When I reevaluated my travel plans a few weeks ago and decided to cut my time in Southeast Asia shorter than planned, I picked a place in Europe that I really wanted to explore and learn more about. It was between Spain and France and after some communication with friends and HelpX hosts, I decided on France. I only spent three days in Paris last year and this simply wasn’t enough time. So I decided to spend one week in Paris and three weeks in Dordogne (Southwest France).
For those who followed my blog during my three months in Europe, you might remember Jean, a French guy that I met in Dublin. I reached out to him and he graciously opened up his home for me to stay while I was in Paris. He had a busy week at work so I didn’t see him much but he gave me the keys to his flat, which was right in the heart of this beautiful city. I could even see the Eiffel Tower from the window!
Although it would have been nice to spend more time with Jean, it was absolutely amazing to have my “own space” again. After a couple of days I knew my subway route and even started grocery shopping at the local market. I will admit my diet consisted mainly of baguettes, cheese, wine and pastries, but I did cook a couple of nights as well. It was like playing house in Paris and I savored every second of it.
It’s hard to put an entire week of events, people and memories into one blog post so here are some of the highlights from my week in Paris:
Okay, of course my first highlight is regarding food. If I were to live in Paris I would indefinitely be twice my size. Around every corner is a pastry shop. The cheese was out of this world. There were so many options, I literally found myself standing in the cheese isle for over 10 minutes trying to make a decision! The baguettes! OH, the baguettes! By far some of the best carbs I have ever consumed. And of course, French wine. The bottles that we would normally pay big dollar for because they are imported from wine country, are only a few euros at the market. Believe me, I took advantage of this =) Jean also concocted some pretty interesting salads which I thoroughly enjoyed and will definitely be trying out myself when I get home!
Paris is a city overflowing with art and history. One could spend months visiting all of the museums that Paris has to offer. I chose to visit two of the most famous, the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay and one completely off the beaten path: The Holocaust Museum. The Louvre is the largest Museum in the world and is home to the infamous Mona Lisa painting and the Venus de Milo sculpture.
Although there were pesty tourists bumping into everyone whilst taking pictures of things they knew nothing about, I still felt exhilarated to be in a place with such remarkable pieces of art. I purchased an audio guide so I was able to hear the story behind each piece I was interested in. I’m not huge into the modern art world and I know for a fact that exceptional artists are still around but I couldn’t help but to think after seeing these magnificent pieces that maybe the most remarkable artists ever in existence are long gone.
Even though there’s no entrance fee, the Holocaust Museum is often overlooked. This is a shame because I feel like I walked out of that place a new person. Of course we’re all educated about this horrific event in history but seeing relics, photographs, movies and reading personal stories really put it into perspective. The photos held no discretion, which made it feel that much more real. It was definitely an emotional experience but I’m glad I took the time to go.
Day Trip to the Palace of Versailles
I hopped on a train and took a trip to see the magnificent Palace of Versailles, which is where the French Kings lived from 1682 to 1790. I love visiting castles and trying to imagine what life was like centuries ago. I especially liked hearing about the daily routine of most kings. Can you believe that other royal figures would come to the palace just to watch the King and Queen eat dinner!? The world is so different today that it’s hard to envision what daily life was like hundreds of years ago. My audio guide certainly helped me get an idea though!
The grounds are filled with over 2000 acres of absolute brilliance. The perfectly manicured gardens, countless fountains and statues, the smaller “homes” and the palace itself were something out of a fairytale. Its safe to say that I definitely got some serious exercise that day. The grounds are so large that they actually have a night crew that drives around looking for people who lost their way during the day. Thankfully, I was not one of those people.
And now the one critical, unfortunate downfall to Paris: Parisians.
Yes, I said it and if you’re Parisian and reading this I hope you are the exception. It’s not a secret that many French people don’t care for Americans. They hate that we come to their country not knowing their language. I knew going into my trip to Paris that not speaking French would eventually lead to uncomfortable situations. Nothing terribly awful happened while I was there, it was just the general unfriendly, unwelcoming vibe they give off. I had a hard time feeling comfortable on the metro or asking for help. It was like as soon as I opened my mouth I was being judged. As with everywhere else in the world, there are obviously exceptions to this. I do believe that nice Parisians exist. In fact, I met a few while wandering around the Jardin du Luxembourg. But even they admit that the Parisian mindset is proud and arrogant. Despite my experiences with Parisians, Paris is still the most charming, beautiful city I have ever seen. The architecture, history, art, food, cafes and parks are what make this city so unforgettable. This was my second time to Paris and I know it will not be my last!
Sacre Coeur Church in Montmarte