Whether or not you love cities I believe everyone has a fascination with one city. Paris has always been my fascination. Finally after years of drawing it, painting it, reading about it, watching movies about it, listening to music about it and from it, and pestering my husband to speak its language, I finally went to Paris. I was terribly excited to be attaining the top spot on my travel hit list; and I was trying to keep a level head about it, so as not to develop insurmountable expectations. Thusly, it was everything, and nothing, like I had expected.
You can not travel with an unlimited amount of time. You can’t rush to see everything. You need to make decisions and not worry about the rest. My to-do list was very long. It required me to see the inside and outside of almost every site in every neighborhood. Paris is too big for that. You could die of exhaustion before your visit felt complete. I vowed to have no agenda, only a “potential” agenda.
If you are not traveling alone you need to be a considerate companion and accommodate the needs of your fellow traveler. As much as I wanted to get lost in art museums, staring at walls all day isn’t Phil’s idea of a good time. Since Paris has plenty to admire without actually entering buildings, that is exactly what we did. The weather cooperated and I couldn’t be more pleased with my trip.
Satisfied? No, but for Paris I will forever be insatiable, so we’ll settle with “pleased.”
We stayed in Chinatown. I’d actually, more lovingly, refer to it as Graffititown. In addition to fabulous Asian and Indonesian restaurants, this neighborhood boasts the Gallery Itinerrance and a self-guided mural tour. Of particular note, there is currently a grand exhibit titled “La Tour Paris 13” at 5 rue Fulton, 13e. It’s the work of over 100 street artists from around the world; on view for a limited time. Unless we wanted to donate an entire day to the prospect, we stood no chance of getting in. The average wait is 3-5 hours with a line wrapping the block.
Just to be at the site was inspirational. The artwork on the outside of the building was impressive, and I find it developmental that such a large, diverse crowd of people were in support of the masterpiece. I hope that inclination for this art form expands.
Of course you can’t be in Paris without spending your first night at the cabaret. To be definitive, a cabaret is dinner and a variety show. So in the spirit of Le Chat Noir, Moulin Rouge,Toulouse-Lautrec, Edith Piaf, Laurel & Hardy, Josephine Baker, and Can-Canners everywhere…we did it. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about dinner and boobs, but it was more than that. It was mature, and funny, and impressive, and theatrical; a real celebration of the early 20th century.
Sorry. No photos.
We spent the entire Saturday in Montmartre. We started the day by meeting our guide at the famous Abesses metro stop. He showed us everything in Montmartre from a refreshing Catholic church (his church), to the cafe from the movie Amelie, to the best spots for street art, to the best baker, to the market, to the fabric district, to the Au Lapin Agile, to the to the vineyard (which potentially makes the worst wine in France) to the Sacre Coeur. The list could go on. It was unbelievable.
Phil and I are forever indebted to Johnathan for our over-the-moon insight into Montmartre. It’s the one neighborhood in Paris that doesn’t really consider itself part of Paris. It’s the mecca for artists, poets, and writers; a real place of depravity in the eyes of the up-standers. As we stood on the top of the hill of Montmartre amidst its village atmosphere, we couldn’t help but be charmed.
We found our greeter, Jonathan, through the Global Greeter Network. It’s a website that links travelers with greeters, not tour guides. The entire situation is free, although they ask for donations on the website. The greeters aren’t tour guides because they are volunteers. They give the tour because they love their city and neighborhood and want to ensure you (as a traveler) appreciate and love it too. It’s an unorthodox, yet comfortable tour that isn’t predetermined. If you need a bit more standardization to your touring, than a normal company might still be more your speed.
As we began our Sunday it was a bit disturbing to be without a guide. You experience depression as you come to terms with the fact that you have to show yourself around, and look up all the information you want (or need) in your guide book or travel app. Luckily, the BatoBus came to our salvation. It’s a super-touristy boat that floats up and down the Seine. It has eight stops and you can get on and off wherever you like; the Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, etc.
One of my more-favorite details to Sunday was that I had coffee at Les Deux Magots and a beer at Harry’s New York Bar. Like the cabaret, I felt the need to make my pilgrimage in celebration of those who’d come before me; Hemingway, Sartre, and de Beauvoir to Les Deux Magots, and the International Bar Flies Association to Harry’s.
It wasn’t until Sunday evening that we actually came to the Eiffel Tower. It was one of the most beautiful and romantic evenings Phil and I have ever spent; sitting on a park bench chatting away the night with a bottle of wine and a sparkling masterpiece in the sky. It’s a wonder that the charisma of that monument has never tired. It welcomes millions every year, most of us for the same reason, and we all depart its lawn in awe of what we’ve experienced.
On Monday we caught up with the rest of the sites we’d been neglecting; namely the Arc de Triumph, Grand Palais, and Petit Palais, and (as if we hadn’t walked enough) a stroll through the Luxemberg gardens.
It’s amazing; the list of what we’ve enjoyed is as long as the list of things we didn’t. Just so, I’ve only exposed the ankle of the can-can dancer that was my weekend in Paris.
But it’s as they say, “The secret to being a bore is to tell everything.” I learned that from John Baxter, but I think he learned it from Voltaire.