Keith and I were coming into Paris from very different standpoints. He doesn’t speak French and has never been before. He’s slightly intimidated by the city’s size and reputation. I, on the other hand, fluent French-speaker and second-time visitor, could not wait to be back in the city of lights. I adored my high school trip to Paris and I guess I did romanticize it a bit since I didn’t remember it smelling like pee so much the last time.
Our second Airbnb experience went just as well as the first. Check-in and check-out was a breeze. Luckily the heat wave did not follow us from Brussels to Paris so the lack of air conditioning wasn’t a problem. The six flights of stairs however were not fun. At least we had a view of the Eiffel Tower which made it worth it, in my opinion. The place was tiny though, unlike the apartment in Brussels. Everything, from the bed, the kitchen, the shower and the toilet was crammed together, not an inch of space was wasted. Located in the 10th arrondissement, we really enjoyed how close it was to Gare du Nord train station and several metro stops. Plus the neighbourhood which was near the Canal Saint-Martin was super charming.
The Paris metro system is a modern marvel. There are so many lines that it doesn’t matter where in the city you end up, there is always a station nearby that connects to somewhere you’re going. I’m convinced that even if you don’t speak French, you will be able to figure it out. If you don’t want to take advantage of the metro for some unknown reason, then walking is the next best thing. The streets of Paris were super easy to navigate, I found. Keith said I looked like I had lived there all my life with the way I zipped around all over the city. The highlight of our transit experience was riding the driver-less metro train.
We had reconciled with the idea that it would be impossible to see all or even most of Paris in three days. We also had two of our friends who were there at the same time and had to adjust our itineraries accordingly. Our first day there, we just walked around our neighbourhood, passed Porte Saint-Denis and had dinner near Les Halles.
On the second day, a Monday, we explored the Canal Saint-Martin in the morning, where there was more locals around than tourists. Then in the afternoon, we walked from our apartment to Notre Dame, passing City Hall on the way. Avoiding the line to go in, we opted to just walk around and stay in the surrounding park. We crossed the Seine to get to the Latin Quarter, stopping by several bookshops like Shakespeare & Co. and Album Comics. I really enjoyed this neighbourhood and I loved just walking along the river. We caught a glimpse of the Sorbonne and then crossed a bridge again to find ourselves on Ile Saint-Louis. I wish we could’ve stayed a little longer on the island since I felt like I could pass a day just getting lost in the streets but we were trying to get to Place de la Bastille. Funny anecdote, once there, our friend asked if that was all there is. I had to remind him that the Bastille was torn down. He was unimpressed that only an obelisk stood in the middle of the square where the prison once stood.
Our last full day in Paris, a Tuesday, was spent hitting the big tourist spots: Trocadéro, Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. A memory that’s so vivid in my mind from my first trip to Paris was exiting the Trocadéro subway station and rounding the corner to be hit by the view of the Eiffel Tower. Recreating that moment with Keith was very special. Then on our way to the Arc de Triomphe, we passed by the Place des États-Unis, which Keith appreciated, being American.
After getting some shopping done at the Champs-Élysées, we said goodbye to our friends for a little bit, since I had planned a surprise excursion for Keith. We discovered the musical Hamilton earlier this year and we have been obsessed. A key figure in the musical and in history in general is the Marquis de Lafayette. Thanks to a little research, I found out that he was buried in Picpus Cemetery, the larger and one of only two private cemeteries in Paris. Lafayette is known as the Hero of Two Worlds after being involved in both the American and French revolutions, which is why an American flag is permitted to fly above his grave at all times and he is buried in American soil that he brought back from his visit to the US. Aside from Lafayette’s tomb, it also has two mass graves of the victims executed by guillotine during the Reign of Terror. The cemetery itself is very peaceful and secluded. While we were there, we didn’t encounter anyone else. It was the only time during our entire trip that Keith and I found ourselves completely alone in public. If you’re looking to visit a site that’s off the beaten path, this would be my recommendation.
A friend of ours from university gave us an extensive list of restaurant recommendations and I cannot thank her enough for them. For the best brunch, go to Holybelly which was super close to our apartment. It gets very busy though and we had to wait awhile but it was all worth it, especially since we were celebrating a friend’s birthday. Everything from Du Pain et des Idées was phenomenal. But my favourite meal of the entire trip has to be the pizza at Pink Flamingo. I didn’t believe it when people told me to eat pizza while in Paris but there’s something about it that makes it so good. Plus Pink Flamingo has amazing flavour combinations: I got the paella one. All of these restaurants are around the Canal Saint-Martin, which has got to be my favourite discovery during my second time in Paris.
We also had crepes near the Champs-Élysées and of course got some macarons from Ladurée. Plus one night we hit up one of the grocery stores near us for some charcuterie and cheese to go with our baguette from Du Pain et des Idées. The cheese we got had cumin in it which was amazing.
If you’re brave enough to try and fly macarons back, then by all means. I was not and instead opted to buy French soaps to give out as gifts instead. For myself, I also brought back a Longchamp bag since they were way cheaper to buy there than back in Canada.
While we didn’t go to the Louvre or visit Montmartre, I think we took full advantage of our short trip to Paris. It is one of my favourite cities in the world and I could see myself living there. I love the Parisian way of living, taking the time to enjoy everything from an espresso to an expensive meal. I didn’t mind the holier-than-thou attitude we sometimes got in but Keith wasn’t having it. He attempted to order a coffee in French and was met with a blank stare. So Keith liked it the least out of all the cities we visited but on our last night, when we had an impromptu meet-up with two more of our friends who just happened to be there too and sat outside a café drinking and laughing the night away, I knew Paris was finally growing on him.