My trip to France was split into two parts – one was a few days in Paris at the beginning and one day at the end, and in the middle was my trip to Cote d’Azur. If you’ve seen my older posts before, you will know that I’ve been to Paris once… although it was just for a two day weekend trying to cramp all the tourist attractions possible. So if you’re looking for more info on Eiffel Tower, Sacred Coeur, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, the love lock bridge etc., I suggest you read my post C’est Paris!. The purpose of my visit for Paris this time around is to act a little less touristy.
To wash away those rosy tainted glasses of yours, Paris is overhyped in its romantic beauty. There is this wonderful charm and hidden beauty that surrounds it, you can feel it, and there are bits and pieces which makes Paris look enchanting, but often in the city we are confronted with graffiti on buildings and monuments, an old metro system, SNCF, that is comparable to that of New York’s, and transparent trash bags that shows the delights of what people have been eating or disposing (although there is a practical reason for their transparency – to ensure that bombs are not placed inside the bins). It isn’t the appearance of the city that gives Paris the reputation of being romantic… rather I believe it’s the instilled French culture; the way courtship works that provides the imagination of Paris as a romantic city. The public displays of affection such as simple holding hands in a light and relaxing manner, the air kiss and blow to your partner who’s about to board the train, and the sharing of a wine bottle in an open terrace restaurant while people watching. It’s these acts that provide the romantic fantasy of the French.
Living in Hong Kong, I am spoiled by the diversity of restaurant cuisines I am offered; literally I can get anything I want in Hong Kong, ranging from Nepalese to Indian to Greek. Here in France, it is mainly French food with some Italian food. All the meals are relatively similar, with escargots, oysters, beef, lamb dishes… Sure I was biased in the fact that I was in France and favored French restaurants all the time, but roaming around the streets you will still observe that there is a lack of diversity of cuisines here. Maybe I am just a visitor so I have yet to discover some of the city’s more popular restaurant districts.
However, just as I find that the tastes outside of Tokyo is far superior to that of Tokyo itself in Japan, I had a much better time eating in Cote d’Azur than in Paris. The former was astounding, as I will talk about in my other post focusing in the French Riviera.
Sadly, this time around, I find myself being slightly bored of Paris towards the end due to the lack of activities. This isn’t Paris’ fault, it is a typical reaction of mine whenever I visit some cities. To illustrate my point, I noted myself that I was shopping in the same area twice in the 6-7 days I was in Paris.
Some differences in Paris that I particularly enjoyed compared to other places around the world – the open outdoor terrace areas of restaurants, with the chairs facing towards the streets to allow clientele to people watch (was evident in Cote d’Azur as well), the coolness of the handling of Cigarettes (where in most countries people inhale cigarettes like addicts, the French smoke with an air of laid back and class, and by the way I discourage smoking as a habit or at a semi-semi-frequent or more basis), the way they converse over dinners without using or looking at their phones, and the abundance of retail shops catered to men.
Lastly, if you ever go to Paris, don’t ever go to the Rapide Informatique shop on 56 Boulevard de Magenta! I’ve never had a worse experience in my life, they personally called me crazy because I wanted to leave and they couldn’t get my data on my phone for 45 minutes and wanted me to stay for 1 hour longer to fix it and still wanted me to pay for the sim card! And they kept playing around with my phone. Sim cards, from all my other experiences, never took more than 5 minutes to set up and get it working!!!
Located near the Canal St. Martin, it is about a 5 minute walk from the Jacques Bonsergent station. Canal St. Martin is an area with many restaurants along its path. Chose this place as it was close to my friends’. If you are into bars, you can also go to Oberkampf, which is also not too far and is an up and coming nightlife district. Ludwig, the host, will take care and demonstrate how things work in the apartment. There was no shampoo or body soap provided so you would need to bring it / buy it yourselves. If you are really susceptible to noise however, you might want to be cautious picking here as it is next to a restaurant, although I was okay with it and by midnight usually there is no more noise.
This apartment looks more impressive in pictures than in reality. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I expected more. The apartment is about 200-300 square feet, and I wouldn’t complain because it’s literally 5 mins away from Arc de Triomphe. So the area has many happenings, and when an area has many happenings, it means that there is going to be noise. So yes, there is more noise. And you have to walk up about 2-3 flights of stairs (no elevator). By the way, all the airbnb places I’ve stayed at this trip do not have aircons, they use electric fans. But fine, the location is unbeatable. It is even just a 5 min walk away from the infamous nightclub, L’arc Paris. Sorry don’t have pics, but you can go to link above for airbnb photos.
As my friend said, Paris is a city for walking. As a visitor, I would recommend just walking around for anywhere that’s within 20-30 minutes, it’s just a pleasure to the eyes. Otherwise, you can take the SNCF (their metro) to go to different stations. It’s not too complicated once you get the hang of it. You will need coins though, right now single way to the main districts of Paris from the main districts of Paris cost Euro 1.8. I also highly recommend carrying coins as some machines might not take bills, so make sure you have enough. The ticket machines are painful to deal with and you don’t want to almost complete the transaction only to find that you don’t have enough coins and you have to go somewhere else to get change. Also, some trains require you to press a button to open the doors, either boarding or getting off, so in case no one does it for you and the doors don’t seem to open by themselves there should be a button that lights up.
I do enjoy how some stations are themed based on their main attraction for that station’s area however.
When going to the airport, you can consider using Le Bus Direct. These buses take you from a certain point in Paris and bring you to either of the two Paris airports. You can buy the tickets at the point of pickup or buy it beforehand online. Be sure to check online to see when the buses will arrive and where they will pick you up. For me, there was one very close by near the l’arc de Triomphe.
Overspending is a great habit of mine and when it comes to dining, it becomes more than just a habit. Cause of Brexit, I was able to enjoy the meals at an even cheaper price after currency conversion. All my meals, I would have at least one main dish and a glass of wine minimum; usually it consisted of an appetizer as well. Let’s see what we’ve enjoyed:
My friends took me here to eat. It’s one of Paris’ oldest markets where you can have a selection of French and Italian food and sit outside to enjoy the meal. There are about 20 food stalls opened.
Some Restaurant near Champs Elysees
Was waiting for a friend near Champs Elysees, but ate dinner first. Forgot to write the details of the restaurant, but here are some pics:
No idea why Tripadvisor has users rating this place 4 out of 5… I didn’t like it. The beef I had was dry and hard to chew and not tasty, it was just badly prepared. The oysters were OK, but you can’t go too bad with oysters unless you get them at the wrong season or there are shells or sand in it. This restaurant was just right around the corner of the 2nd airbnb place I was staying at.
Fantastic! This was my last meal in France and good I chose one that was memorable. The restaurant was one street away from where I stayed in my 2nd airbnb.
Some Italian restaurant
In some Italian restaurant near my 2nd Airbnb, I ate a plate of beef carpaccio.
This bakery was nearby my first airbnb, as recommended by my airbnb host. Had this for my first breakfast in France; not bad!
Saveurs de l’Aveyron
I can’t find the one I went to on Google, but this restaurant was near the train station Chemin Vert. This was the first proper meal I had in France, and it was very delicious!
Some restaurant near the Louvre
Cafe Le Louis Philippe Restaurant
Also another restaurant near Saint Martin Canal is Bar & Cuisine Marcel.
Cafes and Dessert Places
Let’s be honest, Paris is famed for its “mini” shops like cafes and dessert places. Here are a few:
A cafe famous for their signature hot chocolate. The Angelina cafe I went to was situated in Rue de Rivoli. As some of you may know, I’m a huge fan of chocolate, so of course I have to have a cup of hot chocolate in Paris.
Where I ordered this biscuit sandwich with an ice cream in the middle. C’etait parfait!
It’s an excellent chocolate shop where you can sit down and enjoy their chocolates or order mini squares and take them with you.
Being the fashion capital of the world, it is no doubt that there were many designer and boutique shops. Actually, I mainly shopped around the Le Marais area. You can walk along the streets of Rue de Turenne, Rue Vieille du Temple, Rues des Archives, and Rue Charlot. During the summer time, most of the stores were on sale. I would recommend shopping at Le Marais over Champs Elysees, the latter being just big international brands where you can get anywhere else in the world… Chanel, A&F etc.
Merci – one of the more popular shops in Paris. Reminded me of Urban Outfitters, they sell clothes and furniture and linens.
Other shops to go to: Sarl Ephrat (tel no. 09 84445784, address: 12 rue des Filles du Calvaires), MR (tel no. +33 (0) 142712859 at 8, rue Charlot), Ambiance (tel no. +33 (0) 153960925 76 Avenue des Champs Elysees), The Slowear Store (tel no. +33 140291770, 75 Rue Vieille du Temple)
Other Things to Do
Walk along the Seine River
Was with my friends trying to find a shop for their business. Anyway, over time while walking towards the Louvre area we decided to walk along the Seine. Beautiful!
Don’t go on Mondays, it is closed!
I had the pleasure of attending the Peacock Society when I was in Paris; it just was coincidentally on July 13, 15th, and 16th, and I was still in Paris on the 13th, one day before I took the train to Nice. So what is this music festival? Well, it’s basically a festival of visual arts, films, and of course, underground electronic music. This is by far the most underground music I’ve ever heard, which is a change from all the big music festivals with mainstream DJ’s that only play mainstream radio hits. Super cool. It was held at Parc Floral de Paris, so it was quite some distance away from the main part of Paris. There were three stages; two large indoor stages and one medium sized club environment. For a list of artists that played, you can go to their Facebook event.
When you go to Paris, what is the one activity you look forward to most? Food? Music? Museums? Shopping? Also, I realized that France in general is a very ‘artsy’ place as well.
Last updated: Aug. 21, 2016