I recently visited Paris on a 15-hour layover flying from the USA to South Africa. This was probably a very silly idea as I was on my own, spoke no French, and was tired enough to be only vaguely coherent. Nonetheless, to Paris I went on a grey Sunday morning. I skipped the ridiculous queues at most of the major tourist attractions, and just went wandering.
Working in the travel industry, you hear a lot about famous destinations, but I deliberately went unprepared in order to discover for myself what the city was like. Here are a few of my first impressions of Paris:
One of the first things I headed for was the Christmas market still running on the Champs-Elysees. I've heard much of these European markets, and Paris' has a bit of a reputation, but I came away unimpressed by the overpriced generic goods on offer. They seemed to sell only three things: hot mulled wine, Russian nesting dolls, and (fake?) fur hats.
I couldn't not do the Eiffel Tower, but I'll admit to being pretty underwhelmed here. It's pretty, but having to dodge twelve hundred guys throwing cheap plastic models at you and stand in a queue for four hours to actually go up the elevator rather cheapens the experience. I tried to take the obligatory 'me in front of the Eiffel Tower' photo, but in the end I just looked tired.
I had been warned that going to Notre Dame was a commercial experience likely to disappoint, but it was one of my favourite places in Paris. This is probably because I visited on a Sunday morning when there was a service in progress, which made the whole thing feel a little more intimate and special. Not so intimate and special were the rude tourists taking flash pictures of the congregation.
This statue, I found in the Luxembourg Gardens. I gave the gardens a handicap for scenery since it was January, but the statues were beautiful and somewhat enigmatic. Can someone tell me what is going on here?
My favourite spot in Paris was the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine. Apparently 'love locks' pop up in many cities worldwide, but I had never seen them before. It felt personal and special to stumble on evidence of the love Paris has a reputation for, in the form of these locks put in place by lovers from all over the world. I've heard that the city considers them an eyesore and plans to remove them, but I sincerely hope they reconsider.
Top photo from here.