Paris holds a special place in my heart because it was my first travel destination since I moved to London, and it made me fall in love with travelling. It was during the revision period for my January exams in 2nd year, when I got the idea, which seemed so crazy at the time, to just pack my bags and go to Paris after exams. The last exam was on a Thursday, and the new module was scheduled for the following Monday, which left us with only three days to relax and rejuvenate. But since Paris is so close to London and visiting it had been my dream for a long time (and also I was running out of ways to procrastinate), I quickly organised transport and accommodation, convinced a friend to come with me, and finally went on this spontaneous three-day trip that ended up being one of the most amazing things I’ve done during my time at Imperial.
Our trip started on Thursday evening as we took the overnight bus from London Victoria. The journey took around eight hours and was around £15 one way (obviously, a train or plane would have been quicker and more comfortable but also much more expensive). We crossed the English Channel from Dover to Calais on a ferry, where we had to get off the coach and sleep on one of the sofas inside. Pro tip: you literally have to run to get yourself a sofa, else you might be stuck sleeping on a chair.
Upon arrival to Calais, everyone was thoroughly checked at the customs, especially people from outside the EU. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night, but hey, it made the travel experience even more adventurous and unforgettable.
We arrived Paris at 5am, way too early for our Airbnb check-in. Without any data on our phones or a plan on how to travel around the city, we wandered around until we found an underground station. Luckily, they have maps all across the underground system that clearly indicate where each landmark is. So the first thing we did at five o’clock in the morning was visiting the Eiffel Tower. Since it only opens at 9am, we first went for breakfast at a cute French café, where a lovely local lady gave us some sightseeing tips.
We came to the tower just in time for sunrise, which looked absolutely amazing! The tower has a few floors, with different ticket prices – the very top floor was closed so we could only get student tickets for the middle one. We spent some time admiring the city from above, did some souvenir shopping inside, and found an ice rink on one of the floors. Never had I ever thought I would ice-skate above Paris!
We then continued our journey along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a large famous street full of shops and restaurants. We had to stop at one of the clothes shops to get some warm gloves and socks since the Parisian winter was much colder than that in London. Then, after a ‘lavish’ lunch at McDonalds (I usually opt for super cheap food and accommodation whilst travelling and spend more money on sightseeing instead), we reached the Arc de Triomphe. But since we were still carrying our heavy bags and tired after only four hours of sleep on the bus, we headed straight to our Airbnb to drop off our stuff and have a nap.
In the evening, we visited the Musée du Louvre (tickets are free for people under 25) to see the original Mona Lisa and other famous works of art. On our way home, we caught a glimpse of the beautifully lit up Eiffel Tower in the distance.
We dedicated this day to Disneyland, located outside of the main city area but still accessible by direct trains. We got a one-day two-park ticket for around £60 (mind you, this was two years ago and was also cheaper since we went during off-peak season), but only managed to visit one park since there are so many things to do. We went to all of the kids’ rides and were the only 20 year-olds standing in line (ain’t even ashamed, I paid too much to skip all that). Adult attractions were a bit more daring, like the House of Horrors or high-speed roller coasters, which altogether added up to an amazing experience. We concluded the day by watching the firework show above the main Disney castle, the last attraction of the day. (Some advice here: pack your own lunch for famous amusement parks since prices there are too damn high!)
Our last day was quite chill. We climbed up the Arc de Triomphe which overlooks the city, with twelve streets projecting around the Arc in all directions. We also visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral and Montmartre to complete our Paris experience. The only thing we didn’t have time for was the Palace of Versailles, containing a museum and gardens, situated in the suburbs of Paris.
Finally, we took our bus journey back to London – having just arrived at 8am, we were already sitting in the lecture theatre that afternoon. However sleep-deprived I was, my happiness with this trip was over the top – that’s when I realised how awesome travelling is, and it might be even more fun when you get to do that spontaneously.