Exactly a year ago, I finally had the chance to achieve one of my lifelong dream destinations which was to visit Paris, France. Taking off from Venice Italy, my mother and I flew to Paris via Easyjet. I decided to book us a flight instead of taking the train because it was much faster. Traveling by train takes about 13 hours and 42 minutes compared to taking a direct local flight which is only 1 hour and 45 minutes. However, if you have a lot of luggage like we did and you’re not in a hurry to get to your destination, I suggest taking the train as they don’t have any baggage allowance and the journey would be more scenic. Another tip is if you think any of your checked luggage will be over the airline’s allowable limit, paying for the next weight tier will be cheaper at the time of booking rather than at the gate.
The highlight of that flight was seeing the Swiss Alps. It was breathtaking! I turned on my location services from my iPhone to know exactly where we were since the flight does not show the route map.
Honestly, I didn’t fall in love with Paris, but I didn’t hate it either. Generally speaking, Paris seems to be one of those cities people either love or hate. To be fair, I generally find myself more smitten with smaller, historic cities such as Florence or Siena, over huge, sprawling capital cities. That said, Paris was a much anticipated experience for me. I think what stopped us from enjoying the city is the number of warnings we received as soon as we arrived at the Charles De Gaulle airport. There were a lot of warnings about pick pockets and thieves. The bus driver from the airport even asked me to zip up my jacket to hide my purse. I really appreciated the gesture but it kind of set the mood of the entire trip especially my mother’s who got so paranoid she didn’t want to stay out too late.
I was torn between getting a hotel or an apartment but I wanted to experience how a normal life in Paris was, so I booked us an apartment through Airbnb. The place was a typical French apartment with a wooden circular communal staircase located in the area of Oberkampf, a boisterous neighbourhood filled with rows upon rows of humming shabby-chic bars. Rue Oberkampf is a street in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, an unpretentious yet trendy Parisian district. It was just a 2 minute walk to the metro station, while Le Marais is just a good 10 minute walk. It is also near Republique and Bastille. Marais, often referred to as “Old Paris” exudes old-world charm and modern day functionality. It is one of the most celebrated neighborhoods in Paris with its countless little clothing boutiques, vintage shops, bakeries and restaurants. Place de la Republique is a square in Paris that serves as a community juncture for artists and creative. The plaza also conveniently rests above a Metro station. Bastille is Paris’s festive district.
Our room was located on the third floor and I didn’t realize that most buildings in Paris do not have elevators. I almost cried and begged my mother that we transfer to a hotel, mainly because our pieces of luggage were all so big and heavy. I was so scared of running out clothes I think I brought my entire closet. LOL. It was really a lesson learned for us to pack lightly next time.
It was rather late when we arrived at the apartment and we were both famished. But since I was excited to see Paris, I set out in search of food. Unfortunately, the only places I found that night were a few bars and Pizza Hut. I bought a box of pizza and a dozen chicken wings. It was bliss.
The pictures below show how our street looked like at night. I remember it like it was yesterday. I have always pictured myself singing On My Own from the play Les Miserables and what better place to do that than in the wintry night on the streets of Paris! LOL. If there’s one thing I enjoyed the most about my trip, it was walking alone at night like Eponine. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Eponine walks the streets of Paris while reflecting on her reclusive life and her love for Marius while singing the song “On My Own.”
The following morning, we went to the Louvre museum, the world’s second largest museum. We took a cab since we wanted to get there early and we had no idea where the Metro was. There was already a short line when we arrived but since I booked our tickets in advance we didn’t have to worry about that. As soon as we got in, first on my list was the painfully obvious choice, to see Mona Lisa. Fortunately, there were signs everywhere directing you to her. I can say February was a good month to visit since it was a slow season; the museum wasn’t and didn’t feel crowded at all. It is so big that it is humanely impossible to see everything in a single day.
Inside the big pyramid of the Louvre are several restaurants and cafes. After a little tour of the museum and a little bit of souvenir shopping, we had breakfast at Paul. We also checked out the Carrousel du Louvre which is an underground shopping mall near the Louvre museum and the Place du Carrousel. The mall contains a famous skylight, La Pyramide Inversee ( the inverted pyramid) which plays an important role in the best selling book The Da Vinci Code.
After leaving the museum, we met with my friend Leevon. She was my childhood friend and neighbor and has been living in Paris with her mother. I was so excited to see her. I brought her favorites from the Philippines like Goldilock’s Polvoron in different flavors and ChocNuts. We’ve already been in touched through Messenger and Viber even before we left Manila. She has helped me figure out how to structure our time. She showed us how to use the subways and find our way around Paris. She brought us to all the special places that I would have missed if we toured around by ourselves.
From the Louvre, we took the bus to the Notre Dame Cathedral. My mom wanted to hear mass, and so Leevon and I took the opportunity to check out one of the most famous bookstore in the world, Shakespeare and Company.
Taking photos were not allowed inside the bookstore but I somehow managed to take a few (shh…). I bought a few books and poems for myself and for friends. You can also have the books stamped with their logo for free.
As soon as we got back to the church to fetch my mom, we found this street vendor selling yummy looking crepes. Even the street food in Paris tasted so good.
Not far from the cathedral are rows of souvenir shops but sadly they all look the same and these were the ones I can easily buy at a much cheaper price in Divisoria. They were all made in China. We decided to skip this as I was looking for something of quality that is made in France that I can bring home with me.
Leevon wanted to take us out to lunch and told us the best way to see Paris was on foot. But halfway through our journey, my mom got tired so we just took the bus.
Leevon took us to her favorite Japanese restaurant named Koshi where she also had her birthday party. I was thankful that we had our lunch here because I was really craving rice. The place was packed when we got there and we had to wait for a few minutes to be seated.
After lunch, we went window shopping. Paris is a city known for its high-end brands and luxury goods, but its more affordable vintage and secondhand scene is just as present, if you know where to look.
One of the stores we checked out was the Kilo Shop. Everything was thoroughly categorized and color-tagged by weight – as the name suggests, you pay by the kilo. We had fun store hopping but we had to walk for miles to find a public restroom. It can be difficult to find a decent public restroom in Europe so when you see one, I suggest that you use it especially when you have elderly or kids in tow.
It was a fun and interesting first day overall…♥