Hey everyone. I am happy to announce that I am finally back. Even though I have to say that I did miss writing on here, I am equally glad that I took this break, because I was able to experience Paris in its full intensity. I know that this is not a travel blog, so I don’t have any intentions of listing the “must see” spots, but I do want to share a few experiences with you. When travelling, it’s not only about which sights you see; It’s just as much about the people you meet and about the small unexpected experiences you have. I had plenty of these small and special moments during the last three weeks and I felt like writing them all down, so here we go.
A Very “Warm” Welcome
I wasn’t off to a very pleasant start, as one of my first encounters was with a not so nice woman at the service point at a metro station. Not properly speaking the language of the country you visit can indeed turn out to be difficult, as I simply did not understand what she was trying to tell me. A lot of shouting later, I had finally understood what she expected me to do and I went off. This experience left me a little bit scared and shaken, I hadn’t even been in Paris for 24 hours and I was already experiencing problems. However, it turned out that in the next days and weeks everything would become a little easier.
What I loved about Paris were the very quiet mornings on the weekends. When going out on a Sunday before 10 o’clock, I would literally meet no one on the streets until I got closer to the very touristic areas. You might think that I am exaggerating, but on my second Sunday I didn’t see a single soul until I entered the Starbucks at one of the huge train stations (Saint Lazare). And even there it was extremely empty compared to what is going on in that area during weekdays at the same time. I enjoyed these silent moments to the fullest, because when you have a week full of crammed metros and loud noise around you, it is essential to have quiet moments to relax.
The Old Opera
We all experience these small magic moments sometimes, as just mentioned for example, empty streets in the morning. I experienced the same feeling when I visited the old Opera in Paris. Not for a musical piece (there literally weren’t any), but simply for having a look. Apart from taking a close look at the breath-taking decorations and huge arches and paintings and busts it was also possible to stand on the balconies on the front of the Opera. Down on the pavement a street musician was playing the guitar and sang, while cars and busses drove by constantly. This doesn’t seem very special, because in Paris you basically can find street artists and musicians at every corner, but somehow standing up on this balcony and watching people hectically run around with this beautiful music playing felt very special to me, so this precious memory will probably be stored in my heart for some time.
A Metro Snack
A few days later, I had a very interesting, but also extremely amusing encounter in the metro. In the middle of all this chaos and all the people, a woman decided to have a snack and very calmly drew a grilled corn from her backpack. It took me a lot of holding back to not laugh out loud at this absurd view, but I certainly smiled for the rest of my trip.
Compassion and Kindness
I also couldn’t stop smiling on another occasion that had happened a few days earlier already. It had started to rain very heavily during my French lessons, so when I came out of the language centre, there was no way I would get to the metro station without getting soaking wet. Smart as I am, I had, of course, neither brought and umbrella, nor a rain jacket so I was left with the only option of running from store to store, looking for shelter. However, I hadn’t even left the small passage, where the centre was located, when a complete stranger offered me his umbrella. I was completely dumbfounded and only after a few moments managed to say that I couldn’t take it. He continued saying it was no problem before literally forcing the umbrella in my hand. He then just disappeared into the rain. I cannot tell you how much I needed that umbrella that day and the random kindness of a stranger spared me a lot of unpleasantries. These brief moments and encounters are what restore my faith in humanity when the bad news keep piling up again and I can just hope that these small positive things keep happening.
Eating kebabs on the stairs in front of the Opera at night might not sound that amazing, but that is exactly what I did with my boyfriend and I loved it. Seeing the moon rise over the lights of the city was a great and empowering feeling.
The Rex Cinema
Also worth remembering is the gigantic cinema we went to. I think that room had capacity for about 400 people, and I swear I have never seen a cinema like this in my life. At the ceiling they had many, very small lights that looked like stars and on the sides the cinema had decorations that followed a middle eastern theme. I guess I don’t have to tell you how big the screen was. It was a surreal experience really. One thing about French cinemas though, they have literally no leg space at all. It’s much less than in the smallest airplane you have ever been. Whatever airplane it was, this was smaller. However, it was part of the experience, so I am very happy that I was lucky enough to have this amazing evening.
A Second-Hand Bookstore
Bookstores. Everyone close to me knows that I can never get enough of books. And my boyfriend must have found what is the most amazing things that I have seen in these three weeks. The Abbey Bookstore. It is a very tiny but cosy place, stuffed with second-hand books. The aisles were so small that each shoulder would touch a shelf. When someone else wanted to pass through you needed to go to the end of the aisle of find the next spot where you could take a step aside. But I am telling you, this was heaven. If I hadn’t been so short on money; I probably would have left with 10 books. Standing there between books that often are several decades old was wonderful. The smell was magic, and it made me so happy to just stand there and take it all in.
And those were only a few of the amazing moments that I experienced. Apart from these I also did things like sitting in the botanic garden with a book and my boyfriend and listening to the birds chirp. So many other moments gave me the feeling of being welcome and having a great holiday, such as walking through the Tuileries and talking for two hours straight to someone I met in the course. Eating the best rice balls, I have ever had. Enjoying a group of old street musicians or watching people dance tango at night in front of the Comédie-Française. Strolling through the most expensive stores, knowing exactly I wouldn’t buy anything. Having nothing but macarons for lunch (yes, I was hungry afterwards) and slurping way too many drinks from Starbucks. I enjoyed all the sights and visiting famous places, but the free concert in the saint Eustache church and the nice people I met will be the things I remember the most.
A Few Last Words
I learned a lot during these three weeks, not only regarding the language, but also concerning the city and the people. Paris is vivid, exciting and breath-taking, especially if you decide to do a lot of things in a short amount of time. I said this wouldn’t be a travel blog post, however, I will leave you with one recommendation in case you are planning to go: Don’t do too much touristic stuff on the same day. It is very stressful to have so many people around you all the time, so I would advise to take breaks and visit more quiet spots in-between. My conclusion after 28 days of Paris: I loved being here, but in the end, I was also happy to be able to return home again. I really enjoyed all the places I visited, but sometimes I was taken aback by how unwelcoming and rather annoyed the people living and working there got, when they realised, I couldn’t speak French well enough to understand them entirely. I mean it’s not that I did not try. Despite this, I would still love to return some day and maybe find more secretly amazing spots.
So, I hope you liked hearing about all this and didn’t get bored. See you the next time around 😉