Finding New Places In Paris, France
Heather Markel, Best Selling Author, Speaker, Traveler, Full Time Travel Coach
When you’ve spent over 30 years going to a place, you can easily feel like you know everything about it. So, when I go back to Paris, it’s always a challenge to find a neighborhood I’ve never been, a restaurant I’ve never eaten in, and an experience that doesn’t feel familiar. Nonetheless, I try each time I go!
I stayed with a friend in the 16th arrondisement for a few days, during which time, she was kind enough to look up some restaurants I didn’t know before. I enjoyed foie gras, escargots, and duck confit, a few of my favorite French foods. Then I plugged into the magic of wandering and seeing what I found for a few days.
I decided to head into the 17th arrondisement. It’s more residential, so there are none of the overwhelming crowds that are found in the more central areas of Paris. I admire the architecture, the quiet neighborhoods, and, eventually, succomb to my growling stomach and decide to lunch at a place I didn’t know previouly, Le Lutin.
The hostess is lovely, and speaks a few languages as well. I end up meeting the German couple next to me who are wrapping up three weeks of travel through France on their motorbike. After they leave, a young Australian couple replace them. They’ve come to France for a friend’s wedding, and are contemplating next steps as the boyfriend has hurt his foot, and may not be able to resume his work as a builder once they return to Australia.
I pay my bill and chat with the hostess and mention that I’m planning to go to Croatia. She tells me that her chef is from that area, and I should talk to her! I eagerly head to the kitchen where I meet Bouba. She’s Yugoslavian, French, and tells me that when I get to Croatia I should contact her because she’s going to Vir around the time I will be in Zagreb! We exchange numbers and I feel rewarded for my exploration into new experiences.
I continue my journey into parts previously unknown by finally going to the 20th arrondisement one of my days in Paris. Though I’ve been to Pere Lachaise, I’ve never explored the neighborhood. My French host mom grew up there, and I’ve always been curious. I’m delighted to step out of the metro and into a Paris I didn’t know. There’s a street market and Africans everywhere. I love strolling along and seeing this neighborhood, and then head up a hill towards Menilmontant. It’s quite a hill! I have to take a few pauses along the way up.
I discover a park and a more mellow side of Paris. When I reach the top, I’m at a wonderful spot with what looks like old cafes and a sort of old Paris. No throngs of tourists. It’s a real-feeling neighborhood and I can’t decide where to eat – it’s a choice between a healthy restaurant with veggie bowls, and a French one. I go for the French one, being in France. It turns out they have live music at night, the Edith Piaf genre. The food is fabulous. It’s like someone’s mom cooked a meal for me. I enjoy some salmon and a relaxing lunch.
After my stomach is properly satiated, I continue onwards into the 20th. The streets wind about and I discover funky street art, shops, and a church. Then I head another direction and find a small park made over tracks of a previous train station. Everything is seen for the first time by my eyes, and I’m so happy to expand my knowledge of Paris!
One disappointing experience I have while in Paris is the Cat Cafe. I’ve wanted to go to one ever since I heard of them in Portugal in 2018. (That one was closed when I tried to go.) I am so excited to learn there’s one in Paris. I feel lucky to find an open table, as it’s packed with other people wanting to pet the cats. I order a piece of cake and a coffee and try to wait patiently for a cat to come my way. The cake is terrible, the coffee tastes old, and no cats come over. I watch other people pet the cats on the floor, and they do not look happy. I ask a waiter whether the cats mind all the people petting them. He said they can just crawl onto a shelf or go to sleep when they’re tired of all the attention. That’s when I notice that all the cats are either asleep, or on a shelf. Well, I can check that off my list.
One last adventure was great fun. I convince my friend to join me on a touristy activity – a booze cruise on the Seine! It is completely touristy, but, so much fun! The day is a bit cloudy and dark, and I worry about the cruise. Somehow, just in time for our boat, the sky clears, and we get that perfect setting sun light that’s very specific in Paris. It perfectly illuminates everything it touches, but just for a small amount of time. As if on que, when we return to the dock, the clouds return. We feel really lucky, and I’m delighted with my Paris adventure.
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