Just to remind you where I left off my Paris story, we were getting hungry and had to decide what we were going to do for food. As much as I would have liked to have found a cute brasserie, somewhere like this one …
… and spend hours eating ALL the food, we just didn’t have the time. As we were making our way towards the Eiffel Tower, we deviated from the Seine slightly and went in a few streets which is where I saw a patisserie. I suggested to Alice that it might be a good idea to just get something from there and eat on the go, and she thought it was a great idea. (I have them occasionally).
The meringues in the shop window were as big as my head (ie. very big) and came in a wonderful assortment of colours and flavours. We walked in and found ourselves drooling over every single cake and pastry that was in the shop. As Alice is vegetarian, I asked her if she would like to share a brie baguette, and she said yes, and we also each chose a cake. I honestly could have spent hours trying out everything there but settled on a Paris Brest … mainly because the name made me laugh, but also you can’t go wrong with choux pastry and cream. Alice plumped for a chocolate mousse cake, and as much as I would like to show you a photo of both cakes, unfortunately they just didn’t last long enough.
We gravitated back towards the Seine as we shared our bread and cheese and, if I’m honest, we just couldn’t wait to eat our cakes. However, we weren’t really prepared for how messy they were going to be and when we opened the beautifully tied up package containing our cakes, we found that the cocoa powder from Alices’s cake had coated all of my cake – so I had the best of both worlds!
The cream in my Paris Brest was hazelnut flavour and was delicious but I was momentarily sidetracked from the deliciousness by the chocolate moustache Alice was now sporting. The chocolate was literally everywhere.
It was now approaching 4:30pm and I needed a wee of course! #oldlady … It was all I could think about, even the Eiffel Tower couldn’t distract me. There was nothing for it, we were going to HAVE to stop in another cafe so that I could use the toilet! There was a method to my madness as I really wanted a coffee too. (Just as an aside, every toilet we went in, whether that be on the Eurostar or cafes and restaurants, they were all extremely clean and smelled as nice as toilets can smell. I know there is a common preconception that they are going to be horrible, but they really weren’t.)
We wandered along the Seine some more …
By the time we left our final cafe, dusk had fallen and the lights had been turned on the Eiffel tower. It was stunning. There is a spotlight at the top of the tower that does a full 360, and the whole tower is lit up with what appears to be thousands of sparkling fairy lights!
We noticed a museum on our left as we walked through which had two giant metal statues out the front, the Musee d’Orsay, but of course we didn’t have time to go in … but it’s strange, you do get some of the atmosphere of each place you pass just because of the tourists outside taking photos, or just stopping for 10 minutes to appreciate the building.
We passed gorgeous book shops, book stalls and bric-a-brac stands …
We also stopped for selfie opps of course!
On the map, the Eiffel tower looks like it was a lot nearer than it was and, had we taken the diagonal route through the streets, then we may have got there quicker, but we just thought it was nice to follow the river. We came across lots of people out jogging or cycling and still the town felt really quiet. We were now in rush hour and the traffic had built up somewhat, but it certainly wasn’t nearly as busy or frantic as London is. We even saw a policeman stand in the middle of the road blowing his whistle to control the traffic flow – I can’t ever imagine that happening in London!
By the time we finally made it to the Eiffel tower, we were really aware that we wouldn’t have very long there because we had planned our return to Gare de Nord down to the minute. As I got closer and the tower got bigger in the background, I couldn’t help but take photos every time I saw it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s just such an icon and Paris is somewhere I’ve wanted to go to for so long now that I really felt quite emotional by the time we got there.
Honestly, it was breathtaking. It’s so much bigger and grander than you can ever imagine. I have a black-and-white print of the Eiffel tower in my bedroom and my favourite mug has the Eiffel tower on it, but nothing can prepare you for that moment where you are stood right next to the tower.
I was grinning inanely the whole time I was there. Alice remarked it was quite cute that I was so happy, but I probably looked like I was out on day release. But I didn’t care. I honestly haven’t been that happy for a long time and as I sit in my lounge now and tell you all about how I felt then, I can feel my nose tingle and eyes fill up with tears as I type. I think maybe the Eiffel tower is just symbolic of how long I’ve waited to make a trip like this. I think it just marks a moment in my life where I am truly my own person, beholden to no-one.
We didn’t have time to go up the tower in the lift but I managed to take some amazing photos and I was just quite happy being there.
Our plan to get home was to find the nearest metro and, according to the map, there were plenty nearby. It’s a shame we couldn’t find any! I asked one of the guys that was working at the little fair that was by the tower where the nearest Metro was and he directed us to the next bridge.
The map at this particular station was rather complex, and when a young American girl asked for help indirections, I feared for all of us! However, I think I managed to work out where she needed to be and amazingly, we got on the right train back to Notre Dame, and caught our connection back to Gare du nord.
The only bit of trouble we ever saw in the whole time we were there was when we arrived back at the train station and some teenage boys were causing trouble, but the police were on it immediately and although it’s really scary watching a gang of youths running anywhere, I don’t think anything came of it and, as Alice pointed out, it’s nothing you don’t see in East London anyway. I think I’ve just led a bit of a sheltered life!
Eurostar was well signposted and check-in, again, was seamless. There was a slight delay in being able to board our train but we didn’t really mind at the time. However, by the time I got off the train at Ebbsfleet, it meant that I missed my connecting train and didn’t get home till 11pm.
I arrived home exhausted, freezing but still on a high because I really had ticked off something on my bucket list!
Paris, as fleeting visit as it was, was everything that I had hoped it would be.