On my journey down to South Africa, I was fortunate enough to have a 15 hour layover in Paris, France. Having enough time to utilize this opportunity, my travel partner, Britney, and I headed out as soon as possible into the city to explore and absorb as much as we could in the short time we had.
One thing to remember, if you are ever traveling to Paris is that if you plan to see multiple sights such as the Eiffel Tower, the Lourve, Notre Dame, or the Arc de Triomphe, you had better get a day long metro pass for the 5 zones. (That sentence makes more sense once you see the metro line maps.) By doing this, even though it was pricey, we were able to save a lot of time not having to walk in the hot sun and see more of what we wanted to see.
It’s also empowering to be able to solve your own problems and find your way around a foreign city. By the end of the day, we must have looked like we knew what we were doing because other tourists, American or not, would come up to us asking for help with the metros.That was a vote of confidence. Understanding the metro system also made it easier to get from place to place because we could go into any metro we found and figure out how to get to where we wanted to be.
Because of our planning and utilizing of the metro, we were able to have a packed day full of visiting Notre Dame, the pyramid of the Lourve, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe. Not to mention we got to explore local shops and cafes, admire the amazing architecture, dine on true French crepes, and learn more about the French culture.
To start the day, we stopped off at Notre Dame, which is very close to many stores, cafes, and markets. We did not go into Notre Dame due to the long line (which would have taken hours, no exaggeration) and the entrance fee. We decided that we would rather see more shops and culture and perhaps buy a souvenir or food instead. We went to the surrounding streets and found gorgeous architecture and many cute shops. There was an outdoor market that had lots of food including a fish market, jewelry, clothing, and an assortment of other goods.
We actually ended up getting slightly lost for about 20 minutes while we were exploring the streets around Notre Dame because all of the architecture looks pretty similar and there are multiples of some stores. In hindsight, we should have paid more attention to where exactly we were turning and walking, but we did find our way back after comparing metro stations and road names to those on our maps.
After Notre Dame we journeyed to the Lourve by actually using the map this time rather than wandering like we had around Notre Dame. We stopped on our walk there and checked out a couple of clothing stores and a street booth that was selling gorgeous silk scarves for pretty cheap. We each bought a scarf there. We finally found our way to the Lourve after about 45 minutes and we checked out the smaller square before going into the larger one which actually contains the glass pyramid that is above the Lourve. We decided not to actually go into the Lourve for the same reasons as Notre Dame.
On our way to Lourve, we had passed a really cute little crepes shop, so we decided to stop since we hadn’t eaten since our flight to Paris. I got a meal crepe with egg, chicken, and cheese, while Britney went with a dessert crepe of strawberries and chocolate. They were delicious and the people working there were super nice and joked around with us. If ever in Paris, I would definitely stop here.
After we had food, we decided to head over to the Eiffel Tower, so we headed back to Notre Dame and took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower. It was honestly awe-inspiring. I had never realized just how huge and impressive the Eiffel Tower truly was. Pictures really do not do it justice. While there, we decided to go to the bathroom because there was a little bathroom in a round building beside the street. Honestly, THE WORST BATHROOM DESIGN EVER. It only fit one person at a time, it completely sanitized the room after every person, the flush did not work, nor did the water at the sink or the soap work, and there was just a French voice in the wall that talked at you any time you attempted to use anything listed above. The line was about ten people long at any given time. It was a pretty frustrating experience.
After the Eiffel Tower, we decided to walk tothe Arc de Triomphe, so that we could see all of the top four tourist attractions in Paris (Eiffel Tower, the Lourve, Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe.) Turns out that it was much farther away from the Eiffel Tower than we had originally thought, but we did get to see more of the normal culture, less of the tourist-type places. The Arc de Triomphe was actually a little scary because it is a very intricately carved arc in the center of a roundabout. The roundabout has 14 entrance/exit streets and basically was just a giant traffic jam, where I was surprised I didn’t see multiple accidents. After seeing the crazy driving that was surrounding the Arc, we decided to just take pictures from across the road and not take the chance of getting hit by a car.
To end the day, we were pretty exhausted, but went back to Notre Dame to explore more of the shops, making sure to keep track of where we walked this time. Then when we were too tired to explore further, we took the metro back to the airport. So, we got to explore Paris on a 15 hour layover, spending about 8-9 hours exploring and spending the rest of the time with leaving or getting back to the airport, or being back in time to go back through security and not be rushed for our next flight.
All in all, a pretty awesome layover and a great start to an exciting trip, if I do say so myself.