père-lachaise, montmartre & more // autumn in paris

It’s ridiculously easy to get to Paris from London. All you have to do is make it to St Pancras station, and three hours later, you’re at Gare du Nord in the centre of Paris, fumbling around for euros at the ticket machines. For that reason, I resisted going to Paris for a long time. It seemed ‘too easy’.

I was lucky enough that my parents prioritised travel over all else growing up, so it meant that I’ve traveled a lot more than other people my age. But our trips followed a formula, so to speak. We would always stay with family in the UK, and then take the Eurostar to Paris and hire a car from there to explore the rest of the continent. Paris was always a destination that we left almost as soon as we arrived there, so I was a little reluctant to go back when there were new places to explore instead.

However, I did eventually start to warm up to the idea. After all, people rave about Paris for a reason! When I found out that a friend of mine was going to be studying there for six months, I knew that it was a perfect opportunity to go back! It was horrendously difficult to narrow down to the photos I used in this blog post, that much I can say.

The trip worked out very cheaply too; many of the museums offer free entry on certain nights of the week, so I made sure to coordinate my trip around that! Versailles was free for me as well, as an EU resident under the age of 26 or so, so I also made sure to take advantage of that with my UK residency (while I still can…).

Paris has no shortage of beautiful architecture, and it’s not hard to imagine sitting outside with some fancy bread and cheese on one of the little balconies, listening to Françoise Hardy on an old record player. I can dream, can’t I?

I was lucky enough to see Notre-Dame before it burnt down. Ironically at the time I felt like I was going through the motions, because when we went inside there were so many people that you were forced to slowly shuffle through the aisles at a funeral pace, and the constant hum of conversation and obnoxious amateur photographers mostly drowned out any sense of awe from the building. Despite that, it’s such a beautiful building, and it’s impossible to fathom that people have been wandering around feeling the same things as me for centuries.

I wouldn’t be lying if I admitted that I timed my trip so that we could take advantage of the one night per week that the Louvre is free. I haven’t been to the Louvre since I was about nine, so it was amazing seeing all of these iconic paintings that I now recognise, especially after studying Art History at high school. I think I preferred the Musee d’Orsay though, despite it being smaller.

Crowded, but but no means a tourist trap!

Directionless travel is what I do best. It is one of the cities where you just have to get lost! Supplemented by Google Maps, of course. During my wanderings, I found the Marie Curie museum which was far more interesting than it appeared from its unassuming exterior. I’ve always been fascinated by the world that was still figuring out what they could do with radioactive materials – radioactive cigarettes were a feature!

It was lovely getting to see my friend again, although she did have classes for some of it. She had the kind of tiny Parisian studio apartment I’ve always dreamed of having. You had to climb a lot of very steep staircases to get there!

I do always enjoy the challenge of learning the basics of a foreign language, but I’ll admit I struggled quite a bit with my French pronunciation! Saying please and thank you is one thing, but I couldn’t even begin to correctly pronounce any of the place names around the city, much to my friend’s bemusement! After some practice, I think I managed to correctly pronounce ‘arrondismont’, which I was quite excited about.

A view from Sacré-Cœur.

I arrived just a week before Halloween, and although I’m not a big celebrator of that, we inadvertently planned our activities in a very seasonally appropriate way. One thing that I’ve wanted to check off my bucket list for as long as I can remember was the catacombs, which is a sprawling labyrinth underneath the streets of the city, decorated with human bones. Some of the bone arrangements were quite creative, too – in one section I even saw some human skulls arranged into the shape of a heart.

Père-Lachaise was a personal favourite destination of mine. I’ve always loved the melancholy atmosphere of cemeteries, and it was easy to see how this one in particular was the blueprint that inspired many places afterwards. Wandering the wide, cobblestoned paths in the autumn golden hour… it took your breath away. We finished that evening staying in, eating crepes and binge watching every single Halloween episode of Brooklyn 99, to continue with the Halloween theme.

It’s so ridiculously easy to find photographic inspiration in Paris, and I’m very much glad I could return as an adult and have the freedom to explore a little. I’m also extremely grateful to my friend for providing me the opportunity to stay with a local, as opposed to just staying in usual tourist accommodation. I always find that local accommodation is always so much more interesting when you get to see how people in the area really live.

abney park cemetery

Just a few minutes off the busy Stoke Newington High Street, you will find yourself in the cavernous Abney Park Cemetery. Melancholy is the word that immediately springs to mind when you walk in here. You can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook. This is one of my favourite places to visit when I want to just think in silence.

Every time I’ve visited I’ve been pretty much the only one there, so it’s actually quite eerie in a way. Abney Park has a timeless feel to it; save for the occasional plane flying overhead you could be just about anywhere, or anytime. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being a romantic, but you can’t help but feel that you’re the first person to discover this place.

This cemetery was built during the industrial revolution to deal with the quickly rising city population, but after it reached capacity it was left completely untouched. Decades of neglect have resulted in today’s cemetery/nature reserve, which is totally overgrown with greenery. Branches and leaves snake over the tombstones and many have disappeared into the undergrowth completely. It’s got quite a fascinating history actually, but I won’t get into it here, it’ll take too long! I highly recommend looking it up though.

It’s not too far out, with a location on the edge of Zone 2, and it’s only a short walk from Stoke Newington station. If you don’t have an connection to this particular Overground line you can change at Hackney Central or Seven Sisters, so it’s quite well connected. The rest of Stoke Newington is a quite nice area as well, with a rather village-like atmosphere despite its its close proximity to the A10.

Final rating: 8/10

Nearest Station: Stoke Newington (overground). Zone 2