When I started thinking about doing Guest Posts, one person that came to mind right away was Natalie as she’s mentioned with great passion how much she loves Paris. I sent her an email and of course, being Canadian and all, she said yes.
When she sent me her story, I smiled ear to ear while I was reading it, the whole time.
To read other peoples stories is just incredible. And her photos she sent to accompany her story are absolutely breath taking!
Paris, je t’aime…
Written by Natalie A. – October 15th, 2014
When I first received a message from Annie about doing a Paris post, I got a huge smile on my face and I was so excited. I’d be able to reminisce about my time in Paris and share my experience with you lovely people. I said yes, immediately!
My first contact with Paris, was in 2005 but it was a short one. Let’s back up a little : in 2004, I was due to graduate from university and although I was happy to be done, I didn’t feel ready to go out into ‘the real world’. I heard about studying abroad with my university and looked further into it. France had always been on my ‘to visit list’ but didn’t know when I’d ever have the chance. I’m an ‘Acadienne’, which means that I’m a French descendant. The French came to the New World in 1604 and long story short, they were kicked out, came back and here I am. I wanted to learn about my history, I wanted to see what it was like to live in French 100% of the time.
The day I was leaving, August 30th, I was so scared to be going on my own for the first time (I was 22), to a country I had never been and knew no one. If my parents had given me the option to stay, I would have. I remember bumping into a lady when I came back and she said, ‘I said to Monica (my friend), I can’t believe Natalie is doing this!’.
It felt good that I had.
Ok, back to my Paris trips!
I touched down in Paris on September 1st but was only in the airport and train station. I went straight to Angers, France, where I studied until January 2006.
In November 2005, a couple Canadian friends, an American friend and I decided to take the long week end to see Paris. It was November 11th week end. The 11th was a Friday so we left Thursday after class, arrived at la Gare de Montparnasse and took the metro to our hostel, called Aloha Hostel (I know, it’s not in Hawaii lol). The Paris metro is the easiest that I’ve ever navigated. I’ve been on the London, New York and Toronto metros and Paris is very complete and easy to get around. So many stops, so many lines and you take the line in the direction you’re going, easy peasy. Annie has a helpful blog post about this – Metro 101. We got a three day pass and we were able to get to all the main attractions we wanted to see in Paris.
The Aloha hostel was nice for what we were looking for, a bed and a place to make meals for us poor students. It was close to a metro station which is great! Once we arrived and settled into our room, we decided to go for a walk around the neighbourhood. It was quite late but we wanted to see the City of Lights. It was a foggy evening but it was Paris, we didn’t care. We rounded a corner and all of a sudden we see the Eiffel tower and it’s sparkling!!!!! That’s a moment I’ll never forget, we were screaming excitedly and we ran so we could get a closer look. We just stood there, arms linked and starring at the beauty that is the Eiffel tower. This started a lovely relationship with ‘la dame de fer’ and Paris, as I would return 4 more times and a 6th visit being organized for next year. It makes my heart happy when I think about it. Some people don’t see the appeal of the Eiffel tower but for me, it’s a grand accomplishment and a true icon of Paris.
The rest of the visit was a little cold and grey but we came well dressed. On November 11th, we went to Les Champs Élysées to see ‘le défilé’ which was their forces parade (army, navy and air forces I believe were all there). I even saw Jacques Chirac’s arm waving out of a car lol.
We then toured the city by metro and by foot. We went to the red district (Moulin rouge) and Montmartre, les Champs Élysés (and l’Arc de Triomphe) and l’hotel de ville, the Louvre, Notre Dame de Paris and l’École militaire. There’s a lot to see but we made the most of it that week end!
Also, I got to spend the week end with girls who I formed a lasting bond and I still see and speak to them to this day.
A restaurant that we enjoyed (keep in mind we hadn’t had any ‘North American’ food since the beginning of September) was the Great Canadian pub at 25 Quai des Grand Augustin. We may have gone twice lol but I suggest if you’re just there for a short visit to forgo this and get something more French crêpes, tartiflette, quiche, raclette…the sky’s the limit!
In February 2006, on my way back to Canada, I spent another couple days with my parents in Paris. We stayed in le 1er arrondissement at l’Hotel Montpensier which was nice for what we were looking for; close to the Louvre and les Champs Élysées but not too expensive. Although it was a bit old, it was nice and clean. I quite enjoyed it 🙂 We toured Paris and again, it was cold but at least, we didn’t get any rain.
We visited Versailles, went up the Eiffel Tower (personally, now I just rather observe it from the ground), walked les Champs Élysées, and visited Notre Dame de Paris. I wanted to show my parents the big attractions of Paris. I keep good memories of this trip because this was my dad’s last big trip since he became sick and didn’t leave Canada afterwards for fear of getting sick and having to pay an arm and a leg for healthcare.
In 2007 and 2008, I went to Paris alone, meeting up with people afterwards, and it was more relaxed since I had seen the big attractions of Paris twice and could stroll around the city just taking it all in. I stayed at Hotel Marigny close to l’Opéra and Tim Hotel Tour Eiffel, you guessed it, close to la Tour Eiffel. At l’Hotel Marigny, I had a small room. It had a little closet, a small tv and a single bed but that’s all I really needed. I didn’t like the fact that the bathroom was shared and outside the room but I did have my own shower. I thoroughly enjoyed Tim Hotel Tour Eiffel. I had booked a bigger room (2 beds) because it was cheaper than the single room. I would soon find out why! They gave me the single room for the same price and off I went to my room. It wasn’t big (not very many hotels are big but I hope you’re not there to sleep all day), I didn’t have a lot of space on each side of the bed, the tv was almost on top of me but I did have a bathroom in the room, score! I did have a terrace (why the single room was more expensive) and had an AMAZING view of the Eiffel Tower!!
One night, I just sat on my terrace with wine, fresh strawberries and chocolate and watched the Eiffel tower sparkle…all that was missing was that special person but I enjoyed it, even by myself! 🙂
In 2007, I went on a ‘bateau mouche’, a boat that will take you along the Seine River and you get a different view of monuments such as Notre-Dame, the Louvre, and Eiffel. I also walked around les Jardins du Luxembourg and the St Germain des prés area which I really liked. I also saw a musical, le Roi Soleil one evening and visited le Musée d’Orsay. If you like Realism to Impressionists (even if you don’t), you should put this on your list. I was amazed with Monet, Manet and Van Gogh and many more. I felt like I was a Parisian for those few days, just doing every day things and walking around. I also met up with the couple friends that I studied with, in 2005-2006 so that was a treat as well. 🙂
My lastest travels to Paris were with my mom and my aunt and it was at the end tail of an 18 day Europe tour (London, Salzburg, Venice, Florence, Rome, Nice, Monaco, Angers, Mont St -Michel, some castles from the Loire Valley) so we were pretty tired once we arrived to Paris but we still made the most of our couple last days. I made the hotel reservations, guess where we stayed? Yup, close to the Eiffel tower, at l’Hotel Tour Eiffel. Once we arrive into Paris, we put on our walking shoes and went looking around at l’École militaire (where Napolean is buried and has nice gardens) and around the Eiffel tower and les Champs de Mars.
The weather in May was beautiful! We were there mid month and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. During our visit we also visited Notre Dame de Paris, les Champs Élysées, la Tour Montparnasse and of course le Louvre. You can never visit the Louvre enough…there’s so much to see! We also did a hop on, hop off bus tour because it’s a great way to see the city, especially when you’re tired. We also shopped; I always shop when in Paris. Galleries Lafayette and even Monoprix. I have certain things I always look for, mainly a certain brand of concealer…and wine, don’t forget to bring back wine. 🙂
A restaurant that we went to in the Quartier Latin called Saint Severin at 3 Place St Michel. We usually don’t look too hard when looking for a restaurant but I was looking for something French. I had tartiflette here with a salad, even in May lol (tartiflette is potatoes, bacon, cream and cheese…it’s more heavy but so delicious!)
It’s hard to put into words the wonder that is Paris. If you go, you may bump into rude Parisians, or smell something funny but all my unpleasant experiences were outweighed by my pleasant experiences.
Reading in a ‘jardin’ basking in the sun or having a glass of wine on a terrasse people watching for me is just the simple pleasures of Paris and I dream of the day that I will return and sense its magic around me.
If you’re planning a trip to Paris, here are a few pointers;
1) Book your hotel early, cheap but nice hotels fill up early (choose the neighbourhood and use a search engine such as bookings.com or tripadvisor.com to find the perfect hotel).
2) Don’t pay for breakfast at the hotel, even if it’s continental, it’s usually 15€ or more. Find the local bakery and market, buy a baguette with Nutella or jam or get croissants and even snacks for the day.
3) For lunch, I’d go with a sandwich place. Try to get away from touristy areas so you don’t pay an arm and a leg. It’ll maximize your time and you can save your money for a nice supper.
4) When you get to Paris, buy a metro pass (for however many days), you’ll save time and money.
5) Be prepared. I never use my phone when I’m in Europe so I print my hotel reservations, train tickets (if I’m going elsewhere after), and any ticket reservation. I also make a ‘must-see’ list if I have one and then make an itinerary. Pick up a metro map and a regular map.
6) Be careful of pick pockets! I always travel with a purse with a zipper and never have important documents or money in my pockets. Being from a small town, I used to stop for people asking questions but not anymore. I have the Paris attitude! Most pick pockets will try to get your attention while small children check your pockets.
7) Research, research, research! Some people like to fly on the seat of their pants but I truly believe you should research the basics. You don’t want to lose time deciding where you’ll be staying and what to see.
Time is precious!
Until we see each other again…
Paris, je t’aime…
Would you like to share your travel stories to Paris?
I would LOVE to read and publish your story.
Please email me at ADreamToParis@gmail.com for details or click on the Facets of Paris tab.
PS- Don’ steal pictures… it’s not nice!