“That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me.” -Marion Cotillard as Adriana in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris
“You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden. “-Allen Ginsberg
A few years ago we had made some plans (the kind of plans that are like “someday in the future when we have money”) to go to Paris with our friends Chris & Lori. I really wanted to see the city, Tom really wanted to visit Disneyland Paris, and Lori said she could speak French fairly well to help us along. The years went by and Chris & Lori now live in Pennsylvania with two adorable kids so I’m sure going to Europe is not high on their wish list, but with me turning 30 this year I thought it would be a great excuse to take the trip just the two of us. After about six months of planning and one very beginner French course (watch this video to see my level of French) we were off.
With all of the time difference we got to Paris in the morning on Friday. It took a bit of walking, confusion at the RNCF ticket machines, a train, and a bus to get to the hotel. I was pretty proud though as it was about €22 total to get there versus the €40-70 a taxi costs. We got to our hotel early but they were kind enough to speed clean our corner room and let us check in early. This was just one of the many things I loved about our hotel the Mama Shelter. Seriously, I probably posted so much love about the hotel on InstaGram and FaceBook everyone probably thinks I work for them (my trip advisor review can be read here).
Centre Pompidou because they were supposed to be open late. Notice I said “try?” Well, turns out the museum is open late but the ticket booths and even the ticket machines close at 8pm. Why? I have no idea. But we still had fun checking out the gift shop, walking around the neighborhood, eating dinner an outdoor café call Le Parvis, and watching a crazy street performer levitating. Dinner was pretty good and I was very relieved to see it wasn’t as hard to order as everyone had been telling us. All of the cafes we went to had English or pictures on the carte [menu] and the waiters were very fast. It was also nice to not have to worry about a tip (it’s included there) but we ended up leaving a euro everywhere we ate just to be nice.
The next morning I woke up at 5am, this seems to be a pattern as whenever I travel my body wakes up super early. It’s the weirdest form of jet lag, but I won’t complain since it’s better than being tired. I took a couple hours to get ready, unpack some more, wander around the hotel, but eventually I had to wake Tom up because I wanted to get out and about! We had breakfast at the hotel and were the first ones there (I told you I was up early!). The dining room there is really cool, the whole hotel was designed by Philippe Starck. Breakfast definitely lived up to French standards with crepes, a long counter full of croissants, pain au chocolat, a make-your-own softboiled egg station, teeny tiny coffee cups (the Parisians all like the strong but only 4 oz cups it seems), and tons more.
After breakfast the first spot we headed to was the Catacombs, we had quite a few friends who recommended it and I’d heard the line to get in can get crazy. We were lucky and got there right as it opened so the wait was just about an hour. I highly recommend the audio guide as it was nice to have a British professor explain why in the world millions of bones are just piled up under the city streets like that. It was a little creepy though when they had whispery sound effects and organ music playing.
Next stop was to go and see the Eiffel Tower. A little side note, I am highly entertained by the Parisian street performers I guess because on the way there a guy on the metro was singing Dust in the Wind for tips and another guy we saw had a rabbit dressed up with a French flag collar eating carrots. We saw more than one homeless person with a rabbit, but Tom was reluctant to tip them because it’s probably not very safe for the rabbits to be in busy metros and streets (which I have to agree with, but they are so CUTE). We lounged around the Eiffel Tower and walked around the parks and over the bridge but didn’t go up. The line was hours long and I thought I’d rather see a view that included the landmark rather than one from it. I would have liked to see the museum they have up there though.
By that point we had picked up some Paris Museum passes good for 6 days so we walked over to check out the Musée du quai Branly. We learned much too late that we didn’t really need the 6 day passes. Everywhere we went we just flashed them and no one scanned or marked them at all till the next to the last day. We probably could have gotten away with the 2 day pass but we’ll hope the money goes to preserving the museums. The MQB had really beautiful gardens and architecture, but the exhibits seemed a bit small. Upstairs was a fun exhibit on art centering on hair and hairstyles.
After walking the museum for a while we were pretty tired, we had known all the walking would be tough on us lazy kids, but man were my feet not prepared! We decided to go back to the hotel and eat at the pizzeria there which was a good choice. Part of the pizzeria has vintage school desks that were set together so dinner was casual but the wood fired pizza was tasty. You can see our table with the checkerboard desks in the left corner:
Later that night it turned out it was Nuit des Musées, the one night a year that most of the museums are free and open past midnight. We figured this time we would definitely get in to the Centre Pompidou and we wandered around there. My favorite part of the museum may be the crazy escalator tubes where you can see the night view of the city.