I ended up arriving in Paris grumpy, thanks to some not-so-great airline experiences along the way. Nothing major; the airline messed up and didn’t put my frequent flyer status on my boarding pass so I wasn’t allowed to visit the lounge. My issue wasn’t so much the lounge access (though free vodka always = awesome), but that the lounge clerk was really nasty about it, acting like I was trying to sneak in even though I had every right to be there. When I got to the airport, I then discovered that the B train to Gare du Nord (which I was supposed to take to access the Metro) wasn’t running, so I had to take a shuttle bus and a roundabout route that took quite a bit longer. As I sat on the long train ride into downtown, I realized it was 4pm, and I only had about 5 hours to explore Paris if I still wanted to get a decent night’s sleep before my flight home. Furthermore, the forecast was for rain, and the sky looked pretty gloomy. Should I even have bothered stopping in Paris at all?
The answer? Yes, yes, emphatic YES!!!! I had a blast.
My brother had been in Paris just two days earlier, as part of a big European tour with his wife. They arrived home the same day I got to Paris, and thanks to the free airport wifi, I saw his Facebook message telling me that I had to go to Montmartre. When I met up with my friend Héloïse and tentatively mentioned that as a possibility, she said I was in luck – she lived right by Montmartre, and was planning on taking me there first thing! We dropped my stuff off at Héloïse’s apartment, and headed out.
After climbing about five stories worth of steps (I am not kidding), we arrived at the top of Montmartre, and checked out the very square where my brother told me they had sat and enjoyed a glass of wine! Too funny to be there just a day later. From there, we walked along the edge of Montmartre, which overlooked the city, and I got my first view of La Tour Eiffel. SO COOL! I was being totally touristy with my excitement and all the pictures I took, but luckily, Héloïse didn’t mind.
Next on the agenda: Sacre Coeur.
We went inside to discover that there was a Mass just about to start – great timing! The cathedral was set up so that the Mass could go on uninterrupted in the middle while tourists could still circle the massive space to see all the beautiful statues and relics. While signs everywhere warned that photos were strictly forbidden, I snuck a quick shot as we were leaving – gorgeous!
Leaving Montmartre, we descended into the area where Héloïse told me much of the action for the movie Amélie had taken place – and I vowed to watch Amélie, as I still have not done so. As we continued through the rather touristy area into Pigalle, I found the perfect Parisian souvenir: an Impressionist-style umbrella that featured the Eiffel Tower on it. Just recognizable enough to be a souvenir, but not tacky like the ones with a million Eiffel Towers all over them and the word “Paris!” printed over and over. I was happy – and it looked like it was going to rain any second, so it was a functional souvenir too.
Next up was Pigalle, the red light district. The notable highlight here was not the proliferation of condom vending machines on the streets (though I thought those were hilarious), but the iconic red windmill of La Moulin Rouge. While I may not have seen Amélie, Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies, so it was awesome to see it in person!
At this point, Héloïse and I were starting to get very hungry, so we decided to take the Métro to Le Quartier Latin, where we had plans to hit up one of Héloïse’s favorite crépèries. However, we decided on the way to stop at Champs Elysées for a quick glimpse of L’Arc de Triomphe. The gardens when we got off the Métro were lush green and beautiful, but I was mostly just excited to see the street sign that read Champs Elysées!
We walked along the street, checking out the various shops, and Héloïse told me stories of how on Thursdays in the summertime, they sponsor an event from 5-7pm called “after work,” where all the singles go to just drink free champagne the whole time. You have to be sure to drink up, though, because from 7pm-1am, it turns into a dance party, and you’d best be pregamed by then! It sounded fabulous – I hope I can come back sometime and check out one of those. Or maybe get some bars back home to sponsor a regular free drinking night – I’d be totally sold.
While we didn’t make it all the way to L’Arc before getting too hungry and heading for the Métro, we made it far enough along for me to snap this pic. Check!
While heading back to the Métro, I started telling Héloïse about this blog that I read, Buns of Brie, and how she recently did a Paris Turnstile Hopping Tutorial. 3L had explained all about the practice of turnstile hopping and how it’s actually fairly accepted in Paris. Héloïse thought it was hilarious, confirmed that it’s often done and never punished, and asked if I wanted to try my luck this trip? I said no – I was happy to follow the rules and give the Métro system its due.
However, when we got to the Métro, we had a problem. The tickets are supposed to allow you to reenter within one hour of your first ride… but we had spent a bit too long getting to Champs Elysées and wandering around. My card had timed out! Héloïse was already through the turnstile when I realized this, and I didn’t want to go back and go through the whole long process of buying a ticket, so after some hemming and hawing… I hopped. I used the classic method, particularly since the door behind the turnstile seemed to be partially ajar and I didn’t think I’d have a problem getting through. False! As it turned out, the door was not big enough to squeeze through in its current position, and while it looked wobbly, it was actually quite solid – no way was my body fitting through there. Major ego points lost here!
I stood helplessly trapped between the turnstile and the door, trying to figure out what to do. There was no way I was going over, so I started to dig out my extra farecard from my purse, to hopefully swipe it from where I was and allow the door to open. Before I could do so, however, a garçon came up behind me and said “Allez! Allez!” What had started as the Classic Hop turned into the Buddy System as he swiped his own ticket and we both got through. Merci beaucoup!!! Héloïse and I were dying of laughter as we finally headed down to the platform, as we talked about how Parisian I had become. Bien sûr!
Now on our way, we rushed to get to dinner. On the way, we got to walk along the beautiful Seine at sunset, which was stunning, and I admired the bateaux-mouches that drifted along… next time I come to Paris, I hope to go on one of those! It may be touristy, but what a neat ride.
As we headed into the Latin Quarter, it started getting dark, and Héloïse pointed out her favorite bars in the area as we went. We went past a beautiful building on the way that seemed to be of some importance, but didn’t have a sign in front of it, so I asked Héloïse what it was. She replied that she didn’t know all the landmarks, but ask her about any of the best bars and happy hours in the area, and she could name them all! That’s my girl 🙂
We settled into our booth at the crépèrie, which specialized in seafood crépès and had a cool nautical theme.
The crépèrie was extremely tiny and cozy (there were only seats for about 10 people in the whole place!), and I absolutely loved it! And I saw why it was Héloïse’s favorite: my seafood stuffed crépè was absolutely delicious, as was the housemade cidre that had me tipsily loving every part of the experience. For dessert, we decided to share a crépè with Nutella, and it came out with probably half a jar of Nutella on it. Heavenly, and so rich and delicious!
We headed home and to bed, thrilled with ourselves for all we had managed to pack into the night. And as we pointed out to each other, I hadn’t seen La Tour Eiffel (except from afar), so I’d have to come back! Done and done. Paris, je t’adore!