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Gloomy Paris (January 2018).

After my visits to the Belleville district, the Palais Garnier, and the Palais Royal, I continued my first full day in Paris this past New Year with a nice lunch out in town. I don’t usually go out to restaurants while travelling (albeit one nice meal out of the entire trip), since I am on a budget, but with Paris, there are many more options to try out than anywhere else in France that I didn’t mind shelling out a few bucks to treat myself.

Before going, I’d looked into restaurants that I’d been meaning to try out. Interestingly enough, I was basing my choices on Asian cuisine, as I’d been starved of it since August when I moved back to France. You might think it’s strange that I would go all the way to Paris just for Asian food, but considering that I’ve already had tons of French food so far, it was necessary that I changed it up a bit.

That said, I checked out a Korean joint near rue Mouffetard, a lively street near the Panthéon/Sorbonne which is filled with restaurants, bars, and students. It’s a great neighborhood to go out, and it’s no wonder that it’s a popular place. I was happy to take a stroll along its charming, cobblestone streets after getting my fill, before heading to my next destination.

I didn’t have such high expectations for the Korean restaurant, just because I’d grown up eating good Korean food in Los Angeles (where there’s a notable “K-Town” community). But I was really craving Korean food and, having searched on Yelp, I found a place in Paris which could satisfy my cravings. It was a small restaurant, but the workers were Korean and the food served wasn’t bad: I got a beef bibimbap and, while it could’ve used more beef and a spicier (less sweet) hot sauce, it was good for France.

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Bibimbap.

I headed out after lunch to stroll down rue Mouffetard and take in the thriving atmosphere before popping into the Manufacture des Gobelins nearby. A 15th-century tapestry factory, it has supplied tapestries since the days of Louis XIV, and it still even operates today. Visitors can take tours of the factory, although I was unfortunate to go when it wasn’t offering tours, due to some other exhibition going on unrelated to it. I did take a quick look around, as it was free, but otherwise, I left quickly and headed all the way over to the 16th arrondissement, near the périphérique where the musée Marmottan-Monet was. Having heard of this private museum from others who’ve previously visited, I wanted to check it out– even if it required paying a bit for the visit, I was keen on seeing more works from my favorite Impressionist artist.

Once the home of the Marmottan aristocratic family, it was turned into a museum in the early 20th century, originally housing a collection of Napoleonic artifacts before accumulating many of Monet’s works between the 1960’s and 1980’s. Today, the museum is synonymous with its 300-plus works by the Impressionist artist, and it attracts a good number of art lovers to its doors.

I found the museum to be smaller than expected, but it still boasted countless of Monet’s paintings, including the famous waterlilies and Japanese bridge at his home in Giverny. I enjoyed walking through the galleries and satisfying my inner Monet fangirling left and right!

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Inside the museum.

Following my visit, I walked back toward the city center, on my way to the Eiffel Tower. I got caught in a bad rainstorm along the way, and I had to duck into a nearby galeries to take shelter until it subsided, at least to a minimal drizzle. I made my way to the Eiffel Tower, and took some photos of it from the Trocadéro. Although I’ve seen the iconic landmark countless of times each time I visit, it never gets old.

Soon enough, I decided to return to my Couchsurfing host’s flat, as it was getting dark (at barely 16:00). I returned around 17:30 to rest for the remainder of the day. The following day, I took a half-day trip to Amiens, but was back in Paris by early afternoon. Following the previous day’s lunch at a Korean restaurant, I decided to try out another place that I’d been meaning to check out, which was at a matcha cafe located in the Marais district. Just like with Korean food, I’d been intensely craving something matcha, and this cafe offered just that! The double dose of matcha that I chose to add to my latte was a bit too much but, along with the creamy matcha cheesecake, I was happy to taste the earthy, comforting flavors again!

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Matcha cheesecake and matcha latte.

Just before returning to my Couchsurfing host’s place, I decided to drop by the Viaduc des Arts in the 12th arrondissment, as it used to be a former railway line before it closed in the late 1960’s. Today, it has been rehabilitated to contain shops and galleries, as well as the Promenade Plantée (which sadly I didn’t do that day, just because the weather and season wasn’t the most optimal).

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Viaduc des Arts.

I had my last full day in Paris the following day. After lying around in the Couchsurfing host’s flat until close to midday, I headed out to take the metro to Saint-Denis, where I would be visiting its eponymous basilica. It is reputed to be one of the first Gothic buildings, as it’d been constructed in the 12th century, and it is a well-known tourist spot just a bit outside of Paris.

My Couchsurfing host had warned me of being careful in Saint-Denis, just because it’s considered to be one of the less-safe suburbs of Paris, being in the north (along with Aubervilliers and Sarcelles), and with a high-density of low-income inhabitants, many of whom are immigrants. I was a bit apprehensive about visiting but, as I visited in the day, I had absolutely no problems on my own. The basilica turned out to be a lovely visit, with its towering structure and gorgeous nave inside, along with containing many tombs of past French kings.

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Basilique de Saint-Denis.
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Inside the basilica.
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Royal tombs inside the basilica.

Afterwards, I took the metro back to the city center, where I got off at the Opéra and got lunch at a nearby Indian-Pakistani restaurant that I’d been meaning to try. Place was intimate and service was really attentive– admittedly, the prices were quite steep (nearing 30€), since I didn’t go during its lunch specials (only on weekdays), but the food was pretty good…and a lot! Between the samosas and palak saag (lamb-spinach curry), I was super stuff in the end.

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Lunch time.

Following lunch, I didn’t have anything else planned for the rest of the day. Out of whim, I decided to see if I could avoid the long lines at the Catacombs (or at least, a smaller line), since I’ve ever been there before out of the many times I’ve visited Paris. As expected, the line was long when I arrived, but I decided to stick it out and see if I could get in within the next 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, I was still not at the entrance (although if I’d waited another 30 minutes, I’d probably have gotten in), and it was getting dark, so I chose just to leave– I could always come back another time, if I really wanted to.

Taking the long way back to my Couchsurfing host’s flat, I passed through her neighborhood (again, in the 13th arrondissement, which is known as “Chinatown”). I bought a boba milk tea at a small stand that my host had recommended me, along with some Chinese pastries for her family as a gift. The boba milk tea was all right, although I wouldn’t say that it could ever beat the ones in the States and Taiwan. I’m a boba snob– what can I do about it?

Any case, it was my last night at my Couchsurfing host’s place. We had a good chat, along with dinner and a Netflix session with her family, as we watched the first episode of the new season of Black Mirror (aka AWESOME) before retiring to bed. I left around 10:00 the next day, saying goodbye and thanking them for their hospitality. Received hugs from her kids, which goes to show that some kids aren’t so bad after all…with that, I left to catch my ride to my next destination on this post-New Year’s trip.

While I would honestly say that I could’ve done without going to Paris (considering that it’d originally been a friend’s getaway, which resulted in my friend flaking out), I’m glad to have gone– while the sites and food places could’ve been for another occasion, I wouldn’t have gotten to meet my Couchsurfing host and her family, whom I would consider have made a lasting impression on me. They made my surfing experience with them one of the best, and I’d love to see them again, whether to surf or to meet up for lunch while in town. Trips like these really connect you with others, and that was what made me grateful to have gone to Paris once more.

More of my adventures post-New Year to come soon. Next up: Amiens, France!

 

— Rebecca

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2 thoughts on “Destination: Paris, France (New Year’s 2018 Edition)– Part 2

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