A Few Days in Paris

Updated on April 21, 2018
Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis lives in England. She enjoys travel in the UK and in Western Europe with occasional trips further afield.

Paris in Spring

Searching for a poem about springtime, I came to Paris in Spring by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933). The poem praises Paris in such glowing terms that it set my mind rewinding to memories of the time that I have spent in this great city, reputedly the most romantic in all the world.

Sara Teasdale, an American poet, toured Europe in 1905. Her poem about Paris in Spring is reproduced at the end of this article.

A Visit to Paris in 1970

I first visited Paris as a young woman, in 1970, when I had organised a mini-bus camping tour with eight friends. We crossed the English Channel on the now-defunct Hovercraft, bound for the Spanish coast, via Andorra. On the return journey, our group stopped off in Paris for a couple of nights, camping in the Bois de Boulogne - on a site which at the time was quite primitive (earth closets!).

It was the height of summer and the start of the French school holidays. Many Parisians had already deserted the city for the countryside or coast, so it was surprisingly uncrowded. In 1970 we were able to park our mini-bus within yards of the Arc de Triomphe.

On this, my first, trip to Paris, determined to immerse myself in the culture, I smoked pungent Gauloises cigarettes (I know better now - obviously) and sipped pastis at a pavement cafe on the Champs Elysees (very chic and very expensive - we didn't realise that it costs more for an outside table). I bought Camembert cheese at a street market and later I climbed the Eiffel Tower, where I ate Salade Nicoise for lunch. Soon after, on an urgent mission to find a lavatory (was it food poisoning?), I recklessly dodged several lanes of traffic at the Arc de Triomphe (most definitely not recommended nowadays). My search ended at an unsanitary mixed-gender dungeon presided over by a fat and fearsome elderly Madame dressed in funereal black, who glowered over a bowl placed conspicuously for the bestowal of grateful tips of francs or centimes. Happily, this aspect of French culture has now disappeared into history.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Memories of Paris!The Defunct Cross-Channel Hovercraft in 1970Campsite in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris Much improved since 1970!Pastis - a strong flavour of aniseed, diluted with water
Memories of Paris!
Memories of Paris! | Source
The Defunct Cross-Channel Hovercraft in 1970
The Defunct Cross-Channel Hovercraft in 1970
Campsite in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris Much improved since 1970!
Campsite in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris Much improved since 1970! | Source
Source
Pastis - a strong flavour of aniseed, diluted with water
Pastis - a strong flavour of aniseed, diluted with water | Source

I Love Paris in the Springtime

A Long Weekend in Paris on a Coach Trip

My second trip to Paris was forty years later, on an escorted weekend coach tour. The group met beneath the statue of the poet Sir John Betjeman in St. Pancras station. We were shepherded to a station platform and boarded the Eurostar train for a journey lasting just 2 hours 35 minutes, including 25 minutes under the English Channel. The train moved seamlessly on to French soil for a fast onward journey through the non-descript farmland to the Gare du Nord, where our party was picked up by coach. We were whisked to a Hotel Mercure located adjacent to the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles Showground where, coincidentally, the biennial Paris Motor Show was being held.

It was a glorious weekend - scorchingly hot October days and balmy nights, new experiences, and visits to places familiar from so many years ago. A night-time coach tour of the floodlit sights gave me the opportunity to stand underneath the massive edifice of the Eiffel Tower, which on that occasion was lit by thousands of blue led lights. It was a magical, never-forgotten, experience.

A day in Montmartre, climbing the hill to the Basilique de Sacre Coeur, provided a panoramic view of the city, complete with a haze of pollution that hadn’t been in evidence in nineteen-seventy. We strolled around the nearby Place du Tertre, frequented in past times by the fin de siècle artists whose work now hangs in galleries across the world.

A trip on a Bateau Mouche found us drifting past lovers on the banks of the Seine and by the flying buttresses of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. On Saturday evening we had tickets for a traditional French cabaret show, with dinner, at a nightclub in the Latin Quarter. My companion and I, we two ageing ladies, were slightly abashed when we found that we had signed up for a cabaret show that included a topless chorus line.Crossing the foyer, I was encouraged by the photographic black and white evidence that the parties of A-list movie stars from the 50s and 60s who had visited the place appeared to have enjoyed a jolly time.

The food was good and the champagne and wine flowed. Semi-nudity notwithstanding, we had a fabulous evening. Whenever the bevvy of beauties appeared on stage a single, slightly inebriated, middle-aged gentleman in our party applauded vigorously, loudly calling out 'Bravo! bravo!'. I wondered what the apparently ladylike and demure actress Audrey Hepburn gazing from the walls had made of the spectacle all those years ago.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Eiffel Tower at Night 2008The Artists in Place du Tetre, ParisParadis Latin Nightclub in the Latin Quarter of Paris The Paradis Latin Nightclub in Paris. The architect who designed this building was the M. Eiffel who also designed the Eiffel Tower. Bateau Mouche on the River Seine in ParisBasilique du Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, Paris Lots of steps to climb but there is a great panorama of Paris from the terrace.Poster for the Paradis Latin Cabaret NightclubEurostar train at the Gare du Nord
The Eiffel Tower at Night 2008
The Eiffel Tower at Night 2008 | Source
The Artists in Place du Tetre, Paris
The Artists in Place du Tetre, Paris | Source
Paradis Latin Nightclub in the Latin Quarter of Paris The Paradis Latin Nightclub in Paris. The architect who designed this building was the M. Eiffel who also designed the Eiffel Tower.
Paradis Latin Nightclub in the Latin Quarter of Paris The Paradis Latin Nightclub in Paris. The architect who designed this building was the M. Eiffel who also designed the Eiffel Tower. | Source
Bateau Mouche on the River Seine in Paris
Bateau Mouche on the River Seine in Paris | Source
Basilique du Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, Paris Lots of steps to climb but there is a great panorama of Paris from the terrace.
Basilique du Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, Paris Lots of steps to climb but there is a great panorama of Paris from the terrace. | Source
Poster for the Paradis Latin Cabaret Nightclub
Poster for the Paradis Latin Cabaret Nightclub | Source
Eurostar train at the Gare du Nord
Eurostar train at the Gare du Nord | Source

A Day in Versailles

On Sunday the coach delivered us to Versailles, where we explored the fabulous produce at the open-air market, enjoyed a lunch of classic French onion soup at a pavement table, and purchased exquisite patisseries to later enjoy in the garden of the Palais de Versailles.

The Paris Motor Show

On our final morning, with a few hours to spare before the coach that would return us to the Gare du Nord arrived, I and my travelling companion strolled a few hundred yards to the Paris Expo centre to explore the Paris motor show, agog at the many luxury vehicles that were far beyond our price range. A lunch of Pivithiers and a glass of robust red wine in one of the Expo bistros nicely rounded off four fabulous days in La Belle France.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Paris Motor Show 2012 Can you spot me in the crowd? The Palace of Versaillles The queues to buy entrance tickets can be very long. Buy online in advance of your visit to avoid a long wait.French Patisserie in VersailesTraditional French Onion Soup. Delicious beefy onion soup, complete with the essential floating slices of baguette topped with cheese and placed under the grill to melt and bubble.
The Paris Motor Show 2012 Can you spot me in the crowd?
The Paris Motor Show 2012 Can you spot me in the crowd? | Source
The Palace of Versaillles The queues to buy entrance tickets can be very long. Buy online in advance of your visit to avoid a long wait.
The Palace of Versaillles The queues to buy entrance tickets can be very long. Buy online in advance of your visit to avoid a long wait. | Source
French Patisserie in Versailes
French Patisserie in Versailes | Source
Traditional French Onion Soup. Delicious beefy onion soup, complete with the essential floating slices of baguette topped with cheese and placed under the grill to melt and bubble.
Traditional French Onion Soup. Delicious beefy onion soup, complete with the essential floating slices of baguette topped with cheese and placed under the grill to melt and bubble. | Source

Communicating in Paris

Do not assume that all French people understand the English language. Au contraire! On my first visit, I still could remember most of the schoolgirl French that had been drilled into me for five years. But I had forgotten much of that by the time of my second visit so I resorted to the Michel Thomas language course to refresh and expand my vocabulary. I have written about the merits of the Michel Thomas method, which I have also used to learn both basic Spanish and Italian, elsewhere. His credentials speak for themselves - during his lifetime he taught many famous politicians and actors to speak foreign languages. The Michel Thomas CDs are certainly worth a few hours of your time if you are contemplating a trip to a European country. There are a couple his French language packages on sale - but should you want to try before buying you may be able to get them on a short-term loan from your local public library.

Despite the increased traffic and crowds, I have to return to Paris before I become too elderly to cope with the cobblestones – this time to see the cherry blossom in the Spring!

April in Paris

Impressions of Paris

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Paris in Spring by Sara Teasdale

The city's all a-shining
Beneath a fickle sun,
A gay young wind's a-blowing,
The little shower is done.
But the rain-drops still are clinging
And falling one by one --
Oh it's Paris, it's Paris,
And spring-time has begun.

I know the Bois is twinkling
In a sort of hazy sheen,
And down the Champs the gray old arch
Stands cold and still between.
But the walk is flecked with sunlight
Where the great acacias lean,
Oh it's Paris, it's Paris,
And the leaves are growing green.

The sun's gone in, the sparkle's dead,
There falls a dash of rain,
But who would care when such an air
Comes blowing up the Seine?
And still Ninette sits sewing
Beside her window-pane,
When it's Paris, it's Paris,
And spring-time's come again.

show route and directions
A markerSacre Coeur -
35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
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B markerPlace du Tertre -
Place du Tertre, 75018 Paris, France
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C markerParis Expo Centre -
2 Place de la Porte de Versailles, 75015 Paris, France
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D markerParadis Latin -
28 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, 75005 Paris, France
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E markerEiffel Tower -
Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France
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F markerBateaux Mouche -
Port de la Conférence, 75008 Paris, France
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G markerCathedral of Notre Dame Paris -
6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
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H markerVersailles -
Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
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I markerGare du Nord Eurostar Terminal -
Gare du Nord, 18 Rue de Dunkerque, 75010 Paris, France
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J markerArc de Triomphe -
Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
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show route and directions
A markerLondon St Pancras Station -
Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London N1C 4QP, UK
get directions

B markerParis Gare du Nord -
18 Rue de Dunkerque, 75010 Paris, France
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C markerParis Charles de Gaulle airport -
Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), 95700 Roissy-en-France, France
get directions

D markerAshford Kent Eurostar -
Eurostar Group Ltd, 73314 Newtown Rd, Ashford TN24 0PS, UK
get directions

© 2018 GlenR

Comments

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  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for sharing your Paris trips and for the language help. "When it's Paris, it's Paris." You're privileged to have experienced it at two different stages of your life.

  • Glenis Rix profile image
    Author

    GlenR 3 weeks ago from UK

    Thank you for your kind remark, John. It's a long way from Australia to Paris but worth the effort if you are ever in Western Europe. Happy Easter!

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 3 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

    A delightful article, Glenis. I have never been to Paris, but it is still on my wish list.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 3 weeks ago from SW England

    There is much to see in Wiltshire and Scotland. In fact, we've decided to explore much more of our own surroundings having just done a mammoth 10 weeks on the other side of the world. Home has much to offer and it's time we found out a lot more about it.

    Eurostar is fine but for us it's the other end of the south, so we go by boat on a short hop from Plymouth to Roscoff and Brittany is well worth any visit.

    Thanks for visiting my hub ref France too.

    Ann

  • Glenis Rix profile image
    Author

    GlenR 3 weeks ago from UK

    Hi, Ann. I am also slightly apprehensive about visiting tourist hot spots nowadays but there is a lot that I still want to see before I get much older. I’m determined to go to Paris one last time - though perhaps not by Eurostar. Deeply envious of your impending holiday in France - the farthest I am going this summer will be Wiltshire and Scotland.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 3 weeks ago from SW England

    I love Paris and have been several times, including taking my then 12 year old granddaughter for a day, whilst holidaying in France for a few weeks. We had a marvellous time. I'm glad it was 5 years ago as I wouldn't be happy to take her now. Sadly, cities make me nervous in the current terrorist climate though I know I shouldn't let it deter me. However, we'll be in France again this year, visiting several friends and going down to the centre where we used to have a house and still have many friends.

    France has a special place in my heart.

    Great hub with lots of useful information. You sound as though you had a great time too, Glenis.

    Ann

  • Glenis Rix profile image
    Author

    GlenR 3 weeks ago from UK

    Go for it, Mary! Just be careful where you tread.

  • aesta1 profile image

    Mary Norton 3 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

    Paris calls once again. We have not been there for years now so it is time to check it out again. Twice I stepped on dog poo there on separate visits and the second discouraged me from going again. Having said that, the exhilaration I feel when I am there is enough to goad me to go again.

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