Paris, je t’aime, comme toujours.

It was important to me on this trip to not overbook/over schedule anything and truly enjoy playing it by ear day to day. I had been lucky on previous trips seeing all the “must see” sights and activities, and with how busy Paris was feeling I was glad to not have to stand in many lines or crowds, aside from the occasional metro ride.

One of the few plans I had made this trip was purchasing an advanced ticket to the Orangerie first thing on Monday morning. I wanted to revisit the zen-like infinity sign rooms containing Monet’s famous water lilies. I was there first thing as they opened the doors and my fellow early visitors and I seemed to have the same idea; to enjoy a quiet and peaceful early visit before the day and people get louder and busier. 

As always, it is just as wonderful as I remember. 

After that I wandered through the Tuileries Gardens, religiously following the pathways of shade on another very warm day. Truly, the trees and dry leaves on the ground felt like we were much closer to the autumn season than I was expecting. Maybe the next time I visit it should be in the fall….

On my way home I grabbed breakfast (croissant, coffee, and iced earl grey tea) and explored a bit of the 9th arrondissement (just south of the Blvd de Clichy. There are so many beautiful small garden areas lining streets or on strange wedges of intersections, with trees and flowers of various shapes and sizes.

Along the way I came across La Musee da la Vie Romantique, and spent the rest of the morning looking at their free collections, afterwards having some tea in their beautiful garden. 

I made my way back through Montmartre and zigzagged my way down other new streets of restaurants, cafes, art galleries and souvenir shops.

One evening I made my way over to the Champs Des Mars to see the Eiffel Tower at night, and though I thought I had seen my fill of tourists around Montmartre, there were even more surrounding the base of the Eiffel Tower; people were lining the side streets, filling the bridges, and crouching between lanes of cars to get the perfect photo of their travelling buddies with the Eiffel Tower as a proof-I-was-here memento. 

The highlight of the week was meeting up with my good friends Hugo and Arnaud at a cafe in Montparnasse as they were passing through from a wedding out of town and then a couple hours later were headed back to the train station for the last bit of their summer vacation.

We met at Cafe Odessa for some iced beverages and to catch up on the 6 years that blasted by us since we last saw each other. Life and love and work and travels were a full list, and we chatted until their had to grab their luggage and book it back to the train station. No matter what, making time to meet friends, if only for a coffee or an iced lemonade, is completely worth it when you are travelling. It’s a boost to your mood for sure!

While I was in the Montparnasse area I took a walk through the cemetery there. A bright sunshiney and very hot day, the mood was much different than the misty, moody visit to the Montmartre Cemetery on my first day here. I also stopped to watch a mason work under the shade of a big beach umbrella, meticulously hand carving lettering into a new granite tombstone. 

I then walked back to Jardin Du Luxembourg for another visit, armed with an iced coffee and my sketchbook, and I found a great seat close to end of my favourite fountain and relished in the shade of the tree canopy overhead, the ivy garlands framing the space, and the sound of the water. I had always wanted to do a line drawing of the shield/coat of arms at the top of the fountain and finally took the time. I can’t remember the last time I had sketched something. It was awesome.

I meandered through the familiar area of the 5th, past the Odeon Theatre, past the Pantheon and Saint-Etienne-du-Mont church, to outside the Odeon metro station for the best beurre & sucre crepe so far in Paris- and for the best price as well. 

On my last full day, which just so happened to be clear skies and a sunny +33 degrees, I followed the suggestions of two other travellers from an amazing travel facebook group. First thing, I took the metro out to the 16th Arrondissement, and visited the Marmotten Monet Museum. The main level had an assortment of beautiful pieces, including a very cool collection of art from the Middle Ages, and a room swords in designed for specific academics and artists and scholars (including Marcel Marceau), but down in the basement was truly my favourite part.

There was an incredible collection of more paintings inspired by Monet’s garden and famous water lilies. This gallery was much quieter than the Orangerie, with so few people it almost felt like a private viewing. 


The collection even included Monet’s “Impression, sunrise”: the painting they say inspired the name for the “Impressionism” movement.

What a coup! I couldn’t be happier than to have followed this suggestion. 

This was my first time in this part of Paris and as I was researching the 16th I decided that next time I am in Paris I want to rent a bike and check out the Bois de Boulogne just west of here, which looks like another incredible park full of nature trails and botanical gardens, lates, and art installations!

It was in this area that I also found a (free) water station that gave you the options of still water or sparkling mineral water! Fancy, Paris. Fancy.

On the second #GLT recommendation of the day, I booked a ticket for that evening to see a concert at Sainte-Chapelle. As we walked in my jaw dropped and I was in awe at the beauty of the wall-to-wall stained glass windows, elegant arches and ornate gilded trim and artwork.

A string quintet consisting of three violins, one viola, a cello, and accompanied by a harpsichord, played an incredible evening including the most passionate, vibrant, and playful version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons that I have ever heard in my life and I was in heaven. Between the sound in that space, and the glorious atmosphere I felt transported back to another time. I cannot recommend this enough!

I very happilly headed home through the Marais and Les Halles areas, with every kind of restaurant and bar you could imagine opening and bustling. 

Just like before, I felt safe in Paris the entire time. I’mdefinitely a steretypically ‘nice’ Canadian who will smile at strangers and say hello or good morning, which is not helpful in places like Paris and can lead to glares, confusion, or unwanted attention and so it took some active practice! 

I travelled with my earbuds in (either playing music on low or not at all), and worked very hard on my “Resting Unimpressed Parisenne” face. The more you look un-wowed by Paris,the more you fit in, I feel. 

Other than that I continued to practice my French all week and found that for the most part the locals were quite patient with me, or alternatively assumed I knew way more than I did and started speaking quickly until perhaps my eyes widened a bit in confusion or polite panic… lol

And then just like that, it was my last sunset in Paris, an early rise the next morning, and I was off to the airport to pick up my first ever European car rental to whip out of the city and head to the countryside south west of Paris, where I had last been a whopping 6 (how is it 6??) years ago!

A bientot, Paris!

2022 & at it again! TRAVELLING!

After much-anticipated trips to Ontario for joyous family wedding celebrations the past two summers, I was inspired to go further and head across the Atlantic Ocean again.

Originally anticipating a road trip with a friend, I knew I wanted to include visits with my small town France pals, get some Paris time in, and then explore a country I hadn’t been to before.

I flew out of Toronto’s Pearson airport (‘only’ 3.5 hours delayed, aka a story for another post), slept a little bit on a very full flight with the definite help from earplugs and an eye mask, and arrived only a little ragged at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris the next morning!

With sheer force of will (and a very durable brand new Osprey backpack), I travelled with only carry-on for this month-long trip, determined to have a trip without any lost luggage strife that seems so common these days. It felt extremely efficient to leave the plane, head through customs (including a lovely albeit brief chat with an Italian customs agent who was quite satisfied when I told him my favourite part of Italy was Sardegna), and then straight to the metro line.

I took the RER train from the airport into the city, which is usually an easy way in and time-wise pretty efficient with minimal stops. As it was, there were train issues so the only option was the regular train that has multiple stops on the way in. I wasn’t bothered at all, and figured that it just meant I had extra time to let it sink in I was really back in France after 6 years!

It still hadn’t really felt real until I got to the top of the stairs at the Blanche metro stop. My first sight was the Moulin Rouge across the street, and in my periphery I saw the glisten of souvenir keychains, the rainbow selection of felt berets, and racks and racks of postcards on the nearby street corners. There was the familiar smells of perfume and crepes and cigarettes, as well as the sounds of passing bicycle bells and chatter in multiple languages as tourists tried to get unique selfies in front of the famous red windmill.

With an hour to spare before checking into my hotel, I walked along the cobblestones throughout the Cimitière Montmatre. The day was overcast but bright, with a drizzle of rain saturating the moss on the oldest gravestones and dropping some drier leaves on the ground making it feel more like autumn than summer.

I stayed at the Citadines Montmartre Hotel, and it was the perfect fit for this week. 

The rooms are simply designed, clean, and modern and I loved the view from my room. 

 

One very cool thing the Citadines do in their kitchenettes is seal the cupboard so you know they cleaned the dishes after the previous guest. Love this.

The lobby and breakfast area has cute style with a great accent wall and a couple of luxurious aubergine-coloured velvet couches. Breakfast was available for an added fee but I either made my own in my kitchenette, or I walked to a nearby bakery or cafe; one of my favourite things to do in France.

But truly, I was drawn to this hotel for a particular reason, and that was the rooftop patio. It sits above the neighbouring tile roofs with numerous clay chimneys and garden terraces, with a stunning view of the Sacre Coeur and the cityscape around it. You can even see the Eiffel Tower if you peek around the building in the opposite direction.

I stopped by some fruit stands and small shops and dove head first into practicing my French speaking with locals, and the rusty wheels of language in my brain started to squeakily turn after the last several years without much practice. 

Feeling a little more Parisian: armed with melon, camembert, bread, grapes, cherry tomatoes and cured meat, I had the perfect simple dinner to enjoy on the patio and my evening with the roof all to myself was a perfect way to end my first day in Paris. 

Day 2 started late as I was catching up on lack of sleep and jet lag from my 12 hour overnight travels, and I only got up at midday, heading to a nearby boulangerie and café for a croissant and espresso. (It still feels strange to go into a Starbucks in Paris, even though they are as commonplace here as back home.)

The sun was shining and the streets were bustling with tour groups and locals making their way along the road and sidewalks.

I walked up Rue du Coulaincourt, and explored streets of Montmartre I hadn’t walked along before, falling in love with the city all over again. I felt like a character in the movie French Kiss, with trailing flowers and vines on windowsills and over walls making every street feel more romantic.

“Beautiful! Wish you were here!”

I thought it would be fun to visit the Sacre Coeur again, as it’s  a wonderful spot to people watch. As I got closer to it, the streets got busier and busier and by the time I got to the base of the church, it felt like the absolute peak of the high season in July, when Paris gets a huge influx of international tourists on summer vacation.

Many people know about the Pont Des Arts “love locks” bridge in Paris, but that memorable place is no longer (bridge sides replaced with glass panels) and now it seems like a new location for this is along the fences across the road from the Sacre Coeur. They are now thickly engulfed a brass textured blanket of locks; some locks are engraved, others have names scrawled across them with permanent marker. 

Multiple sellers are set up around the church with trinkets like miniature twinkling Eiffel towers and wooden toy trains, and a musician with a guitar plays music that echoes on the nearby buildings. 

It was definitely too busy for me so I continued my walk away from the hilltop.

I made my way to Place Du Tertes and I am sure that there were some of the same artists there were 6-8 years ago when I was here last, including several portrait artists with various styles and techniques, surrounded by admirers and keeping very busy. 

The sun was its own artist, painting buildings with a golden hue at sunset, and more street musicians’ instruments and voices underscored my walk home past many restaurants and bars lining the streets with tables and wine and food. 

I headed home to bed for an easy night and proper unpack, but I had forgotten it was Saturday night and the noise from bars and restaurant patios went late into the evening. The city of Paris partied well after I called it a night, but there’s a familiarity to that too, and I don’t really mind it at all.

On Sunday I headed over to the Jardin Du Luxembourg, one of my all-time favourite spots, and took in some wandering, lying on the shaded grass, and lounging in the green metal chairs strewn around the fountains and garden beds.

I revisited the Medici Fountain and sipped an iced coffee as I listened to the water trickling over the steps and admired the sculpture and surrounding landscape and gardening.

I spent some more time in Montmartre, making mental notes of restaurant options, looking at art galleries and shops; finding some old favourite places like the playful Pylones and picking up a couple *tiny* souvenirs (though I really would love a charmingly frivolous toaster and cooking set if I was not travelling with carry-on only…).

At the recommendation of a friend, I searched out Cafe de Luce in Montmartre for a terrace dinner, French language practice (or blatant eavesdropping, I suppose), and being humbly reminded it’s a “carafe”  d’eau, not “bouteille”.

The evening also included one dancing waiter, who sheepishly grinned and shrugged when he saw me watching his impromptu performance. The terrace seating was across the street from the restaurant in a square under the natural canopy of very tall trees, and the sun beams squeaked through the streets nearby as the sun started setting.

I was completely full after a loaded burger with pickled onions and thick bacon, fries with heavenly in-house French mayo (if you know, you know), a rosé, and vanilla crème brûlée for dessert.

A trio including a melodica (or what I first called a ‘flute piano’) serenaded us for part of our dinner and then a solo accordionist arrived just after I finished my crème brûlée. Perhaps he is the same one that I walked by earlier tonight at another cafe… 

Dinner felt delightfully indulgent and special, and I definitely added some longer streets to my walk home to help digest the generous servings of a delicious dinner. 

The sky that night had tufts of magenta clouds and a periwinkle blue backdrop, and the clouds slowly dissolved, the sky fading to more of a powder cobalt.

I strolled over to see the Sacre Coeur and by the time I got there it was lit bone white in bright contrast to a now navy sky.

 

By the end of the weekend, I had heard “La Vie En Rose” played live by wandering accordion players, buskers in train stations, and musicians in the Place Du Tertre, which meant I had heard it each and every day I have been in Paris so far. And I don’t mind in the slightest!

My heart is so incredibly happy to be back here. ❤️