Paris Day 1 (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomph, Trocadero, Champ Elysees)

Posted on: July 30, 2013

After surviving 8 hours red-eye flight from Vancouver to Paris, we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport also known as Roissy. Paris is 9 hours ahead of Vancouver, so it was about 10 am when we landed at Terminal 3. This terminal is located between terminal 1 and 2 at the airport. It looks small for an international airport but the immigration was prompt and our luggages came out pretty fast. According to my research, there should be an airport shuttle bus that can take us to train station. Unsure about the location of the shuttle bus, we asked the information booth. The lady there gave us an instruction to turn right as soon as we walk out Terminal 3 door until we see an operator with yellow jacket and a shuttle bus sign nearby. We followed her instruction and  found a man who wore a yellow jacket but he was a janitor and couldn’t speak English. We were confused and so did others who were given the same instruction. Luckily, my husband saw a big sign with “RER train” arrow on it. So, we decided to walk straight along the road until we reached the far end of Terminal 1 (about 5-10 minutes walk) and voila… there was the train & bus station.

At the train station, we were puzzled once more. There were ticket vending machines but we weren’t unsure if we could buy Paris Visite Pass from the machines, so we lined up at the ticket booth. Although we only stayed for 4 days in Paris, we bought 5 days Paris Visite Pass that covers zone 1-5 (this includes Versailles and CDG airport). Basically, we don’t need to worry to purchase extra tickets for transportation around greater Paris area. This cost us €57.75 per person which was very good value in my opinion. However, don’t imagine a fancy ticket for the pass! This 5 days pass is only a piece of small paper with magnetic strip at the back, so you have to be extra careful where you put them otherwise you can lose it easily! Don’t forget to take a fold metro & RER map from the ticket booth! You will need it!


Our 5-days Paris Visite Pass and Metro+RER map

Originally, we decided to buy Paris Museum Pass (€54 for 4 days) at the airport. This pass allows you to skip the line at some major attractions which saves your time. Since we didn’t find the information booth that sells this ticket, we skipped buying this. Actually the Paris Visite Pass that we bought gives discount for admission fee for some of sight seeing places. Just simply show your ticket to the cashier and they’ll give you discount. Another option to make you worry free is Paris Pass. This pass combines museum tickets and metro ticket at once, so you’re pretty much covered during your trip in Paris. However, it’s kinda pricey: €150 for 4 days!

There are many ways to go to city centre from CDG. We opted taking RER train since we already bought the Paris Visite Pass anyway. However, I must warn you, only few metro stations in Paris has elevator access. We had to carry our big luggages up and down the stairs when changing lines between our trip – it was okay but it might be a hassle for those with baby or little kids and stroller. Another option to go to city centre is by Roissy Bus. Single way ticket is €10 and you can NOT use your Visite Pass for this! This bus terminates at Paris Opera (on the corner of rue Scribe and rue Auber). If your destination is close to Paris Opera, this might be more convenient. But again, there’s also taxi that can take you fast but maybe a little bit more expensive.

Back to RER train, we took RER line B from CDG to go to our accommodation. There are 2 types of RER B trains: the express train (code: KROL) that takes about 30-40 minutes to reach city centre with limited stop and regular train (code: PEPE) that takes about an hour with lots of stop in between. For the train schedule and route planning, see RATP website. This train is pretty frequent, when we first arrived at the platform, regular train (PEPE) came but since we wanted to save our time, we waited for next train (KROL) for only 7 minutes later. During our email exchange with our host, she warned us to be extra careful on the train since the regular train stops at some ‘shady’ area where lots of thieves had been reported. Although we took the express train, we didn’t let our guard down. We still had hawk eyes over our belongings. There was an old lady who begged for coins during our trip and when she passed me, she directly looked at my purse! Ok… I might be a little bit paranoid about the beggar but by being cautious, at least I can prevent anything bad that could happen to me….

Using Airbnb, we rent a room in an apartment close to Eiffel tower. So, here’s our itinerary from CDG to our apartment: CDG Terminal 1 ➛ take RER B (KROL) ➛ stop at Saint Michelle — Notre Dame station ➛ change to RER C ➛ stop at Champ de Mars — Tour Eiffel ➛ change to M6 line ➛ stop at Cambronne station (4th stop). The whole journey took us about an hour to get to our accommodation. Luckily, the apartment was right in front of the metro station. We were satisfied with our accommodation at Paris. Although we had to carry our big luggages to the second floor by stairs, the apartment itself was pretty good. The bedroom was big for two of us but the bathroom was a little bit small for my tall husband. The kitchen had small fridge, small stove, and utensils – we didn’t use the kitchen that much since we ate out a lot. And who can beat its close proximity to public transportation and Eiffel tower!


our room in Paris via Airbnb

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Bonjour, Paris! The car reminds me of Mr. Bean’s car hehehe…

After freshen up ourselves, we marched to Eiffel tower that was only 10 minutes walk from the apartment! We saw a lot of locals and tourists having picnic at the grass area in front of Eiffel tower. We took some pictures and headed to the tower hoping that we could go up the tower. When we arrived there, we saw a long line up at the South gate. It seemed like there were some constructions going on at Eiffel Tower and one of the gate was closed for construction. We lined up for about 5 minutes and then I realized that this gate only has stairs access to go up! We rushed to look for elevator access that was at North gate but then the line up was even longer! The reason we wanted to go up by elevator was because one of our friends said going up by stairs will drain your energy. It wasn’t worth it to waste your energy at one place, so elevator is the best choice. Yes, the elevator ticket is more expensive than stairs, but then the water bottled that they sell on the higher floor is more expensive too! So, the amount of money you’ll spend on water when taking stairs would be even out by the ticket price of elevator hahhaahah…. Anyway, we didn’t waste our time for lining up. We just took a bunch of pictures at the surrounding area.
TIP: we went back to Eiffel tower at night on our last day and actually went up to the 2nd floor (the top floor was closed at night). The line up at the North gate was wayyy shorter (only 10 minutes). See my entry on Paris Day 3 later.

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The Eiffel Tower with Monsieur Eiffel bust. The elevator at the North gate.

One more thing about Eiffel tower. Be extra cautious around here! My coworker warned me about the existence of gypsies that are well known for pick pocketing tourists. Also, African men who run ‘friendship bracelet scam.’ When we were there, we didn’t notice a lot of gypsies. We noticed two men carrying strings approaching a female tourist and suddenly wrapped the string around her hand. My coworker fell for the same scam. He said that the ‘bracelet’ was impossible to be taken off and the African men was actually asking for money in exchange of the ‘bracelet.’ My coworker had to give them € 20 for a piece of ugly string! hahaha… My tip to avoid the scam is that as soon as you notice them, don’t make eye contact & walk as far as you can from them. Also, don’t let them touch or grab your hand or arm. Even when they greet you, just walk pass by – I know it seems rude but this might save you some €€€!

After enjoying the mighty Eiffel tower, we crossed Pont d’Iena toward Trocadero. Before crossing the bridge, we passed a carousel nearby. My friend said that this is the ‘hot’ spot for couples who shot their engagement or pre-wedding pictures. At the bridge, you can also take a good picture of the Eiffel tower as whole. Or you can go to Trocadero and take an excellent picturesque of yourself with Eiffel tower as the background.


Eiffel tower from across Pont d’lena

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We then walked to Arc de Triomph from Trocadero – about 10-15 minutes walk. We wanted to go up the Arc de Triomph so we walked and walked to find an underground passage to cross the busy street. After walking in almost a full circle, we finally found the entrance that was on the North corner of Avenue des Champ-Elysees. If you just want to take picture at the ground, it’s FREE. However, the admission fee is for those who wish to go to the top of Arc de Triomph. Since we have Visite Pass, we got some discount for the fee (we only paid € 7.50 per person). Sweet! Going up to the top of Arc de Triomph was really an exercise! It was a LOT of stairs on spiral stairway! I was a bit dizzy walking up the stairs and when we were finally on the top, we saw an old lady fainted. We weren’t sure why but I could suspect that she was exhausted from the stairs hahaha… Before going to the top opening, they have a multimedia presentation of the detail pictures of Arc de Triomph structure. This cool presentation was operated by turning the small model of Arc to expose which side you want to see on the screen. When we were at the top of Arc de Triomph, we saw the beautiful Paris city view from above. Also, I noticed that Paris city structure was so unique. It looks like arrays of streets dispersing from a centre point. The souvenir shop here was okay. We were quite surprise when we found that the price of the same merchandise here was cheaper than tourist shops around the area!


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Arc de Triomph

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spiral staircase to the top, the cool multimedia presentation by turning Arc model & inside Arc de Triomph

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the view from the top of Arc de Triomph

After enjoying evening sun, we walked along Champ-Elysees for window shopping since most of the stores were almost close. I was looking for Laduree shop but couldn’t find it but I found Pierre Herme small shop instead. I bought 3 macarons: Rose, Mogador (the famous milk chocolate & passionfruit filling), and Arabesque (apricot & pistachio filling). The rose and mogador were okay. The Arabesque is the BEST macaron I ever tasted! (Duh… I’m craving one right now! hahaha…) Pierre Herme’s macaron was €2 each but I had no regret spending that amount of money for a such delicious little treat! I’ve tried lots of macarons from different stores here in Vancouver and never tasted the good one like Pierre Herme’s!!!! The flavour was so intense and the filling was generous! It even had bit of pistachio at the very centre of the macaron. YUM!!!! Okay okay… enough for my gluttony…

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Champ Elysees window shopping

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macarons at Pierre Herme nyummmmm…. (pink = rose, orange = arabesque, yellow = mogador)

We decided to stop at Mc Donald’s for our dinner since our friend said that McD in Paris has different menu than those in US and Canada. The cool thing about ordering there was that we could order and pay via a touch screen monitor then took our order at the window. Maybe this is common in Europe (we saw this again in Rome), but it was the first time for me and I was so excited hahaha…. The McD burger tasted different with no salt or pepper in the patty. So, yeah… for us, it wasn’t that good 😦 Since my husband was a bit jet lag, we took a metro back to the apartment and had some rest for the next day.


resting our legs on top of Arc de Triomph 😉


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