Passing through the grim outer suburbs of Paris on the train from CDG Airport I wondered if I made a mistake coming back for just one day. Was Paris as wonderful as I remembered it to be, or was it a trick of the mind that tends to romanticise places long after you have been?
The train went underground and I got off at Gare du Nord to transfer to the metro. I emerged from the metro station and behold! There was Paris, as magnificent as I remembered it to be.
[The first view back in Paris emerging from the Metro.]
I was in Paris on behalf of Air France returning from a trip to South America. Air France were promoting their connecting flights to the UK, but I opted to stopover in their home city. Due to my travel schedule and limited seats for comped flights, I could only stay for one day/two nights. I thought only spending a day in Paris would be a waste of time, but it turned out to be one of my most enjoyable travel days of the year.
I should note that I have been to Paris several times, including a couple of months in 2004. If I was visiting Paris for the first time, spending only one day here would have felt like an awful tease. I wouldn’t recommend it.
I arrived from an overnight flight from Montevideo which arrived late in the afternoon, so by the time I checked in and got something to eat it was 6pm and I was ready for bed. I slept off my jetlag and was ready for one day in Paris.
These photos and random notes are from my day of wandering around the city.
Paris is immensely walkable. Every block you walk there is another block that lures you further. While the metro system is an attraction in itself (especially some of the ornately-tiled stations) I did not want to spend any time underground on this day.
[Even the metro signs are stylish in Paris.]
Part of what made this day so good was my fortune in the weather. This was the last day in October and normally Paris would be cold and grey by now. Instead I lucked out with a gloriously sunny day, around 18c – perfect walking weather – and leaves that were turning and falling to the ground.
I started the day around St Martins Canal and enjoyed the soft autumn light.
[St Martins Canal.]
While I had no plan to visit any monuments or museums, my walk was dictated by a list of cafes I set out to review (here is my Paris cafes list). In all I went to five cafes throughout the day. Three coffees is my usual limit so I was feeling jittery by the end of the day, but it was worth it.
[Strada Cafe (via Instagram).]
From St Martins Canal I weaved my way through small side streets towards the River Seine.
[Hôtel de Ville.]
My adopted home base of Saigon has a Notre Dame Cathedral. Here is its more glorious namesake.
When I was here in 2004 I used to go to this sandwich shop on Rue Saint-Jacques. They have a baguette and drink deal for 3 Euro and it’s the best value lunch in town. 10 years later I was happy to see they are still there offering the same cheap lunch deal.
[My favourite sandwich shop in Paris.]
If I am nearby here I always get my lunch and sit in Square René Viviani, across the river from Notre Dame.
[Square René Viviani.]
One of the many things I love about Europe is the water fountains. The only time you should buy a bottle of water in Europe is if you don’t have a bottle. After that you can refill at potable water fountains (or straight from the tap). Yes, I’ve been in Asia for so long that tap water is now a novelty to me.
Le Centaure – not your average equestrian statue.
[Le Centaure – a scrap metal man-horse at Place Michel Debré.]
In Paris there are so many churches that in any other city would be the main attraction. Here at the Saint-François-Xavier church I was the only visitor.
[Saint-François-Xavier – church and metro station.]
In Europe I always check out the churches to give my feet a siesta and to admire the art.
[Pondering the saints on the ceiling of Saint-François-Xavier.]
A reminder of France’s colonial legacy. This street sign made me slightly homesick for Southeast Asia.
[Rue du Laos.]
Champ de Mars – the park by the Eiffel Tower (if you couldn’t already guess).
[Champ de Mars.]
And every Paris post has an obligatory Eiffel Tower photo.
[You guessed it, the Eiffel Tower.]
A memorial to French Algerian War of 1952-62. Instead of names carved in stone this monument has the names of the fallen continually scrolling in light.
[French Algerian War Memorial.]
I arrived at the Pont Alexandre III in time for sunset so I lingered to watch the sky light up and take pictures for random couples.
[Pont Alexandre III at sunset.]
By now I was done. I finished my day by walking back to my place in the Montmartre/Pigalle area, home to the Moulin Rouge. And that was my day in Paris.
At one point in my life I thought it would be great to live in Paris, and I when I was here for that extended time in 2004 I never tired of it. What I want in a place to live has changed since then, and I couldn’t see myself living here. €11 bowls of pho would make me cry for a start, and I’m not cut out for European winters anymore.
While I wouldn’t live here, Paris is one of those cities that I would be glad to revisit on a regular basis, even if it is for just one day.