I gotta love France – I mean why wouldn’t I?
What I am referring to specifically here, however, is the 30 seconds conversation I had with the border agent upon entering the country. It went like this:
Me: Bonjour handing my passport
BA: Bonjour, stamps my passport, returns it to me – Bienvenue
Me: Merci walk away
Seriously?! I mean yes there are multiple immigration rules and problems that makes this country like every other not so welcoming of people, but compared to Canada’ sniffing dogs, U.S.’ body X-raying machines, Dubai’s eye scanning and the Lebanese breathing smoke in your face (this hasn’t happened to me recently but it does occur) all of which come with endless questioning and address verification, this sounds pretty good to me.
So, I arrived to Paris on a Tuesday, in November and it was my fourth time visiting the city. I was saving the evenings to hang out with my cousin, visit Christmas markets and catch up on life, but during the day, I was determined to find my favorite places and not simply visit what Paris is mostly famous for. Specifically, I wanted to avoid the Eiffel tower because I think that there is so much more to be valued, cherished and admired about Paris other than a rather ugly, metal object. Ironically, the only photo of me was with the tower in the background, because a couple from Seattle wanted to return the favor after they asked me to take their photo.
I got in at 6:15 am, having taken a 5:15 pm flight from Montreal which only means one thing – I have an entire day that I refuse to waste sleeping, especially that my entire trip is only 4 days and I was determined to do the best out of it.
So after settling in at about 10 am, I started my venture into the city and decided to visit some familiar and unfamiliar spots. I headed to Notre Dame and Quai St Michel and my first stop was the unusually packed and beautifully crowded used bookstore Shakespeare and Co that is just simply beautiful. I took few photos from the outside, before noticing the sign asking people not to take photos, but it was too late. There is nothing like a used bookstore to make me feel at home, especially after having no fixed address for weeks by then.
After visiting Notre Dame and strolling around in the St. Michel area, I decided walk along the Seine which is what I was really looking forward to. Walking in the warm sun along the river, in a very strange way, feels oddly familiar. Perhaps, it reminds me of the canal with the road and the bridges.
It was a great feeling to be the bystander and walk with no real destination but wherever the rode takes me. Eventually, I made it to Louvres, Champs-Elysee, and l’Arc-de-Thriopmhe.
Then I came across my favorite part of Paris:
While I was looking for places to go to, I found a bunch of museums and cool sounding places in the 3rd and 4th arrondissement, a part of the city that I never visited before, and I simply fell in love with it. There were Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in the city, Marche Sainte Catherine and Marche Saint Paul and Place de Bastilles all of which hold so much history.
Most importantly though, I just wanted to walk around, enjoy the architecture of the buildings, the small streets and the buried history in these walls, rocks and roads. Bonus: I found an amazing vegan restaurant.
Biking in Paris:
Okay, as far as biking goes, Paris isn’t the greatest. You know, when people reference Europe as a cycling friendly place, certainly they don’t mean Paris. The streets are very crowded, the velibs are in a really bad shape, there are hardly any bike lanes on roads and bridges and it is all together not very safe.
Despite that, I decided to spend an entire foggy, cold day biking the city because hey, who knows when I will be back again.
Despite the really crowded streets and the badly maintained Velibs, it was great. I kept going from one bridge to another, from one stop to another at different times of the day on busy streets and on narrow alleys hoping to stumble across another weird looking building, the longest outdoor stairs that I’ve ever seen, or simply Jardin de Luxembourg.
Being in a strange city has a certain comforting feel to it. Suddenly, the noise, traffic and waiting for the bus or sitting in the metro are not only no longer annoying but rather interesting. Sleep deprivation no longer takes a toll on emotional health. Just like my life, I had no destination or sense of direction, I was simply enjoying the moment. And for the first time in many months, I had only one item on my to-do list: enjoy Paris. And I did.