There is a magic about Paris that one cannot quite comprehend. Like most cities, Paris is a metropolis built from masses of concrete, choked by incredible traffic, with chaos the constant as people dart in all directions! So what makes Paris rise beyond that?
You need to scratch beneath the surface to find the Parisian beat. Is it the history of the city, or the culture, or even the arrogance of it? Whichever it may be, Paris seems to just glide through life as smoothly as the boats cruise down the river Seine, a river with so much history clinging to its banks, pictures of which fill up many an SD card, as the tourists flow through day in and day out.
I took a trip to Paris for a weekend in April. It was my third visit. Many people won’t see value in visiting the same city twice, but without the pressure of having to see all the attractions, I was able to simply just enjoy the city for what it is. Many people’s experiences of a foreign environment are defined from swinging from one Lonely Planet suggestion to another! This is fair enough, people want to see as much as they can, but you can miss out on experiencing the real heart-beat of a city, one that isn’t within earshot of American accents!
This time, my experience in Paris was deeply enhanced by not having to worry about seeing the Eiffel Tower (although I did get a cheeky photo in!), but just chilling out and soaking it all in, as Parisian’s seem to do well. This time in Paris, I spent more time observing people go about their daily business, than I did looking at funny shaped buildings! People-Watching is perhaps one of the most interesting things to do in Paris. I watched the Gypsy’s try their array of scams on many unsuspecting tourists, I watched hordes of Africans trying to sell Eiffel Tower key-rings, I watched men and women sitting at cafes watching the world go by, and I watched my wallet quickly enter a drought the more time I spent in Paris.
A weekend isn't long, but it is plenty of time to get out there and get a good feel for a city, an essential skill to have when you live in Europe. The highlight was buying baguettes, cheese, ham and wine from a local farmers market, and heading up to Sacre Le Cour to watch the sunset. If you are going to visit Paris, this is a must! Hundreds of people sit on the grassy knoll under Sacre Le Cour, drinking wine, eating, playing guitar, singing, fire twirling, playing football, juggling and dancing! The atmosphere is nothing short of amazing, relaxed, friendly, chilled out and most importantly, fun! Coupled with a few short visits to some local bars, it was sufficient enough to be labeled a “kickarse Saturday night”…a ranking not given out willy nilly!
Versailles is just 40 minutes from Paris, but a completely contrasting place. There is space, calm and a 23.25% reduction in the amount of car horns you will hear. The main attraction in Versailles is the palace. Once in the grounds, we were surrounded with perfectly manicured gardens, intricate water features and a grand Palace that would rival the Collingwood Estate flats for striking beauty (by about 1,000,000,000,023%).
We grabbed a patch of grass, and set about devouring the products purchased from the farmers market, in the company of classical music through the PA system, and views surrounding us of the grounds. We felt very regal, but then we were eating peasant style ham and cheese baguettes; the irony was not lost.
Versailles is certainly worth the trip out of Paris, if not just for a point of contrast. Wondering around the Palace gardens, grabbing a row-boat for the lake and eating an ice-cream, only for it to dribble on your top, are all key aspects of a successful day out in Versailles
It was back to Paris after a day in Versailles, just in time for my night bus back to London. In two days, I chilled out in Paris, perused various farmers markets, hung out at Sacre Le Cour, drank with locals at some hip bars, grazed at an array of Patisserie's and loitered at the Palace of Versailles. Paris is a special place, which offers a lot to any traveller, whether it is your first visit or last visit.