It’s fitting that the last city I’d be visiting on my journey would be the one that I have dreamed of visiting for goodness knows how long.
At this point I feel that I can say I’m fairly well-travelled, but for some reason I’ve just always put off going to Paris. I think part of it stemmed from feeling the need to be more “mature” to fully appreciate the place, but I also was pretty intimidated by it. It’s uber-fashionable, chic, and fairly indifferent to what the world thinks of it – so I needed to grow a pair before I could go there. After four months of facing challenges head-on I felt I was ready, and wanted to do things right. No more hostels and hitting my head on bunk beds (or falling out of them), no more poorly made meals thrown together with whatever ingredients hadn’t been stolen by fellow travellers, no more living out of my pack. We rented an apartment.
An apartment with closets, laundry, and a charming garden courtyard which sheltered it from the street. I lucked out, as I really didn’t know too much about the different districts and kind of chose this one blindly after liking the photos. It turned out that the neighbourhood was pretty perfect – the 11th arrondissement is quite charming. A short walk to the Place de la Bastille, large markets and parks, fashionable cafes and restaurants, and a quaint boulangerie on the corner of the street. The perfect place to come home to after a long day wandering the streets.
And wander we did. A bit naive, but we thought that we could WALK Paris. After all, we’d walked Rome and survived, so Paris wouldn’t be much different and our map assured us that it would only be a few kilometres that we’d have to cover.
Except the map was TOTALLY WRONG AND EVIL. Paris is HUGE! Which explains why there are fourteen lines for the Metro. Our first full day likely involved walking at least 15 km. And this was the day after our 13 hours of train travel, so “exhausted” doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt when we crashed on the couch at the end of the day.
At any rate, day one started off with considerably chillier temperatures than we were used to – Megan eventually had to admit defeat and purchase a sweater as it was so cold. We stumbled upon a small market in the Bastille and after much wandering made our way over to the incredible Musée Rodin.
If you ever go to Paris, please put this on the top of your must-visit list. The museum is housed in the former Hôtel Biron, a beautiful building surrounded by gardens and a small lake. Rodin used the Biron as his workshop from 1908, and he subsequently donated the whole kit-and-kaboodle (meaning his entire collection of sculptures, along with paintings by Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir from his personal collection) to the French State on the condition that they turn the building into a museum.
Both inside the museum and in the gardens you’ll find most of his significant creations, including The Thinker, The Kiss, and The Gates of Hell. There’s also a room dedicated to the works of Camille Claudel. Perhaps partially due to utter exhaustion, Megan convinced me to do a series of interpretive dance shots in the gardens:
Yep. Slightly exploitive, but hilarious at the same time. I guarantee that the museum and gardens will make you want to bust out a dance.
Following the museum, we visited Le Bon Marché, considered by some to be the world’s first department store. Loosely translated it means “the good market” or “the good deal” in French, although after checking out some fancy French underpants and realizing they cost almost as much as some of the flights I’ve taken once translated out of Euros, I am doubtful about the validity of the second translation. We then popped into La Grande Epicerie.
I get excited by gourmet grocery stores, and this was no exception. They have EVERYTHING. It’s best described as a food hall-meets-supermarket-meets deli, and it definitely has a heavy fashion influence (it is Paris). I spotted Diesel olive oil, edible costume jewelry (not the candy necklaces of your youth) and Sonia Rykiel chocolates. I also heard a rumour they had vodka flavoured lollipops – which sounds like an amazing idea, however they contained edible scorpions. I didn’t go looking for these.
We spent about an hour wandering the aisles and I picked up some spices, mustards and chocolates to bring home, and some delicious-looking veggies for dinner. I could have moved into that store and been a very happy camper. The butter section alone was likely larger than my first apartment.
After the longest walk home in history, we whipped up a delicious dinner with our purchases and toasted to our first day in Paris – c’était magnifique! (If my poorly practiced French is holding up, I’m hoping that means “it was magnificent”.)