Jake and I have just spent 5 nights in beautiful Paris! I can’t lie, I was not taken with Paris at first. While our first day was packed full of sites and baguettes, after walking 12 miles Paris was just another big dirty city. I was not immediately thrilled with our teeny, tiny studio attic apartment (about 200 sq ft, with sloped walls and a shower the size of a hopscotch square, all the way at the top of a 6 story building without a lift).
I was not thrilled with our full size bed that seemed to be shorter than any full size bed I'd ever slept in in the US. And I was certainly not excited about the COLD. I was nervous about so much as ordering a croissant in my totally broken French. Needless to say, day 1 in a new city with nothing but a backpack, unfamiliar surroundings, and slightly less than comfortable communication and accommodations left me a bit cranky. But, ultimately, this incredible City of Lights has won me over.
Sure, our little apartment is SO little, but it's really all we need- we've barely been in it anyway.It used to be the maids quarters, complete with a window, itty-bitty bathroom, and hot plate. The stairs were laughable each time we climbed them and sent us out the door smiling. The bed was clearly comfy enough since we've accidentally slept in past 11 several times (and it was Jake's feet hanging overs, so it didn't bother me!). The neighborhood we stayed in reminded us both of parts of San Francisco, particularly the Mission district - far enough from the beaten path of tourists where locals stroll with their kids and puppies, and just enough grit to remind you that you are still in a giant city. And, the baker spoke broken English much more clearly than I could speak broken French, so I got my chocolate croissant without problem. The icing on the cake - the Eiffel Tower sparkles at night!
Ok, this big dirty city turned me into a believer. The buildings are beautiful, even the naked trees swaying in the winter wind are beautiful.I found myself smiling at, what I would consider to be, typical French stereotypes in the flesh - the older man with the much younger woman canoodling in the park, his hands not anywhere appropriate; the garbage man standing on the back of the truck as it bends around a corner, a fresh cigarette hanging out of his mouth, baguettes for sale on every corner. And, while I was a bit nervous about what I had always heard about interacting with the French, Jake and I found that most of the people we spoke with were kind, accommodating, helpful, and patient with us. What a lovely surprise!
We did a lot while we were here. Here are the highlights:
- Walking tour of L'Opera, Trinity Gardens, and the 1st arrondissement
- Notre Dame
- Musee D'Orsay
- Musee de L'Orangerie
- Eiffel Tower (so stunningly gorgeous)
- Luxembourg Garden
- Around the outside of the Louvre
- The Pantheon
- Sacre Coeur (I personally think it's more beautiful than the Notre Dame)
- Around the outside of the Moulin Rouge and other parts of Pigalle
- Walking around Montmartre
Of all of this, I'd say my favorites include the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, wandering Montmartre, and the walking tour. We took Cammie's advice and popped into Rose Bakery where we enjoyed the best carrot cake ever (perfect breakfast!). This was among my favorite sweets!
While we did a lot in 5 nights, there are certainly things we were not able to do. When we come back (in the spring or summer when it's WARM and the trees are lush and green), we have started this list of things to do in and within the vicinity of Paris:
- Go to a typical french restaurant for a full dinner (since we're on a pretty tight budget, we did not splurge on upscale meals. I would love to come back for a culinary experience)
- Take a day trip to Champagne. We meant to head out to Champagne, but I failed to do any pre-planning and found it incredibly difficult to work out the details on the fly. We needed reservations for Champagne Houses, and these had to be made via phone which we do not have. We needed a car, or expensive train reservations. We slept too late…Next time, this will be a priority and it will be well planned.
- Take a day trip to Normandy and Mont St. Michel.
- Eat more croissants. :)
- Go up to one of the decks of the Eiffel Tower. We walked around it but I would love to go up! The line was REALLY long, so we decided to save it for the next trip.
- Take a boat tour along the Seine.
- Stay with a host instead of a private apartment on Airbnb. Jake and I both think that we would have benefited from staying with a local so we could ask questions, get more tips on how to communicate, get recommendations on where to eat in the neighborhood, etc. We loved having our own space, but would have appreciated having some local assistance.
All in all, this trip to Paris was a perfect introduction to France, to the lifestyle we are living on this trip, and to this whole adventure we're on! We are looking forward to returning someday (with a slightly bigger budget!). Check out our photo album on our Facebook page for Every Day a New Adventure! On to Dublin!