Our Paris Stopover
We had a two nights stop over in Paris and that gave us two half days and one full day to explore the city. Over the few days we used public transport to visit five sightseeing destinations.
|Day 1 (Monday)
(5 pm to Night)
| Day 2 (Tuesday)
|Day 3 (Wednesday)
(10 am to 3 pm)
|Eiffel Tower||Arc de Triomphe
Notre Dame Cathedral
Lourve Museum exterior
Weekly pass for Public Transport
On day 1 we touched down in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport airport (Terminal 2C) at about 1.00 pm and it took about an hour to clear custom and claim our luggage. There after our first task was to get Navigo weekly passes for four of us which would give us unlimited rides. From the terminal we looked out for signage that pointed us to RER train station going toward Paris, it was a short 500 metres walk to the station. Near the entrance of the station there were ticketing machines selling single train tickets and multi-day-train tickets but not the Navigo weekly pass. The pass had to be purchased over the counter in the Billets Paris et ile-de-France office.
In order to buy these passes we had to bring along physical passport size photos and handed them to the counter staff for her to paste them onto the passes. We bought the 5 zones Navigo weekly passes and it costed €22.15 per pass.
These passes were for unlimited rides on RER Train, metro(subway), tram and bus (including TZEN) between zone 1 (Paris Center) to zone 5 (Paris CDG airport) starting on Monday 0 hr to Sunday Midnight. The rides excluded some direct lines to airports (Orlyval, Le Bus Direct Paris Aéroport shuttles, VEA Disney shuttles) and tourist buses (OpenTour and Cars Rouges).
We had done our sum, though the cost of the four passes were slightly more expensive than if we were to purchase single tickets they would be more convenient.
Paris transportation systems were pretty complicated, there were RER train, metro, tram and bus. RER train were regional express train so they travel further (zone 1 to zone 5) with lesser stops, metro were mainly subway system (train) within the Paris City (Metropolitian). Tram served mainly the city outskirt and bus went all over the places.
Prior to the the trip, I used google map to plan out our daily routes. All our sightseeing destinations in Paris were reachable by train and metro so I had all the routes marked. For every destination I also located all the nearest metro/train station entrances. As usual I preferred to get all the planning out of the way so as to allow us more time and pleasure to explore our destinations. Google map was an excellent tool for Paris route planning, as all the details were in the map with excellent street views too.
Mobile Data Plan
Before we left Singapore we had purchased a mobile data plan for Europe from Changi Recommends it was a Europe + UK 30 Days 5GB SIM Card for SGD$52. It covered 4 of the 6 countries we were visiting in 24 days and Paris was one of them. The SIM card was from a UK telco, Three. The short coming of this data SIM card was that its hot spot/tethering feature was disable which meant that every phone needed to have its own data SIM card to have mobile data access. We had evaluated the cost and other alternatives so even though this data SIM card was not an ideal we ended out getting four, one for each of us.
We had planned our trip using information from the internet so naturally during the trip whenever we had doubts of our routes or we had adhoc new sights and destinations or we had to deviate from our planned itinerary the first thing we did would be to surf the internet for additional information or confirmation. So only with 24/7 internet access would we be able to travel freely and confidently.
By the time we reached Eiffel Tower it was already close to 7 pm. Luckily it was long day light at this time of the year in Paris so the sky was still nice and bright. There were many people around and it was not easy to take a personal shot alone with the Eiffel tower.
There were barricades all round the tower and to walk right up to the underside of the tower we had to go through security gates where we our bags were checked for “dangerous” items before we were allowed through the barricades.
Our original plan was to purchase tickets (€17 each person) to go up to the top of the Eiffel tower. We would like to stay up in the tower till the sun set to see Paris in the evening lights. But just before we joined the queue at the ticketing booth we had a change of plan. Going up Eiffel tower meant we would be able to see Paris but not the Eiffel Tower in the evening light. It did not make sense to pay good money to see Paris from the top of the world without its most iconic landmark in sight!
Lin Ying did a quick online chat with some of her friends who had a long stay in Paris for advise and the Tour Maine Montparnasse was suggested. Tour Montparnasse, was a 210-metre office skyscraper located in the Montparnasse area of Paris and its roof deck was available as a viewing deck for visitors who wanted a spectacular view of Paris from the top of the world.
A quick check on our google map and we were on our way there! Just take the metro green line (line 6) from Bir-Hakeim station to Gare Montparnasse Station and we reached there in 15 minutes.
Gare Montparnasse station was just at the basement of the Tower Montparnasse, we got out and followed the directional sign to the Tower Observation Deck. At the ground level was a ticketing counter where we bought four tickets for €66 (€17 for adult, €15 for student, no discount for senior). The ticket cost was the same as that of the tickets’ to the top of Eiffel tower.
We took a lift to went up to the 56th floor in only 38 seconds. This lift/elevator had claims as the fastest elevator in Europe. On the 56th floor was a cafe and souvenir store. It had huge windows all round with a panoramic view of Paris. As we walked from one window to the next we got to see a different part of Paris. Then we came to a stairs that led up to the observation deck.
This deck was an huge open terrace with many comfortable chairs. The wind was very strong and it was quite cold. Many people were already on the deck waiting for the sun to set and for Paris to light up.
We could spot the Eiffel Tower easily because it was the only building poking out from a sea of lower houses. At about 9 pm Eiffel Tower started to light up with a couple of lights here and there then all the sudden there was this hundreds of blinking lights randomly all over the tower structure, it lasted just a few seconds before the entire tower lighted up. A chorus of “wow” involuntarily escaped from the mouths of the many spectators on the terrace.
Gradually the whole of Paris was lighting up, a very beautiful city basked in golden lights.
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe was our first sightseeing destination on day 2. It was located on a circular land where 12 roads met. We arrived via the metro line 1 and exited at Charles de Gaulle Étoile station which was practically at the door step of the Arc. Both RER train and metro had a station at Charles de Gaulle Étoile.
Arc de Triomphe had an overall height of 50 metres, width of 45 m and depth of 22 m. It was commissioned in 1806 by Emperor Napolean after the victory at Austerlitz. The construction was delayed and in 1836 ( 30 years after the commissioning and some 15 years after the death of Napolean) it was finally completed and inaugurated by French King, Louis Philippe.
At the foot of the Arc there was a slab with inscription that went like this “ ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANÇAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914–1918″ (“Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918”). How come it took the soldier four years to die?
Galleries Lafayatte was our 2nd destination for day 2. We were visiting Galleries Lafayatte not for shopping but for it interior design. We arrived at Galleries Lafayatte via RER (train) red line from Arc de Triomphe.
Master glass-maker Jacques Gruber was responsible for designing the Neo-byzantine style stained glass windows. The glass dome, rising to a height of 43 metres, soon became the iconic symbol of Galeries Lafayette.
Notre Dame Cathedral
I remembered the name “Notre Dame Cathedral” from the movie “Hunckback of Notre Dame” some forty years ago. I only remembered the ugly hunchback but could not remember how the cathedral looked like. So naturally now that we were in Paris we had to visit the cathedral.
Notre-Dame, was a medieval Catholic cathedral, it was widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it was among the largest and most well-known church buildingsi n the world.
Our first visit to the Lourve was on day 2 which happened to be Tuesday. On Tuesday the Museum was closed so we could only walk around on the outside. We had great fun shooting all sorts of postures with the glass pyramid.
The glass pyramid was added to the front of the museum in 1989, designed by Chinese architect Leoh Ming Pei and it served as a new grand entrance into the museum. The pyramid had a square base, whose side was 116 feet long and the apex of the pyramid was 71 feet from the base. It was designed to have the exact same proportions as the great Pyramid of Giza. The glass panes of the pyramids are made up of diamonds and triangle which created the appearance of cut jewels.
There were actually five glass pyramids, the largest one in the centre with three smaller ones around it. The last one was underground it was inverted!
We were back at the Lourve at sunset and was treated with a fantastic view of the sun setting behind the Lourve Pyramid. It was spectacular and totally unexpected. The bonus was that since it was a Tuesday and the Lourve Museum was closed, there was no people around the pyramid vicinity which allowed us to get many gorgeous shots minus the human obstruction.
After the sun set and before the sky turned dark for a 15-20 minutes duration the sky took on this incredible blue colour. It contrasted brilliantly with the golden light from many lamps around the Lourve Musuem and together with the glass pyramid they formed an incredible beautiful scene.
Inside the Lourve Museum
Day 3 was devoted to just the Lourve. It was Wednesday and the museum was open. We had till 4 pm to explore the museum. We arrived at the Lourve at about 12.30 pm but unlike most other tourists we did not go into the grand entrance (Glass pyramid) to purchase our tickets. I had read from the internet that we could avoid the ticketing queue by going to the basement of 99 Le Carrousel Du Lourve and buy the tickets from a souvenir store.
We reached 99 Carrousel du Lourve, entered the glass doors and went down three escalators. On the ground floor turned right on “Alle de France” walkway. Like roads, the walkways in the basement of this shopping center were given names.
After a short walk along Ale De France, on its right side was a souvenir shop with a sign that said “Museum Pass Ticket”. We went in and bought four museum tickets for €68 (€17 per person) and a book on the exhibits in the museum. The museum tickets could also be bought online unfortunately, to do that I had to pick a particular entry time slot which I felt was too restrictive.
Buying the museum tickets was a bliss but that could not be said for entering into the museum. We had to go back to the grand entrance (glass pyramid) and joined a queue that said “With ticket”. The queue was so long and it took us slightly more than an hour to get into the museum. Using the museum book that we had just bought we picked out those exhibits that interest us and zoomed into them.
Mona Lisa was this tiny little thing and every first timers to this museum was looking for it. At the Mona Lisa exhibit hall, we had a hard time squeezing and pushing our way to the front of the rope barrier just before this famous painting. The face, the smile, the non existence eyebrows were already very familiar to us and yet like everybody else we had to get ourselves to the front, to look at a sight that I had already seen thousands of times before in books, in print etc. I guessed the only value of being so close was to take a selfie/wefie with it!
The collection at the museum was very vast and would need more than one day to view its entirety. One day Yat Thong and I would come back here again and looked through these exhibits. We would probably sign up a guided tour or rent audio devices and leisurely enjoyed these displays, hopefully with a much lesser crowd.
Coffee Breaks and Meals
Every morning we took a bus ride to La Defense and from there moved on to our sightseeing destinations via metro or RER train. La Defense station was a huge interchange where one could easily hop onto a bus, tram, metro, RER train or a taxis. At the interchange were many cafes and eateries.
For the two mornings in Paris we ate our breakfast at La Defense station. Both morning we bought some pastries from Paul and carried them over to McDonald where we bought more pastries and cafe lattes. We ate our breakfast in McDonald as there was no seating section at Paul.
Back in Singapore, Paul bakery was an up market shop so the cost of its pastries were pretty pricey. In France, Paul bakery seemed to belong to the same calibre as McDonald fast food.
French McDonald was also different from Singapore McDonald as in France the outlet offered other pastries beside burgers.
Breakfast cost about €30 for four of us, which consisted of pastries (from Paul and McDonald), four fillet-o-fish burgers and four cup of cafe lattes.
The pastries at Paul and McDonald though nice were rather unexciting. French pastries were famous worldwide so it was definitely a must for us to seek out some good ones. We chanced upon a pastries counter at Le Carrousel du Lourve (a shopping center). It had a huge display of “delicate” and colorful pastries that was so captivating that we ended up buying some marcarons and cakes.
On the 2nd day we ate dinner at Chez Claude Restaurant which was located near the Lourve. This restaurant had good review in Tripadvisor and its pricing was in the moderate range. It was a local restaurant with very local favored decoration.
We were not too sure if we should order 4 set dinner meals that included appetizer and desert beside the main dish as it might be too filling for some of us. On the recommendation of the waitress we ordered two set dinner meals with appetizer and another two dinner meals with dessert. The appetizer and dessert were shared among all four which was a great way of having a complete meal without over eating. We enjoyed the meal very much. The bill came up to €91.6.
I booked a studio apartment (Appartement de standing proche Paris) for two nights from Sonia through Airbnb. The price was €110 for two nights a lot cheaper than hotels and other Airbnb places in the center of Paris. The reasons I picked this apartment was its price, its quiet neighbourhood, its size (big enough for four) and its late check out hour on the day we had to leave. Though it was on the outskirt of Paris center it had a direct bus to La Defense station which was a huge interchange. At the interchange we could easily hop onto a RER train or a metro to get to all our sightseeing destinations.
The apartment was very nice and clean except for the sofa bed. The black vinyl leather of the sofa bed was disintegrating badly. Not a big issue as we could place many layers of bedsheet/throw over it.
Sonia’s apartment had a huge, nice and clean toilet with plentiful hot water. It also had a washing machine, an ironing board and iron which were of not much use to us as we were still at the beginning of our three weeks trip and did not have any dirty clothes to wash.
One unexpected bonus of this apartment was the view on the 5th floor. We could see the Eiffel Tower! On the 2nd night, Yat Thong went up to the 5th level near to 11 pm with his camera and came back with a zoomed in shot of a “stunning” Eiffel tower.
Though Sonia apartment was inexpensive, we did not save as much as we expected because of unexpected additional transportation cost. The bus from La Defense station that passed by our apartment stopped operation rather early at about 8.30 pm. So for two nights we had to get back to our apartment by taxis and the total cost added up to €40. With the extra €40, I could have gotten a similar apartment in the city center.