An evening in Paris – our first evening in Paris. An evening that started on a jiffy note, then settled a bit and later took such adventurous turns that we had no clue about. Since, Paris is the city of lights, it must be seen by the night. And so, we happily agreed to a Paris night tour. As a part of this tour, we went on a boat cruise across the river Siene and later a ride up the Eiffel Tower. But wait, let me start from the beginning.
Our arrival in Paris
It all started as we arrived into the town. Our train reached around 3:30pm into Paris, just on schedule. And our pre-booked cab to hotel was waiting with a placard to our name as we stepped out of the train station. So far the day had gone just as expected. However, unlike the previous destinations like Florence, Venice and Lucerne that we had been to on this trip and where we reached our hotel from the train station in the blink of an eye, the ride in Paris didn’t seem to end anywhere soon. After almost 40 minutes we reached our hotel which was almost on the outskirts of the city and definitely far from the Paris Leon railway station where we landed. Nevertheless, another few minutes before we got our rooms allocated.
The beginning of our Paris night tour
Our night tour was starting at 6:00pm. And it was already more than 5:00pm by the time we settled our luggage in our hotel rooms. Without wasting any further time, we decided to grab our essentials and head to our meeting point for the tour. But how? We didn’t know. As we reached at the hotel reception for help. The ever helpful receptionist cheerfully handed us a much complicated map of the Paris metro marking the lines to take and the intermediate stations to get down and change metros to reach our Paris night tour meeting point. But our already tired heads refused to sink in the instructions.
We decided that there was not enough time to figure it all out. And thus, asked the hotel to order a cab for us. The four of us decided to split the fare. However, soon we realized how expensive the cabs in Paris are. Although we reached our destination just in time to catch our pre-scheduled Paris night tour, it cost us a fortune (44 Euros for a single ride to be precise). And immediately we vowed that we will figure out the metro lines and return using the metro rather than a cab. From the meeting point, we started in a group towards the Eiffel tower.
Part 1 of Paris night tour : Seine river cruise
Soon, we were in front of Eiffel tower, on the bank of river Seine. And this is where our Paris night tour actually started. We on boarded a boat and took our seats on the upper deck. This was the first time we felt like settling down and relaxing after we had stepped foot in Paris. Little did we know that it was only for a while. Nevertheless, soon the cruise started. As the boat started moving, we felt the cold evening breeze into our faces. Soon we relaxed and started enjoying the trip.
Although, I had expected that it will be dark by the time the river cruise ends. But in the month of April, it turns out sunset happens well beyond 9:00pm in most parts of Europe. And through out the one hour cruise, it was all sunny and bright. So, I missed the lighting and illumination that I had expected in my dreams. However, we enjoyed the trip. We crossed through most of the remarkable structures of Paris like Notre Dame, Louvre Museum. several important bridges etc. Not to mention, the one hour passed even before we realized. And soon, we were rushing out of the boat to our tour bus. This was the cool part of our Paris night tour.
Part 2 of Paris night tour : bus tour
For another hour after getting off the boat, we did a bus tour of the city of Paris. Pretty much in the same area which we had seen across from the river. I didn’t like this part of the trip. And I rather felt it to be a complete waste of time. I preferred being either on the boat for longer or just sitting by the side of the river somewhere and enjoying the views.
It looked like the purpose of the bus tour was more to wait for the night to approach. So that we could land on the Eiffel tower when it got illuminated. In the same pursuit, the bus tour took us in rounds around the area. It crossed through the courtyard of Louver, the old blocks and lanes of Paris, and showed us some other remarkable monuments and buildings. Finally (and thankfully) it got dark. And we headed to the Eiffel tower. This was the rather boring part of our Paris night tour.
Part 3 of Paris night tour: The Eiffel Tower
We had skip the line tickets to the Eiffel tower. Soon, we passed through the security procedures. And waited for a while for the lift. In a few minutes it arrived. And we entered to reach the second floor of the eiffel tower. It was around 10:00pm then. Although we have seen pictures of the beautiful eiffel tower. And also the views of Paris city from it in pictures. Still we were dumbstruck and shocked with delight on what we saw with our own naked eyes. As we reached the edge of the platform on the second floor, there extended a view of Paris by the night in front of our eyes that was beyond mesmerizing.
The city extended all across, lights glittering in all directions, merging into the horizon far off. We could clearly mark out the prominent structures and the reflections of their light in the river Siene. For once, the beauty of manmade creatures overcast the beauty of night sky. And soon, the blinking illumination effect started. We enjoyed it thoroughly.
The unplanned part of Paris night tour
It was a chilly night. And the cold breeze was hitting our face as a hammer. Not that we minded with the mesmerizing views in front of us that we could easily look at for the whole night. But for the sake of our little one, we went and found a side of the platform where there was a respite from the chilly breeze. Two of our friends decided to pursue their trip further and go to the top of the tower. However, we decided to stay back because of our little daughter. We were satisfied with the views and didn’t want her to have to face more of the chilly winds. So, it was decided. They will go to the top, while we will stay at the same spot on the second floor. And upon them returning, we will all head back to our hotel. Perfect!
Out of the Eiffel tower
They embarked on their journey and we stayed put on the second floor platform, admiring the views. However, a little over 15 minutes had passed when a siren started blowing and a security warning started playing, urging the tourists to leave the tower for their safety as soon as possible. Not knowing what better thing to do, we got into one of the lifts. Upon enquiry the lift operator said it was a general everyday procedure to vacate the tower at night. But we didn’t feel assured due to the urgency and severity of the whole procedure.
Nevertheless, we reached down, and were hurled out of the gates of the campus by security people. Soon we realized, there were two exit gates from which people were exiting. We didn’t know how to meet our friends. As, we didn’t have a working caller card at this point, nor roaming, nor wifi, so basically no way to contact them. Finally, myself and Abhishek decided to be posted on one gate each. Anxiously, with heart pounding, we waited for our friends. Meanwhile some one uttered in the background “These tourists don’t even care there is something dangerous going on around” and I also saw a few fire brigade vehicles arriving.
However, one thing was sure, no one was going to tell us what was exactly going on – due to obvious security reasons. The tourists were dispersing, crowd was getting thinner. It was close to 11:00pm and there was no sign of our friends yet. Anxiety increased with every passing moment. A part of our heart said we might have missed them while other said we should wait. Finally they arrived – in a moment relief flooded on us. Our Paris night tour had officially come to an end and now we were ready to head back to our hotel!
On to the metro
Soon the moment of relaxation was overcome by another moment of anxiety. As we pondered on how to reach back to hotel. For once we thought to take taxi. But there were none to be seen around. So, we asked some people for the direction to the nearest metro station and rushed to it. After a good 10 minutes walk and stopping a couple of times for direction, we reached at the station. On the service desk, we asked how to reach our destination and the lady again handed us a map, with directions marked. Determined to crack it this time, we took our tickets and went ahead.
We took some time to figure out how exactly it worked and which platform was the right one for us. However, at the end, we boarded the correct train. Still, the destination was far. We were supposed to change this train after 5 or so stations. So, we got down on that station and went for the next line. Again we got confused a little here and there. Finally, we boarded the metro on the line which was supposed to take us to our destination. And as per the previous map that the hotel receptionist had handed us initially, it was supposed to be the final destination on that line. By the time we arrived at this destination, it was beyond midnight.
Further adventure on our Paris night tour
However, one of our friends, holding the map of metro stopped suddenly on our way out of the station. Next thing I remember hearing from her “Guys there seems to be a problem”. Soon, we all hurled on the map. And we saw the receptionist had marked a station, two stops before the one we had got down at. Perhaps she had circled the end station to emphasize on the line and direction in which we had to take the metro. Realizing, we had just passed across our destination, and with no other better choice, we went back in. We took another ticket and boarded the same metro which we had got down from a few minutes back. Only now it was fully deserted, it was around 12:30 am and well – it was scary for us – the first timers.
Fingers clutched, moments passing, we waited for the train to start. Our Paris night tour surely had landed us tonight in not one but many adventures. Two or three other passengers boarded the metro, and they didn’t look friendly at all to our minds, which were overcast with insecurity. Being almost stranded in an unknown destination beyond the middle of the night. Finally the metro moved, and in 5 minutes we got down on the right stop.
To the hotel – finally the end of the Paris night tour
However, there was one more task left – to figure out the way to our hotel. Now, we were expecting the streets to be deserted and hardly anyone to help us with directions. Counting our luck, we asked the service desk guy at the metro station, but he had no clue about our hotel. He simply directed us towards the exit. With a sigh, we headed to the exit. Thinking to take our next move once out of the metro station.
As we embarked upon the steps of the metro to get out into the street, the board that glowed in front of us brought such waves of cheers that we cannot express in words. Right in front of us glittered the name of our hotel. It then occurred to us that our hotel is right across the metro station, so much so that we don’t even need to step on the road to get into the metro station. Finally, all safe, fully exhausted and utterly drained of the thrills that we had, we were glad that our Paris night tour had completely ended!!
Tips on taking Paris night tour from our experience
Clearly, you won’t want to get into some of the situations that we got ourselves into during our Paris night tour. Having said that, what we said in the beginning of the article still stands true. Paris being the city of lights, a Paris night tour is a must. Here we will like to offer some tips for you to have the awesome experience that we had, and cut short on the unwanted thrills that crept into our own Paris night tour.
- Take a skip the line ticket to the Eiffel tower, the lines are much shorter then and you will find yourself on the second floor soon
- Figure out your return plan from the trip to your accommodation in advance. If you want to take the metro or the bus, be sure you understand the route and numbers to take well before you are in the dead of the night.
- Wear proper winter jackets , woolen caps and mufflers to keep yourself warm when on board the river cruise or the eiffel tower. Since the winds get chilly particularly in the nights when visiting in winter and spring.
- Keep at least one calling card or phone roaming active so that you won’t loose connection with your fellows if any unseen situation arrives, like in our case.
- Keep some food with you so that you can kill your hunger in case you don’t find anything or rather any time to eat. Like we missed our dinner on this particular day. Luckily we had some energy bars and nuts to chew on while we went through our adventure.
PS: We tamed the Paris metro in the next 24 hours and we used it profusely thereafter for the rest of our stay in Paris. I will soon dedicate a post for fellow travelers on how to use it like a pro.
Finally, a parting question to our readers who hail from Paris or have been to Eiffel tower at similar hour as us : Is the siren and announcement thing a general procedure for evacuating the tower end of the day? It still remains an unsolved mystery to us.