Many of us Filipinos dream to visit Europe at least once but are intimidated by getting a visa, travel cost and complexity of turning this dream into reality. Fortunately, as an OFW in Bahrain, I believed that getting a Schengen visa is a bit easier compared in the Philippines. Having a job contract and consistent source of income assures the embassy that you are going to return and will not overstay in their country.
After planning my itinerary and saving some money for months, I decided to set an appointment to apply for my first Schengen visa in French embassy last August 2016. I submitted all the required documents listed in their website and I was told to return after 5 days to get my passport. Some of us are thinking that there will be an interview during our visa application, however, I was just asked for some basic information about my travel like when is my intended travel and where I will stay. And there it is, after 5 days I got my passport with Schengen Visa sticker.
I arrived in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport around 8am in the morning and my Immigration process went out smoothly. Trains, buses and taxis are available transfers from CDG airport to Paris. I took RER Line B, you can take ticket from any Île de France” ticket-vending machine or thru the ticketing counter for only €10.30. Travel time is around 40mins from airport to Gare du Nord where you can transfer to another train or bus going to your accommodation.
I booked my accommodation in Generator Paris Hostel thru Agoda.com. The hotel is just 3minute walk from a Metro station which is always a factor when i book my hotel so getting around the city will be easy. I booked in a 4bed dorm room with private toilet and bath.
Check in time in most hotels are between 12-2pm, so if you arrived early, you can always asked your hotel to leave your luggage when you go out for a walk while waiting for the check in time.
Getting around Paris is easy with the Paris Metro – Single Ride ticket, a carnet (a package of 10 single journey ticket) and Metro Pass (unlimited rides) are available options. Try to plan your destinations so you can see how many tickets would you be needing. If you will be staying for a week in Paris, i personally recommend buying the Paris Metro Navigo Pass for only €22.80 + €5.00. But please note that if you arrived in Paris on weekends like Friday, Saturday or Sunday, Navigo pass is not advisable as this pass has fixed timing. The pass is valid starting every Monday to Sunday regardless on which day you purchase it. In this case, you can just get the carnet or a package of 10 single journey ticket for €14.90.
Day 1 (The Louvre)
Since I still cannot go into my room, I decided to roam around near the hotel. I found my self near Sacré-Cœur, but I opt not to go up and instead have some window shopping. There are some thrift shops around the area like Sympa which is known for bargain hunters. After spending some time and buying some stuff, i went back to hotel to check in.
After I set my luggage in the hotel and rest for a while, my next stop is to visit The Louvre. If you arrived on Wednesday or Friday, you can visit The Louvre at night. The museum is open until 9pm. This is also a great time to skip the crowd and long lines in the entrance that usually build up in the morning.
Tip: Fridays are also FREE access to all nationalities below 26years old.
The Louvre or the Louvre Museum is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. It contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments. It has Egyptian antiquities, Eastern antiquities The Greek, Etruscan, and Roman displays, Islamic arts, sculpture, decorative arts and paintings such as the famous Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
I spent almost 4hours inside the museum and see some of its famous exhibits with the help of the interactive audio guide for €5.00.
As the most iconic and famous landmark of France, Eiffel Tower is on everybody’s list when visiting Paris.
From my hotel, I took the Metro Train and get off in Trocadero. Once you get out of the station, Eiffel Tower will greet you with the sun rays peeking from behind. Just seeing this icon from afar made me fell at awe. Looking at it standing tall in the center of the park stuns most of the first time tourist of Paris. See how grandeur it is.
For me, it is not enough just to see it from a distance, so I booked of the Eiffel Tower before my trip to get to the top. This is also the time to see Paris from above.
You have to reserve the time you wanted to go up the tower. On peak season, they will be very strict with the timing to accommodate the tourist. On the other hand, during low season or shoulder season (October to March), they may allow tourist to go up anytime other than their reserved timing. I booked my Eiffel Tower at 1:30pm but I was able to enter the tower at around 11am and they didn’t even check the time of my reservation.
If you have the Paris Museum Pass, you can get into the two museum in Trocadero – Cite de l’architecture et du Patrimoine and Homme Museum. When i visited last year, Musee National de La Marine was still open beside Homme Museum but now it is closed for renovation until 2021)
Cite de l’architecture et du Patrimoine
exhibits a lot of architectural history in its mouldings gallery, its wall paintings and its stained glass windows as well as the history of modern and contemporary architecture. The museum also has life-size reproductions of parts of monuments that bring to life this story of France from the 12th century to present day.
Musée de l’Armée and the Tomb of Napoleon
Another museum worth to visit is the Musée de l’Armée and the Tomb of Napoleon. The museum has a vast collection of military weapons and uniforms tracing back to French Revolution up to World War II.
Notre Dame Cathedral
From the army museum, you can take a metro to visit Notre Dame Cathedral. Around the church are several Paris attractions that is easily walkable between each other.
Notre Dame Cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. Another interesting fact about the church is that it was built for almost a period of 200years to complete. If you want you can also climb up to its tower for another view of Paris. Access to the tower is also included in the Paris Pass.
Saint Chapelle is a sumptuous, intimate chapel with remarkable stained glass windows.
You can also have a visit in Conciergerie that has superb halls when viewed from Île de la Cité. It is the former royal palace, the prisons of the Revolutionary Tribunal and housing Marie Antoinette’s former cell.
If you already feel loaded with French history information, you can always take a break in any of the café around the area. Sit down in their public parks, grab some croissants and coffee. Or get back to your hotel for a short break until sunset to visit the Eiffel Tower again, but this time decorated with lights. And of course, Paris is not complete if you didn’t see how the city is called the City of Lights.
Day 3 (Château de Versailles)
Château de Versailles or Palace of Versailles is one of the most famous monuments outside of France. The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to XVII. It is also considered as World Heritage Site. The buildings are good examples of 17th centuries architectural style. It can be seen in the Royal Apartments, the famous Hall of Mirrors, the Chapel, the Royal Opera.
The main building that houses the exhibits is surrounded with statues, fountains, water parterres. Down the park is the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon, the Temple de l’Amour and the Hamlet of Queen Marie-Antoinette.
This palace is outside the city of Paris and takes about an hour to reach. Gates open by 9am, but better arrive early to avoid the long queue. Basically, you have to allot your one whole day for visiting the palace including the Grand and Petit Trianon.
Day 4 (Last Day)
Jardin de Luxembourg
Last day in Paris before my flight to Rome, I visited the Pantheon and Jardin de Luxembourg. I only plan to visit the Pantheon, but got a little bit lost and found Jardin de Luxembourg. The weather was nice that morning that makes me sit down in one of the chair. Sit back while having coffee and croissant for breakfast.
It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve but now serve as a mausoleum of distinguish French citizens. The Pantheon has a crypt undergound which is the resting place of those historically famous French nationals. Among of those buried in the Pantheon are Victor Hugo, Mari Curie, Alexander Dumas, Voltaire and Rousseau. The building of the Pantheon is quite fantastic and its architecture is visually amazing . It has the Gothic decorations with a mixture of classical style of the building. The Pantheon is another must-see when visiting Paris.
As much as I wanted to stay here in Paris and explore more of its beauty, I have to move on and continue my backpacking in Europe.
Au revoir Paris, jusqu’à la prochaine fois…
Next stop: Rome Italy.
Below is my rough basic expenses for my 4 days Paris itinerary. For my food expenses, i have 5Euro buffet in my accommodation, then i tried to budget my 20Euro for my lunch and dinner. Fast food or some cheap restaurants have 10-15Euro combo meal.
I got my airfare for 170 Bahrain Dinar ( 22k pesos). From Manila, roundtrip airfare is around 30-35k via Oman Air or Eva Air. Try to check skyscanner and view it per month to see the cheapest fare.