Is it weird that reading my own blog post on Paris left me feeling nostalgic the other night? It feels like some bizarre form of narcissism.
But, well, there you have it.
I’ve already described what I miss the most about living in France, but with grad school approaching, I won’t call Paris home again for at least another two years. Instead, I’ll have to live with being just another tourist.
It’s strange to know you’ll be in a place you once called home as a mere visitor. And it’s stranger still to feel as if you left something behind, but even after all this time, not quite be able to identify that nagging something scraping beneath your skin. All I know is that I left part of myself in Paris. So it’s with cautious, yet eager steps with which I plan my next adventure to la ville lumière.
Because Paris often feels as distant as a dream. Late at night, while watching the green and blue glow of my neighbor’s television reflect on my wall, I wonder if I dreamt the whole experience. Of course that’s absurd, but my life has taken such different, yet eerily similar shape. Even now, this summer, I’m packing away my life’s belongings, planning my adventures, in such harmony with two summers ago, it’s almost as if I’ve started over, and the entire year in Paris existed only within the confines of my mind.
But when I close my eyes, I can retrace my steps around the city. I can outline all 20 arrondissements, each crowded with crisscrossing streets and monuments. I know Paris. I love Paris. And this fall, while living in London, I get to go back for a visit!
I’ve spent the past few weeks daydreaming, planning, and recording my ideas for my Parisian weekend. Rather than keep it to myself, I thought it would be useful to know exactly what someone who used to call Paris home would do for a weekend back, specifically while bringing her boyfriend, who has never visited Paris, in tow.
Well mes amis, here is my loose agenda: what to do in Paris when you have only a weekend in the city of light.
My first day, I will, bien sûr, revisit my old home in le 7ème arrondissement. It’s where I lived and loved – so many memories, now condensed into one recondite, abstract feeling of nostalgia, live in the 7th.
Even for those of you who are unemotionally attached to this stately selection of winding streets, I’d still recommend beginning in the 7th. Oh why yes, I am completely biased, but honestly, it makes logistical sense.
Begin in the 7th by marveling at the Eiffel Tower.
I can never decide what’s more alluring – the Tower’s elegance, or marveling at the blundering tourists and their selfie sticks. Probably not exactly what good old Gustave had in mind.
So watch them snap selfies and know you’re standing in the presence of wonder.
Then move on.
Rue St. Dominique
From la tour Eiffel, take Rue St. Dominique towards the 6th arrondissement. Along the way, you can peek into the markets of Rue Cler and shop in the chic boutiques. I will certainly stop at Apollon, a nearby Greek restaurant, for une feuilleté aux épinards to go. I hope they remember me!
If you follow along Rue St. Dominique, you will eventually reach Les Invalides (the nearby métro stops are 8 and 13). If you’re interested, explore the military history of Paris, where I once accidentally found myself on a rather ridiculous date with a Frenchman whose name I can’t remember. (But actually – so ridiculous. Worth it for the story, though).
Be careful with how many tourist spots you explore. The majority of the city resembles a jewelry box; you needn’t visit every intriguing museum along the way. If you do – and I’ve seen this countless times – you will exhaust yourself, and miss the temptation of the French laissez-faire all together.
I’d suggest limiting yourself to two tourist activities a day.
Right, back to the perfect weekend.
After your petite promenade, take a break in Coutume Café – a bright, airy space originally recommended to me by Deborah, the woman whose kids I babysat. It turned out to be the perfect place to listen to my music, write, read, or simply sip coffee and observe those around me. Take care not to arrive during the lunch hour rush though; you can only sit at the bar during that time if you’re not ordering food.
Museum of Choice
Afterwards, I’d suggest visiting one museum (if that’s your cup of tea, of course). There’s a fine line between appreciating the art and beauty within Paris, and becoming so overwrought with museum fervor, you miss Paris entirely.
Personally, I’d like to revisit the Musée Rodin.
The museum options I’d recommend are:
Rodin’s impressive home houses the sculptor still, in the form of his art.
And within the backyard gardens, meticulously placed trees and bushes tangle and curl into each other, catching the noise, muffling the world, so that all that exists is you, the garden, and Rodin.
Musée de l’Orangerie:
The first museum to ever strike me as magnificent.
*I’d recommend the Musée Cluny if you plan on wandering along Boulevard Saint-Germain.
I don’t particularly fancy the Louvre. Only visit if you’re a massive art history fan, or have ample amounts of time.
Le Quartier Latin
What do you do after your one museum?
For me, I’d imagine we’d continue walking along the Seine towards the 5th arrondissement, where I will finally return to Shakespeare and Company, and introduce Chris to the finely spun array of streets within le Quartier Latin.
Then, I’ll most likely lose touch with reality for an hour or two, lost in a book, and the musty smell of leather and paper. Heaven. Even if you’re not as obsessively in love with books as I am, I’d still recommend visiting this historic bookstore; the nearby Abbey Bookshop is quite a fantastic nook as well.
Otherwise, the Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle are nearby, and worth exploring.
That night, I’ll most likely visit République for evening drinks.
This area always felt refreshingly local to me, and while sharing kebabs with my friends at midnight, perched on the rickety Canal St. Martin bridges, it’s easy to feel content, and apart of Paris in a tangible way that differs from the overrun Louvre and Notre Dame.
I love to get lost in Parisian November mists – the mists and the soft rain, through which filtered sunlight illuminates the red, golden hues crowning rows of tree tops.
And it is here, within le Marais, where I will lose sense of direction. Where I will meander and watch and wonder, retracing my steps along the serpentine streets in circles, until I finally find my way back towards Place des Vosges.
When my mom visited me in Paris, I took her on a mini adventure through le Marais. She had visited Paris before – numerous times, in fact – but it was within le Marais where she seemed to fall in love all over again.
Fantastic shops such as Numéro 60 and La Biscotte helped, of course.
Explore le Marais, eat, and drink to your heart’s content. It will be worth it.
Finally, on our second – and last – night, I picture an evening stroll through Montmartre.
The view atop Sacré Coeur nearly parallels that of the Eiffel Tower, and you don’t have to cope with a horrendous line.
I remember sitting on the cold, dusty steps, watching a burnt orange twilight settle over the city, and sipping wine from the bottle with my friends. The three of us lamented over the impossibility – and possibility – of our new Parisian lives under the shade of Sacré Coeur’s whitewashed towers.
It was iconic and beautiful and filled with memory.
Of course, none of this may happen. It may pour all weekend. Perhaps a new exhibition at le Grand Palais will persuade us to remain in central Paris. Perhaps, if we arrive early enough in the fall, the sunlight and bottles of wine will tempt us to lounge in one of the vast Parisian parks bordering Paris. Chris may drag me to Versailles (quelle horreur). Maybe I’ll hop the train at Gare St. Lazare to Herblay, and visit the school where I once taught. Perhaps I’ll arrive at King’s Cross for the train to Paris a day early, and soak in the city alone with my notebook, pen, and camera, reminiscing, hoping.
I don’t yet know.
But that’s what makes it the perfect Parisian plan.