Paris, The City that Sleeps on Occasion

Paris, the city of light, actually lives up to its name!  It doesn’t start getting dark out until at least 10pm, and even then it takes even longer for the dusk to feel like actual nighttime.  It’s amazing!  And dangerous to those of us who actually have things to do in the morning… The long days are exhausting but leave even more time to explore the city! For the first time today, I started feeling like maybe a month isn’t enough time to enjoy all of Paris, and my I-miss-New-York-The-Greatest-City-In-The-Universe syndrome started to fade.  (Yes, NYC is my #1 love, but she understands why I have to hang out with Paris for a month).

I remember when I first moved to New York, I’d pop out of bed each day, excited to see what the coming day would have in store!  Food trucks?  Museums?  Galleries?  Prix fixe lunch? Who knew! Heavy class schedules and necessity of sleep soon stole this enthusiasm, but I’m trying to regain it for the time I have in Paris.

I woke up early to meet up with some friends to explore the city on our first free Sunday.

We headed to Boulevard Saint-Germaine where we hoped to café hop and sit amongst young Parisian hipster writers and feel inspired, similar to Hemmingway.  Or Carrie Bradshaw. Instead, we found ourselves in a tourist district littered with postcard vendors and poorly dressed Americans. The architecture was beautiful though.   We ate salads in a café outside (there were too many families there to even attempt to read, as we had planned) and decided to walk down to the Seine.

A few minutes later, there it was!  It’s always so strange to see places that you’ve read about or seen in the movies, in real life.  But there it was, the Seine, in all its glory. Parisians sell books and posters above the river and locals play with their dogs down by the bank.

I hate tourists.  I can’t stand the idea of being a tourist, gawking at something that most people surrounding you see on a daily basis.  Stop in front of me to snap a photo down Broadway and I am not happy.

But it's so hard to avoid being wide-eyed and camera happy when you see something so amazing for the first time!

More than being a tourist, I feel like more of a foreigner here than perhaps anywhere I’ve ever been.  Walking the streets of Paris, everything is new and almost incomprehensible to me.  Despite a few years of elementary school French, I can barely count in the language, let alone read directions or ask for anything.

I do remember food though, which has resulted in me eating a lot of ouefs avec pommes de terres et frommage.  But who can complain about eggs, potatoes and cheese?

I’ve been privileged enough to travel to many countries, most of them Spanish speaking, which is not foreign to me.  In Israel, everyone speaks English and my poor Hebrew skills suffice, and even my Italian is understandable enough for a vacation.  French, on the other hand, is a terribly difficult language.  And the French are notoriously impatient with us non-speakers.

Luckily, after crossing the Seine, we found ourselves in the crème de la crème of French tourism: The Louvre.  Planning to visit on a weekday when the line would be shorter, we continued walking through the park toward the Arch de Triomphe (which is much further from the Louvre than it looks, just FYI).

We strolled down Aveneue des Champs-Élysées ie the Fifth Avenue of Paris, to window shop and people watch, and eventually reached the Arch.  It’s surprisingly similar to the arch in Washington Square Park.  Except there’s more traffic and fewer NYU students.  And the Starbucks nearby is twice as expensive.  I’m going to say New York wins this round.

My grandma says that I need to go to Antarctica, because unlike everywhere else you could possibly travel, Antarctica does not remind you of anywhere else.  Perhaps valid, but I actually ike seeing pieces of New York and other places I’ve travelled in Paris.  It makes the city feel less foreign and it’s kind of reassuring to know that people all over the world are not that different.

Paris reminds me of Washington DC in many ways: traffic circles, short buildings with beautiful stone architecture, and, of course, the Metro closes at an unreasonably early hour.  Thus, one must decide early in the night if she wants to go home or stay out until dawn.  The people who planned the Metro knew how to party hard.

After the Arch de Triomphe, I had my first Metro adventure, which was surprisingly easy to navigate, despite the fact I may have gotten off at the wrong stop.  Or we exited at the correct stop and made a wrong turn while walking.

Either way, my friend Julianne and I stumbled upon the cute neighborhood sprinkled with cafés that we’d been searching for all day!  Suddenly, I remembered why I wanted to be here.

Avenue des Gobelins (which may or may not mean Goblin Avenue, I refuse to look it up because I want to believe that I love Goblin Avenue in Paris) is adorable! As a creative writing major, I know I should have a better word, but that’s just it.  An abundance of cafés with straw chairs and tiny tables facing the street crowd in groups of Parisians of all ages, smoking and chatting and laughing and drinking and writing and drawing and doing all the wonderful things that make Parisians Parisian.

We ordered smoked salmon (I now know the word saumon) with toast, a fluffy omelet, and salad. Everything was exceptionally delicious. After dinner, we split a carafe of sauvignon blanc and hid behind our sunglasses to read Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemmingway in the center of Paris.  It was very Parisian and very fabulous.  Reading in a café with a cup of wine in New York just isn’t the same.  Actually, I’ve never done that, but I’m guessing it would feel lonely and awkward.  One point for Paris.

The setting sun glaring in our eyes at 10pm, we set off to explore more of what we’ve deemed The Cute District.

The title was pretty accurate, as we found a teddy bear themed bar, and couldn’t resist sitting outside for a glass of Kasteel cerise beer.  If Paris were known for making a sweet, alcoholic malted cough syrup, this would be it.  I acquired the taste after a few sips and will definitely be ordering the cherry beer again. We vowed to return back to Goblin Avenue soon for another afternoon of Parisian food and intellectual/artsy/poser fun.