Alli Abroad in Paris – Guest Blog


I’ve been dreaming about visiting Paris since high school French classes. The dream has expanded over the years, beyond wowing the French people with my perfect pronunciation of croissant. Dreams of Paris now involving visits to cathedrals, patisseries and art galleries. Despite travelling through Asia and Africa, Europe still eluded me until my man suggested we book two tickets to Europe. Music to my ears!

Before making our way to the City of Love, we decided to fly into Amsterdam for a quick visit. We had time to squeeze in a sunset canal tour, walk around the infamous red light district and sample some street food before heading south.

We arrived in Paris very late and very jet lagged, so my first impression of this city was ‘mmm bed’, following by deep sleep. We awoke early the next morning keen to explore. My husband asked for only one thing to be included in our schedule: a visit the to catacombs. These are a fascinating series of underground caverns that contain the remains from former Parisian cemeteries. For something so creepy it is surprisingly popular, so to beat the queues we arrived about half an hour before opening on a chilly morning. The underground tombs are really interesting once you get past the initial shock of seeing piles of human bones! What I’m learning about marriage, is that it’s full of compromises. So if it made him happy to see the catacombs then it was definitely worth it!

After we emerged from the underground, hubby wanted breakfast (I just wanted a shower!). We found a nearby patisserie, ordered some amazing pastries, and ate our treats in a sweet little park while watching the queue for the catacombs snake around the block. We then went to the Visitors Bureau to collect our Paris City Passes. As well as being our ‘golden tickets’ to many of the museums and monuments, they also covered our travel on public transport during our stay and a one hour river cruise. We had decided to cover the museums and galleries in the first 2 days, Saturday and Sunday, as the weather was a little overcast and many monuments are closed on Mondays. We’d leave the cruise for later in the week and had our heart set on a bicycle tour on another day.

Our first choice was the stunning Musée D’Orsay. We walked through the magnificent Tuileries Gardens before crossing the Seine River and found ourselves at the beautiful art gallery. Standing only centimetres from original works of art by Van Gogh, Rodin and Rembrandt was a treat. Over the next few days we visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and the modern art gallery Centre Pompidou. However, the Musée D’Orsay remains my favourite tourist attraction in Paris.

Back at our Hotel, and no longer jet lagged, we could finally appreciate the incredible view of the Eiffel Tower from our balcony. The gorgeous French-influenced decor inside the Shangri-La Hotel also deserved attention. Our room was quite large by Parisian standards, with a massive king-sized (or should that be emperor-sized?) bed and walk-in-robe. The bathroom also oozed luxury, with a large bath that was calling my name. Tempting as it was to stay in our hotel room, we had Paris on our doorstep and wanted to meet up with some Australian friends who were coincidentally in the city at the same time. We arranged a meeting on the steps of the Sacred Heat Cathedral at dusk. Very romantic! After, we enjoyed a luscious meal at a traditional French (i.e. tourist-oriented) restaurant in Montmartre where the wine and conversation flowed freely.

Our last few days in picture-perfect-Paris included a cruise along the Seine River followed by a picnic lunch at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and a Blue Bikes Tour, which involved cycling to some ‘secret places’ in the city. We discovered the oldest café in Paris, the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore and other movie locations from the film Midnight In Paris. This bike tour was definitely our favourite activity and is the first thing that we recommend to French-bound friends.

Since we were flying back out of Amsterdam, we had a quick visit to Belgium on the way back to the Netherlands, where we enjoyed waffles and beer in Brussels and the Michelin-starred lighting (it’s a thing) in Ghent. Back in Amsterdam, we did a walking tour of the city before bedding down for the night in the Hotel Estherea overlooking the canals. I think we were a little ambitious fitting three countries into our schedule, but there were multiple opportunities to enjoy the view and each other.

There have been some tragic events in France and Belgium over the past two years, however there are much better things to focus on. I’d recommend booking a romantic trip to one of these countries, invest some tourist dollars into their economy and help overcome evil with good. I know I’d like to go back and invest a whole bunch of Euros in the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore. À bientôt Europe!


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