In my five years of travel I have never returned to the same city twice. It took 35 countries and many trips abroad for the first repeat to happen, and the city I ended up in was one I had an indifferent feeling on during my last stay.
The last time I was in Paris I was not my usual self. My trip was ending, the museums and churches had all started to blend together, and I really did not give the concentrated effort that I normally would. When I left there was a general feeling of dislike for a city that I later realized was all in my head. Upon my return to Paris with Angie this past week I was quite excited; it was finally time to give Paris the justice it deserves. But what we saw blew us away beyond our wildest expectations.
The Reverse City
When you think of Paris, it is easy to go straight to the museums, churches, and food that it is famous for. We did, but it is not what shocked us the most about the city. In fact, I wouldn’t have even thought about the concept until Angie caught on to one the facts that makes Paris unique. The most intriguing part about Paris is that it doesn’t feel like a major city.
No matter where you go each neighborhood feels like you are away from the central downtown, if Paris were to have one. This happens to be the case because there are practically no skyscrapers in Paris. Excluding the Eiffel Tower, only the Tour Montparnasse exceeds just a few hundred feet, and a 121 foot building limit was put in place after the building was erected to squash future vertical growth.
Although recent legislation has allowed buildings to go higher than this limit, there has not been much work completed. So while you are exploring Paris you’ll hardly ever see a large building that would inspire you to feel like you’re in a major city. Only when you go up high to Sacre Coeur, atop the Arc de Triomph, or on the Eiffel Tower do you really see the business districts of Paris, miles and miles away from the city center.
For that, we have truly fallen in love with the city.
Sure, Paris has the great museums, churches, and monuments that a large European city is expected to have, and we abused them greatly with our museum passes (below). Even though I was on almost the exact same itinerary as my last trip there was something about it that felt different. A fresh perspective. Looking at Paris on rested eyes and with a new travel companion was all I needed to turn all those negative feelings around. But then again, I had a feeling that would happen.
From there it was like being a kid in the proverbial candy store with our museum and metro passes.
Abusing the Metro and Museum Passes
As Paris holds one of the largest collections of museums, churches, and attractions of any city in the world, figuring out how to not only tackle, but pay for them is tricky business. In both of my visits I purchased the Paris Museum Pass to get the most out of my stay.
As was true in 2008, the Museum Pass saved us a lot of money on this trip. For just around 54 Euro per person we obtained a 4-day pass that had unlimited access to many of the top attractions in the city and even front of line access at a select few. During our trip we visited the Louvre, the Pompidou Center, the Musee d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, Sainte-Chapelle, and toured the top of Notre Dame. Doing all of these particular trips individually would have cost around 76.5 Euro, a savings of 45 Euro for the two of us!
This sum was quickly put in the bank for future use.
But as far as metro passes go, we found that the Visite Paris pass that I had in 2008 is a complete waste of your money. Instead, we found out about a weekly metro pass called the Navigo Decouverte that is nearly half the price of the Visite Paris pass and lasts 2 days longer!
- Visite Paris – 5 Day 5 Zone – 68.13 Euro
- Navigo Decouverte – 7 Day 5 Zone – 34.40 Euro
The only major stipulation with the Navigo Decouverte pass is that it can only be purchased Friday – Wednesday and is valid on the set period of Monday – Sunday. This is different from the Visite Paris pass as it is valid on 5 consecutive days, independent on when you arrive. You’ll need a passport photo that is 1.5 cm x 3 cm, and if your dates into Paris work out you’ll save loads of money! For us, the trip into the city from the airport, a round trip to Versailles, and many jumps on the metro without the need to buy a ticket was a perk that we fell in love with on this particular trip. We’ll definitely plan accordingly for this one next time!
Another 68 Euro into our bank account.
So Why Did I Not Like Paris Last Time?
After exploring Paris with Angie for the past few days I look back on my last trip to Paris and wonder why I had such an indifferent feeling about it. Obviously there is so much to do and not enough time to see it all, and the food is delicious, so why wouldn’t I have been head over heels in love with the place?
Well, after visiting again I can see the same trend with only a few short days: burn-out.
Paris is a tiring city. Every minute of the day you are either moving to the next place, exploring a great church or museum, eating something wonderful, and repeating the process for the next attraction. With 4 1/2 days on this trip and 5 days on the last trip, I had no down time to speak of other than an hour here or there. Add in the fact that my previous trip was the last stop on a month long trip to Europe, a psychological block that ruins any destination, and you may begin to understand how I did not see Paris as favorably as I do now.
Perhaps our post about absence making your heart grow fonder is true. I forgot about all of the bad thoughts I had about Paris after my last trip, and always looked back on it positively after a few years went by. Now that we’ve just left from my second visit, that negative view is all but a distant memory. Paris has truly won me over, and I cannot wait to come back in the future for all the things we missed yet again.