May 29 – June 10
From Brussels we took the train to Paris and arrived at the Gare du Nord in the early afternoon. We had a lovely, little tiny apartment in the fifth arrondissement, the Latin Quarter. We spent a wonderful but very busy twelve days in the City of Lights where we ate too much good food, drank too much cheap but good wine, visited too many museums, ate too many macarons, and generally over indulged. It was glorious.
I love Paris and have been there a bunch of times, and even lived there for a semester in college. I originally wanted to spend my thirtieth birthday in Paris, but then I waffled back and forth for a while: There are so many other places in the world to check out, did I really want to “waste” two weeks going somewhere I’ve already been? Would Martin enjoy spending so much time in such a big city? Is Paris too overrated and expensive? Did I want to make a big deal out of my thirtieth or just let it pass by?
The answers were, respectively: Yes; yes; no; and yes!
We had a really great time in Paris. Martin and I were both pleasantly surprised that he even enjoyed the city! We got to most of the major sights and museums during our stay; we went on treks to find the best baguette / croissant / Paris-Brest / gelato / falafel / etc. and caught up with old friends in town; and we spent a fair amount of time just being flâneurs, aimlessly wandering around town for hours. We even did things that I had never done in Paris before!
We fully embraced Parisian life: pastries from the local patisserie for breakfast, wandering the local markets for dinner ingredients, daily run to the local bakery for baguette, leisurely lunches and late dinners, people-watching while having an aperitif or digestif at a cafe, people-watching while relaxing in parks, taking the metro all around.
I picked our Airbnb apartment because I know the neighborhood (rue Monge / rue Mouffetard) quite well. The parents of a friend of mine from high school (Hi, Marina!) have a great little apartment in the area, at which I have stayed on several occasions so I’m familiar with the great neighborhood markets, the parks nearby, and navigating the area’s streets and metro stops. From our apartment we could walk to Notre Dame cathedral, take the metro directly to the Musée du Louvre, walk across the Seine to the Marais district, shop at two local markets (place Monge and rue Mouffetard), walk to two major parks (Jardin du Luxembourg and the Jardin des Plantes), and easily get to so many restaurants and cafés. I think part of the reason Martin actually enjoyed Paris so much was that I was able to come up with sights and activities and lead us all around the city, sharing my memories of living there and whatever historical tidbits I could remember.
One of our goals on this grand adventure is to experience local cuisine and hopefully learn how to cook some of it ourselves as well. To that end, we had signed up for a French macaron cooking class for our first full day in Paris! There are so many amazing French foods that we could spend a fortune and a lifetime trying to master just some of them. But to make it more manageable (and affordable), we chose to just learn to make macarons. We had tried to make them before to some success, but there is quite a bit of technique required to have them turn out correctly. The class was actually very fun and informative, and we ended up with about five dozen delicious macarons between the two of us! I never thought I would say it, but we had too many macarons. 😱
Another highlight was getting to see some friends, especially since we hadn’t seen anyone we know since we left Galway at the begging of our Ireland trip. When I posted about our trip on Facebook, a friend of mine from high school (Hi, Ariya!) reached out and said that she’s living in Paris and that we should meet up when Martin and I are in town. I don’t think we had seen each other in at least a decade but as we were catching up it felt like no time had passed. We met up with Ariya and her boyfriend at the Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais, where we enjoyed some Moroccan food while catching up about old friends, talking about life, and exchanging travel stories in English, French, and Japanese (I got to practice my French, Martin got to practice some Japanese, and Ariya’s boyfriend Yoshi got to practice his English). The afternoon flew by while we were talking!
We also got to see our friend Jarrett from home, when he was in Paris on a 52-hour layover for work. It was fun having him over to our Paris apartment for some hors d’oeuvres and wine, like we used to do in San Francisco. And he brought us some special treats from Japan. 🙂 As wonderful as traveling is, as much as we love each other, it’s those long term personal relationships that we miss the most. So it was really great to catch up with him, to share a couple meals and several bottles of wine, and to just hang out comfortably with a familiar face. Plus, I got to show Jarrett some things in Paris that he had never done before!
Since we were finally in a place for more than a few days, we used our time in Paris to also get some things done: running errands, trip-planning, working, writing, etc. For Christmas, we each got a pair of Allbirds—super comfy wool sneakers—to take with us as our casual walking shoes. Unfortunately, after just over a month of wear, mine were starting to come apart a bit (not a ding against Allbirds! they have really great customer service and are going to work with us to replace them when we get home). We wanted to find some Aqua-seal (or its equivalent) to glue my shoes back together, and when we spotted an outdoor gear store we popped in. Turns out, it was only camping gear and we were sent across the street to the climbing gear store, who then sent us to the rafting store where we were sure we’d find it, but then the rafting store sent us to the sailing store up the street who then sent us to the spearfishing store, who in turn directed us around the corner to the diving store where we finally found what we were looking for! It was like if REI split up into lots of little specialized gear stores in a three-block radius, but then none of the stores actually talked to each other. But, my shoes are firmly back together and we had a great laugh.
Paris is a very fun and vibrant city, and even though it might be considered a cliché tourist destination, I still love it. Just being in the city is a wonderful experience in itself, and it’s actually not hard to avoid the throngs of tourists to go somewhere more “authentic.” Also, despite what some people say, I don’t find the Parisians to be particularly rude or off-putting. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But, twelve days in Paris is not enough. There’s still so much that I would love to show Martin, and so much that I have yet to discover in the city!
Stayed tuned for more stories and pictures from Paris!