XLIII. Paris

It took me 9 months to organise a visit to the capital, held back by the fact I had visited Paris multiple times before and wasn’t sure if I needed to see it again – especially if it meant missing out on seeing new places. But as it happened, my France train pass still had a few weeks left and I didn’t need to be back at university until mid-September, so I decided to take a short trip by myself, and in order to get to most cities I had to go through Paris.

So I booked two nights there and had a surprisingly nice time. Once I got out of the dodgy areas around the train stations and found my hostel in a clean and quiet area, I felt a lot better. I had the room to myself both nights and the hostel was only a few minutes’ walk from a main metro station.

After dropping my bags off around 11am, I walked to the Musée d’Orsay, accompanied for half of the journey by a friendly old French couple from the hostel who offered to guide me. I passed the Notre Dame but didn’t bother to go in because of the line, heading straight along the Seine to the museum.

I love the interior of the d’Orsay so much, and spent most of my time in the upper floors around the impressionist paintings.

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On the upper floors of the museum was an open balcony area with some nice views of Montmartre.

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Afterwards I walked past the Louvre (opting to skip going inside due to time restraints), and through the lovely Tuileries gardens. There were a few sun showers throughout the afternoon, but nothing too bad.

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The distance to the Eiffel Tower was far longer than I anticipated and I was feeling tired by the time I got there. I took some quick photos of it and then settled at a cafe tucked away on a residential street nearby, reading my book and having a chat about my exchange with the guy working there and what must’ve been a regular customer.

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It was so satisfying to be able to have such conversations, to not feel like a burden or an annoying tourist. In fact, an Australian family came in while I was there and stumbled through their order; the mother spoke to me in really exaggerated English when I offered to move my table for them, completely missing the fact that I was replying to her with an Australian accent. It felt pretty great to be mistaken for a local though, I’ll be honest.

I wandered back to the hostel and (probably) napped, coming out later in the evening to catch the sunset.

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The hostel courtyard

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The next morning was a Sunday and I made my way up to Montmartre. I tried not to feel intimidated riding the quiet metro line alone but nothing bad happened – I could feel the difference between the hostel area and the hills of Montmartre, bustling with tourist traps and people just hanging around.

In saying that, I arrived at the stairs of the Sacre-Cœur at 9am and there weren’t many people around, so it was very peaceful. I sat inside for a while, and then on the steps outside, people watching and looking out over the city.

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I killed some time in a cute cafe that felt very similar to those in Sydney. As it happened I sat next to three Australians; it’s amazing how calming it is to hear Australian accents when you’re overseas.

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With some time to kill before lunch I wandered through the streets of Montmartre and came across a long stretch of markets which ended at a bustling street of cafés and restaurants. I took my time, chose a place to eat and just sat at an outdoor table reading and feeling Parisian/10.

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After lunch I walked 20 minutes or so down to the Pompidou Centre of modern art. Some of the areas I had to pass through were less savoury so it was a brisk walk. The museum was only 10 minutes from my hostel so I took my time inside.

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Last thing on my agenda that day was to visit the Shakespeare and Company bookshop that I had heard so much about. I lingered inside for a while, reading through some of the books and listening in to an author who was giving a talk upstairs.

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Last day! I had a midday train so I woke up and walked down to the latin quarter. It was an aimless wander that took me to the Pantheon. Sadly it was closed and I didn’t have time to go inside if I was to make it back to the station in time, so I opted to get a croissant and coffee just outside.

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My stay in Paris was better than I anticipated, which was definitely due to the luck of getting a room to myself in a hostel in a quiet and central area of the city. Because of this I didn’t feel as uncomfortable being by myself, and it was nice to take things at my own pace in the museums. Paris has an undeniable charm about it, and I’m glad I had this trip to remind me of it.

xo

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