After I’d finished my master in Western Literature at the Catholic University of Leuven, I took on a master in Cultural Management in Antwerp. While I’d never had had ‘a kot’, like we say (the place, usually just one room, where you stay in your university city), when studying in Leuven, I did have one in Antwerp. At least, I stayed at a studio on the Paardenmarkt for one year. Best year of my university career!
I could now go on and tell you what a great city
Because we’re all busy people and Leuven-Antwerp is a pretty big distance (It’s a one hour drive. I know that’s not a lot in many countries, but in Belgium it is), we don’t see each other that often anymore. But when we do, it’s always great fun.
Hold on, I’m getting there!
Girls weekend in Paris!
As we wanted to really spend some quality time together, we decided to organize a girls weekend to Paris, France. Since we’re a group of five girls and we didn’t want things to get too hectic, we decided that just two of us should do the planning. My friend Inne and I were charged with the task and this is what we came up with:
What we did, where we stayed and what we ate during our girls weekend in Paris
After we checked into our hotel on Saturday morning, we headed straight to the Musée du Louvre. We didn’t want to go in because it’s just so huge and we preferred spending our two days in Paris exploring the city to spending hours in a museum, but we did want to have seen the place.
The Louvre is a great place to start your Paris walking tour. It’s impressive, huge and such an icon that you’ll immediately feel like: “We’re in Paris!”.
The Jardin des Tuileries
After the Louvre, we walked on to the Jardin des Tuileries. This is nice for a stroll, but I’m sure it’s even prettier in spring when the flowers are in bloom.
Place de la Concorde
Exiting the Jardin the Tuileries on the other side, we walked onto the Place de la Concorde with the Obelisk… but also with crepes stands . When in Paris, you should have crepes, non? That’s what I thought. And since I was hungry…
After the Place de La Concorde, we crossed the Seine to head to the Eiffel Tower. Here’s a view on the river from the Pont de la Concorde:
To the Eiffel Tower
We followed the Quai d’Orsay to get to the Eiffel Tower, but by that time it was already way passed noon and since we’d all gotten up early, we were pretty hunger (Yes, even me after having had my pancake). We decided to leave the Quai and wander around a bit to find some food. We ended up buying some things at a supermarket (thinking budget) and after having filled our bellies, we reached the Champs de Mars with the Eiffel Tower.
When we got there, we saw there were two large lines of bear status. These ‘United Buddy Bears‘ turned out to be part of a free exhibition promoting tolerance and peace between different nations, religions and races. The exhibition is part of a larger month-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of the twinning of Paris and Berlin and of the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty that reconciled France and Germany.
Oh, Champs Élysées!
After having hugged some bear statues, we crossed the Seine again on the Pont d’Iéna. So here we are, on the Avenue de New York, passing the Trocadéro, towards the Avenue Montaigne. This last street has lots of upper class shops and it’s almost like a neighborhood in itself. No wonder it’s situated in the Triangle D’Or (‘Golden Triangle’). Just like in Beverly Hills you can immediately spot who actually goes shopping there and who’s just passing through.
No pictures here. I think we were all going “Wooow”, “Look at that” and “Damn those prices!”.
At the end of the Avenue Montaigne we reached the Champs-Elysées.
We actually didn’t do any shopping here – especially not at Abercrombie & Fitch where there was this huuuuuge waiting line -, neither did we take a lot of pictures because we were on a mission: we wanted – no, we needed – to find a MacDonald’s. I know, I know; you don’t eat McDonald’s in Paris… But when you want to be full and not pay that much, McDo is a good way to go. We ended up finding a Quick faster than a McDo (the McDo was about a 100 meters further up the Champs-Elysées…) and we were all happy to have a seat and enjoy a non-nutritious but oh so stuffing meal.
After our fries, burgers and chicken dips we walked to the Arc the Triomphe. It was really crowded there and since it was still quite foggy, non of us felt like going up.
Modern Paris: La Défense
You can see it was getting dark when we took the subway to La Défense. I’m so glad we went there in the evening because all of the buildings were lit up, which was quite spectacular. But if you’d like to go during the day, I’m sure you’ll find it amazing as well. Since it’s a business area, I suppose it’s much more alive during the day (and the week) than at night and in the weekends. The only downside was that there was a Christmas market on Le Parvis which wasn’t open yet. So not only couldn’t we see the Christmas market, but it also spoiled the photo opportunities a bit.
Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge
From La Défense we took the subway to our last stop of the day: Montmartre. We got out at Place de Clichy and immediately saw the famous Moulin Rouge theater. We didn’t have tickets to catch a show there, but Kate from Adventurous Kate gives us a good idea of what a night at the Moulin Rouge looks like.
We then walked uphill through Montmartre’s little streets to get to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. Walking there in the dark with all those lights made up for the large amount of tacky tourist shops in the area.
And that was it for our first day in Paris!
We left Montmartre to go back to our hotel and stopped on the way for some drinks. Although we were all very tired, we ended up in one room talking and talking until common sense told us we’d better get some sleep if we wanted to get up early the next morning. We still had a bunch of stuff on our things to do in Paris list!
Girls weekend in Paris: day 2
After a good night’s rest for some and a lot of lying awake for others, we were ready for our second day in Paris. After having had breakfast, of course.
Île de la Cité
We took the subway to Île de la Cité where we wanted to see the Notre-Dame. To be honest, we were all a bit disappointed. First of all, there was some kind of tribune set up on the square in front of the Notre-Dame because of which we didn’t get a nice view on the building. Secondly, I remembered it as being so much bigger and impressive. I know that the Notre-Dame is a real icon and that a lot of people find it amazing, but for us it wasn’t the architectural highlight of our trip.
After our little disappointment, we left Île de la Cité and crossed the Seine to the Boulevard Saint-Michel. Walking that Boulevard you pass La Sorbonne, the university; and the Palais du Luxembourg with its museum and garden. I’d expected more from la Sorbonne because I didn’t know that it’s a bit tucked away behind other buildings, but I really like the garden of the Palais du Luxembourg. My friends didn’t find it that impressive so we didn’t stay that long, but if I ever get back there, I’d like to take a walk around the big fountain.
From the green garden, we walked to the stone neoclassical Pantheon, a mausoleum that holds the remains of Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Voltaire and many other famous Parisiens.
Just alongside the Pantheon, we found this ‘decorated’ statue. I absolutely loved it. It broke all the seriousness and ‘cultureness’ of the place. (Wonderful Wanderings reader Edna later told me that the red noses were for Red Nose Day, an annual effort by (UK-based) Comic Relief to raise money for charity.)
Place de la Bastille and Place des Vosges
After we’d seen the Pantheon we walked towards the Jussieu subway station to take the subway to Place de la Bastille with the Opera Bastille. We didn’t take any pictures there because it was very crowded, raining again and there were some works going on around the square.
From the Place de la Bastille we took the Rue Saint-Antoine to get to the Place des Vosges. I’d read a lot about this square and it was pretty nice indeed, although I think I’d like it better in summer, when you can sit on one of the benches and do some people watching.
We crossed the Place des Vosges to get to the Rue des Francs Bourgeois. This is a rather small street with lots of boutiques and other shops. If you follow this street all the way until the end (which we did after making a little detour to get lunch) you’ll see the Centre Pompidou right in front of you.
And that’s where our tour ended! I’m a bit ashamed to say that this was the fourth time I’d been to Paris and I still haven’t seen the Centre Pompidou on the inside. This would’ve been a great opportunity for that, but I could tell I’d worn my friends out by dragging them from one sight to the other and we also didn’t want to get back home too late since some of us had work the next morning. Thus, we decided to take the subway back to Place de la République, pick up our stuff at our hotel (we’d already checked out in the morning) and our cars at the parking lot and go home.
I can honestly say this weekend was a success. Five girls on a city trip without even the slightest argument. We kicked ass!
Where to stay in Paris: République Hotel
When we originally planned our girls weekend to Paris there would be six of us going, so I looked on Booking.com for a hostel/hotel where we could all stay within a certain budget.
Based on location, price and extras République Hotel seemed like a great choice. We booked two rooms of three for €135 a night + €0,78 city tax per person. Later it turned out that one girl couldn’t come along anymore and we had no problem changing our reservation to one room of three and one of two (at €95 a night).
Once we got there, we knew we’d chosen the right hotel. Personnel was friendly, the rooms were clean and not that small (I’d read about rooms in Paris always being tiny) and we had a decent bathroom.
We also had a small balcony which actually gave us a nice view on the street below, since the big room was located on the fifth floor.
I also really liked the interior. It had a real poppy/Hollywood/graffiti ambience going on, with graffiti on the walls and doors and funny ‘action figures’ and other gadgets decorating the reception.
The two-person room was also pretty nice, with cartoons on the wall.
The only thing I can think of that could bother some people going to the République Hotel, is the tiny tiny elevator. We took the stairs or squeezed in together, but when you’re claustrophobic and have a problem doing stairs, you might want to ask for a room on a lower level.
Oh and maybe one other negative point: when we came back to the hotel on Saturday night we asked for Wi-Fi access. Turned out each room had a different code to use the (free) Wi-Fi, but only one of us got it to work. Maybe you can only use it one person/room at a time. We didn’t really bother finding out because we didn’t really need to get online anyway.
On the hotel’s site it says there’s a private parking lot located a five-minute walk away, and there was. Since we didn’t know beforehand what parking lot we had to park in, we first drove to the hotel and asked the guy at the reception. He gave us the address to enter in our GPS and a couple of minutes later we found our cars’ hotel.
The normal price to leave your car there is €24/day, but as guests of Hotel République we got a discount and only paid €38/car for two days (you have to get a stamp from the hotel on your parking lot receipt).
I think this is a really good place to park in a city like Paris. The only thing we found a bit weird was that we had to leave our car keys with the garage owner, but the people at the reception of our hotel assured us this was normal. Nothing was stolen, nor were there any cars scratched, so I would recommend this private parking to anyone staying in the neighborhood.
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