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Paris: perhaps every cliché that could be used to describe this city is well worn into your consciousness.
The thought of “Paris” conjures up images of beautifully dressed fashionistas, pavements crammed with two seater tables from the plethora of cafés, and lots of cigarettes. These images of Paris are absolutely right – but there is a lot more to the City of Light than meets the eye.
This summer, we decided to take the very short trip on the Eurostar not just because it, somewhat ridiculously, takes the same amount of time to get there from London as it does from Lancaster – but also because it seems like the capital of the land of frogs is just one of those places that you should make sure you visit at least one before you croak it. That’s enough frog puns for now.
The Eurostar was surprisingly easy to deal with, every student knows just how dull and cramped a train journey can be. The Eurostar, however, clearly realise people don’t want to be squashed like cattle on their way to the romantic capital of Europe. Normally, there’s not an awful lot good said about the French in England. However, after a perfect trip to Paris, it seems like the phrase ‘nobody likes the French’ is nothing more than 700 years of English conditioning and medieval territorial warfare.
As you most certainly already know – Paris is beautiful. The Seine seemed pristine in the late Autumn sun, and the unspoiled architecture of the affluent Left Bank was a pleasure to behold. This is also the region where some of Paris’ best restaurants are. Ignore the apparent tourist traps of gimmicks such as the Armani and Ralph Lauren restaurants and head to some of the back streets, where you will find gastronomic delights; avoid the restaurants in the Latin Quarter at all costs. €10 set menus in the heart of Paris are most certainly too good to be true, unless you want to eat meat that can only be described as “miscellaneous”. The essential tips here, however, are book the good restaurants in advance – the small sizes of them mean they are consistently fully booked most nights – and make sure to brush up on your French or bring a phrase book. English menus are generally, and perhaps obviously, reserved for the tourist traps.
You’ll be amazed at the delights you can stumble across however, as we found a lovely restaurant on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. Not only did it provide stunning views of the entire city without needing to climb all the way to the top (which we did anyway), but also because the restaurant had a quaint picnic theme which meant all your dishes came out in Tupperware. It wasn’t badly priced either.
The beauty of Paris becomes especially apparent when you walk around it – the streets of the Latin Quarter and the Cité are much more favourable to feet than they are to wheels. This was forced upon us – the abnormally hot weather for September made boiling to death on the Metro a last resort – but it is a decision that is not regretted. Paris has far too many worthwhile attractions to see in a weekend. Clearly, the Eiffel Tower has to be seen – take the stairs rather than the lifts to beat the queues, it really isn’t that bad – as well as the Notre Dame. Before entering the latter, however, take a trip below to the Crypt which, rather than housing dead bodies, shows off Paris’ history through excavated layers of historical buildings. The crypt in the magnificent Panthéon, France’s way of honouring its distinguished dead, is a very sombre – and breath-taking – affair.
Sadly, despite the title of this article: we never did find the Louvre. All we got was the pleasure of walking past it with tired, blistered feet in the evening sunshine. Maybe next time, France.