I couldn’t be more of a quixotic maniac falling deep into the idea that Paris is the city of love and lights. Several people have asked me why I’d go there after “all that’s happened.” It’s kind of an absurd question, don’t you think? For a while, Paris, accompanied by its tales of charms and artistic roots, occupied the number one spot on my wanderlist. At this moment, I’d say it holds third place. The bottom line is there are awful events of domestic terrorism and hate occurring in our very own country, so why would foreign terrorism or policy frighten me? Anything can happen to you, even in your own living room. I’m not implying that I’m absolutely fearless or a danger-seeker, but I do reject the idea that traveling abroad is a guaranteed dance with terror.
I’ve been in wanderlust since I was a child and it will never change. Traveling is and has always been intoxicating and liberating. The unfamiliar is intriguing, and my eccentricity and wild, adventurous spirit come alive! My awareness is heightened, my perception of culture is clearer, and I always want to connect with the locals. Travel is a tremendous learning experience no matter the circumstances. I’m climbing through the windows to the world, cultivating beautiful memories while making the planet my home.
Check out some of the highlights from the 7 days my husband and I spent in the most “Beautiful City in the World”.
The 8 hour, red-eye flight to Paris was a smooth one with plenty of food, drinks, and entertainment. I watched Bad Moms during dinner and had enough champagne to ease me into a five and a half hour sleep before landing in Paris around 11 a.m. Getting through customs was a quick and easy process because there was no one in line. We got our passports stamped, grabbed a taxi, and it was off to our hotel in the 19th arrondissement.
The taxi ride was not the ideal introduction to Parisian culture as the driver expressed how great American music is, and that Jay-Z and Beyonce are the king and queen. Needless to say, outside of the visuals, I felt like I was in the U.S. for a few extra minutes.
We strategically chose a hotel outside of Paris Centre, because we always prefer to be among locals than a sea of tourists. Canal de la Villette is a contemporary, eco-friendly hotel ideally located on the Canal de l’Ourcq’s banks with a wood-clad exterior and solar-panel roof. Our balcony overlooked Bassin de la Villette.
<TIP> Travel with your own face towels. A lot of hotels don’t provide them.
We dropped off our luggage and headed to lunch at Le Bastringue Bistrot, a quaint French bistro on the dock of La Villette. The semi-circle bar fits perfectly in the center of two rooms surrounded by old, folding glass doors that separate the inside from the lovely terrace. Here is where our Parisian experience truly began. Even on the cool autumn day, there were clouds of cigarette smoke hovering over the few locals who were sitting on the terrace, sipping espresso or wine and having enthusiastic French conversations.
We walked into the bistro and I approached the bar. The bartender said “Bonjour!” I replied, “Bonjour, Monsieur! Je parle français en peu. Je voudrais dejourner s’il vous plait” He invited us to sit at the bar and I ordered us each a glass of Beaujoulais. The bartender explained how I ordered the perfect wine because it was Beaujolais Nouveau Day. This special day for wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts is celebrated in France on the third Thursday in November with fireworks, music and festivals. Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 a.m., just weeks after the wine’s grapes have been harvested. Parties are held throughout France to celebrate the first wine of the season.
We ordered lunch, and with our broken French answered questions asked by a group of gentlemen who were also sitting at the bar. Of course they mentioned Trump and explained how “He’s bad for the world.” We can surely agree on that.
After lunch, they invited us to play Pétanque, a popular french game where the goal is to toss or roll hollow steel balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground. My first few rounds were poor, but then I got the hang of it, and Pétanque is a new obsession.
Once the sun set we took an evening stroll around the neighborhood before returning to our room to unpack and spend the rest of the evening watching French films, and ordering food from the hotel bar.
We started the day with a walk to La Flûte de Meaux, a boulangerie/pâtisserie on Rue de Meaux, for an assortment of breakfast goodies.
Après le petit déjeuner, we explored Parc de la Villette. Parc de la Villette is the third-largest park in Paris. It’s home to Europe’s largest science museum, Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (City of Science and Industry,) three major concert venues, the Conservatoire de Paris, and an adorable amusement park for kids.
After we finished exploring the park, our jet-lag got the best of us so we returned to our hotel room to nap. We woke in the early evening, took a walk along the canal, then returned to Le Bastringue Bistrot for a late-lunch with some familiar faces. We were also still in dire need of espresso, and thanks to the caffeine, we sat and mingled over a bottle of Irancy until close to midnight.
We had breakfast at our hotel which was only French bread and orange juice as we were trying not to stray too far from our vegan lifestyle. Then we caught an uber to Montmartre. Montmartre is a large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement (district) that’s home to the churches Basilique du Sacré-Cœur and Saint Pierre de Montmartre.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, many notable artists, including Dalí, Modigliani, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, and expatriates such as Langston Hughes lived, worked, or had studios in or around Montmartre while drawing some of their inspiration from the area.
The walk up the hill to Montmartre along the cobblestone streets led to this large tourist trap. It’s to be expected. Montmartre is a special place full of artistic energies and historic localities. There are also unparalleled views of Paris.
While at in Montmartre district, Tony and I visited Espace Dalí, a permanent exhibition devoted to surrealist artist Salvador Dalí’s engravings and three-dimensional sculptures. Espace Dalí was our major reason for visiting the Montmartre district. Salvador Dalí is easily one of my favorite visual artists ever.
Although the museum is small, it has approximately 300 original works. If you’re planning to visit, don’t expect to be here long. We were in and out within an hour which sparked slight disappointment. Perhaps my disappointment will be rectified when I visit Dalí Theatre and Museum in Spain.
After leaving Espace Dalí, we explored the side streets of the district. It reminded me very much of the French Quarter in New Orléans except on hills. We found plenty of hidden gems, like my Chanel and Kenzo blouses and other such things, inside the boutiques and vintage shops.
After our little shopping spree, we continued downhill to the red-light district of Pigalle. Pigalle is named after the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. Josephine Baker opened her first nightclub in this district, and this is where you can get your true “Parisian Nights” experience. We explored the area, stopped for a bite to eat, and called it a night around 2 a.m.
We slept in, had a very late lunch then got ready for TSOA’s show at Salle Pleyel in the eighth district. I’m a huge fan of Trombone Shorty and Orléans Ave., and totally rocked out during the ninety minute set. The special guests were Lenny Kravitz and Craig Ross. I almost lost my mind!
Check out some footage I captured during the show below.
After the show, a bus load of us went to eat at Babylone Bis in the second district. The Cajun/Creole/Caribbean restaurant is open from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. The food is top notch and we had a ball!
We slept in, had lunch, then made our way to the first arrondissement. Along the way, we picked up some roasted hazelnuts and ran into Molière.
Molière is known as the creator of French comedy. He was a playwright and actor who collapsed on stage just hours before his death. I studied him during undergrad when I was a theatre major.
We hung out at Jardin des Tuileries (The Tuileries Gardens) around sunset. The gardens separate the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde.
Of course we had to check out Palais du Louvre, a former royal palace that’s a breathtaking sight at nightfall. In 1793 part of the Louvre became a public museum, now the ever so popular Musée du Louvre, which has evolved and expanded over many years to occupy most of the palace.
It was time to visit Tour Eiffel. The Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889 and has become one of the world’s most famous cultural and historical monuments. It’s the tallest structure in Paris, has an observation deck on the top level, and restaurants on the first and second levels. Initially, Gustave Eiffel was criticized for his venture after he compared the tower to the Egyptian pyramids. I can understand criticism. Nothing compares to ancient Kemet. Nonetheless, Tour Eiffel is still one of those places you have to see at least once.
After we stopped for a bite to eat, we returned to Jardin des Tuileries and played on the carousel.
Once we were done playing, we walked to Academie Nationale de Musique for a photo then called it a night.
This was our last day in Paris. Our flight was leaving in the evening so we woke up and packed over a few cups of tea. We returned to La Flûte de Meaux for a few boxed of macarons to bring home as souvenirs. We also stopped another cute French bistro for coffee and crepes.
There was no way for us to do everything on our list. My interests extend well beyond what one could accomplish in 7 days. I’m planning to return to Paris next summer. I’ve already put together a short To-Do list for the next trip:
1.) Rent a vespa and/or bicycle. Now that I’m familiar with the city and see how erratic people drive there, it’s no different than Atlanta or New York. Plus, Paris has good bicycle lanes.
2.) Take a tour of Picasso‘s studio.
3.) Cruise along the Seine.
4.) Shoot photos at Père Lachaise cemetery.
5.) Take the train to Versailles.
6.) Visit Monet’s Garden.
7.) Frolic in the Sculpture Garden at The Musée Rodin.
8.) Have coffee at the historical Cafe De Flore.
I’m already day dreaming about summertime in Paris.
A plus tard! (See you later!)