There’s no way to write about Paris without sounding cliched. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, walks along the river… it’s all been said and done a million times. But strangely, it’s exactly these things that drew my housemates and I to Paris in the first place. The only time any of us had been to the French capital was on school trips, an environment that tries to open your mind, but in reality is kind of stifling. There are definitely good reasons for this (I can picture my old Head of Year’s horrified face at the idea of any of us wandering around Montmartre at two in the morning), but the thought of being able to traverse the city at our leisure was extremely appealing to us. And so, ignoring our dissertations and upcoming assignment deadlines, we booked our flights and were on our way to Manchester airport within the week.
In order to save money and do Paris on a budget, we used TripAdvisor to find our hotel, which turned out to be an invaluable resource when a hotel we’d considered booking had a review talking about bullet holes in the wall. The hotel we ended up with wasn’t anything magnificent, but was clean and comfortable, and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, despite our language gap. We avoided using the Metro and walked around Paris instead to save cash and get a better feel for the city, although the direct train from Gare du Nord station straight to the airport was a Godsend and saved us about 40 euros that we would’ve spent on taxis.
We also bought most of our food on the move, either from the supermarkets or from the endless array of street vendors selling baguettes, hot dogs, pannis and crepes. We had it in our minds that we would spend the entire holiday drinking copious amounts of French wine, but unfortunately it turns out that alcohol in French restaurants is hideously expensive. We had to make do with a bottle we picked up from a supermarket for €4 that tasted like something you’d get off the bottom shelf in Aldi, but I guess you can’t have everything.
But despite the stunning Notre Dame, the awe-inspiring Louvre, or even the amazing experience of standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, my favourite part of the trip was walking round Montmartre. Despite an uphill walk that rivals Bitch Hill, the views of Paris from the Sacre Coeur are absolutely worth it, and the church itself is gorgeous. Walking around Montmartre, there are dozens of quirky shops selling everything from original artwork to glittery Eiffel Tower figures, and with artists and musicians on every corner, as well as the ubiquitous crepe stands, it was an amazing way to spend an afternoon.
All in all, it was an amazing trip, and an experience I’d recommend to anyone – although maybe pick a date not as close to assignment deadlines.