day 670 | october 8, 2012 | Jouer à Paris

Earlier, I shared some snaps from an art-infused night in Paris, called Nuit Blanche. The first time I went to Paris, it was spring, and with a certain wide-eyed innocence that probably made everything bright and rosy. Despite my mom being pick-pocketed at the Metro after we left the Louvre, I loved the memory of Paris like a best-friend who bullied you. It's just the way things are. I didn't realize how claustrophobic Paris could be, or how it smelled of human and dog piss in some areas, but on this trip, I was keenly aware of the many faces of the city. It's strange though, because I've grown to appreciate the hairline cracks rather than the illusory perfection.

Messy stories, unexpected turns, and familiar faces in unfamiliar lands; this is what I look for when I travel now.


Getting around: Instead of buying piece-meal tickets for every journey, it makes sense to buy the Paris Metro Pass. They have various options for zones and number of days for unlimited access to the Metro and Bus network. It'll save you cash, and more importantly, plenty of time.
Taken from ParisMetro.Com; Would love to have this printed on my wall. :)
I've done the usual roster of touristy places before --  so for this trip, I was keen to experience things differently.

Metro Station Hopping, all over the city. For my first day, I explored some of the stops I don't remember trying, and got myself lost in the many Gares in Paris. My rest stops were the station cafes where you can see a colorful variety of people passing by -- a couple whose train was delayed by a labor strike and were frantically rearranging all their forward bookings, a shivering beggar who kept on coming back eyeing the leftover muffins in an abandoned table, a cafe manager frustrated that his cafe had become a shortcut tunnel for those going in and out of the station, and an asian couple who was debating why their wifi connection was "shit." Not my own words. :)
I climbed out and found a view of the train line from outside of the station, and sipped my coffee for heat and comfort on a stone ledge, my notebook and camera in hand. There were boys making a ruckus on the side, an elderly female beggar who whispered an earnest "merci" after I gave her a few coins. She had such an intent stare, which unnerved me. A random stranger stopped by to chat about photography and solo travels, sharing much more than I wished to know. Probably hoping for an easy pick-up, he gave me his hotel details, and I politely declined. One of a few such encounters. Sometimes, it's more difficult to be alone when you're alone.
On my third day, I had a beautiful companion who flew all the way from Barcelona (Thank you, Tito Dave!). We had lunch at Le Melting Pot (3 Rue de Lagny, Metro Nation). Hearty food for the hungry and cold to equip us for the long hours of exploring ahead. Absolutely no complaints about the food, except that there was just too much. The plates were huge!
A walk through Les Puces de Montreuil (Metro Porte de Montreuil) and a little bit of haggling at the marche. The selection is underwhelming, but it's an experience if you are looking for a nearby marche which is within 2km from Pere Lachaise. I can't fake a french accent, and doubt I got a good deal on the supposedly Moroccan scarves I got for the little ones. Perhaps try this jaunt during the spring or early summer though. We were giddy happy, but soaked through under the rain.
Roughly translated: "The job pays, the work kills, time is bought at the supermarket..." continuing the quote from Raoul Vaneigem "the paid time does not return, the youth died of lost time."

Meeting the 'Famously Deceased' at Pere Lachaise Cemetery (Boulevard de Menilmontant, Metro Pere Lachaise, Philippe Auguste). Out of the 2-3 million bodies in the cemetery and ossuary, the two people we deliberately visited were Oscar and Jim.   
It's an odd thing for a cemetery to be a playground for tourists where questions like "Do you know which way to Oscar?" or "Is that Jim?" are not unusual. For some of these famous people, there's no question what they are remembered for. Jim's a rock icon on a drug-dependency downward spiral, whereas Oscar wrote two books I loved, 'Importance of Being Earnest' and 'Picture of Dorian Gray.' Visiting the tombs and reading the carvings beside their names made me wonder what I'll be remembered for when I pass on.  
Scribbled by a fan: "We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars..." - Oscar Wilde
Dinner at Domaine de Lintillac (10 Rue Saint Augustin, Metro Opera). Everything fabulously duck, duck, duck! I have to thank Lady L for introducing me to this place. It lingers in the back of my mind as one of my benchmarks for delicious. When H told me he had fatty liver, I got hungry and immediately remembered the sumptuous night we spent here.

On my fourth day, after Nuit Blanche, I met up with friends at Montparnasse for lunch at Creperie du Manoir Breton (18 Rue d'Odessa, Metro Montparnasse). I love that they recommended this place as I had completely forgotten about crepes after all that foie gras. In Brittany, it is tradition to pair crepes with cider -- so we did the same in Breton.
Kir Breton - A cocktail of Blackcurrant liquer and Cider

A few minutes driving from Montparnasse is the thinkers' district called Saint-German, where many great writers, creatives, and philosophers have been known to hang out. Among the famous intellectual cafes are Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots. You'll be spoiled for many more cafe and dessert choices while walking around. Pretend to be Sartre, Camus, Picasso, or Hemingway as you sit and sip your coffee while watching the world go by.
Within the Saint-German neighborhood, you can stop by for treats at Lauderee (21 Rue Bonaparte, Metro Saint-Germain-de-Pres). I didn't know I'd be a fan of salted caramel. Yum. If you're looking to try these treats, Lauduree is now in Takashimaya (Yes, here in Singapore).
It's a beautiful walk from Saint-Germain neighborhood to the Louvre pyramids, especially with a gentle sun to warm the chill in the autumn air.
Soaking up the sun at the Tuileries Garden (Metro Palais Royal - Musee du Louvre). Had a quick shoot in the gardens with little M. People were having a picnic and lounging in the gardens, with a couple not-so-far-away unabashedly canoodling. Throughout my Europe trip, the sun was scarce, so it was such a beautiful thing to soak it up that afternoon.   
Candies and treats at La Cure Gourmande (49 Avenue del'Opera) where you can get lost in choupettes, papillotes, berlandises, callisons, nougats, and all sorts of unpronounceable yummy sweet stuff. I settled for simple caramels and Paprika biscuits.
Climbing up Montmarte. I could have taken the bus up, but I decided not to. Walked all the way through the beautiful neighborhoods from Lamarck-Coulaincourt on my way up to the Sacre Couer. Lots of quaint cafes along the way. I wished I could drink coffee more than once in a day without palpitating.
"The Pink House"
Sacre-Couer Basilica. True that is one of the "package tour" destinations for Paris, but it's still nonetheless beautiful. Visitors are allowed to go into the church and into the dome for awesome Paris panoramic views.
With limited time, instead of going into the basilica, I opted to explore the art district where they have a gallery dedicated to Dali, among other art spaces. Distracted by my belly, I settled into one of the restaurants to gorge on crepes while I people-watched and scribbled.
Leisurely walked down the slopes before I hopped onto a train to visit more friends! It was only during the time I was walking to my friends' home that I realized I'd done a tour of my life though this trip. My first companion is from my life in Manila, my second companions are from my life in Singapore, and the final visit I was making was to meet friends I had met in Malaysia. Had home-made macarons which rivalled Lauderee, especially made by little S.
This was my final night in Paris, and I hadn't even visited La Tour Eiffel at night yet. Did a quick drop by at the Academie Nationale de Musique...
Then, did a super slow walk from Trocadero to Champ de Mars for various night views of the Eiffel Tower, to L'Ecole Militaire where my bed and the remainder of my 10-year old tawny port was waiting.
Walking around Paris is lovely, so make sure to pack comfortable footwear to make it easy for your soon-to-be very weary feet. There are so many interesting details, and the city is packed with beautifully imposing landmarks, that surely, there must be something for your eyes and brain to feast on. My notebook is filled with random ponderings, and my head is full of inspiration.

So many more adventures to be had! The more I travel, the longer my list gets. :) 

5 comments:

Ai Sakura said...

So beautiful! Still waiting for the day I can visit this gorgeous place!

Ai @ Sakura Haruka

Adora said...

We met my mother in law in Paris for her 60th and sang happy birthday quietly while the Eiffel tower's lights sparkled. That's my fondest memory of Paris :)

Also this lovely little restaurant in the 3rd arrondissement that had beautiful 1920s decor and a menu that changed daily, it was heavenly and reasonably priced. It was a welcome great after too many sandwiches!

mummybean said...

Such amazing gorgeous pictures! I was only in Paris once, and that was when my husband, then friend, asked me to be his girlfriend. So that's m fondest memory of the place, 13 years ago! Have never been back, but one day...

Susan said...

I was in Paris last year and didn't find myself liking it quite as much. Partially because we got pickpocketed but also because a less than 2 days in Paris just didn't give it chance to grow on us.

libpuritan said...

Thanks ladies! :)

Adora, that's such a lovely anecdote. Dig out the name of the resto? Will hunt it down on the next trip.

V, a dreamy Parisian engagement! Perhaps time to go back for the next anniversary?

Susan, oh no. Can completely empathize with the pickpocketing experience. Hard to like it after something like that. Paris isn't for everyone though. I like it, but there's a lot more of the world to explore. :)

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