Wednesday had me feeling like a giant blob of carbs, so after I woke up I decided to go on a run. What better way to acquaint myself with the streets of Paris, right? After a quick bite of almond butter (the last of my airport snacks), I laced up my Nikes and hit the streets.
I chose one of the few roads in Paris that seemed to go in a straight line for more than two blocks, and proceeded with an easy jog that allowed me to take in the sights while still covering quite a bit of ground. It was amazing to me how many of the same stores there were: bakeries, hairdressers, pharmacies…it seemed like the streets would repeat themselves over and over, which made me wonder how they all managed to stay in business!
After turning around (I opted against venturing down any side streets so I wouldn’t get lost), I stopped at a park to do some lunges, squats, and tricep pushups. I’m pretty sure that the other park patrons were slightly mystified by the tall blonde who was sweating all over the bench, but I felt amazing when it was all done. If you are used to working out on a regular basis, going without for a while is torture.
After returning back to my hostel and showering (thank god for dry shampoo, as the hostel had no more toiletries to sell me), I ventured out on the metro to a random station to do some more exploring. Wandering the streets of Paris may not seem like the most productive use of touristic time, but for me it was one of my favorite parts: everything was so similar yet so different than the US. The romantic cobblestones of the side streets didn’t hurt either.
It was in the midst of my wanderings that I received a message from the Irish bartender from my hostel wondering if I wanted to stop by Montemartre and indulge in an adult beverage or two. Even though I’d already been, I always enjoy hanging out with new people, so I hopped on the metro once again and proceeded to wile away the afternoon with glasses of Leffe and hilarious conversation.
Drinks of the amber variety tend to awaken the appetite, and that day was no exception. Barney* knew of a great restaurant close to my hostel, and introduced me to the host before leaving to run some errands. Several baguettes and forkfuls of salad later, I happily waddled back to my hostel to pack up my things and head to my next destination.
The student I had met on Tuesday through Caroline* (my student’s mother) had offered to host me for a couple more days in Paris so I could stay and experience Bastille day. This is a true testament to the amazing hospitality of Turkish folk, as I was a complete stranger to him before our meeting on Tuesday. I arrived at Peter’s* place around 10:30 at night after several metro and bus changes, and immediately felt welcomed in his tiny studio apartment. The makeshift bed on the floor was sufficient, and I immediately passed out after showering the day away, thus ending my second full day in Paris.
I woke up the next morning fairly early by vacation standards, and was greeted by a delicious Mediterranean style homemade breakfast consisting of cheese, lettuce, and various veggies (and a croissant per request since it WAS still France, after all). I savored every bite.
Sated, we packed up for the day and headed into the city to meet up with one of his friends at the Musee de Lourve. This was one of the places I was really looking forward to seeing, and it did not disappoint!
The first thing I had to get over was seeing everything. It would realistically take a month to see every piece the museum had to offer, so we selected only a few spots to visit. My favorite part was all of the sculptures; I cannot fathom hand carving such intricate details with such spectacular results. Another highlight was, of course, the Mona Lisa, which was surprisingly smaller than I had imagined it. Overall, I absolutely loved soaking in the history and artistry that permeated the entire building.
After several hours wandering the giant halls, I parted with my companions so they could get some work done, and took off to visit several different places including Notre Dame, the famous Arc de Triumphe and its accompanying street of swanky stores, and Luxembourg Garden. And it was then I heard some welcome news-my phone, previously thought to have been lost to the seedy underbelly of Paris where the Parisian pickpockets ruled the roost, had been found! The girl had picked it up in her courtyard, texted my friend (who was one of the contacts on my medical card accessible without the passcode), and within hours we had arranged to meet at 8pm that night so I could get it back. Talk about serendipitous!
That amazing news prompting an even better mood, I proceeded on to my stops for the day. Notre Dame lived up to its reputation from the outside, but I voted against standing for three hours in the lines that snaked up and around the courtyard in front of the doors. The Arc was great to see, and it was even greater to see the different people walking the street. The highlight of the three, however, was Luxembourg. It was HUGE, and it had an amazing chateau that was the main focal point behind a small pond where children floated small boats for a couple euros. It was awesomely calm and peaceful, and I sat there for almost two hours just drinking in the nature in the middle of the giant City of Love.
Seeing that I still had some time to kill, I hopped on the metro after my peaceful reverie ended and headed to the Red Light district to see the famous Moulin Rouge. Even though it was daytime and therefore not really the experience one would get if visiting at night, it was still fun to see the seedy streets and the different bars and sex shops that lined up one after another, enticing street travelers into their dark world.
After having a beer at one of the bars to while away even more time, I ran into a bachelor party where the garishly dressed participants enticed me with French candy and then (after I took the obviously required picture of them and then myself with the groom), they asked me to ring the bachelor’s bell-an apparatus made to look like a cock and balls pinned to the outside of his underwear. Carefully grabbing nothing but the rope, I obliged while laughing hysterically, and they happily made their way down the street.
After this interesting encounter, I eagerly made my way by metro yet again to the Montmartre area for the 3rd time in three days. Peter* met me at the station, and we went to the address we had been given. The exchange went off without a hitch, and the Parisian girl refused my offer of compensation, insisting that “it’s the karma”. All in all, it restored my faith in humanity and was a great experience to add to my memories of Paris!
Still with all the excitement, our night was not yet done. Peter and I stopped by a sandwich stop and grabbed some beer along the way to the canal. Here, we sat and enjoyed the food along with several other Parisian natives, as this is apparently quite a popular pastime. A nearby bar was playing music loud enough to reach us, and the people watching was quite delightful.
After the beer and sandwiches, we decided to check out a nearby fireman’s ball (which I will explain in more detail in my next post). Since it wasn’t that exciting, and we were both tired, AND it started raining, we decided to call it a night and headed home, thus ending my most packed yet most fulfilling day in Paris.
Whew. That was a lot!
Lessons learned? A) There are bad people in the world, but there are also some AMAZING ones! Focus on the good ones-they will pop up when you need them. B) Turkish people are amazing hosts, and I mean above and beyond. Such a small act of opening up your home, no matter how humble, is an amazing gesture that speaks volumes. C) Take time to appreciate beauty, in all of its forms. People can create amazing works, and nature is beautiful simply by being nature. It’s all enriching if you take the time to really soak it in!