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  • Writer's pictureMariko

A Weekend in Paris

While I was living in Florence, I traveled to Paris for the weekend to visit a friend. To avoid the cost of a round trip flight, I took a train to Milan and then took an overnight bus to Paris. As long as you can sleep on a bus, I highly recommend buses as a cheap way to get around Europe. European buses are a lot nicer than Greyhound buses and sometimes even include in-seat entertainment.

The bus I took dropped us off early in the morning in the outskirts of Paris. After deciphering the metro system I finally found my way to my friend Ben who was staying near the city center. We had a lot to see in a short period of time, but I was very happy with our itinerary.

Here is what we did:

Day 1: Explore the Louvre

There are dozens of amazing museums in Paris, but I would recommend spending the majority of your time at the Louvre. This museum most famously houses the Mona Lisa, but there is a pretty big line and seeing her portrait (which is actually very small in real life) is anti-climatic. Make sure you spend your time seeking out other famous works including the Venus de Milo, Liberty Leading the People, The Raft of Medusa, Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss and more.

After you explore the museum there is a beautiful connecting garden with pastry shops all around. Make sure to stop and get some of the classics including macaroons, crepes, crème brule, croissants, and brioche. Ben and I enjoyed some of our treats on the Pont du Carrousel which is a bridge right next to the Louvre. I highly recommend doing the same!

Day 2: Pastry Run and the Batobus Water Taxi Loop

Saturday morning Ben and I got up early and went on a run. We ran about 2 miles to the Eiffel Tower and on the way home stopped at a really good French bakery. Coolest pastry run I’ve ever done. Going early in the morning is also a great way to see the Eiffel Tower before it is crowded with tourists.

After our run, Ben and I went to explore the city. We bought a ticket for a Batobus water taxi that was an all day, hop-on, hop-off way to see the main attractions. I HIGHLY recommend buying the all day water taxi pass (24 hours, 17 euros). Since the water taxi stops at all of the tourist destinations up and down the Seine, it is by far the most efficient way to see Paris in a day. Traveling via water taxi, the three of us went to the Fountain of San Michel, the Shakespearean Book Store (where Hemmingway worked!!), the Notre Dame, the Hotel de Ville, The Petite Palais, the Arch, the Museum de Orsy.

My favorites were probably the Arch and the Museum de Orsy. Our group decided to climb to the top of the Arch where we were treated to a 360-degree view of all of Paris. It was awesome.

View from the Arch

Fountain of San Michel

Notre Dame (I visited in 2016 before the devastating fire)

The Arch

Another from the Arch!

Our trip to Museum de Orsy was rushed, because we went about 30 minutes before closing time. Despite this I was able to see the original works of my favorite Impressionist artists. I saw Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh just to name a few. It is a beautiful museum.

That night we finished off the day by taking the water taxi to the Eiffel tower again. It was a treat to see it lit up at night. Vendors scattered the adjacent lawn, selling champagne and wine to picnicking tourists.

I used to think that the Eiffel tower was very overrated, but now I completely understand the hype. Once it becomes dark outside, the tower sparkles for 3 minutes on the top of each hour, creating an amazing sight.

Day 3: Castle of Versailles.

Versailles isn't technically in Paris, but you do not want to miss it while you are there. To get to Versailles, take the metro all the way down the line to Versailles-Château-Rive Gauche station. Make sure to buy the ticket for the entire estate tour (20 euros). You do not want to miss the gardens! When we went we also paid for the The Palaces of Trianon tour but honestly I do not recommend it. Spend the majority of your time in the gardens.

What extravagance in one estate. Every room decorated from head to toe, with halls of mirrors lining the passageways. The garden, which literally went on for miles, separated the main estate from the summer homes. In the garden, every turn included exotic status or water displays. It really was quite a sight.

Tips Before you Go!

- If you have a student visa or an EU passport- bring it!! All the museums in Paris are free for residents of the EU (including study abroad students). In addition to the museums being free, you can also generally skip the line- just flash them your visa or passport and you should be good to go

- Walk as much as you can. With so many tourist stops, walking from place to place is the best way to get the feel for "real Paris"

- Instead of stopping for a sit down lunch- consider a picnic! There is ample outdoor spaces to sit down and rest. Grab a crepe to go, or bring some bread and cheese as a snack.

- Study up on your French. Unlike some tourist hotspots which default to English, most places in Paris prefer to speak French. Know the basics- how to order, ask for the bathroom, ask for the price of something, etc

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