Paris for free and in a day.
Spending easter in Brussels I decided to go to Paris for a day, a city I had never seen before. So I bought myself a one day return ticket to Paris on the TGV, boarded it at 9.30 am in Brussels and was in Paris before 11am, arriving at the Gare du Nord. From here I, unknowingly, set out on what became a seven hour trek around Paris.
I started by walking up the hill to the Montmartre, for a nice, if rather grey and wet view of Paris. This set the scene for the rest of the day - rain and clouds. From here I then walked south, past Gare St. Lazare and onto Blvd. Hausmann, which I then followed west to the Arc de Triomphe.
After risking my life tyring to cross to the centre of the roundabout on which the Arc de Triomphe is placed, I climbed to the top (this I had to pay for and is therefore optional!) for further interesting views of Paris, especially down the Champs Elysees onto the Place de la Concorde. Once I had descended and left the roundabout, via the well sign-posted underpass this time(!!), I headed onto the Eiffel Tower.
A fairly long stroll later I was standing underneath the Eiffel Tower, which was good, since it was chucking it down! The Eiffel Tower really is, if not a beautiful structure, certainly a grandiose one. To think that it was built over 100 years ago certainly makes you wonder, and at the time it was the tallest structure in the world.
Having taken shelter from the elements for a wihle I continued on, walking south-east through the pretty Parc du Champ de Mars and then heading on to Invalides and the Eglise du Dome, which contains Napoleon's tomb. After resisting urges to shout 'Waterloo' and 'Trafalgar' at the top of my voice, I continued north, through the Esplanade des Invalides and crossed the Seine at the Pont de la Concorde, which unsurprisingly brought me to the Place de la Concorde. Given that it is such a famous square, Place de la Concorde was rather ugly and dull and not very impressive at all. I am sure there are historical reasons for its fame, but it is not because of its beauty!
Next I continued east, through the Jardin du Carrousel to the Louvre with its glass pyramid. This was much more impressive than the Place de la Concorde, although perhaps this due to the sun, wich decided to make a brief appareance just as I reached the pyramid.
My next destination was Notre Dame, famous for being the centrepiece of Victor Hugo's 'Hunchback of Notre Dame'. Situated on the Ile de la Cite in the middle of the Seine, the location is certainly beautiful (even in the rain). The queue to enter appeared about a mile long, so I skipped this, walked past the Notre Dame and left the island via the 'Pont de Archevoche' in the south-eastern corner of the island.
This led me into the Latin Quarter and what seemed like a more studenty area of Paris. Which makes sense this is where the Sorbonne, Paris' famous university, is situated. Thus I headed onto the Sorbonne, via a glimpse of the Pantheon, but to be honest I can't really remember much of the Sorbonne, since my thoughts were more in tune with sitting in a nice cafe whith a cold beer!
But I had to press on and so headed back up north to see the Centre Georges Pompidou. This is a bizzare structure appearing to have all its piping on the outside. Beautiful it isn't, but worth seeing it certainly is. I didn't have time to enter though, as I had a train to catch at 7pm from the Gare du Nord. Being really quite knackered at this point, I decided to get the metro and reached the station with half an hour to spare, giving me enough time to grab a baguette to eat before the return journey.
So it is possible to see Paris in a day (I needed seven hours to see most of it) and for free. Admittedly it is not a very cultured tour of Paris and doesn't do this huge and historical city justice, but in todays consumer society, I guess that's OK. :-)