As a sort of “last adventure” I decided to go visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery yesterday. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cemetery, it’s absolutely beautiful and known for having the graves of celebrities such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Moliere and Delacroix. But what really too my breath away were the tombs of people who I had no idea who they were. There were some absolutely beautiful sculptures and a serious lack of weeping angels. But overall I spent a good 3 hours there and it was absolutely beautiful.
Versailles is such a massive residence that I split the gardens and the palace into two days! Today was day 2 and well, the only pictures I have (of me) I had to beg from disgruntled tourists, so they’re both a little abstract. Walking through Versailles palace is a pretty incredible experience, and takes French artistic and architectural beauty to an entirely new level.
But it also allows you to understand why there were disgruntled citizens during the French Revolution. So much beauty, so much splendor, but at what price? The sheer enormity of rooms that were used for little more than show, the amount of art and gold and crystal chandeliers shining from the ceilings! But I couldn’t help but feel like it was an overdone beauty, a beauty screaming for attention rather than allowing it to speak for itself. It’s such a contrast to some of the most beautiful (in my opinion) places I’ve traveled this year.
Yes, you can melt all the gold in the world onto pillars of marble, but give be the beauty of a mountain river or a salt winded beach any day over the pomp of kings.
There has always been something beautifully captivating, to me, about Marie Antoinette. Aside from the political issues, I’ve just always been a fan of hers. I’m pretty sure I spent an entire year of my childhood just studying her, her life and history (for fun. Nerd alert.). This whole year, while living in Paris, I’ve been about 15 minutes away from Versailles palace (by train) but I’d never gone because I wanted the experience to be perfect. I wanted the gardens to be beautiful, and the palace gold to be glistening in the sun. Sounds amazing, right?
Well, that wasn’t quite how things happened. See, it would appear that Paris is on a cloudy, rainy and cold stint that we can’t seem to shake, and the weeks are winding down quickly until I’ll be returning to the U.S. So, yesterday one of my friends and I decided to just hop on the train and go. It was cold. It was cloudy. But the beauty of the gardens still shone through the experience and I’m very happy to say that overall it was pretty magical.
The gardens are absolutely huge. And I know you might think that’s a given, but until you start to walk around them, you don’t really realize just how enormous ‘huge’ actually means. After two hours we still hadn’t seen everything, and trying to fit in the palace on the same day would have been exhausting, so Part 2 of this adventure will be happening (hopefully!) this Tuesday! So excited! I’m going to go eat some cake.
Living in such a tourist favorite city as Paris, I get a lot of friends who are visiting here and want to know what my perspective on the city is. For the sake of time management, and so I can help out as many people as possible with my faux Parisian opinions, I thought I would put together a post with the answers to some of the questions I get asked most frequently. Ready!? Let’s go!
1. Where should I stay?
There are tons of options for where to stay during your time in Paris! My personal favorites would probably be to either find a hostel to stay in or to find a place on Airbnb because Couchsurfing requests don’t work as often in such a huge city. The hostel that I stayed in the first time I came to Paris (which I would definitely recommend) is the BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau which is an affordable option for a city where money melts out of your pockets, if you’re not paying attention. This hostel had so many lovely memories for me. It was here that my friend and me met a couple of awesome backpackers who walked the streets of Paris with us, late at night. We had drinks at a café and talked about how different life was in each of our different countries (Brazil, Spain, USA and Romania). It was the quintessential Parisian moment and one of my favorite memories. The hostel itself is also just lovely and looks like a museum from the outside.
2. What should I see?
I think Paris does a great job with their most famous attractions, but if you want some personal suggestions I would say make sure you visit Montmartre and Sacre Coeur church. That’s my favorite area in Paris because it’s where all of the artist stores are. This is also where you can find the “famous” square where you can buy original paintings from Parisian artists! One time I got my silhouette cut out from one a man there and I absolutely love it. 🙂
Another favorite spot is the Gardens at Luxembourg, especially if it’s sunny outside. These gardens are absolutely beautiful and such a great place to sit, have a picnic, walk or sketch. But fair warning, if it’s a sunny and nice day this is a very WELL KNOWN spot for Parisians so you most certainly will not be alone.
My best suggestion is to look up things you love, such as the movie Mulan Rouge, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, or Midnight in Paris and then go from there. There are just so many amazing settings for stories that you can visit in real life. It’s amazing!
3. Should I stay away from anywhere in Paris?
I get a lot of questions asking what the “bad” parts of Paris are. The answer, of course, is not quite so simple. There are of course “bad” metro lines ( *cough* 13) that are a bit on the sketch line, but I would say to be aware no matter where you’re traveling in Paris. 1) Keep your valuables in zipped or buttoned pockets so people can’t slip their hands in and pick pocket you. 2) If you’re in a crowded space, and have a bag or purse, hold it over your shoulder and in front of you so it’s not hanging behind being gone through without your knowledge. 3) NEVER leave your bags unaccompanied 4) Don’t walk alone late at night down dark alley ways 5) If you feel like you’re in an area that’s less than serene keep your headphones out of your ears and keep aware of the people around you. The rules are pretty much the same for any big city – don’t be scared, be prepared.
4. How do I get around?
There are actually a few ways to get around, although the main ones that we use are the RER and the metro (sometimes other trains, but not as much for Paris proper). Paris actually has a pretty understandable system when it comes to metros and each line is color coded and numbered. If you ever need help when riding the metro feel free to ask the info places at the entrances to the stops (before you put your ticket in). They’re extremely helpful and have even been known to print directions for lost travelers or first time visitors to the city.
5. Do you have any favorite spots I should know about?
Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Paris is to just walk up and down the Seine river. It’s the closest thing we have to an ocean, and I miss Puget Sound so very much. I also love that it will take you along many of the major attractions. The gardens of Paris are also just simply magnificent. If there’s one thing the French excel at it’s making things beautiful and elaborate, and their gardens are no exception – if you have the opportunity to step into one with a book to read – do it. The atmosphere is lovely and oh so French.
Happy April Fools Day, everyone!! Or, as we like to call it in France: April FISH DAY.
Every Friday I try my best to push myself into the busy city and go see something wonderful and beautiful that Paris has to offer (hopefully dragging along some of my friends). Sometimes it’s a museum, sometimes’s it’s a garden, sometimes it’s a home of a famous person. But regardless of what it is, we try to make Friday our “fun day.”
Looking back I’m really glad we started doing this pretty much right off the bat of moving to Paris because Paris is one of those multi-layered cities where you think there are just a few things to see (Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower) but there are actually hundreds of places you’ll be sad if you miss.
So, every Friday we have an outing. And I really love them (especially since we have some sunshine, now!) A couple weeks ago we got to go see a really awesome exhibit at the Musee du Luxembourg and it was all portraits and history around the Tudor family and I just realized that I never wrote up a blog post about it – which is a shame.
I went through a pretty large part of my childhood OBSESSED with everything about the Tudor lineage, so I loved being able to see all of the beautiful original paintings! I did get to see a few of them when I was in London a couple of years ago, but the overall exhibit was a lot more extensive than anything else I’ve ever seen.
Afterwards we went to this swanky literal hole in the wall restaurant called Atelier Pied De Fouet and had the most magical burgers and fries. I don’t know why, but I seem to eat so many more burgers since living outside the U.S. But, you have to understand, when I say “burgers” I’m not talking about McDonalds. I mean juicy French burgers that drip goodness and savory sauces out the back as you try to fit their massivity somehow in your mouth for a bite. That kind.
The overall atmosphere of the restaurant was really relaxed when we got there, although it got crowded pretty quickly as the lunch rush began. The space is extremely small, so if you go visit I would suggest you do so during a non-rush hour period. The place did have Wifi (but you have to ask for the password and they print you one out). But overall I was just really reminded of Seattle by the vintage hipster feel of the restaurant and the tattooed staff. Sigh. I miss my home city so much. But if you’re in Paris and want a taste of Seattle culture, this is your place to go! (P.s. This place is kind of pricey – for a burger and fries it was 14 euro, which is a lot more than we would usually pay. The burger was worth it, and HUGE, but I want to make sure you know what you’re walking into) Cheers!
Life in Paris isn’t all crepes and picturesque walks along the Seine. But sometimes they are, and I think it’s fun to share with all of you darlings what one of the fun outing days of my life looks like! This time the feature was the Picasso Museum along with some other beautiful spots in Paris.
We started off in the 3rd Arrondissement, which is the most “hipster” spot I’ve found in Paris (so far). There are lots of little shops, chic cafes and art shops and galleries. If you’re looking for a more low key artist vibe while in Paris this is the spot to head to.
Our first stop (because rule #1 is never go to a museum hungry) was a sweet little cafe located near the Picasso Museum named Royal Bar. This little cafe was the quintessential Parisian experience. It was filled with art and made me feel like I had been transported back to the Paris of Hemingway. The tea was lovely (although, fair warning – when you order you’re ordering a pot, not a cup, so it’s a bit more expensive) and the man working there gave us some of the best lemon square type deserts I’ve ever had. It was sublime.
After we had had some caffeine and some little desserts we headed over to see Picasso, because if you’re in Paris and don’t see Picasso what are you even doing with your life? It has kind of become ridiculous how many original pieces of classical art I’ve seen since living in Europe. It’s like my history books have jumped off of the pages, and it’s pretty incredible. Picasso hasn’t really been a favorite of mine, in the past, but I’m a strong believer that seeing work by “The Masters” makes an artist more rounded.
The museum was such a beautiful building, I loved being able to see the amazing architecture and I fell in love with the floors. Yes, the floors. There’s something about black and white checkered floors that will get me every time.
After we’d tipped our hats to Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse we headed over to walk along the shops surrounding. We found this absolutely beautiful shop called Papier Tigre. I loved the geometric feel of their designs and the minimalism. If I wasn’t a broke expat I would have bought the whole store.
Our next stop was for some yummy drinks and the best wall decoration any place can have – books! This was actually our second time at this Merci cafe because the first time we went we made the mistake of going on a Saturday. In case you don’t know about Paris, some of the best advice I have for actually getting into places is to not go on Saturdays. Go any other day of the week, but Saturday is the “going out” day (while Sunday is more for staying in with family) in France. My partner in crime ordered a Pear flavored alcohol and I grabbed a banana, apple and kiwi smoothy which was just so good (even though it sounds awkward). It seemed fitting to end our day with a such a lovely cafe. Our day was so lovely and I love finding new spots that make me feel a little less like a stranger in Paris.
This cafe is one of the most hipster cool experience you’ll find (Paris or otherwise) while begin a great cafe, it’s also filled wall to wall with used books. In addition to the antlers hanging on the walls, there are also vintage chandeliers that are just lovely. There is also a lovely store adjoining that has everything for your hipster needs ( no really, you’ll understand when you walk in).
It took us a couple of times to get into this cafe because the first time we tried to go it was a Saturday – which was a mistake in the first place. In fact, I would advise staying away from such establishments on Saturdays in general. Saturdays are the French “go out-hang out” days, so you’ll probably find yourself packed in a place if you do. Sundays, in contrast are a great day to go out (especially early) because most French people stay in with their families on Sundays, or do things that don’t involve going out (unless it’s to a park or something).
Overall the experience was great and our servers were just the nicest.
Ordered: Banana, Apple and Kiwi smoothy (so good!)
Where: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 73003 Paris, France
Went: Friday, March 6th, 2015 around 1pm
Wifi: Unknown. I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to check.
This past weekend was so filled with goodness that it’s hard for me to even put together a blog post, but here are some of the highlights! Saturday was such a whirlwind of awesome. We started off visiting The Catacombs, which I’ve decided is one of the creepiest tourist attractions I’ve ever experienced.
Why waiting for an hour to see the skulls and bones of dead people is a thing, I may never know, but it’s one of those experiences that you’ll never forget (and can always brag about – which is a win! 😉 ) The experience itself consists of walking down down down into the depths of the earth and then coming out on piles and piles of bones, murky lighting and extremely humid recycled air. I wouldn’t suggest this attraction for anyone who experiences fear of being underground or claustrophobia. The key, though, is to not think about how far you are underground…or the fact that you’re walking through a tomb of millions of dead people.
After the Catacombs we jumped over to the Luxembourg gardens (after devouring some crepes, which are pretty much my Paris addiction) and hung out there a while. The steps up and down into the pit of The Catacombs was definitely a workout, so it was nice to sit down for a bit. The only danger of three American girls in the gardens, though, is French guys thinking the “nice American girls” are the perfect target for potential kisses and practical jokes. ” But we took it in stride. Maybe American girls are just really nice.
Our next stop was the home of Ernest Hemingway, and I would be lying if I said it was anyone’s “fault” other than mine that we went there. Hemingway is kind of a literary crush of mine (the geek in me is showing) so being able to stand outside his old apartment, in the neighborhood he called home was pretty incredible. There was even a cafe underneath the apartment which he wrote about in his book A Moveable Feast! Definitely worth the extra trek over there from the gardens.
Overall the day was just jam packed with fun and awesome memories. I’m so excited for the days to start getting warmer as spring arrives in Paris. We’ve all been a little cooped up over the winter months since it has been absolutely frigid, but now we can go out and see more of the city! More adventures to come!
Being in Paris can feel REALLY isolating, sometimes. You would think, in a city with 7 million people, that it would be easier than a lot of places to make new friends, but living in such a huge city means having a lot of other obstacles, as well (not to mention a language barrier). One of my goals, since being here, has been to make more Parisian friends, though, so I’ve really been trying to be intentional about going out and meeting some new people, despite my desire to sit inside all day and read.
Last Friday I took up the challenge, though and headed over to Coutume Cafe. It was such a fun time because I got the opportunity to meet up with some absolutely delightful women (and one guy!) who all live in Paris, all through our mutual Twitter followings! I know, I know, you’re all thinking it’s weird that I went and hung out with random people from Twitter – but it wasn’t! It was so much fun, and already having the basis of being travelers, Twitter peeps and bloggers (some of us) made it even more fun to meet up!
I went by myself, so it was a little bit intimating at first, but I ended up meeting some amazing people and finally making some new friends in this enormous city. It just goes to show you, stubbornness is a key factor in getting things done when you’re living the expat life. Here are some of the lovelies I met, so you all can follow them too!
Ami Cadugan @amytakesonparis
Elodie’s Paris @Paris_by_Elodie
Mama Loves Paris @mamalovesparis
Catherine Nicholson @ACatinParis
Zheng-Hao Chen @TeddyCHEN
Paula Schuck @inkscrblr