Friday, May 3, 2013

Europe Day 9 to 12: Paris

What is it that they say about expectations? Oh right, don't have them.

When it comes to Paris though, it's nearly impossible not to have expectations. Especially when just about everyone who's been to Paris tells you how much you'll love it. You just have to look at pictures, and the place looks magical. Although, your expectations can be low since there's the stereotype about Parisians and how they are rude to Americans and refuse to speak English.

The stereotype was not my experience. And despite my high expectations, I fell in love with the City of Lights. In fact, my love for Paris is blind. I hate public transportation, but I loved using their Metro and bus system. Most of my food encounters were great, except for at this one place; and even then I just thought to myself, "Well, it can't all have been perfect." Even having a bracelet scam guy brazenly grab my arm and follow me when I turned away didn't ruin this place for me. Yup, I love Paris.

My first two nights were spent on the Left Bank at Les Jardins d'Eiffel, and my last two nights were at the Renaissance Paris Vendome Hotel. I now know I am a Left Bank kind of girl. Jardins d'Eiffel is near the La Tour Maubourg Metro stop, and about a 15-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. This part of town was more of a regular Parisian neighborhood, and significantly less touristy than the area around the Renaissance Vendome; which is across Jardins des Tuileries, and close to the Louvre.

My Hugo moment at the d'Orsay

Of course I had a checklist of things to see - Museé d'Orsay, Museé du Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Champs Élyssés, Arc de Triomphe, etc. - but, I also just wanted to enjoy my time there. Meaning, I wanted to take Anthony Bourdain's advice on Paris, and enjoy it at a leisurely pace. So, while I saw everything on my list, and I also fit in Museé de l'Orangerie and the Sacré Couer, and I explored.

Museé du Louvre

I found my way on the Metro to Rue Montorguiel (a Bourdain recommendation) and just walked around, ate pain au chocolat, prosciutto, and cheese. I also saw some weird art, and listened to a band play on the street. From there, I sought out E. Dehillerin (another Bourdain recommendation), a distributor of cooking and pastry utensils; and La droguerie, a yarn and fabric store.

You can find yarn, fabric and notions here

My other explorations included the Marais district, which is where I got lost. From the Bastille Metro, I meant to walk along rue Saint Antoine, but instead walked on rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine - the opposite direction. I ended up ducking into a small bookstore (I forgot to write down its name), where I found the Paris Pratique Par Arrondissement map book my sister wanted. Within Marais, I got lost again as I tried to find my way to I'Île Saint Louis. There were more cute boutiques to shop in, and I also came upon a building which seemed of some historical importance. The sign out front was in French, so I was only able to determine that it had something to do with the Medieval era. From what I have gathered off the internet, the building is a rare Medieval residence.

Historie de Paris building along rue Francois Miron

Paris did have its share of strange moments. At one point, I saw a man walking his dog, and balancing on the dog's back was a white rat. I actually saw this trio the following day, walking along the Champs Élyssés. The other strange moment also happens to be the only time I truly did not feel safe on this entire trip. As I mentioned earlier, I encountered one of the bracelet scam guys. This was at the Sacré Coeur, and it happened at the very bottom of the steps, where there are many scam artists waiting. These guys were aggressive, and I did not like it one bit. They try to tie pieces of string around your wrist, and then demand money, or they may distract you while someone else pickpockets you. I almost left the Sacré Coeur without seeing the basilica, but I made myself stay since I rode the Metro all the way out to Monmartre, and I'm glad I did. My anger and unsafe feeling went away immediately when I walked into the church and heard beautiful singing. The nuns were singing during Sunday Mass. This was one of my favorite moments in Paris.

My other favorite moment was watching the Paris Marathon. I had no idea I was going to be in Paris during the marathon, much less be changing hotels and going from the Left Bank to the Right Bank on the day of the race. I actually tried to avoid the marathon by attempting to get to my new hotel in the morning, but I was running late, and I accidentally got off the Metro two stops too late. I crossed rue de Rivoli just in time - I saw a lone runner pass by, and so I hurried across the street with my suitcase and backpack, and started walking towards my hotel. About five minutes later, a larger pack of runners ran by, and then came the masses. Seeing the Paris marathon was amazing, and I want to run this race some day.

Marathon de Paris

My four nights in Paris weren't nearly enough. I want to go back and spend my time there at a truly leisurely pace. I miss hearing people saying "bonjour" and "bonsoir." And yes, I want to eat the food and drink the wine. Although, next time, I won't be buying the ridiculously over-priced bottles of Orangina. And in case I haven't convinced you, you should go. It's an easy city to get around. People speak English, and even in the areas lean on tourists you will find at least one person who speaks just enough English. Seriously, the food is fantastic, as is the wine. There is an immense amount of art. There is history. I could keep going, but you should stop reading, just go to Paris.

Paris from the Arc de Triomphe

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