With Édith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose as the soundtrack for the next 48 hours in Paris, my driver promptly deposited me outside the 25hours Hotel Terminus Nord, my home for two days.
The city was in the grip of a heatwave, and I landed smack-bang in the middle of it. Not that I had much to complain about after leaving a cold, wet Cape Town.
Walking into the cool hotel foyer, quirky Afrocentric artworks adorned every nook and cranny which was a welcome departure from the mundaneness of cookie-cutter hotel brands.
My room was large enough to keep claustrophobia at bay. The hotel had a coffee bar and a chic restaurant that served the most delicious pastries and cappuccinos.
Suffice to say, I didn’t spend much time in the hotel. I had places to see, selfies to take and copious amounts of food to eat.
Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and most associate it with digging deep, financially, if you want to experience it all. But here’s the thing: all you need is a pair of good walking shoes, a day pass for the public transport system and a travel partner who takes you out of your comfort zone.
To experience the best Paris has to offer, there are ways to bypass paying for the big-ticket items. Online packages offer a good deal on certain tourist haunts, such as the Louvre and Moulin Rouge. My advice is to take advantage of these and book before you leave home.
Parisians' work-life balance is most interesting. No matter what time of the day, sidewalk cafes are always filled to the brim, while couples can be seen playing with their children in the parks and public spaces.
Beware of the facade, though. Where there are tourists, there’s someone running a scam, hoping to prey on unsuspecting victims. Be vigilant at all times. But, I never really felt unsafe or threatened. Sometimes the directions I asked for got lost in translation, but the French are always willing to help as best as they can.
The Louvre is about a 40-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. It takes you through one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris. And if you have the time, do as the French do and break for a picnic on the grass with some French cheese and baguettes. Instagram tip: You’ll find some lovely shots here for those lit Insta stories.
The Louvre is probably one of the most recognised museums in the world, and is home to that world-famous painting, the Mona Lisa. Quick fact: It’s not as big as it looks in the pictures.
Word of advice though, make sure you book your tickets online before visiting. Some tourists were turned back for the day because bookings were full by late morning. If you’re there for the Gram, don’t forget a quick selfie at one of the pyramids, but you’ll have to wait in line for the best spots.
Despite suffering a devastating fire a few months ago, Notre Dame is still pulling in the masses. We were greeted by hordes of tourists trying to take pictures of the destruction that the fire had left. It was sad to see how a once-great architectural and religious landmark was almost destroyed. The good news is that construction is under way.
Cliches and expectations aside, Paris has a beauty that’s hard to describe. It’s a luxurious city that swallows you whole and fills you up with a feeling of contentment and excitement. It makes you believe that you can reinvent yourself, even if just for a few days. It’s the Paris of your dreams, but even better.
If you go:
- South African citizens require a valid passport and Schengen Visa: https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/france-visa/
- 25hours Hotel Terminus Nord: www.25hours-hotels.com/en/hotels/paris/terminus-nord
- Paris on a budget: theplanetd.com/visit-paris-on-a-budget/