cheese · France · girl · girl travel · like a local · solo travel · top places in paris · travel · Travel bound · what to do · what to see

Lost in cheesland

It has been written about Paris in every possible way. I mean, we all know that Hemingway wrote “A moveable feast” and his narratives of the Paris quais and cafés are absorbing. Not that long ago Woody Allen created a movie based on that story. Uncountable number of poets dedicated their work to this city and songwriters wrote hundreds of songs about the city of love.  I have traveled to Paris quite a few times now, but it never came across my mind to call it the city of love. It is not the amount of love in the air this city has that attracts me to visit it from time to time, but, I guess, the city itself. 

Paris is quite a place to visit and, I think, it is on everyone’s travel list (if anyone has one). I have heard people saying that there is not a place in France, which would be less French than Paris. And I believe there is some true to this saying. Every year the city is visited by millions of people and finding a local Parisian is like searching for a needle in a haystack. If you are lucky and find one, it is much likely that he is not able to speak English or is just rude and ignores you. I am not talking about those street sellers with hundreds of miniature Eiffel towers, water bottles or all other ridiculous souvenirs. On the other hand, the fact that the city is full of different people with different cultural background adds a certain charm to the city. 

Okay, so I may be too harsh to locals. There are always exceptions. Once I met the nicest waiter who helped me with the restaurants menu as it was all in French (the fact that I took French lessons back at school did not help at all, I only learned the basics).

 Le musée du Louvre. Apart from those kilometer long lines (Note: summertime is worst. Though, during late autumn and winter seasons it is better) by the entrance and uncountable number of people squishing around the famous “Mona Lisa” or a  masterpiece of Greek sculpture, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, it so far the most exciting place for me to visit. I know that for some travelers it may be the most actively avoided museum in the world. And it makes sense. The side of the museum which is along the river Seine is some 700 metres long and today some 35,000 paintings and object d`art are on display. If devoted 30 seconds to each of the paintings and object of arts, thus ignoring the time taken walking from one work to the next, it would take about thirteen 24 hour days to see each piece. Not many of us have a privilege to spend their entire time visiting one museum. But if I could, I would. Not because of da Vinci`s la Joconde (which for me is a bit too overrated), but because of all the other paintings on display which are as rich with history and artist’s talent as the “Mona Lisa”.

I know I am enchanted by Louvre and its richness of art, but it would be unfair not to mention Musee d`Orsay. The first time I went there, I was eight, and when I saw one of Van Gogh`s works, I just told my mum I could do better than that (no, I was not modest at all). It seems as if this museum took up where the Louvre left off- somewhere around mid to the end of the 19thcentury. Of course (as most buildings in Paris), the museum building itself is amazing. Architects have created the museum from an old rail station Gare D`Orsay. What is more, its permanent collection houses countless great works by masters of early modern art, including Matisse, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, and Rodin. I guess the names speak for themselves. Now, if you only have just a few days in Paris, I would suggest you to skip the Louvre and go here instead. It is much better to spend a whole morning enjoying the museum than running around Louvre trying to see everything and ending up seeing nothing at all.

There is also some climbing to do in Paris. I do not mean climbing as in mountain climbing, but as in climbing stairs. And there are quite a few places to climb in this city. Let’s start with the Arch de Triomphe. The triumphal arch is in honour of those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. It is 50m in height and it has exactly 284 steps to climb in order to reach the top (I have this weird habit of counting stairs when climbing).

There is also “Our Lady of Paris” or as in French “Notre Dame de Paris”. The beautiful cathedral is and exquisite example of French Gothic architecture not only beautiful on the outside, but also incredible inside with its stained glass and naturalistic sculptures. Note: as beautiful as the cathedral looks from the front side, I much more like the back side of the cathedral. Now, visiting the cathedral is a must, it is also a must to climb all of 387 steps of the South tower to appreciate a stunning view. 

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur is located at the top of the hill of Monmartre and is the highest point of the city. Monmartre itself, with its bohemian charm, is a popular place in the city and it is usually overcrowded during weekends. Now, to visit the Basilique you can climb up the Rue Foyatier or take the funicular. I believe I counted 225 steps up the hill and then I went up some more- to the top of the Dome itself which is 83 meters high and has a narrow stairway of some 234 steps.  Still, worth the effort because of the view.  

Last, but not least in the climbing is of course the famous Eiffel Tower with its 324 meters in height and 1.665 steps to the top. It is only possible to climb to the second floor of the tower, but if you are already tired just take an elevator.

Enough about the climbing now. It is time for rest and… picnic! While you may want or not to have a small brake looking at the Eiffel Tower, I would suggest to have it at Canal St- Martin. It just the perfect spot to bring a picnic, pop a cork and eavesdrop on the locals. And do not forget the cheese!

Mentiong cheese. Or food in general. It is impossible to walk through a Boulanger or Patisserie without so much as looking at the delicacies it makes, let alone trying one of them. And there is a lot to try. Macaroons, viennoises and of course crepes are something to look for. And éclairs, of course. Or just try burning hot chestnuts. In late autumn these can be found at many key locations in Paris, quite a typical street food I would say.
Ah, and of course, it would be a sin at least not to mention the Latin Quarter and Pere Lachaise Cemetery. The cemetery is historic burial grounds and the final resting place of many notable luminaries and the Latin Quarter for me is the “soul” of the city with its adorable Luxembourg Gardens, the Pantheon and Sorbonne. And now I started dreaming of Paris… Again. This leads me to one conclusion. 
People need to travel. Not because of the books we have read, the movies we have seen or the stories someone has told us. We need to travel by our own means. To find and understand who we truly are. We need to travel with our own hearts and on our own feet to set our souls free from the cages of shady daily life which stops us from acknowledging the world as it is and what it could be like. We need to travel to be able to see. To see ordinary things becoming not that ordinary in a different light. And we need to travel in order to feel. To feel the hot and the cold. The sweet and the sour. People need to travel. In order to become the person, the writer, the artist, the musician, the lover, the woman and the man you had never known you could be. We need to travel. So go, explore, search and find, see and learn. 

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