You may well ask why anyone would want to attempt to do Paris in a day and the truth is that in an ideal world I wouldn’t even attempt such a feat. There is much to see and do in this great city but on a recent visit to France I had just one day to introduce the sights and sounds of the French capital to two friends who had never visited Paris before. After a little thought I devised a tour which resembled one of those theatre shows which attempt to present the entire works of Shakespeare in two hours. So there I was on the train heading into the city facing the highlights of Paris – abridged.
My project was not helped by the weather. I was not expecting it to be tropical as it was February but I wasn’t exactly anticipating heavy snow and temperatures of -10 degrees either but that is what I got. However tiring Paris in a day would normally be it was going to be a whole lot worse in that weather.
I started our whistle stop tour by taking the metro to the Arc De Triomphe. With time at a premium it was necessary to quickly run up the steps to street level, swiftly admire the monument, cast our eyes down the Champs-Élysées and then after a couple of pictures to remember our visit by we were running back down into the metro station.
Next stop the Eiffel Tower. The appalling queues here can really eat into your day and I was annoyed to find that the off peak period meant that only one lift was open. I suppose the weather meant that our visit was off off peak but there were still enough people around to create a queue of almost an hour. To make matters worse the top section was closed, probably because you would freeze to death if you rose to such an altitude! We eventually found ourselves on the second level and walked out onto the viewing platform into the biting cold. Speed viewing was in order and after the quickest circumnavigation of the platform in history and a couple of hastily snapped pictures we returned inside downed a hot chocolate and descended the tower.
Our next destination would be Notre Dame if we hadn’t succumbed to frost bite. A quick ride on the metro took us to Île de la Cité and the delights of the gothic cathedral. One of my friends is quite a fan of gothic architecture and so our respite from the cold inside was followed by a tour of the exterior where the cold was made even worse by the proximity to the river. I think my friends had been suitably impressed by the grandeur of the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame but it was hard to tell with them hidden under hats and scarfs which they would not dare remove.
Red faced from the cold we then strode across the bridge over the river with much purpose heading towards our greatest challenge of the day, The Louvre. The museum would bring a welcome break from the cold but the scale of the place made a condensed tour quite a challenge. I felt that we could allow ourselves a couple of hours here which is a ludicrously short time to negotiate 16 km of galleries. Trying not to look too unseemly dashing along the corridors we headed directly to the Mona Lisa to join the crowds standing in awe of Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Personally I find the work singularly uninspiring as did my friends as it turned out and so we left after a couple of minutes feeling like Philistines. After a slightly less brief interlude admiring the Venus de Milo ( perhaps another victim of frost bite to the extremeties!) we explored the Egyptian galleries (god knows why!) before braving the cold once more in the Rue de Rivoli, the main shopping district of the city.
We were all now feeling rather weary to say the least as the ravages of the cold had really begun to set in. We could have ended our tour right there and then whilst I savoured awelcome coffee but ultimately decided that we should not miss Monmartre. Another metro ride ensued. I don’t think the transport authority would have imagined that anyone could extract so much travel out of a one day pass! Disembarking at Anvers we walked swiftly towards Pigalle to grab a look at the exterior of the famous Moulin Rouge which sits in the heart of the red light district of the city. Trying not to be too diverted by what was on offer in some of the shop windows we strode with purpose back to Anvers which is a rather unpleasant blot on the landscape concealing the wonders of Monmartre beyond.
We quickly negotiated the steps up the hill with the striking edifice of the Sacré Cœur ahead of us. By now it was totally dark and the flood lit basilica seemed to rise up from nowhere to laud it over the city. There are some great views of Paris from up there and we took a little time to take in the scene. I would have loved to continue round to the Place du Tertre where artists fill the square and there is usually a wonderful ambiance but I felt that under the circumstances that would be a bad idea. The circumstances being that we were dead on our feet and suffering from hypothermia and no artists with any sense would be trying to paint anything in that weather. Discovering the next contemporary artist or Jackson Pollock would have to wait.
We beat a hasty retreat to the station and travelled back to our base at Disneyland. Half asleep, or indeed totally asleep in the case of one of our party, we arrived back exhausted. We had seen Paris, sort of anyway, and we had not lost any fingers and toes. This was a successful day all in all but perhaps not a tour I would recommend unless you are Bear Grylls.
Article by Sally Stacey