Last week was all about the tourist attractions we saw in Paris, which were pretty amazing, but this post is the one I have been most excited to share with you. This week it’s all about my personal favorites, starting with…
The people there were so quintessentially French. The patrons of cafés and patisseries sat at dainty tables while sipping espresso, or dining with friends.
The other thing I found fascinating was how the crowd would change depending upon the time of day. The morning was a quiet, subdued crowd who came to drink coffee or have a small breakfast before rushing off to work. The afternoon was bustling with gatherings of friends and workers enjoying a lunch out doors. The busiest time of all was happy hour, or early dinner time.
It was like people went out to celebrate and enjoy life as if it were a Friday, even though it was Monday or Tuesday evening. I found it so refreshing! I think they should call it the golden hour, because it happens right as the sun is setting. The whole city is bathed in golden light, and there are throngs of people sitting out at cafe tables and bars, just living their best lives.
I also loved just wandering around the city. If you’ve read any of my other posts on places we’ve traveled to, you already know that this is one of my favorite things to do. Paris did not disappoint. We found adorable little boutique hotels.
We found the cutest neighborhood ever next to Notre-Dame (Île De La Cité), where we also found the best ice cream we’ve ever had.
We also found the bakery where Ina Garten buys her bread when she’s in Paris, (hey, I will gladly take any excuse to consume more carbs while traveling). We bought a loaf, took it back to our hotel, and ate it as is. OK, we also snacked on it on our way back to the hotel. It was so so good.
We found a chef having an intriguing conversation in front of a pink building. I actually don’t know if it was intriguing or not. They might have been talking about something boring like ear wax, or oil changes, but it looked like it was, therefore I took their picture.
After visiting the Luxembourg gardens, on a whim, we decided to walk back to our hotel instead of taking the metro. In the picture above you can see we were walking past the Sainte-Chapelle amongst all these grand buildings when something caught our eye.
Technically two things caught our eye. First was this beautiful metro sign. Don’t you just love that? How amazing would it be if the subway signs in NYC, or Barcelona were that fancy! It just makes it look so much more inviting. In any case, because we saw this really cool metro sign, it drew us to the market behind it that turned out to be…
the most gorgeous flower market! There were tons and tons of blossoms of all types, spilling out of their containers.
It was such a treasure to find tucked in between all these massive, stately buildings. We never would have found it though, if we’d taken the fast way home on the metro.
We only got to eat out at restaurants a few different times because we had a toddler with us, but you know what? It honestly didn’t matter because the best food we found were pastries found in these little shops, or carts that are hidden in alleyways all over the city. Our particular favorite were the crepes. Oh my goodness, if only I could have one of those right now.
They really have it down to an art form. It’s mesmerizing to watch them. When they make them, they pour out such a small amount of batter onto the hot plate that you think it can’t possibly be enough to make a crepe. But they just swirl it around, and around, and around, and around with this little batter pusher until it’s right up to the edge of the circle. It ends up being impossibly thin, but they flip it over without a hitch, fill it, fold it up, and hand it to you wrapped in paper. Seriously my biggest regret was not eating more of them.
If you go to Paris and you only have time to visit one neighborhood, you HAVE to go to Montmartre. Absolutely the best neighborhood to wander through. You will not be able to put down your camera. I promise. We actually walked over from the Moulin Rouge, so it starts out with all these very beautiful buildings that look like they belong on top of a wedding cake.
Then as you start walking closer to the Sacré-Coeur, it morphs into the most enchanting little buildings you have ever seen in your life. All I could hear in my head as I was walked along the cobbled streets was ‘La Vie En Rose.’ All the buildings are soft, warm shades of pastels covered in ivy.
There was also music everywhere. We found a guitar player who was playing right next to someone who had strung up a tight rope to walk on, and the one above was situated, happily, next to a Christmas shop! Talk about serendipitous (not because it’s the season, just because I’m obsessed with all things Christmas).
We timed our walk to the Sacré-Coeur perfectly because we got there right as the sun was setting.
We sat down and did a little people watching before we walked down alllll the steps to the bottom, so that Esmé could play where it was a lot less crowded.
The last thing I want to share, is actually what impressed me the most. The first time that I went to France, I was nervous because I had heard that French people are a little bit stuck-up or snobbish. At the time we were living in Barcelona, and hadn’t exactly received the warmest welcome from the people there, so we were really looking for a break.
As it turned out we were blown away at how friendly and helpful everyone was. We went a few more times and it was always the same. So when I would talk to people about our trips I would always say that I loved the French, because I’d never met anyone who had lived up to that bad rumor I heard. They would in turn say, well it might be different when you visit Paris.
Because of that, I, again, was a little apprehensive and had low expectations. Guess what? The people we met while we were in Paris were possibly the nicest, most helpful yet. Our uber driver had dropped us one street too far, so we were looking at Google maps trying to orientate ourselves when a complete stranger comes up to us. We hadn’t flagged her down, or asked for her help in any way. She just saw us standing there on the street with our luggage and tried to help us. She couldn’t speak English, so she walked away, went to find someone who did speak English and had him help us. The man then said “And once you’re at your hotel, if you need to do washing, you can come here to my laundromat!”
There were complete strangers who helped us every day getting on and off the subway, or on and off of buses. It wasn’t just us that people were helping either. People give up their seats for the elderly. We saw a handful of people help an older woman struggling to walk get off of the bus. Still more people were there to help anyone struggling with luggage.
It may just be that there isn’t that much news coverage of people doing small kindnesses, but I was amazed at the kindness and generosity shown to us and to others while we were there.
I loved Paris. Plain and simple.