From Paris with Love

Welcome to my new travel blog. I started this blog for two reasons: 1) to share my experiences with my family and friends; and 2) to set my mom at ease about my travelling solo (love you mom!).

Today is also my 34th birthday! Hooray! I began my birthday…well I’m not exactly sure when, because I boarded a plane to Paris at 6:45 pm on June 28th, and arrive in Paris around 8:00 am June 29th (which is 12:00 am and the beginning of my birthday Saskatchewan time). In any case, I began my birthday on a plane, the biggest one I’ve been on so far. Very exciting.

Big plane

Big plane!

I arrived at the airport and expected to walk off the plane and into the airport and go to the bathroom. It was not nearly that easy. I was one of the last to leave the plane (seat 60) and as a window seat person, I did my duty and held it until the end of the flight. Then when we disembarked we had to walk down a set of portable, attachable plane stairs before boarding a bus which would take us to the airport. Finally made it to the airport, and the washrooms, and then went through customs. I was seriously over-prepared for customs. They asked me no questions, I filled out no forms (which seems very wrong) and they gave me a stamp and sent me on my way.  When I left the secure area, I actually came back to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything. “No problem, you go,” was the answer so I went.

Before continuing I want to write about my initial impressions of France and Paris. From above, France looks a lot like Saskatchewan. It has the same crop-quilt but with slightly smaller crop areas and significantly less square plots. The towns and cities are also interesting because they are so very not square as well. The streets branch off in what seems to be patterns that relate to the landscape and the way the cities developed. Paris itself has many teeny-tiny little streets barely large enough for a vehicle. I only posted two but they are all over. And the streets are not set in a grid. They veer off in a number of directions and I often found myself in the middle of a pinwheel of streets. Also the streets were not as crowded as I expected. Slightly less pedestrian traffic than Toronto and a slightly slower pace. Lots of tourists. Oh, and pedestrians have to watch out for streets where you cross in two or three stints. Near my hotel there is a reasonable street (not super large) but it has three separate little cross walk lights and you have to be careful because they are timed differently. It’s like a game of Frogger.

Teeny tiny streets.

Teeny tiny streets.

Another tiny street.

Another tiny street.

So, after 14 stops on the B line and 2 stops on line 4, I arrive at my hotel (pictured below). The hotel is charmingly tiny, no big lobby, no chandeliers, and the door was actually locked. A gentleman quickly let me in an found resevation. He had a quick chuckle about my name (I guess September or Septembre is even less common in France),and then he took my bags so that I was free to flâner (stroll) around Paris, which I did.

Hôtel Atelier Saint-Germain

Hôtel Atelier Saint-Germain

I roamed mostly Southeast from Vavin to Port-Royal to Alésia, and back up through the Montparnasse cemetary. The buildings and streets are charming and most everything is small. For lunch I purcahsed a baguette and a nectarine. The produce is amazing and it seems like everything is in season. The baguette I purchased from a little corner grocer was fantastic (people tell me that is normal here). You will often see people walking the street eating a baguette. The streets are not as littered as I anticipated (although there is more litter than say Regina or Toronto) but there does seem to be a public urination thing. Avoid little puddles! I almost caught a man taking his pants down in a public washroom. I guess he didn’t realize that you have to pay-to-pee. Washrooms are little pod-like units on the street.

Public washroom pod.

Public washroom pod.

In my wandering I found many old beautiful buildings, statues, and stores (including McDonalds which serves macarons in France – I didn’t eat there), some pictures are included below. But my favourite place was Cimetière Montparnasse. Cemetaries are kind of like parks in Saskatchewan. People go there for a quiet place to lie down, eat lunch, go for a walk, although this one is packed to the brim with graves, which makes it difficult to walk among them, and there is very little green space but lots of nice trees. While I was wandering I spoke to one of the groundskeepers at the cemetary and told him I was a music student (and Katie, my daughter, will be proud because I had this conversation in French). He directed me to the grave of Camille Saint-Saëns, a famous French organist and composer who inspired, and sometimes even frustrated the composers that I study.

Buildings and statues from my walk around Paris.

Buildings and statues from my walk around Paris.

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Saint Saës's grave.

Saint Saës’s grave.

Finally, I made it back to the hotel (it’s easy to get lost in all those non-grid streets). My hotel has the smallest elevator I have ever seen. It fits me and my baggage, barely, and I sort of had to stand over my baggage. I posted pics of my room. It’s very cute and it overlooks the rue Vavin.

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My cute little hotel room

My cute little hotel room

For supper I grabbed groceries and ate the rest of my baguette, some olives, chocolate, and almost an entire thing of Camembert (only 1.82€). Good thing I brought the metamucil. Oh, and I learned a new word tire-bouchon (cork screw)…a very important word when trying to open a nice bottle of wine in your room.

Well, that’s it for today. I’m thinking I’ll try the Musée D’Orsay tomorrow but we will see how much I sleep in.

Bon nuit!

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