunately, due to high tides many of the stops on the cruise were taken off the tour and we couldn’t even go on the top of the boat, where the best views are. Scratch that idea! So we walked along the seine towards Place de la Concorde because I wanted to ride the ferris wheel. I’m a child and LOVE the idea of going on ferris wheels in European cities. It was a bit pricey though and Morgan wanted a shot of the Louvre on her camera before the sun went down, so we walked through Jardin des Tuileries towards the museum.
AND THEN I saw a Vin Chaud stand!!!! My life was complete. I am obsessed with this drink, even attempted to make some from scratch over the holidays (not the same). I got Morgan to try it but she doesn’t like wine so I ended up with two! You can see how happy I was in the picture below. LOL
On towards the Louvre! I kept spilling Vin Chaud all over me but I was super giddy (maybe buzzed too) so I didn’t even care. We took pictures outside of the museum. It is a gorgeous place, even if you don’t go inside.
For dinner we walked towards St. Germain and got some french onion soup then went back to the hostel to rest up for the big day ahead!
Day Four: London!
Thank goodness we were right by the Gare Du Nord. We woke up at 5:30 am gathered our things and left for the station. We arrived in London at 8:30am and headed back to Paris at 8pm. It was a long day, 40,000 steps, but well worth it! Read that post here!
Day Five: Opera
Back in Paris! We kind of rested in the morning and took our time getting ready before heading to the tour of the Opera Garnier. We arrived just on time after getting a quick bite to eat at Brioche Dorée. Our tour guide spoke to our group in english (thank goodness, I hate tours with pre-recorded audiotapes). She was extremely insightful about the history, design, and what went on in the opera (aka the scandals). The Grand Foyer was my favourite part; it took me back to Versailles. I could only imagine being invited to an event there (pretty sure one of the PFW ’16 events was held there).
Morgan wanted to shop at Brandy Melville, which happened to be in on of my favourite neighbourhoods (the place I stayed on my last visit) Saint Sulpice. After some shopping and wandering, we stopped in a bar/restaurant for dinner. I ordered a steak with peppercorn sauce which I had been craving all trip. Then for dessert we stopped at a crepe stand. I got one with Nutella and banana and OMG it was perfection – plus a stomach ache that was so worth it.
Day Six: Off to Prague!
That was it for Paris! We did come back for the last night but stayed near the airport. Since we didn’t care much about where we stayed (as long as there was a free airport shuttle) we booked on Hotwire and found a room cheaper than the hostel we stayed in! Hotwire booked us at the Holiday Inn Paris CDG. It was a nice change from a hostel. We needed a good night of sleep before a lengthy day of travelling home.
Make sure to check out my Prague post (coming soon).
**For this post I tried a diary-style rather than places to see, things to do, etc. Not sure if this will be a common writing style for me but I figured I’d try it for this post!