A weekend in Paris
Sitting outside a cafe on a bustling city street, Notre Dame in the background, a glass of red to sip as the sunshine warmed my face, waiting for a delicious French dish to be served to me as I watched the city pass me by. This, to me, will always be Paris. A living, breathing form of art. I embraced every romantic notion that has been indoctrinated in me, and I was not let down. From the moment I stepped off of the Eurostar onto the pristine streets, with every restaurant lit up with art deco style neon lights, I knew I was in love. The buildings, the skyline, the culture, the food - everything was as dreamy as I'd hoped.
I stayed in an Air BnB in the Passage des Panorams. This is about 15 minutes walk north of the Louvre. It was a great central location, the main landmarks were accessible by foot, and there were lots of restaurants and cafes within a stones throw. I think this is an ideal area to stay for your first trip to Paris, but if I was to go back again I personally would want to stay in the part of town just south of the Sainte Chapelle in the latin quarter; it was a lot more local feeling, with narrow winding streets, a younger population, and generally just more of a sense of atmosphere on the streets. I would not recommend staying in the west or close to the Eiffel Tower, as this is only a drop in the ocean of what Paris has to offer. I also wasn't blown away by the area surrounding the arc de triomphe, but I think this is because I came from London, and it just felt like another Oxford Street *blergh*
As always, I fully advocate staying in an Air BnB, just be sure to check carefully so you know what you're getting (i.e. a place to yourself, a room, read the ratings and traveller feedback etc). I have a £14 discount code which you can use to book your next trip!
The main sights are all worth doing (cliche's such as the Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Eiffel Tower, etc etc - you know it all already, I'm sure). I'd recommend starting your day at the Eiffel Tower, walking East along the river Seine and ticking off the landmarks on your way. I think ending your day in the east by Notre Dame is a worthwhile endeavour, there's endless places to eat and lots of bars to stop at. I'd recommend trying to catch sunset at Tour Montparnasse, though be warned - you may have to wait for quite some time to get a seat at the bar, unless you want to pay to go to the viewing deck. Either way, the views are incredible (and don't include a view of the ugly skyscrapper in question), so would recommend.
I *loved* the Shakespeare and Company bookshop (I don't care if you think it's touristy - go! And read the back story about the Tumbleweed's before you do).
As for the Moulin Rogue, this was an... erm... experience. A fun one though, nonetheless. Essentially everyone who attends is led by the notoriety of the name, but under another name I do not think this rose would smell as sweet! There were pockets of good moments and talented acts, but the majority of the show was comprised of putting 20 topless women on stage at any given time with little coordination and a LOT of cringe worthy outfits on the men. If you're on a budget I'd say it's OK to miss out on this one...
The Louvre. Yes, that enormous art haven. I loved it but it is ENORMOUS and rather maze like, so make sure you put enough time aside to wonder around, or be smart and pre-plan what pieces you really want to see so you can cut the crowds. The Mona Lisa was a must see because, again, who goes to the Louvre and doesn't see it? The answer is seemingly nobody, as you'll have to barrage past swarms of tourists holding out their camera phones just to get a glimpse.
Getting around was super easy, be it by foot, bus, bike Uber (heavily scrutinised but oh so affordable), or the metro. I felt safe at all times of the day/night wherever I went and didn't have any bad experiences to note here. Don't bother hiring a car if you plan on staying in the main part of town, it would be a waste of money when there are so many other options available. I also LOVED the central location that the Eurostar drops you off at, there's a great article on The Independent Travel section about how to bag cheap seats from London, as it can be rather expensive otherwise. It was my first time on the Eurostar and it made a welcome change from the fuss of airports.
My favourite moment was probably when I crossed the ponte de Arts for the first time, heading south, on a beautiful sunny day looking toward Pont Neuf. It's a moment I couldn't capture in a picture and I don't quite know how to put into words, instead it's more of a feeling that I get if I were to think of Paris. Perhaps not the most helpful description, but go for yourself and you'll hopefully see what I mean.
I made a trip to the Palace of Versailles on another trip, and would recommend doing if you're in town for more than a weekend.
As aforementioned, much of visiting Paris should be spent living like a Parisian. Sitting outside cafes, sipping wine, coffee, eating food, a general slower pace of life and finding a joie de vivre in the everyday. Music, art and theatre are all a must here. I think it's the kind of place you should aim to see across several trips, if you're fortunate enough to be in a position to do so, so you can take each trip in your stride without being on a frantic checklist ticking mission. As such, there are still a few things on my list which I didn't get round to doing, so I'll have to update this when I next go back.