even with valentine’s day behind us, i continue to think back to one of my favorite and most romantic trips: paris. yes, it’s a cliché and yes, everyone loves paris, but there is a reason it steals the hearts of so many; in my mind, it is simply perfect. and my most favorite parts were not the touristy parts that make paris so famous, but rather a few neighborhoods in the northeast part of the city that felt so removed from visitors (could it be true?) that i found myself returning again and again during our week in town. i struggled with how to write about paris, so i went back to my trip journal so you can see it through my eyes. i’ve chosen the parts that detail our time spent in my favorite arrondissements (aka neighborhoods in paris): the 10th, 19th, and 20th. stay tuned for more posts about other areas, but these below were my very favorites.
we are in paris! i love this city more than i would have thought. we arrived on sunday afternoon after taking the train from stuttgart, and headed north to our hotel in the pigalle. this was formerly a seedy area known for sex shops and crime, but is quite nice now and does not have many tourists (bonus). our hotel – the astotel hotel joyce – is fantastic. whimsically decorated with lots of light and pops of color, it is perfect for our stay. the rooms are small by american standards, but i believe quite roomy by parisian standards (and free breakfast!).
after unpacking and settling in, we took the metro to the 10th arrondissement, which surrounds the canal st. martin. i adore this area as it is filled with people (everywhere locals surround the canal with picnics and wine – people of all ages – no tourists). lots of young people, as well. somewhat of a hipster neighborhood, cafes and bars line the canal, along with boutique shops (most closed either due to being a sunday night or the august holiday when the town leaves on vacation). one cafe that looked v. pleasing was the cafe du nord, based on the movie of the same name.
we bought a pizza at the pink flamingo, where they give you a bright pink balloon upon ordering take-out. you can then go sit along the canal with your balloon and they will bring your pizza to you. so charming. parker ordered a beer and i asked the waiter if it was ok to drink along the canal. he laughed and said “of course – everyone does!” loving paris already.
i can’t reiterate enough how much i loved this area – locals are everywhere, sitting along the canals, strolling across the bridges, crowding the cafés, as if it’s required for people to come here on a sunday evening. we walked around for a bit enjoying the scene before popping into le comptoir général, part bar, part vintage store, part experience, all hipster. the theme changes every few months and this month was 80s US movies (think: cocktail, the goonies, gremlins, breakfast club, etc.). the bar is located in a giant building at the end of an unmarked alley. it is separated into rooms with different themes and decorated with memorabilia from each movie. most parisians, however, crowded outside in the small leafy courtyard to smoke.
we crossed the canal and settled in at chez prune, which seemed quite popular. parker ordered red wine and i had strawberry juice [pregnant at the time] and we sat and watched the locals as it grew dark. still no tourists – how can this be? that evening, when we headed back to the metro, which is on a large square called the place de la république, we found a movie being screened and hundreds of parisians sitting in the square to watch.
today we spent our time back in the 10th arrondissement, which i just adore. we first went to the père lachaise cemetary and saw the graves/tombs of chopin, jim morrison, gertrude stein, oscar wilde, edith piaf, and sarah bernhardt. spectacular atmosphere, much like the cemetary in buenos aires, but hilly and lush. v. green. really enjoyed it.
we rode the metro back to the canal st. martin and had a perfect lunch at hotel du nord. i had a cream of leek soup with a fresh salmon salad with watermelon and pineapple. p. had a cucumber/ricotta starter with the lamb for an entree. très bien. the service was excellent. no one spoke english – was a delight. it seemed like the quintessential parisian experience.
we walked up the canal, stopping in a few cute stores along the way (loved the bookstore, artazart), until we reached the joeurs station. in the summer, paris has a program called “paris plage,” where the city transforms certain areas of the river/canals into beaches. we stopped at this one – la villette – for a look. parisians reading in loungers in their swimsuits, children playing in the sand, a gelato stand from which we eagerly partook, games, boats to rent by the hour to explore the canal, etc. v. lively and fun scene – also diverse.
well, as it turns out, i have a horrible habit of never writing down what happens on my last day of a vacation (i’m usually writing a day in arrears, and i’m too sad on the flight home to recount that last day). so alas, i’m writing this part from memory. on our last evening in paris, we headed to the parc des buttes-chaumont, in the 19th arrondissement. it. was. perfect. this park should be a stop for every person visiting paris!
it is stunning. it was built in 1867 by jean-charles alphand, and is full of steep green hills that take your breath away (literally, climbing the hills really took it out of my 6-month pregnant body). there are tall trees, footpaths, a waterfall, a stream, a temple atop a plunging cliff (the path to the temple was closed when we were there, but we witnessed a few daring teens in the temple anyway). people are picnicking, running, walking their dogs, visiting with friends, reading.
my very favorite part of the park, however, was rosa bonheur, a seemingly parisian take on the german beer garden, and what the parisians call ginguettes. cheap wine, cheese, sandwiches, meats, and ice cream, while loud 20- and 30-something parisians eat, drink, laugh, debate, and smoke. it seemed like the perfect place for happy hour, and an even more perfect place to rest our feet while gazing out at the lush landscapes and enjoying a nice bottle of rosé (ok, i ordered water, but the two women in front of me in line split a bottle of rosé and a tub of cheese – perfection?). get there before 7pm or risk standing in line for longer than you’ll want.