48 Hours in Paris
Paris. The name conjures up visions of love….and food. Well, it does in my mind at least. So when the opportunity arose to take the Eurostar from London, to spend a weekend in Paris, we leaped at the opportunity. Long summer nights, wandering down the Champs-Élysées and munching on croissants, what could be better?
With only 48 hours to make the most of one of the world’s most visited cities, we had to hit the ground running. Luckily a cousin of ours, who has lived in Paris for many years, was on hand to show us the sights and sounds. Thanks to our family connection, we didn’t have to look far for a place to stay, but if you’re short of Parisian friends, there is no shortage of hotels or Paris apartments to rent for the weekend.
Hungry and thirsty after an early morning Eurostar trip, we headed to the local supermarket to pick up a feast of food. Colourful fruits, crusty breads, delicious patés and more cold meat and cheese than we’d ever seen before greeted us. In South Africa, we’d have to have visited a specialty store to sample such delicacies.
In truth, you need way more than 48 hours to make the most of Paris, but we did what we could. Many guidebooks made mention of a visit to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, in Montmarte. Situated on the highest point in the city, it serves both as a Roman Catholic Church and a political and cultural monument. A good pair of walking shoes comes highly recommend, you’ll be walking up some steep cobbled streets and a significant number of stairs to reach the summit! We were there in the height of summer, so the steps of the Basilica were crowded with tourists and locals alike, unwinding on a Friday afternoon and enjoying the slowly setting sun.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is every bit as impressive as it is made out to be. The detail in the architecture is nothing short of amazing and the gargoyles keep a watchful eye around each wall and parapet. After a quick, brief glance inside the cathedral, we briefly toyed with the idea of climbing up to the top of the towers for a sweeping view of Paris. However, mention of climbing 387 steps (there is no lift like there is in the Vatican!) in the muggy heat, combined with the queue that snaked around the cathedral and down the road soon put paid to that idea.
No trip to Paris would be complete without two things – a viewing of the Mona Lisa and a trip up the Eiffel Tower. In truth, we could happily have skipped a trip to the Louvre, but a sudden attack of culture from our teenage son had us joining the crowds, staring at the postage stamp size picture that is the Mona Lisa. We didn’t get what the fuss was about – she’s small, non-descript and not particularly attractive either. And what’s with that smile? But, it was something else ticked off the list and at nightfall we set off up the Eiffel Tower.
Personally, I think that most cities look best at night. The dark skies eliminate the smog, dirt and dull grey buildings and a scattering of lights makes every city look like a fairy tale. Paris is no different and the 360° view afforded by the top viewing platform of the Eiffel Tower is breathtaking. We could have spent hours staring into the sparkling lights that truly did make Paris feel like the City of Love. Alas, our trip had to come to an end far too soon, but I’m sure we’ll find another reason soon to visit Paris again.