Anna and the French Kiss tour of Paris

One of my favourite books of all time is Anna and the French Kiss, and on my trip to Paris over New Year I decided to visit some of the spots Anna goes to in the book.

What I adore about the book is that Stephanie Perkins managed to make Paris a character in itself, and you couldn’t help but feel that you were right there with Anna, seeing Paris through her eyes.

The majority of places Anna visits are in the Latin quarter kind of area, and I feel like some of them are not on the typical tourist’s radar – certainly, some of them weren’t places I’d have thought about visiting if it wasn’t for my love of the book.

I’ve put together a map on Google Maps in case you’re on your way to Paris any time soon and fancy doing the Anna and the French Kiss Tour de Paris.

Places marked in red are ones in the Latin Quarter kind of area and we managed to all of those in one day. The blue markers are spread out a little further but I think you could do all of those in a day too, especially if you hop on and off Line 1 and Line 2.

 

Red markers – the Latin Quarter

Notre Dame

View from the towers of Notre Dame

Notre Dame

I’m there. I’m on top of Paris.

Let’s start off with one of the most popular ones first, and if you actually do want to go up the towers of Notre Dame, I recommend an early start to avoid long queues.

Towards the end of Anna and the French Kiss, Etienne follows Anna up the towers of Notre Dame, despite his fear of heights.

In the book, it seems like the top of the towers are fairly quiet, but it was anything but when I went. It’s well worth it for the beautiful view across the city.

Point Zero, Paris

Point Zero

I wish for the thing that is best for me.

If you look carefully on the floor outside Notre Dame, you will find ‘Point Zero’ – it blends in with the stones well and does take a bit of effort to find. This is the point at which all measurements from Paris are taken.

Etienne takes Anna to this spot not long after she’s moved to Paris, and encourages her to make a wish on the star. Also, something super sweet happens here later on in the trilogy.

 

Shakespeare & Company, Paris

Shakespeare & Company

Here books totter in wobbly stacks, fall from the seats of chairs, and spill from sagging shelves. There are cardboard boxes overflowing with books, and a black cat naps beside a pile on the stairs.

One of the most famous bookshops in the world, Shakespeare & Company is where Etienne buys Anna a copy of Pablo Neruda’s poems.

This place is a must visit for any booknerd. It’s a maze of books and Pinterest-worthy book nooks. Unfortunately, it can get pretty busy and because it’s so tight and twisty, it can be hard to get around, but it is well worth the visit. I was hoping they’d have a copy of Anna and the French Kiss in stock when I went, but they didn’t – you can buy it from their website though and get it stamped.

 

Saint Etienne du Mont, Paris

Saint-Etienne-du-Mont

I’ve always been a bit propriety about it. Mum used to bring me here when I was young. We’d take a picnic lunch and eat it right here on the steps.

Saint Etienne’s is a beautiful church nestled next to the Pantheon. In the book, Etienne drags Anna across the road to see his church before taking Anna to the banks of the Seine to see the Notre Dame.

Before I went, I googled it and it looks absolutely stunning inside, unfortunately it was closed when I went. It’s so beautifully and detailed – I think it’s actually my favourite building in Paris.

 

Pantheon, Paris

The Pantheon

Let’s see some dead people.

Anna and Etienne visit the Pantheon and get in an argument with a rude American tourist who complains about how slowly Etienne is walking down the stairs.

The building itself is stunning on the inside and outside, it’s dome standing out proudly and beautifully on the Parisian skyline. In the crypt, you’ll find some of France’s most important people buried.

Cinema Le Champo, Paris

Cinema Le Champo

And then the darkness gives way to white neon. An Art Deco font, burning into the night, announces our arrival at CINEMA LE CHAMPO.

This is the “mom and pop” cinema Anna loves to frequent to get her film fix.

I didn’t actually think this place was real – I just assumed it was made up, so when I saw it I was bouncing about pointing at it, racing to get my camera out.

 

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

If you ask me to kiss you, I will.

When the sun is out, Jardin du Luxembourg is seemingly the place in Paris to relax. Even with the chill of December, people were sitting around relaxing like it was the height of summer.

After Etienne receives news that his mother is clear of cancer, he and Anna decide to skip Mer’s football game and laze in Jardin du Luxembourg, before being caught kissing by Mer.

 

Blue markers – other places

There are a few locations that are a bit more spread out. You could slot them into your trip if you’ve got other bits planned, or you could do them all on one day if you follow Line 1 and then switch to Line 2 to Pere Lachaise at Nation.

Victor Hugo

Pere Lachaise

It’s a quieter city than Paris, but no less impressive.

Granted, a cemetery is a weird place to visit on holiday but is it weirder than Anna, Etienne, and the rest of their friends having a picnic in Pere Lachaise on Halloween?

It’s a little out the way in comparison to most other attractions in Paris, but it’s worth it for the morbid curiosity – Pere Lachaise is the final resting of many famous people, including Victor Hugo.

If it wasn’t for reading Anna and the French Kiss, I wouldn’t have visited Pere Lechaise, but after hearing Etienne explain the story of Victor Hugo, I needed to go.

As you can see from the photo, Victor Hugo’s ‘gentleman region’ has been rubbed so much over the years that it’s a completely different colour to the rest of the memorial. “Why?” you may ask; legend has it that rubbing Victor’s victor brings women husbands and does some magic fertility wizardry. Yep. You read that right.

 

The Eiffel Tower at sunrise

Eiffel Tower

Anna visits the Eiffel Tower with Mer in her first month in Paris, but it’s only mentioned in passing in the book. Still, no trip to Paris would be complete without a trip up the Eiffel Tower.

 

The Louvre, Paris

The Louvre

The art museum is called the Louvre and it’s shaped like a pyramid and the Mona Lisa lives there along with a statue of a woman missing her arms.

Anna doesn’t actually visit the Louvre; it’s one of the few things Anna knows about France at the beginning of the book.  I didn’t rate it much when I first went to Paris a few years ago (way too crowded), but the building is certainly worth a look at.

Have you ever been to a play because it appears in your favourite books / films?

Save

Follow:

Pere Lachaise

Pere Lachaise

Maybe it’s pretty morbid to visit a cemetery on your holiday, but when I heard that Paris is home to the world’s most visited cemetery, I needed to see Pere Lachaise for myself.

Home to over 1 million interments, Pere Lachaise is the final resting place of the likes of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Victor Noir, to name a few.

What actually made me really want to go was a book; you should have guessed, right? In Anna and the French Kiss, the ‘gang’ visit Pere Lachaise and Etienne tells Anna a story about the grave of French journalist, Victor Noir. 

Victor Noir's statue at Pere LachaiseVictor Noir's statue Pere Lachaise

When Noir died, a life-size bronze statue of him lying on the floor was created in memoriam. The crotch area of the statue ended up becoming a fertility and / or romance symbol. Myths say that rubbing Noir’s lips or crotch would enhance fertility, bring someone a husband within a year, or improve people’s sex life. All of that rubbing resulted in the statues lips and crotch becoming shiny and worn.

Upon reading that story, I couldn’t believe it and ended up Googling it. Once I’d confirmed it was true, I just had to see it myself.

Pere Lachaise

la memoire necropolitaine Pere Lachaise

This tombstone caught my eye, firstly because of the giant camera, and second the QR code. Though I didn’t want to drain my interwebs finding out where the QR code went, I needed to know what kind of tombstone has a QR code. From what I can gather, it’s the future tombstone of Andre Chabot, a ‘specialist in cemeteries and funerary art’.

It is kinda weird to visit a cemetery, but I found it really interesting to walk around and look at all the different tombs and wonder what those people or families were like. I’m a chronic overthinker like that.

We probably spend about two hours there and probably didn’t even see half of it – that’s how big the place is. It’s also quite a nice place to walk around (I wonder what that says about a person…), and parts of it boast lovely views over Paris too.

Have you ever been to Pere Lachaise?

Follow:

Sacre-Couer

After missing out the first time around, Sacre-Coeur was top of my list of things to do when I returned to Paris at Christmas.

Metro by Moulin Rouge

I missed out the first time around because it was so far away from where we were and I refused to take the Metro. This time around, I built a bridge and got over it, and took the Metro. We got off a couple of stops early by mistake and popped out by the Moulin Rouge, which was cool to see.

We walked the rest of the way to Sacre-Coeur, through cobbled streets full of street gamblers trying (and succeeding) to scam tourists.

Sacre-Coeur is beautiful, unfortunately it’s ruined a little by gangs of men who line the pathways up to the basilica and try to stop you passing, grab you, and put a string bracelet on your wrist. It left me feeling intimidated and a little on edge, which ruined my experience a little.

Band playing outside Sacre-Coeur

That said, there was a really good band outside playing covers of Tracy Chapman.

Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Couer is a stunning building, both inside and outside. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, which is fair enough, and there was a service going on at the time, which was interesting to hear. I think not being able to take photos inside made it more special because there were no distractions.

View over Paris from Sacre-Couer

View over Paris from Sacre-Coeur

You can go up to the top, but the view over Paris from just outside were stunning enough that we didn’t see the point in going up.

If you have chance, I definitely recommend a trip to Sacre-Coeur but do keep your wits about you on the walk from the main road up to the basilica.

Follow:

The view over Paris from Notre Dame towards the Eiffel Tower

Notre Dame

I must admit, the first time I went to Paris I had no idea that you could climb up the towers of Notre Dame.

It wasn’t until I read Anna and the French Kiss where Anna goes up the tower that I ended up googling it to find out that you could go up. I mentally kicked myself for not doing it when I went, and promised myself I would do it the next time I went to Paris.

Tom and I got up early, and caught the train out to Notre Dame, arriving before 9. It’s free to go into the cathedral itself, but the earlier you get there, the shorter the queue will be – and the queue gets long fairly quickly.

Inside Notre DameRose window Notre DameClose up of Rose window Notre Dame

Religious or not, it’s impossible to deny the beauty of Notre Dame – especially the rose windows. They are so beautiful and vast – I’ve seen what I consider to be pretty big stained glass windows before, but they have absolutely nothing on Notre Dame’s rose windows. 

Polish nativity scene Notre Dame 2015

We went a few days after Christmas, and they had a beautiful Polish-style nativity scene, that was mesmerising.

After exploring the cathedral, we exited and turned right to join the queue to go up the towers. Trips up the towers don’t begin until 10am, which gives you time to view the cathedral while it’s relatively quiet first and still have plenty of time to join quite a short queue.

They only allow about 30 people up at a time, which is why the waiting time grows so quickly. We were the second lot allowed up – but we joined the queue at 09:30 and didn’t end up going up until 10:30 because they were late opening. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to queue – to get at the front of the queue, you’ll have to get there early, and if you join it later on, you’ll have to queue. That said, it was worth it – us Brits have a high tolerance towards queuing anyway.

Your trek up stairs begins before you’ve really started the tour – you have to climb up a fair few stairs to get to the ticket room / area where you wait to allow the group up there to come down the stairs. The great thing is that the Notre Dame towers are free if you are under 18 with family or between 18 and 25 living in an EU country. Full priced adult tickets are fairly inexpensive at 8.50 EUROs. (Price right at time of posting.)

Once the stairs are clear, you’re free to start your ascent up 387 steps up a tight stair case. Your thighs will burn, you might get out of breath, and maybe you’ll think you’ll see that croissant you had for breakfast again, but the panorama over Paris at the top is more than worth it.

View over Paris from Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower

View over Paris from Notre DameSacre Couer from Notre Dame

There isn’t a huge amount of space for maneuvering around people at the top, which causes annoying bottlenecks where everyone is just stood there, unable to move until a load of people are let back down the stairs. Though, I don’t suppose they thought about leaving enough space for people to get around people taking photos when they begin building work in the 12th century.

Gargoyles of Notre Dame looking out at the Eiffel TowerGargoyles of Notre DameGargoyles of Notre Dame

Not only does Notre Dame give you a beautiful view over the city, but it also allows you to see the ornate detailing and, of course, the gargoyles up close.

Bells Notre Dame

You also have the chance to see one of the bells up close, and can go up even more steps to the highest point of the cathedral. Again, there’s not much space to maneuver here, but if you’re anything like me and like seeing a city from up high, you’ll enjoy it.

Notre DameZero Kilometre from Notre Dame

That huge building you can see in the right is Tour Montparnasse – well worth a trip up for yet more beautiful views, especially of the Eiffel Tower.

The trip back down the stairs is slightly less painful, though it does feel a bit disorientating after a while.

Point Zero Notre Dame, Paris

When you reach the bottom, I recommend having a hunt around on the ground in front of Notre Dame to find a golden star on the ground. Point Zero is said to be the centre of Paris, and is where all distances from Paris are measured. It’s not as easy as I expected, and I guess that’s because it blends in so easily.

Some people make wishes on the star, or have other little rituals like kissing on it. Finding Point Zero isn’t an essential part of visiting Paris, but it’s one of those really cool little things that seems to make a trip even better.

Follow:

Tour Montparnasse - the best view in ParisView over Paris

The Eiffel Tower is easily the most iconic building in the Paris skyline, but the problem is that you can’t see it when you’re up it; enter Tour Montparnasse, the best view in Paris.

Tour Montparnasse is that huge black building you can see from the Eiffel Tower. The building itself is probably the least appealing building in the city; it’s got a very 70s look to it and it sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the beautiful buildings of Montparnasse.

However, it’s redeeming quality is that you can’t see it when you’re stood on top of it. Instead, you are treated to stunning 360 views of Paris. Also, the queues are much shorter than at the Eiffel Tower.

Sunset over ParisSunset over Sacre Coeur

Tom and I managed to time our trip up Tour Montparnasse perfectly for sunset. It wasn’t the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen in terms of the colour and vibrance, but it was really special to watch the City of Light bathe in an orange and pink glow.

Security is high at Tour Montparnasse and you have to put your bags through an x-ray scanner, and walk through a scanner like you do at an airport. Once you pass through security, you’re shown to some of the fastest lifts in Europe, which climb to the 56th floor in less than 40 seconds. 

Orange sunset over Paris

Floor 56 contains a cafe, somewhere to have a very touristy photo taken by staff, toilets, and a gift shop. Through the huge windows on this floor is where you get your first brilliant views of Paris, but take the stairs up to floor 59 to have your breath taken away.

The top of the building is entirely open, allowing 360 degrees around the city. Tour Montparnasse have been clever and photographer-friendly here by designing the clear safety fencing with a small gap in it to let you poke your phone / camera through so you can get clear photos, instead of having reflections in them, or mesh fencing.

We went up at about 5pm, and it was surprisingly quiet. There were probably about 30 other people up there at the same time as us and though most people were on the side facing the Eiffel Tower, it didn’t feel crowded which allowed us to soak in the views.

Sunset over the Eiffel Tower from Tour Montparnasse

View of the Eiffel Tower from Tour MontparnasseSunset over the Eiffel Tower from Tour Montparnasse

You can see every part of the Parisian skyline, but obviously the Eiffel Tower steals the show.

If you’re heading to Paris any time soon, make sure you pay a visit to Tour Montparnasse, and then enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants around the tower.

Tickets for Tour Montparnasse are slightly cheaper than the Eiffel Tower, with a full rate adult ticket for Tour Montparnasse being €15, in comparison to €17 for the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower offers youth rates for under 24s, at €14.50, while Tour Montparnasse’s youth rates are for 20-year-olds and under plus students, for €12.

What’s your favourite view?

Follow:

 

Why you should visit Paris before you're 26 / when you're a student

Paris’ allure puts it fairly high on many people’s travel wish list, and there are considerable savings to be made if you visit the City of Light when you’re 25 or under, or if you’re a student.

Though you won’t save money on your airfare, hotel, or food just for being youthful (though you might find these tips for saving money when booking a holiday useful), you can save a good chunk of money on things to do. Unlike here in the UK (not sure what it’s like elsewhere), the French give students and those 25 or under considerable discounts on admission or travel, or completely free access to some attractions.

If you meet either of those criteria, make sure you keep your student card or some form of identification that has your age and nationality on it to hand, because you’ll be using it a lot. (The reason you might need something showing nationality is that some free admissions are only for those who live in countries that are part of the EU.)


Transport

There are no savings to be made on the Metro or the RER, but both of them are cheap enough anyway. However, if you need to travel out of the city / across Europe, you can save money on the TGV if you’re under 26.

If you want to navigate the city by water, the Batobus is a great way to get around and see the city at the same time, plus savings can be made if you’re a student.


Discounts on / free admission

Admission to attractions / museums is where you’re going to be able to save the most money. On average, full price admission to museums is probably roughly the same price, or slightly cheaper than here in the UK. But, if you’re a student / youthful you can save a few euros or even get through the turnstiles without handing over a single cent.

This is by no means an extensive list, but here are some of the main attractions you can make savings at:

  • Eiffel Tower: reduced rate if you’re 24 or under.
  • Tour Montparnasse: reduced rate for students and those 20 or under.
  • Pantheon: free if you’re under 26-years-old and live in the EU.
  • Louvre: free for under 18s, and those 25 and under who live in the EU.
  • Arc de Triomphe: discount for students and those 25 and under. Free if you’re 17 and under.
  • Notre Dame tower: free for those 25 and under living in the EU, and student discount available.
  • Musee d’Orsay: free if you are 25 and under living in an EU state, or reduced rates for under 25s who are citizens of non-EU countries.
  • Catacombs: free if you’re 17 or under, reduced rate for 18 – 25 year olds.

What if I’m not a student / or am over 26?

All is not lost! Some attractions may have free admission on certain days of the week / month for everyone. For example, Musee d’Orsay is free on the first Sunday of the month.

On top of that, there are some attractions that are always free such as Sacre-Coeur or Notre Dame (note that the tower or crypts are not free), and there are lots of free things you can do in Paris such as explore the gardens or eat crepes by the Seine.

Additionally, the Paris Pass, or the Paris Museum Pass may be something that’s worth while if you plan to visit a lot of attractions during your stay, but that’s something you’ll need to weigh up by comparing prices of the pass and what you get for it, with the prices you’d be paying for admission.

A trip to Paris doesn’t need to be expensive, and a little bit of planning can help you save.

As I mentioned above, if you’re booking a trip to Paris, here are a few tips to help you save on your booking.

 

Have you visited / would you like to visit Paris?

Follow:

Sunset behind the Eiffel Tower

Every time I see a sunset, I make a vow to become a morning person. There’s something so calming and hopeful about watching a new day break, and it’s somehow even better when you get to watch the sunrise behind the Eiffel Tower.

On our first morning in Paris, I had every intention of getting up early to watch the sunrise behind the Eiffel Tower, but I slept through my alarm. Luckily for me, I’d forgotten about the one hour time difference between Paris and England so when I rolled out of bed at 08:20, pink was just beginning to creep into the sky.

I nudged Tom and got a response that didn’t really sound like words, so I got dressed quickly, grabbed my stuff and raced out of the hotel.

We stayed in the Mercure Tour Eiffel, which is about a 2 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower. As soon as you exit the hotel, you can see it imposing on the skyline, dominating everything around it.

Pink sunrise by the Eiffel Tower from Champ De Mars

Unlike the night before, Champ de Mars was free of men selling tacky light up statues and probably stolen bottles of wine. Instead, the odd tourist milled around, faces full of joy as they watched the sky change colours behind  the Eiffel Tower. On the grass, birds picked at the bits of hot dog and churros left on the floor by people who had been enjoying the market the night before.

On the other side of the road, at the Jardins du Trocadero, was where the photographers were out to play. Everyone there had tri-pods and DSLRs; I was pretty sure that if you were to turn up with a compact camera you would have been stared at until you burst into flames.

Sunrise behind the Eiffel Tower

I’ve seen so many photos taken from the same place and I don’t think I will ever get enough of them. Seeing the Eiffel Tower standing strong against a flaming sky was one of those moments that filled me with bliss; I felt privileged to be watching the sunrise while around me, locals were too preoccupied with getting to work on time. 

Christmas tree sunrise in front of Eiffel Tower

Sunrise Paris

That’s one of those things that I always think about whenever I visit somewhere. All around you, the locals are hurriedly getting on with their lives; maybe they’re running late for work and haven’t had time for breakfast, are thinking about what they’ve got to do today, or perhaps they’re excited about seeing that guy / girl they like when they get to school. Meanwhile, you’re taking in every inch of their town or city with hungry eyes and you just can’t possibly understand how they can go about their everyday life and not stop to stare at the beauty that surrounds them.

Are you a morning person?

Follow: