I arrived in Paris by coach, with plans to stay one or two days before heading south for sunbathing and tapas. With three maps and ten metro tickets, I felt prepared to tackle the city of romance with ease.
I met my couchsurfing host, Cami who kindly housed me during my stay. If you’re unfamiliar with couchsurfing, it’s an incredible network of travellers who offer their homes, free of charge, to likeminded individuals in trade for good company and culture exchange. Unlike hostels, where you explore cities with other lost nomads clinging to maps and language books, couchsurfing allows you to experience amazing places with a local by your side, taking you to restaurants tucked away down side streets and secret local dives unscathed by the presence of gawking tourists.
Cami’s apartment was perfectly located just south of the Basilique du Sacre Coeur and east of the Moulin Rouge.
I was nearly defeated by this seemingly romantic spiral staircase I had to scale before reaching my temporary home. Despite Cami’s persistent request to carry my pack for me, I clung to my pride and casually wiped the sweat beads from my brow, panting out, “pffft, 7 floors isn’t bad!” I refused to be mocked by the icreasingly taunting march of death, where the demons of gravity dangled from my pack straps like five pound capuchin monkeys swinging from trees. By the time I reached the top, my kneecaps had fallen to my shins and I suddenly had the hiney of Brooke Shields. I guzzled a glass of water and regained my strength by pretending to read a map for 20 minutes.
With only two days to squeeze in several must-sees in Paris, I stopped nursing my arthritic hips and started walking the streets.
Just two blocks away, I ventured over to the famous Moulin Rouge. I sincerely hoped that as I rounded the corner, I would enter a vortex of time wrinkling and discover the theater in 1914. Maybe the street would come alive with strutting, bowler-capped gentlemen and ladies of the night would reapply their crimson lip-stain while simultaneously hand-rolling cigarettes. But yet again, my nostalgic imagination was interrupted with modern posters of thin dancers, resembling those found on a Vegas billboard and millions of tourgroups posing in can-can lines beneath the rotating mill. But at least a new world of photo-editing allowed me to grayscale my memory of the infamous nightclub.
Then to the Louvre…
I have roughly 400 images of my 5 hours spent in this massive compilation of Fine Art, along with scribblings on maps and doodles on tickets… But I dare not begin a blog post about how Caravaggio’s ability to paint a bloody decapitation is more real than a Tarantino film, or how The Raft of the Medusa feels like witnessing the perfect moment between hope and desparation. I will spare you the 12 page post I’m dying to write. Because we all know you would rather read about incredible food and travel mishaps than wake up in a puddle of drool.
So when I left the Louvre I found the gardens and bought 2 scoops of caramel ice cream.
Then I parked my previously toned buns in a lounge chair and thanked the universe for giving me humorous people to watch.
This is what it feels like to eat caramel ice cream in a Parisian garden. Go ahead… Live vicariously through me.
Travel note: The best way to excuse the need to consume ice cream daily is to toss those metro tickets in the bin and start walking. There’s nothing worse than taking a subway through a city as magical as Paris. Plus, if you walk 5 miles (one way) to find Notre Dame, you can convince yourself that you need more energy via sugar; and since a coffee is the same price as a fresh made brick of caramel, you opt for the browned sugar log and high five yourself for being better than those silly escalator-chasing subway goers.
And here she is…
The famous work of symmetry that may have been the beginning of modern architecture as we know it. Admittedly, it took standing in front of the impressive structure to recall simple facts or even what the facade portrayed. After learning about hundreds of buildings, it’s easy to repress the most common structures recognized by the common eye. But just as I hoped, the longer I admired the details and stared at the buttresses, the dust coated knowledge from my education in Art History began returning. And it was magnificent.
A rose garden beneath the southeast end was a much appreciated touch. After wandering through the gardens a bit and taking in the contentment of simply sitting, I met a wonderful family from Virginia who kindly invited me out for a picnic on the Seine for the following night. The best part of travelling alone is the warm invitation to join picnics or eiffel tower visits from fascinating strangers. I feel as if I’ve found a mother figure in each country so far, which I’m sure will ease the worried nerves of my own mother.
As Cami had to work both nights, he told me about a great little restaurant near the Musee D’Orsay to have dinner alone. Always listening for English speakers, I struck up conversation with two Scottish geneticists across from me. We joined together for dinner and ate classic French cuisine.
I present… Tartare la Boef
I apologize to any vegetarians reading, but I have no problem devouring a bunny rabbit or a premature cow, and then writing about how succulent the small creature tasted. Sorry…
This is a dish I’ve been searching menus for since arriving in France. Beef tartare. A colorful hockey puck of raw beef, capers, parsley and onions bound by a barely sweetened aioli, served with bread and salad. It was absolutely everything I hoped for. I pushed the filling bread aside and spent two hours savouring every bite.
I ended my evening in a traditionally grand pose beneathe the sparkling Eiffel tower. There were no more tickets to the top that night, but I tried to imagine I was there when I hiked the spiral, wooden equivalent of Everest back at Cami’s apartment.
Au Revoir Paris!