Bonjour mes amies, mes lecteurs!
Ah, Paris. The City of Light. A creative harbor filled with artistic expression and decadent delights.
The first time I came to Paris, I was nearly 24 years old. It was long overdue at that point. Building up to my expectation of Paris, I imagined cafes, sipping wine and nibbling on cheese, sexy accents, artists, gardens, fashion, decor and rich culture in every corner.
I grew up with these imprinted images in my head from pop-culture, history books, but especially by studying art. As an aspiring artist growing up, I drew and painted throughout my childhood until college when I took it quite seriously. And I owe my inspirations to the great post-impressionist painters of France like Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne, Seurat, Gauguin and Van Gogh, who was a Dutch national, but visited France.
My first trip to Paris was only 48 hours in the city. I had just a small taste of what the city had to offer. So I made a promise to myself to spend more time in Paris the next time I'd go.
Now, two years later, I plotted out the trip with a full 3-day agenda. This time, I made sure to dedicate an entire day to myself, Friday November 18th and stay until Sunday night. 72 hours of Paris, hell yeah!
Also, for the record, my boyfriend, Marcio, had a bootcamp in Paris for work. So to be honest, he was also my main excuse to visit Paris :) :P Plus, my partner in crime friend, Lena, joined me. I mean, two girls in Paris is double the trouble.
So as a tribute, I'd like to the dedicate this article to her majesty, Madame Paris. Here's a gallery that only covers a microscopic glimpse of her beauty. Some places include the top of Sacre Coeur, Luxembourg gardens, Saint Germain metro station.
November 18th, Friday
On Friday, I had planned the day off from work. It was meant as a treat for myself. The last time I traveled alone was when I visited Rome. I was a naive 20-year-old study abroad student and made a lot of mistakes. This time, I was ready! Mature and well-traveled, I knew I'd ace this.
Nope. It only took my thirty seconds to screw up as soon as I exited the airport. Panicking, I bought the wrong bus ticket to my hotel. Although I lost twenty-something euros, PUTAIN! A bus driver in broken English guided me to the right direction. So lesson learned, I'm still working on that whole "adulting thing."
The bus dropped me off at Denfert-Rochereau station. From there, it was a sign. I immediately spotted one of the "Le Comptoir" restaurants. Although it wasn't the exact restaurant location (I did my research beforehand) Le Comptoir is a restaurant brand started by Yves Camdeborde. The Le Comptoir restaurant location I had my lunch was by the Odéon station. And it's also where my all-time, favorite travel/chef TV personality, Anthony Bourdain, hosted his Paris episodes to eat lunch.
Miraculously, I managed to slip inside and snag a seat in the packed restaurant. Normally, you have to book a reservation days in advance for this 20-something seated bistro. It was mid-lunch time around 1 o'clock, but I think luck was on my side. The lobster bisque nearly knocked me off my chair. Amusedly, it came in a cappuccino-like presentation in a white porcelain bowl adorned with a few red peppers and tomatoes and a side of sea salt.
Two older ladies were chirping away in French to my side. They took their time and slowly sipped their wine. I felt like a tourist, secretly taking pictures with my phone. I gazed out the window like a true Parisian and observed the people eating. I picked up an illustrated book dedicated to Yves Camdeborde. Although it was written in French, it depicted his farms probably in his origins of the Pyrenees mountains where he'd cultivated the wine and gathered the seasonal produce. Cute, I thought as I flipped through the pages.
Moments like this in Paris were the ones to remember. "Je me souviens," like a Canadian license plate :P
My second moment to remember was the realization I'd been fooled all my life with... Macaroons. After my lunch, I walked back to the hotel and spotted a patisserie, or a sweet shop in French. In the window showcased were bright colored macaroons perfectly lined up like little gems. Spontaneously, I ordered a couple, coconut creme and raspberry to go. No dietary limits on this vacation, I thought. I'm going all in!
Crossing the intersection, I arrived at the Luxumbourg gardens where I took my first bite. I'm no food connoisseur by any means, but that macaroon stopped me dead in my tracks.
I couldn't walk. Buttercream melted in my mouth. A moist and chewy delight, I'm mesmerized. I'll never forgive those macaroon poser brands outside France. Nothing beats the original.
I took a few selfies to express my moment of sweet gratitude, like a true tourist.
That night, I met up with Marcio. I joined him and his colleagues for dinner in the Les Halles district.
I ordered a chicken mushroom stew with roasted vegetables prepared in a hot pot. We wouldn't shut up about the food with his colleagues. They completely underestimated our deprivation of good food back home. Ok exaggerating here, but who can deny the French when it comes to cuisine? Stop reading this if you do.
Lena arrived later that night, and I agreed to meet up with her at the hotel and explore the Latin district. Like the first time in Paris in 2014, we stayed in the Latin district. Nostalgia hit us like a brick. We were back. This time no hostel, but a decent hotel. Adulting, check.
November 19th, Saturday
Lena and I got up early to get a head start on shopping. We decided to explore an unfamiliar area called the theater district. We ran into a detour and got lost along the way, but managed to end up in Madeline station where we met up with Marcio in a cafe. He ate so many croissants, he nearly turned into one! Lucky him, he doesn't gain anything. Pffffh...
We window shopped and browsed mostly. We stopped in luxury brand shops just to "pretend" we could afford. Dior, Ralph Lauren, Channel, even Volkswagen had a viewing of their new model. Along the way, we stopped at the Christmas market on the Champs-elysées. Highly recommend as it is a good place to take a gluhwein and stroll through. It's quite vast with two blocks of non-stop tents filled with jewelry, candy, wood making, souvenirs, games, food...
Later that night, we ventured off to Stefanie's place. Stef was my former roommate when I first moved to Amsterdam. Our last reunion was over a year ago. Her lovely flat was located in an ideal section of Paris called Les Halles. There we also met her boyfriend Timothee.
Stef prepared a traditional aperitif with an array of cheeses, sausages, olives and wine. Mmmmm yumm...Afterward, Stef and Tim took us to a traditional creperie. Unaware of the local custom, I had no idea the French could eat crepes anytime of the day. I thought that crepes were restricted to a breakfast/brunch thing, haha which Stef found amusing.
Along the way, she showed us the symbolic, somber meeting point at the République station where a few flowers lay. Sadly, just a block down, the Bataclan theater was gunned down during the Paris terrorist attacks of 2015.
Stef told me she frequented the theater seeing different music venues in the past. And that very ill-fated day of November 13th, her and Timothee miraculously decided to stay in that night. God willing.
The attacks were a direct stab into the Parisian heart. They purposely targeted the soul of the city where the youth flocked, full of free expression, liberty and the joy of living. I silently prayed for the victims when we walked past the statue.
Paris leaves me hopeful. The French joy to living inspires. Why live in fear? At the same time, what in the world can one do in such a catastrophic situation like that? During the lockdown in Boston, I remember thinking in my apartment, life can't go on like this. They'll never win.
To leave Paris in a positive light, we rejoiced with good crepes, company and gratitude for the days of our youth.
November 20th, a Rainy, Dreamy Sunday.
Merci beaucoup pour la lecture
And keep on exploring.