I flew into Paris’s Charles de Gaulle from Toronto’s Pearson, with a layover in Montreal’s Trudeau. I landed at 10am, and immediately bought a carnet (a packet of ten tickets), and a ticket on the RER B into the city. I stayed at St. Christopher’s on the Canal, but decided to not get off at the nearest station (Gare du Nord), but get off at St-Michel Notre Dame and walk from there to the hostel as a way to get to experience the city for the first time!
I spent the afternoon and evening walking from the Canal (Bassin de la Villette) in the 19th arrondissement to the 18th arrondissement through Goutte d’Or along Boulevard de la Chapelle to Montmartre and Sacré Coeur, then rested early.
My goal for this day was to knock out most of the obligatory touristy destinations. I started with the Eiffel Tower in the morning, then walked to the Place de Charles de Gaulle and the Arc de Triomphe through the 16th arrondissement and stopped for lunch (savory crèpes) along the way. Next, I walked down Les Champs Èlysées through the 18th arrondissement all the way to the Place de la Concorde and into Jardin des Tuileries and the 1st arrondissement. After relaxing in Jardin des Tuileries, I continued walking through Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and into the Place du Carrousel.
Then, I crossed the Seine over Pont Neuf into the 6th arrondissement towards Saint-Germain, where I experienced the weirdest public bathrooms of all time. This bathroom was completely automated (including an automatic door). It had written English instructions that made very little sense, and had a person jabbering away in French giving instructions on how to use it. I tried to get in, visibly failed in front of some Parisian, and walked around the block twice in embarassment until they had used it and left. As far as I could tell, the automated system enforced a specific order of operations for using the bathroom (you HAD to use the toilet and flush, had to use the faucet for the right amount of time, take soap at the right time). Then the bathroom would lock itself for 45 seconds after someone used it, to wash and drain its own floor. Amazing.
I crossed Boulevard Saint-Germain to enter Jardin des Luxembourg and walk around the Luxembourg Palace, where I stopped to relax again.
After that, I took the Mètro to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (recommended by someone at the hostel because it “had a waterfall”) in the 17th arrondissement. I never found a waterfall, but I did find my favorite city park of all time. It has a beautiful half-moon slow-moving river, with a peninsula that is over a hundred feet high (and provides beautiful views of the 18th arrondissement) and a beautiful 150-year-old gazebo (Temple de la Sibylle).
I took the Mètro in to Ile de la Citè, walked along the Seine for a bit, then spent essentially the whole day at the Louvre. The line into the Pyramid was short because it just had briefly rained, so people left line for cover, and I beat the rush back to get in line. The Egyptian exhibit was closed that day, which was a serious bummer.
One of my defining memories from the Louvre is listening to Chance and Lil Wayne’s verses on I’m the One while wandering through the Roman sculpture exhibit.
That evening, I ordered a glass of red wine in French from a Parisian café by les Halles as sun fell, and people-watched.
I took the RÉR C to spend the day in Versailles.
The Métro is so incredibly dense, and the trains are so frequent. I was primarily on lines 7 (where my hostel was at Crimeé) and 4, with random stops on other ones (e.g. 5 to get out to Parc Butte-Chaumont). There are so many lines, so many stations, and it’s so impressively cheap (a carnet, or packet of ten tickets, is 1,45 euro a ticket). Of all the public transit systems I’ve used (NYC, Chicago, SF, London, Berlin, Budapest), Paris is my favorite along with Tokyo (for very different reasons).
PLUS, PLUS: You can get off the 4 line/7 line trains before they stop!