Back to Paris, the city of dreams. Seven years ago, the student I was came here in a rush to get his visa stamp for Japan. Today, I’m here to celebrate the new year in a city I’ve long adored and admired.
During the 5-night stay, I feel I’ve discovered the city from an entirely new angle. With age and perhaps some more wisdom, I’ve come to realize more than ever before some of the things that I believe make Paris so unique.
Whether you enjoy pastry in general or not, you have to take a bite and succumb to the temptation once you see the sumptuous, gorgeously-presented pastries: viennoiseries, millefeuille, crepes, chaussons, torsades, croissants, pains au chocolat, tartes au Flan, … To get a taste of everything, each breakfast was loaded with as much variety of pastries as possible.
Brasseries and cafés
From the outside these places look like glittering pieces of jewellery that invite you to stop by at each glimpse; from the inside, they give you warmth and a nice, soothing ambiance. The narrowly placed tables and small seats may give a certain sense of claustrophobia if you’re used to large seating spaces.
Château de Versailles
I had high expectations for château de Versailles, it ended up being a bit disappointing though. The 1-hour trip to get there from Opera and the 3-hour serpentinuous line didn’t justify the unimpressive, poorly-maintained palace interiors and gardens. Add to that the weakly-organized, highly-confusing ticketing process: you have to take one line to get the tickets and then take a different line to get inside the palace; given that the two lines are side by side, you can’t help but wonder if it would be more efficient to merge them.
Organization and service in general
In France people don’t seem to be so worried about efficiency. At Musée d’Orsay, we decided to give a Picasso exhibition a try. After passing through a long, labyrinthic hall and seeing all paintings, we tried to find our way out, only to discover that the only exit was at the very entrance of the hall. It took a while for us to get out.
Bad service in restaurants and cafes in general: compared to the U.S., service in restaurants and cafes wasn’t as good– several times, waiters would totally forget to bring the full order.
Shopping: Louis Vuitton, Le Marais
You can make your wife happy and get her a Louis Vuitton bag for a better price than in the U.S. and you can benefit from tax refund. Given that the brand is quite expensive, you can make some good savings even if you just get a few items.
Le Marais, a historic district closeby Notre Dame de Paris and Centre Pampidou, was an excellent area full of shopping options that we discovered almost by surprise.
If you’re not a fan of long lines, Musée d’Orsay is an excellent alternative to the Louvre, with several high-quality art pieces. On top of that, you can visit the entire Museum in a half-day, which would be impossible for the Louvre.
The best part was the bird’s-eye view on Paris at night. While contemplating the view, we also enjoyed the fireworks that followed the new year countdown.
We had a good time at the 3-Michelin-stars restaurant Le Cinq, part of the Four Seasons Hotel George V nearby the Champs Élysées. It was costly, but service was excellent and the food totally worth it. In addition, the inside of the hotel was full of breathtaking, glamorous decors, almost taking you to a new place.
Some random observations
When a Parisian approaches you, most likely the question is “Avez vous une cigarette?”. Smoking is very common in France.
On average, Parisians dress nicely and look chic.
In France, it seems that bookshops are here to stay. There is a very strong reading culture I’ve seen nowhere else in the world.