At long last, Paris.We arrived in Paris after nearly two weeks of travel, to Izmir, Istanbul, the Côte d’Azur, Provence, Beaune. This would be a short stay, so we knew we had to plan our time wisely to thoroughly enjoy some select experiences in Paris, and know that there would be plenty more to see on future trips. We stayed at an Airbnb rental near the Sacre Couer, so made that our first visit after arriving the first day. It was crowded and the skies were gray, as they often are in Paris, but no less beautiful. On our first day, we walked around Montmartre, had sandwiches in a park, and took the metro to Bellevile, a diverse, hipsterish neighborhood where we climbed the steps in the Parc de Belleville for spectacular views over Paris, better than the views from Sacre Coeur. We had drinks and snacks at O Paris and Le Sardine, both fun cafe/bars, and wandered over by the Canal St. Martin. We watched the sun set over the canal, lined with young people eating and drinking along its banks. So quintessentially Parisian.
The next morning, we did one touristy thing that I really wanted to do: see the Notre Dame. I didn’t want to wait in long lines to go inside, but just to see the exterior and walk around the Île de la Cité. We crossed the Seine and walked around the Marais district. We also started using the Velib, the pioneer bikeshare program. The Marais was gorgeous, charming narrow alleyways somehow spared by Baron Haussman and his urban reconstruction in the 19th century. We got huge street food falafel sandwiches. We picked small, esoteric museums to visit on this trip: the Museum of Photographie and the Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris. Both were haphazard, random, intriguing. From there we made our way to the Bastille, an edgier neighborhood with good independent and vintage shops, where I bought a necklace. We walked along the Promenade plantée, an elevated pedestrian path along an old railroad viaduct, a precursor to NYC’s High Line.
Metroed to the Jardin Tuileries, where tons of people were relaxing in the gardens, sitting by fountains, enjoying Friday evening. It made us really jealous that DC’s public spaces aren’t so relaxing and user-friendly. If only the National Mall could be programmed like that, such a great use of public space. For dinner that night, Andy had surprised me with an anniversary present prior to the trip: reservations at Restuarant du Palais Royal. We sat outside on the patio at the amazing former palace and enjoyed an incredible meal, very French, very high-end. Anderson Cooper was there too!
We did another one of my special request, big Parisian attraction events that morning: Musée d’Orsay. I love the building and love the Impressionists and Modernists. Maybe it’s cliche, but I will never get tired of looking at those paintings. We got there early, before the crowds were too terrible, and only saw select galleries that were important to me. I like the newly designed space of the museum, but I will say their signage and traffic flow patterns were lacking.
We then walked around the 13th Arrondisement and St. Germain, looking for a fun cafe to relax in. It ended up being very crowded, as everyone was out for Saturday morning brunch. We had some amazing crepes for lunch, then metro’d across town to hang out in Belleville and St. Martin again. We had a horrible experience at the first cafe we tried to visit there – my iPhone got stolen – but I’d rather put all that behind me now. It put a wrench in things and I learned a lesson about paying better attention to my belongings, but I didn’t want it to ruin our trip so that’s that.
We wrapped up the day sitting on canal, drinking a cheap bottle of red wine and reminiscing on everything we did on this trip. It was all so amazing. The very last thing we did was have a falafel sandwich and interesting French craft beers at a bar, Super Coin, back near our rental apartment, and then called it a night. Great ending to a great trip.
I liked Paris, but there are some things I didn’t like. Andy and I talked about the whole city feels like a museum; much of the architecture is the same, from a small range of styles from the 19th/20th century, and in fact the city’s brand feels stuck in the past, in the heyday of fin de siècle Paris, like city in amber. Much of the city’s diversity and energy is actually on the periphery, while the historic center has been preserved. I mean, of course it is still Paris, it’s beautiful and amazing. But it doesn’t have the same buzz as cities like London or New York.
Of course, I can’t wait for our next trip. Argentina? China? Vietnam? Morocco? I want to go everywhere.