With three movies down, pre-heated meal devoured, and a solid attempt at a good night’s rest, our plane finally landed in Paris after its ten hour journey across the Atlantic. My husband and I were taking a week-long vacation and had selected the City of Lights as the ideal location to forget about work for a while and blend into the local culture. It had been a year since any international travel and we were both excited to unplug and wander the city, discovering its endless museums, cafes, bars, and architecture. We settled on Canal Saint-Martin as our neighborhood because of its mix of old Parisian qualities with youthful on the radar spots…read hipster. The moment our bags were placed in the apartment we hit the streets to test out our “Oui’s”, “Merci’s”, and “S’il vous plait’s” with the locals. They weren’t fooled, but oh well, we still blended in. Not more than a few blocks away we stumbled into 10 Belles, one of Paris’s answer to the coffee culture running rampant across the U.S. The only difference was this shop was nestled in with a bright yellow Epicerie and a quintessentially French flower shop bursting with bouquets and potted plants. A beautiful crowd sat casually on tiny wooden stools along the outside window leisurely sipping lattes and snacking on the shop’s homemade biscuits and breads. “I think we found the right neighborhood” I whispered to my husband and with that our week of exploring the city began.
Each morning was filled with a museum trip which often led to a garden picnic, afternoon wine, late dinner, and even later cocktails. We’re both homebodies so this late night couple we became was a welcome change from the norm. One particular afternoon we found ourselves near the Tuilleries which not only has the best outdoor chairs dotted through the gardens, but its sprawling lawns just beg for picnics as well. We picked up some treats at a macaron institution, quiche and bread at a shop around the corner, and the softest cheese we could find, which surprisingly came from a convenience store. Tucked under a tree along a small pond we laid out our meal and snacked our way through the afternoon.
The rest of the trip carried on like this, but the days were dotted with discoveries that no itinerary would be able to provide. Around the corner from our apartment we ran into to one of the best croissants in the city, the heavenly scent made it pretty easy to find. Another evening we wandered past the gorgeous windows along Place Vendome on our way to cocktails at the seductively dim light bar at Hotel Costes. A stroll through the residential streets of Monmartre led to a secret view of the Eiffel Tower accompanied by a hidden garden bar tucked behind what looked like a private entrance….hint, it’s the entrance to Hotel Particulier and all you have to do is ring the bell for access to the bar. Just pretend you’re an insider, it’s well worth the acting once inside. We ate perfectly fluffy omeletes at Cafe Charlot before viewing the extensive modern collections at the Centre Pompidou. A day trip took us to Versailles not only for the palace but to shop the farmers market with the locals and wander through the vegetable garden of Louis XIV at le potager du roi. Each day led to a new experience whether it was a simple coffee and people watching at a local cafe, a memorable meal at a tiny restaurant off a side street, mastering the metro, or just a stop along our endless walking tours. While I didn’t come home with a big purchase or tangible souvenir (except for this bag from Merci…it’s truly just a paper bag) I did leave with a longing to add some more adventure to my everyday. Of course vacations make everything romantic, but watching the bars and cafes overflow with co-workers and friends gathering after a long day reminded me that during the strict work-week routine you can still find some time to take a walk, enjoy the people around you, and maybe stay out a little later than usual.