[Travel Diary #1] Belgium & France – Day 3: Paris — The Glorious City

Paris deserves what people admire it.

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The Eiffel Tower, view from the Champ de Mars — Image courtesy of the author

Hey there, it’s me. Let’s continue travelling with us to France, where we should had used three days to explore Paris and one day to go to Étretat, a beautiful beach located to the west of France (there was something changed in the last day, so let’s wait for that).

Our itinerary in the first day in Paris was: the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées Avenue, the Concorde square, the Arc de Triomphe and the Montmartre hill.

It was 4:50 a.m. when we left the house to take an early train from Lille to Paris. There was no one on the street.

Picking us up at the Paris Gare de Noord station was Chloe, one of our friends and former colleague in Vietnam. She came to France two years ago for studying Master in Paris, and she is staying there for working. We felt less worried when she picked us up because she would know how to deal with the pickpocketing issue in France.

As you may know, pickpocket is a massive problem in Paris and some other cities in Europe, like Barcelona or Venice. We all need to be very careful when travelling to these cities. One second you missed your attention, you will lose your wallet. You had to learn how to say ‘No’ when someone approaches you because they may distract us with some tricks for them or their ‘colleagues’ to pickpocket our stuff.

The first feeling about Paris: it was unexpectedly cold. We arrived in Paris at around 7:20, and it was colder than we thought. We brought many summer clothes, and we hoped that the weather would be better during the day. And it was. When we started our journey to explore Paris, the weather got warmer and then hotter. It reached 28 degrees Celsius by noon and kept like that in three hours.

A quiet street in Paris in a hot summer day — Image courtesy of the author

The second feeling was that the metro was too busy. Some trains had full passengers in cars. It was opposite to what I saw in the Netherlands, even in Amsterdam — the most bustling city in the country.

One thing I realized in Paris at this time was that there were not too many people at tourist attractions. My friend explained that the number of tourists was just about one-third compared to the same period in 2019. That was a consequence of Covid time when countries in Europe had to close their borders and set traveling restriction.

Our first destination was the Eiffel Tower, which is the must-see site in Paris that everyone should visit. We got out the Bir-Hakeim train station. Bir-Hakeim is a bridge crossing the Seine River. From this place, you can have a chance to take great photos of the river and the Eiffel tower. It was unlucky for us that this place was maintained during our visit, so we had to skip that idea. But, if you go to Paris, it is good to record your moment at the Bir-Hakeim bridge because it offers you a great view of Eiffel Tower.

My friend suggested us to go to the Champ de Mars square next to the Eiffel tower, from where you also have a view of the whole tower. That was an excellent place to take a photo with it. It was a bit unlucky for us because a part of the tower had been maintaining. So, a part of it was covered by scaffolds which had an impact on the beauty of the tower. This time of the year is usually the time for repair and maintenance of touristic sites as my friend explained.

Looking closer to the tower, we were impressed by the height of the tower. But, maybe it was because the tower was built more than one hundred years ago, it looked old and did not have the glory as it should have. We did not expect much, and what we knew that it had better view the tower when it was dark and the tower started lighting up. We had a plan for a night in Paris to visit the Louvre museum and the Eiffel tower in the evening, so let’s wait for that.

The obelisk in Concorde square — Image courtesy of the author

We moved to the second destination: the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This avenue connected two famous sites of Paris: Concorde square and Arc de Triomphe. We hopped off the bus at a stop that was 100-meter away from the Concorde square. To be honest, I did not have much impression on the Concorde. In the middle of the place, there is an Obelisk — a tall monument with Egyptian images and symbols on it. According to historical sources, that was one of two obelisks the Egyptian government gave it to the French government in the 19th century. Next to the pillar are two water fountains which were built during the time of King Louis-Philippe I.

From Concorde square, we could see the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs-Élysées avenue. It is the place to dedicate the armies of the French Revolutionary and the French Empire. Bodies of the unknown soldiers in World War 1 were buried under the base of the Arc de Triomphe.

I tried to take a photo of my wife like an Instagram model — Image courtesy of the author

We thought the distance between Concorde square and Arc de Triomphe was close so we decided to walk. And that was a mistake from us. We were wrong about the distance; it was extremely far. We thought it was close because the Arc de Triomphe was too big.

Tips for you: taking the bus to that place; don’t be like us.

But when we reached there, it was beautiful. This monument is also one of the must-visit sites in Paris. We would like to get closer to the gate, but the weather was too hot at the time. Thus, we only spent a quarter of an hour to take photos and filmed this place. Then we moved to the next location: Montmartre.

If I have to rank the place we visited on the first day, the Eiffel Tower would be on top, following by Montmartre. Although we had to climb a bit after getting out of the metro, what we enjoyed there deserved our effort.

The first place we saw on Montmartre hill was the Wall of ‘I Love You’. That is a wall having the phrase ‘I Love You’ written in more than 300 languages and dialects on a 40-square-meter of 511 blue tiles. Couples usually get there to have some photos memorizing their loves. Be aware of standing on a queue because many people would like to take pictures at this place.

The Wall of ‘I Love You’. Can you find the one written in your language? — Image courtesy of the author

Not far from there (but climbing high), we stopped by a place where street artists were showing their paintings and offer tourists to be their models then they would draw them. We chose a café nearby named La Mere Catherine to enjoy crepes and watch artists doing their jobs. It brought me a feeling of calm and peaceful about the life around here.

We continued our journey by going to the must-visit place in Montmartre: the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. It was vast and beautiful. We did not have to pay anything to get inside. The feature of this place was that it had a broad area in front of it, from where we could have the view of Paris. I was excited by that because I imagined I could see the Eiffel tower from this place. But I was wrong. The Eiffel tower was located on the other side of the city, so I could not see the tower from there. So, if you would like to find Eiffel tower from there, you could not.

My wife was enjoying the view of Paris from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica — Image courtesy of the author

However, if you want to have the panoramic view of the city, you can choose to go to the Basilica, go downstairs on the left side, and pay an admission fee to climb to the top of the Basilica. Please note that you have to climb about 300 steps and there is no lift. Otherwise, you have another option at home. The website of the Basilica offers a virtual panoramic view from the top of it. So, it could be an alternative solution for you to see Paris during this Covid time. For us, the view we saw from the front of the Basilica was terrific. A big city appeared in front of your eyes. The only hurdle for us on that day was the weather. It was too hot at the time we reached the Basilica, so we decided not to spend too much time here.

Amazing mange and cherry ice cream — Image courtesy of the author

What do you need in a hot summer day? Ice cream. We decided to look for the ice cream store that we found on the Internet and we highly recommend you to taste named La Goutte de Lait. It was about 50-meter away from the Basilica. It was a small store, and due to the coronavirus, it restricted only three customers inside the store at a time. It also offered crepes and smoothies. We had to wait a bit, but it deserved waiting. We chose two flavors for our ice cream: mango (the best one in the store) and cherry. It tasted fantastic. It helped us to cool us down on the hot summer day. The price was reasonable, only €4.50 for two flavors.

One thing we liked in Montmartre was the houses with small balconies having colorful flower. That was the feature of houses in Paris. That made the beauty of the city.

We had dinner with Chloe and another our former colleague — Harry in a Korean restaurant named BIGBANG. Harry also studied in Paris, and then he had the chance to do an internship here. A special thing about the dinner was that we received the news that the football team of our previous company made to the final of an amateur football cup in Vietnam. That was the first time the team came to the final game. So, we gathered together to celebrate it. The food in the restaurant was tasty. But the price was not. It was a bit expensive than we expected: €21 per person.

Delicious Korean BBQ — Image courtesy of the author

We would like to try some French dishes. Thus, Chloe said she would take us to a French restaurant in the following day for us to taste the French food. Yes, that is what I usually aim when I visit a new country. Beside visiting touristic sites and exploring the culture of that country, one thing I like the most when travelling is trying local food. That is an excellent way to learn about a country. So, I was so excited to try French cuisine in the coming days.

Finishing dinner, we visited the Panthéon, which was located not far from the restaurant. We just stood outside the Pantheon and took a photo of it. We decided not to get into this place. But we regretted our decision. When we knew about its history, we were eager to visit it. This place was where famous people such as Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, or Voltaire laying to rest. But it was too late for us because we did not have enough time for it. So, we would visit this place if we had a chance to come back to Paris.

In front of the Panthéon — Image courtesy of the author

That is the third day of our Europe trip after the first wave of the pandemic. In the fourth day, we would spend time to visit another symbol of Paris — Louvre museum and other tourist attractions. See you next time.


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