Europe, Travel

PARIS

      This city has been hyped up by so many people, books, movies, television shows and songs. I’ve actually been to Paris…twice. I was 10 years old the first time and 13 the second–not exactly ages where I can appreciate the nuance of a world-famous city. Though I vaguely remember liking Paris, I was only thirteen. We blazed through the city in under a week because we were visiting nine countries in two weeks. Yeah, you saw that right. Now that I’m in my 20’s and I’ve developed my own traveling persona, I wanted to return.

I flew from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle with zero expectations. The friend (Ruoxi) that went with me had never been, so I let her handle what we would see and do. We stayed in an Airbnb near the Eiffel Tower (a really cute area, I must say) and I told her I wanted to visit Shakespeare and Co. Then, it was all up to how far we could walk. And let me tell you—we could go far. Miles and miles everyday.
       Though, the metro is fairly affordable! €1.80 for a trip literally anywhere! Much cheaper than the tube. However, walking through Paris (though painful at times) is truly a good way to see the city–very grateful that Ruoxi pushed me to walk to fromageries, boulangeries, patisseries, etc.

Our first day, we were out on the town by around noon. We had a quick bite to eat (onion soup for me, lentils for Ruoxi) but mainly just walked to all of the places you can imagine. The Seine, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Tour d’Eiffel, lock bridge (not planned…also a bit horrifying because that bridge is on the precipice of disaster). Honestly, all the things we saw on the first day might even be a blur. I think it was a good idea to throw us into the thick of it (Paris-wise).

The picture above is a painting in the Abercrombie & Fitch store on the Champs Elysees. The gaudy gate to the store caught our attention, so we went in and were only a little regretful. This painting is probably deeply problematic as it portrays the male figure of the work-hand as something that should be ogled and lusted after. Anyway, we immediately left–partially due to the disturbingly large fresco and partially due to the infamous smell of the store. The reign of A&F is bound to fall in Europe as it has in the US, though. We’re waiting.

After grabbing freshly-made crepes (definitely worth the hype. Don’t pay more than €3 for these! They are all over the city, so don’t be fooled.

My absolute favorite part of the whole day was 100% our picnic between the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower. Pleasant weather, nice amount of sun and fellow weeknight-picnickers surrounding us, we were content. Of course, we also had baguettes, brie, and wine. Maybe a bit of a cliche, but not one I’m opposed to. Highly recommend for a summer evening.

Bir Hakeim Bridge (featured in the movie that we bonded over in high school, Inception)

A few words on where we stayed–we truly lucked out with the location. Maybe this is true for all nicer neighborhoods in Paris, but we had markets galore near us. There was a cobblestoned street less than a block away that was full of wine stores, bread stores, cheese stores, fresh grocers and a supermarche. Best part? OPEN PAST 5pm! Things generally closed around 7 or 8 (unless they were small, family-owned businesses). Such a change from London. Not as capitalist as the US, but what can you do?

The second day was a bit more chill. We strolled on to the Luxembourg Gardens–not much to say about them. Nice, french gardens. Loads of children sailing toy boats. There are always people around, but rarely does the city feel crowded.

Then, came my piece de resistance — the old bookstore everyone talks about. The one where aspiring writers can live for periods of time. The one that is covered in books old & new. It’s funny that it’s named after the bard, but it’s so terribly French. Shakespeare and Co. was really everything I wanted–if only we could’ve stayed longer! I would’ve lounged around with the cat all afternoon.

We were in Paris for la fete nationale and it did not disappoint! We first went to a party in a fire station (every station in the city, along with their extremely good-looking pompiers, throws one) where we danced to a mix of top 40 hits, early 2000’s hits, French techno and EDM with loads of high school American tourists & French families. Yeah, like mothers in their 40’s/50’s and children below the age of 10. At an EDM-like concert. It was insanely French and awesome. We danced completely sober then almost ran to the Eiffel Tower to catch the firework show at 11pm. Then, we were extremely tired and went back to our Airbnb to run into some door troubles (this is an understatement, but I won’t go into it. Basically, French people are extremely kind past midnight even when they don’t know English & we helpless Americans don’t know French really. Most of them, anyway.)

Sacre Coeur!! I really want to use the name of that church as a sort of exclamatory response. Like when something is so unbelievably great & breathtaking? Sacre Coeur. Anyway, it was like €6 to walk the 300 steps up to the top of the dome, but it was hella worth it. Also, the amount of steps is totally doable after the warmup you’ll go through on the flights of stairs you take to even get to the top of the hill and into the chapel. Did that make sense? Basically, be fit. If not, Paris will make you fit. 🙂

Not Pictured: Belleville. We went there on our last day because we were prepared (mentally and physically) for some great Vietnamese food. Also, we wanted to check out the Edith Piaf museum, but it’s by appointment only. So make an appointment beforehand! We did hit up the cemetery full of famous remains (e.g. Oscar Wilde, Max Ernst, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Chopin–to name drop a bit). It was very full and the noble Chinese families had photos of their deceased on their graves. It was shocking to put a face to the grave, but unique. I also saw ashes spread out on the lawns and that was jarring. Not the best place to go if you aren’t ready to face your own mortality, but we were in the mood for a bit of sobering up. Then, we reposed in le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont which had some more uphill walking, but a worthy view of the lake and an interested structure in the rock wall. When it’s hot, sit in the park eating pistachios and cherries and just chill out listening to some Family of the Year, possibly throw in some Washed Out.

Seriously, I cannot emphasize to you how wrong the stereotypes of mean Parisians are. The friendliest Parisians might dwell in the small non-chain places, but they are just so helpful. Maybe it’s because we were two, young, unassuming, respectful girls. However, I think it’s just because we ventured off the well-beaten path of the tourists. So, I encourage you to do the same. Walk around, eat at places you haven’t Yelped to death, but you smelled it before you saw it. In a good way. You know? That’s what I learned from Paris. I am 100% returning!

Love,
Young Lion

P.S. I made a video about it all 🙂

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