Considering that I lived in the Normandy these past two years for teaching English, it made for convenient trips to Paris on the weekend and the holidays, as means of getting away from work and enjoying my time in the French capital. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to Paris, whether only to pass through to another destination or to properly visit. All the same, the times that I actually do visit Paris, I manage to discover new things about the city that I wouldn’t have otherwise last time around.
That said, this “An American in Paris” series post will be combining two of my visits to the French capital, one back in late April and the other earlier this month, before I returned to the United States. Both were brief visits, but still lovely with good company, to say the least.
My visit back in late April was due to visiting a friend, another fellow teacher-assistant who would be leaving Europe soon after our contracts ended that month; we’d known each other for the past two years, and we’d decided it would be nice to meet up one last time before parting ways. That said, we spent the last Saturday of April wandering the Belleville district, situated east of the city in a quieter, more residential area, which I found quite refreshing instead of the usual hustle and bustle of the rest of the city, which is incredibly touristy. Before that, we’d taken a quick stroll through la rue Crémieux, a small, but colorful street that’s truly eye-catching, perfect for photo opportunities:
We spent the rest of the time walking through the Parc de Belleville and the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, the latter located on a hill offering not just lush, rolling hills for acres and acres, but also a pretty good view from the Temple de la Sibylle, thereby satisfying one of my goals for Paris views whilst in the city.
After the park, we didn’t do much afterwards, since my friend had to catch the bus from Paris to Beauvais airport for a flight out. We took the metro for a while before saying goodbye as I got off earlier; I transferred over to the train station, and caught the next one back to Normandy. A short, but pleasant afternoon, and I got to spend it with a good friend as means of bidding goodbye for the year.
My next visit to Paris came just the following week- rather, it was only a brief stay at first, as I shuttled myself over to a friend’s flat after moving out from Normandy. Essentially, I dropped off my *huge* suitcase and spent one night there before I caught my flight to Morocco for a week; I returned to my friend’s flat afterwards and spent another two nights before I had to check my flight back home to Los Angeles from Paris.
Therefore, it was during my one full day in Paris that I decided to go out and enjoy the last of it before I returned to the States for the summer; I wanted to explore a bit more of the city, seeing the places that I hadn’t seen before. With that said, I headed out around noon on my last full day, first to get lunch at Au P’tit Grec, a well-known Greek joint which serves some fantastic galettes, or buckwheat crepes. I got the chèvre-miel, or “goat cheese and honey” galette, which was rich-tasting and fantastic: mind you, the honey kept oozing out of the wrapper as I was trying to walk and eat at the same time, and it got all over my jacket’s sleeves! You know when it’s good when it oozes out on you, if you know what I mean… 😉
I was situated in the university part of town for lunch, so after finishing up my galette, I decided to head across the Seine to the Marais district, where I wanted to check out this Lebanese ice cream joint that’d just opened up recently, and which I’d read good reviews about. It was about a 30 to 40-minute walk, but I didn’t mind, since I needed to get out, as well as burn off lunch to make room for dessert!
That said, I headed over, passing by the Sorbonne, the Notre Dame, and the Centre Pompidou (aka all classic landmarks of the city) before I finally arrived in the Marais district and arrived at the Lebanese ice cream shop. The cashier-owner was super nice- it’d been a long time since I’d received good customer service in Paris, so the warmth and friendliness was a pleasant surprise. Nonetheless, I ordered a standard-size cup filled with three flavors– pistachio, rose, and dark chocolate– and sat in front of the window to enjoy them. All were delicious, and they definitely were on the same level as the Lebanese ice cream shop in Los Angeles that I’d been to. Sweet tooth, ftw!
My final stop for the day was at the Montparnasse Tower, a skyscraper located in the 14th arrondissement, i.e. south of Paris. What makes this tower desirable to visit was the fact that it presumably offers the best views of the city from the top, with its observation deck at the 56th floor. It’s a touristy thing to visit the Montparnasse, but strangely enough, I’d never done it until that day, no matter how many times I’ve visited Paris. Therefore, I knew that I had to pay a visit to the tower on my last day in the city.
The ticket isn’t cheap (20 euros for a day-and-night pass for students), but I would say that it’s well worth it for the views, which are stunning. I went in around 15h00, and despite the rather ugly rain clouds swirling in the distance of the Eiffel Tower and other notable landmarks in the city, the views were still lovely.
I descended the tower shortly thereafter, but since I had the day-and-night pass to access it, I would be returning later that night for the city to light up for more photo opportunities. In the meantime, I walked all the way back to my friend’s flat, where I relaxed for the rest of the afternoon before heading out in the evening to get dinner at a Japanese restaurant not too far away.
Now, if you know me, then you know that I’m a skeptic when it comes to Asian food in France: aside from having Indian food, I’d never dared to venture out to other Asian cuisines, such as Chinese. However, I somehow decided to give Japanese a shot, especially when I saw that the restaurant had surprisingly good reviews. Got dinner there, along with my friend and his girlfriend, that night. The food turned out to be better than I’d thought, with soup and salad starters to boot. I got six pieces of sushi and brochettes (aka meat skewers), which turned out to be pretty good, although I would say that the Japanese food back home in the States (and in Japan, even) still have my heart. Not shabby, though!
After dinner, I headed back to the Montparnasse Tower, entering the building and taking the elevator up once more just as the lights were coming on all over the city. It was certainly a sight to see, and I found the views even more spectacular than those in the day time. It was close to 22h00 before it got dark enough to take photos, but it sure didn’t disappoint!
Eventually, I left the tower and took the metro back to my friend’s flat, arriving close to 23h00. My friend and his girlfriend were already asleep, so I made sure that I was quiet, quickly showering and having a couple glasses of wine to unwind before turning in for bed. I was tired, but happy to have ended my time in Paris with beautiful city views and wine à la française. 😉
That about concludes my travels in Europe (and Morocco) for this year. Looking back, I would have to say that it was a fruitful year, even though I didn’t travel half as much as I’d done the previous year. I would say, though, that each trip this year meant something, not just as a way of satisfying my country count in Europe. From the Normandy coastline to the Polish mountains to the Moroccan desert, each destination was carefully planned out, and in the end I was satisfied more than anything else.
Although my travels for this year have ended, this isn’t to say that I’ve stopped traveling: in fact, I’ll be doing some more trips this summer back in the States, and there’s always next year (aka fall) to look forward to. Hope you can join me on this journey, and until then!
— The Finicky Cynic
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