I loved Paris but a lot of being there was about trying to hold on to my money. First of all, accommodation is expensive, not quite like New York, but up there; then there are all the temptations of food, cafes, macarons, shopping, museums and monuments. There are several "must-see"s in Paris which include the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Musee D'Orsay and Versailles. The Arc de Triomphe can be seen from the ground, while the churches are stunning, unless you're an architecture, history or art enthusiast, once you've seen a handful of the best, the next couple of cathedrals can be underwhelming. Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappelle are two of the most impressive cathedrals in Paris, and I took a day to take in the intricate beauty and the detailed art.
Today, I'm bringing you to the Jewish Quarter of Paris, le Marais.
One of the things I love most about Paris is the sophistication of the food and the cafes. I spent the day with fellow traveller Carmen from Australia, sipping hot chocolates and tasting a cheesecake souffle at a cafe that didn't allow computers. It had an old-time charm feel, sort of like that movie A Midnight in Paris. There were several blatant signs around the cafe that said "p'as d'ordinateur portable", and of course there wasn't any wifi.
Sometimes, I feel like I could stay in Paris forever because of the cute little shops and well-taken-care-of buildings, but with that comes a certain feeling of coldness in not quite fitting in with the locals because of a) the language barrier and b) the Parisian snob stereotype is sometimes true.
Despite that, I think anyone can appreciate the many years of history and the culture developed in this old city.
We wandered around the area for a bit, then hopped on our bikes and went north to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. They filmed Angels and Demons and also Amelie in this area, so it was strange feeling to be in places where I thought I had been before but hadn't really.
I spent two weeks in Paris practicing my French, getting ignored by the French, then eventually taking a bus to Brussels.
Actually, the story is a little longer than that. Let me explain.
Paris is magical to me because it gets romanticized in basically every movie we see about this city. Examples: Midnight in Paris, Amelie, Moulin Rouge... Even if the plot isn't very romantic like The Da Vinci Code, the background scenes of Paris are gorgeous. To finally be in a place which is hyped universally by almost everyone in my network/media/influences was wonderful.
When I first arrived and saw the architecture, I was floored and fell in love with the city.
Then, after seeing my wide-open bag, a hostel staff warned me about pick pockets, and my fondness towards Paris died down a little but I was still enamoured with the city.
I love the smaller streets, the smell of fresh pastry wafting through the air, being able to find a specialty cheese shop on almost every corner and of course, all the rich history that seems to swallow you into its world. You simply can't be in a place like Paris and not imagine all the generations that have lived on these same streets.
But of course, a walk through Paris though beautiful, is sometimes lonely when you're only one. Parisians have a reputation of being snobs, which I found out unfortunately is mostly true.
There was an incident when I was trying to ask questions in French at a post office, and when my French vocabulary wasn't strong enough to get my question across, the clerk, who was in her late twenties, just ignored me and went back to reading her book. It wasn't until I was rescued by another customer who spoke both English and French that I got the answer I needed.
If you want to learn about customer service, don't go to Paris.
Anyway, I digress. Please don't let me stop you from going to Paris because of that one incident, in fact, I recommend going just to see what it's all about. I actually met a very funny and nice Parisian man in my third go-around to Paris, so no not everyone is a snob.
One of the reasons I love Paris so much is because it has so much art and culture, not to mention history. Like a difficult novel, you may not like it, but it's good for you, just so you know what it's like, so you can be informed and have an legitimate opinion on it.
You may have noticed I haven't mentioned shopping yet.
Well, I'm getting there. Keep in mind, these photos are only representative of the first few days I spent in Paris.
I mostly gravitated towards food on the first couple of days, which by the way, Parisian grocery stores have the best selection of brie. It's less than two euros for a whole block of cheese! In Canadian dollars, that's around $3. In Canada, good cheese starts from around $6, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered cheap good cheese in the grocery stores.
Dining out was slightly more expensive than back home, but I still went out a couple of times just to see what it was like. Disclaimer: I also gained a couple of pounds specifically from Paris, I think. I am blaming the croissants, but they are the most delicious thing in the world when they are still hot from the oven so I have no regrets.
I will be posting more photos from Paris as I edit them in the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy them!
I have so many photos to share from Paris. There's no way I could share them all in one post, so I'll go slow. Maybe a couple for each day.
When I flew into Paris, it was night. I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport and took the RER (train) to Gare du Nord (major train station).
I remember walking to my hostel, which was expensive for a hostel ($30/night), but also really fancy. I got lost somewhere along the way, but it brought me to so many beautiful scenes. I realize I spend a lot of my time lost when I travel. It's frustrating most of the time, but there are some moments when I discover something really cool that's off the beaten path.
I've pretty much accepted that I am not good with directions in a new city unless the city is like New York, where the streets are all numbered and the city is laid out like a grid.
In Europe, many times, streets are laid out like Pentagons (Paris, Barcelona), and it's slightly difficult for someone used to grids (like North Americans) to navigate. Anyway, I digress.
One of the main things I love about Paris is that everywhere you go, it's picturesque. You don't even have to be at the touristy areas such as Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or Champ de Mars, to get a good photo. Everything is just designed elegantly. The whole city is photography-friendly with cobblestone streets, old majestic buildings and beautifully-dressed locals. And when you enter the cafes, the pastries are aesthetic as well.
My first day in Paris, I had to tell myself to calm down with all the photos I was taking. You know when you get too excited about something and sometimes stop breathing? That was me. But I love that feeling of excitement. It's one of the reasons I love travel so much. I love seeing new things and feeling that sense of wonder and joy. It's a feeling of realizing how lucky you are to be standing where you are, and wanting to share that joy with the whole world. I don't think you can ever get that kind of feeling sitting in a cubicle. This is why I travel.