The train from Amsterdam to Paris was an easy 3 hour ride through the countryside of southern Netherlands and Belgium. It was nice riding through all of the small towns and getting out of the city for a bit. I arrived around 10:30am on a rainy day. Since my phone didn’t have data I took a couple wrong turns en route to my hostel. I finally made it dropped off my bag and was offered a croissant from the hostel manager. Croissants in Paris –can’t get much better than that.
I texted my college friend, Danya, who now lives in Paris to meet up. While I haven’t been an avid social media user in the past, it certainly has its benefits. I simply saw an instagram post of hers in Paris, sent her a message if she was in town and setup a time to meet. Even thought we hadn’t spoken much since college, she dropped everything she was doing for those two days to show me around. Danya, if you’re reading this, thanks again!! So she sent over her address and I opted to take an uber over an hour walk in the rain. I didn’t realize the enormity or Paris until I tried to map out from my hostel to the major sites. An hour to the louvre, an hour and a half to the Eiffel Tower. I was going to need to master the Metro for this city.
I got to her apartment and we set off in the rain to do some site-seeing. I grabbed another croissant, because for 1 Euro why not, and we headed off to the Metro. Twenty minutes later we were in the city centre and ready to walk around. Danys first took me to her favorite crepe shop. We passes about 5-10 on the way but she swore this was the best. After a few bites of my savory gallete, I understood why. Crispy on the outside, gooey cheese on the inside with meat and potatoes – it was just what I needed on a cold rainy day. After we got fueled up we took to some of the major sites. First was walking along the Seine river on the way to Notre Dame. Notre Dame was massive and beautiful. European churches really do take the cake as they are all impressive, especially when you think about how long they’ve been around for. From there, we headed to the Louvre where I again underestimated the enormity of it. We went into the open square where we were surrounded on all sides of some of the best art in the world. Danya informed me we had only seen about 10% of the whole museum so we set off to find the famous Pyramid. After a couple touristy pictures there we walked and walked and walked until we finally reached the end of the museum. It seemed like it went on for miles and I can now see why it is such a big attraction. The line was long outside, I was a bit tired and hungry so we decided to not go in.
I wanted to see some of the non-touristy areas so we hoped back on the metro and began to look for a cafe. She found a nice looking cafe and we sat down for a bottle of wine. She is fluent in French so I’d just wait patiently as she’d take care of all the details in the restaurants or shops we went in to. It made for a smoother experience as I got a few upturned noses when I began to ask for things in English. After the wine, we were both tired and she offered to make us some dinner which I couldn’t pass up. So no, I did not partake in the local French cuisine my first night in the city but I did get to experience the best vegetable green curry dish I’ve ever had (and maybe my first as well). After dinner, I was tired and now that I was a seasoned vet, found the closest metro station and headed back to my hostel. Day 1 was a success, saw some sights drank some wine and got some sleep for a big day the next day.
I woke up well-rested on Day 2 ready to hit the town. I found the nearest croissant shop got one for breakfast. I then walked around trying to get lost in the city and check out some of what Paris had to offer. I walked in and out of cheese shops and bakeries amazed at all the different things I saw. Looking up, I reveled in the architecture and the realization of how many people called this city home. Scooters weaved in and out of traffic as sedans squeezed past the vans parked on the side of the street delivering goods to local shops. Car horns honked as I tried not to get hit crossing the street down many of the narrow alleyways in the city. After about an hour of walking in no particular direction, I found a cafe with a patio and walked in. Another croissant and espresso later I sat on the porch partaking in Paris’ favorite activity – people watching. Trying to sip my coffee slowly, I took it all in observing the passerby’s.
People young and old walked by all seemingly heading somewhere important on this Thursday morning. It was sunny and relatively warm so I enjoyed lingering in the cafe wondering when I would be kicked out. Danya told me a place to meet and I tried to memorize the metro track before I got disconnected from the cafe wifi. I headed out toward the city centre to meet up with Danya and another fellow College of Charleston grad, Darby. Our plan was to have a picnic under the Eiffel Tower and we did just that. Darby took us to a pedestrian street where we could buy everything we needed. Wine, hummus, and olives from the grocery store. Baguette from the bakery and cheese and cured meats from the la fromagerie. The man behind the counter talked a bit of shit to me in French for ordering a tiny amount of salami and chorizo but hey the girls don’t eat meat and I needed to have something else on my baguette.
We found a nice little spot not to far from the base from the Eiffel Tower and started our picnic which was my first in quite some time. The weather was clear so we had a great view of the tower and we chatted over our cheese, baguettes and wine. I began to wonder why I don’t eat more baguettes and cheese as I couldn’t imagine eating anything else. The cheese was amazing and there is nothing better than fresh-baked bread. After an hour or two we headed out for our next adventure. Danya said we were headed to Sacre Couer and made fun of me for the next ten minutes as I tried and failed to pronounce it. I couldn’t get the French “R” sound down in my 48 hours in the city and will definitely need to master that during my next trip.
We got off at a metro stop at the base of the hill and began to hike up to the top. I was amazed at the view when we finally made it to the peak. You could see for miles as the city of Paris extending to the horizon. From the top, it looked like a confusing maze of houses the same height and streets the same width. It really made me realize the enormity of the city and how small the city of Charleston I lived in really was. We took in over the view as we drank mini-heinekens that a vendor convinced me to buy. After taking in the view, we headed back down to find a nice cafe for some coffee. We found a nice cafe ordered a couple of flat whites and watched the people of Paris walk around us. After our coffee, Danya informed me we were going to meet up with Darby and go to a Parisian rock concert.
We headed over to Darby’s house which was buy the Eiffel tower, bought a bottle of red, a bottle of white and were good to go. Darby’s flat is on the seventh floor of an old building with no elevator so we certainly had to earn our way up there. When we arrived, Darby had made some vegetarian chili for dinner. In my two nights in Paris I was 2 for 2 for eating homemade dinners and vegetarian ones at that. After we finished our wine, we hopped on the metro and headed to the club. The club was called SuperSonic, which I thought was funny, and we walked into the 2nd of the 3 acts for the night. 6 Euro for the best pilsner beer I ever had, I was a happy guy. We weaved our way through the crowd and got close to the band. The music was pretty heavy rock so we danced to the music as the local Parisians stood still around us. It seemed a bit odd to me that no one else was moving or dancing like us but they were the locals and I wasn’t here to judge. The show was fun and it allowed me to see the local, younger crowd of Paris. I enjoyed hanging around the locals and hearing some live music. Half-way into the third act, I headed out as I had a 9am train to London in the morning. I said my goodbyes and got my last looks at the city of lights. I enjoyed Paris much more than I thought. It was edgier than Amsterdam and I really liked hanging out with a “local” serving as my personal tour guide. You can’t see it all in Paris in 48 hours so I will definitely have to be back.