Bonjour et au revoir Paris!
The last few days have been an absolute whirlwind. Remember how I mentioned offhandedly once a few months ago that my coworker Kasondra and I had spontaneously bought (fairly cheap) flights to London following the Brexit fall-out?
I can’t believe that trip already came and went!
When we booked tickets, we picked a five-day itinerary, knowing that it would be easiest for both of our work schedules. We started planning our trip to the United Kingdom and knew we wanted to take a day trip to Paris.
I have wanted to go to Paris for my entire life, and — since our trip happened to coincide with my birthday — turning 27 could not have been any better! I actually lost six hours of my birthday due to the time change, but I woke up on a plane in London and went to sleep in a hostel in Paris, so the day could not have been better spent.
We left Chicago at about 6 p.m. Thursday, and arrived in London at 8:30 a.m. with the time difference. We took the Underground from Heathrow to St Pancras in order to catch our train into Paris. We ate a quick lunch at Nando’s and stopped in King’s Cross for Harry Potter photos, of course. The funniest thing? Donald Trump was on the cover of most of the newspapers we saw in London. Ugh.
We took Eurorail into Paris and arrived at about 7 p.m. (more time differences!) to find the city cold, dark and rainy. We took the Métro from Gare du Nord to the stop closest to our hostel (which was in the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondissement), and pulled our suitcases through puddles and drizzle until we got to our room. We showered and then walked down the street to get dinner and champagne at a little restaurant called La Petite Provence. I had goat cheese bread, escargot, salmon and chocolate mousse. We asked our waiter about the history of the building, and he told us it was built in 1837. How crazy is that? There was no heating system, so the building relied on space heaters throughout.
After dinner, we grabbed drinks down the street at a bar called La Montagne and talked to a few Parisian university students about… the U.S. elections. Sigh. Everybody wanted to talk about them, and everybody seemed to have an opinion! After drinks, we went back to our hostel to sleep.
I woke up pretty early the next morning, and didn’t want to wake Kasondra, so I walked about half a mile down Rue Mouffetard/Rue Descartes to a little coffee shop and restaurant called Le Petit Café. I had a croissant and a double espresso while I replied to all the birthday Facebook messages (of course) and then walked back to the hostel. I actually almost missed passing Ernest Hemingway’s apartment on the way! I got back to the hostel, woke up Kasondra and grabbed another espresso at the coffee shop right across the street from where we stayed, called DOSE dealer de café. Then, we started making our way downtown to see the major tourist attractions.
We ran into a cute open air market at Quatre Saisons and stopped to take photos along the Seine and at Notre Dame. We passed the love locks, which unfortunately had been moved from their spot along Pont Des Arts Bridge for safety reasons. We crossed Pont Des Arts Bridge and headed to the Louvre to admire the architecture. We stopped at a little street kiosk for pastries — I had a goat cheese, zucchini and eggplant tarte — and sat in the Jardin des Tuileries to eat our lunch. Then, we went shopping along Rue Saint Honoré.
My only shopping purchase in Paris was a half a dozen macarons from Ladurée, but Kasondra picked up a Givenchy bag a block down the street. Because shopping via credit card in a foreign country is never easy, she had to spend a lot of time on the phone with her bank to get her purchase approved. While I waited, the Givenchy associate told me a little bit about the area. She pulled up Google Maps on my phone and showed me the location that the Treaty of Paris was signed, and told me that Sweeney Todd is actually based on a real story that took place at an old university near Notre Dame!
We stopped for Nutella crepes from a street vendor and walked past the Fontaine des Fleuves, through the Place de la Concorde and along the Seine for a bit before taking a bicycle cab to… the Eiffel Tower! We bought a bottle of champagne from a park vendor and laid on the lawn for a while before we got hungry and wandered into a little restaurant called Le Champ de Mars. We split a bottle of red wine and some cheese, bread and salad before calling an Uber back to our hostel.
We went to drop off our shopping bags, and ended up making some new friends in the building lobby. We all went back to La Montagne — the bar from the night before — for wine before stopping to get crepes — mine was cheese and egg — from a little hole-in-the-wall called Restaurant Istanbul on the way back to the hostel.
Also, can drunk street crepes be a thing in Chicago? That would be amazing.
We hung out with our new hostel friends — from France, Chile, Amsterdam and Pennsylvania — until 3 a.m. when we finally went to bed. I was so excited to talk to the girls from Chile! I actually had a conversation with them in Spanish, and realized I know way more of the language than I thought I did, which was really cool!
I had every intention of waking up super early the next morning in order to make it over to Arc de Triomphe… but that definitely did not happen. Instead, I slept in, woke Kasondra up, went back to the coffee shop across the street for espresso and a croissant, and then we headed through a cute street market and to the train station to travel back to London. We barely made it through security and customs in time, and got onto our train four minutes before it departed.
PHEW. That was a lot. I don’t get paid vacation time at my job, so I had to work longer-than-usual hours leading up to my trip, and have to do the same now that I’m back so I don’t get a short paycheck. Regardless, one day in Paris is better than no days in Paris!
I definitely learned a few things on the trip. First and foremost, I don’t speak French. I have a working proficiency of Spanish, but French? Non. Luckily, almost everybody we ran into in Paris was fluent or incredibly proficient in English. Often, I would start a conversation with “Bonjour!” and locals would pick up on my (atrocious) accent and immediately shift the conversation to English. (Thank you, thank you, merci.) French natives seemed much, much more receptive to this than a slow and painfully drawn-out “English? You? Speak? Do you speak English?” that I noticed some people doing in shops and restaurants. I had learned the basics (Bonjour, pardon, excusez-moi, merci beaucoup, au reviour and parlez-vous anglais?) and I was really glad I did that. I wish I had learned more, actually!
I really, really loved Paris, and I’m so excited I had the chance to go! I already cannot wait to go back. But, more travel posts to come! I’ll be jotting down my experiences in London as soon as I can!