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. ❤️