On my first full day in Paris during the October vacances, I spent the rainy morning in the quiet, bucolic neighborhood called Mouzaïa (located in the 19th arrondissement) before heading to the city center. I puttered around rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement (a beautiful historic street made famous by Ernest Hemingway) before making the long trek to the 11th arrondissement near the Bastille and Nation districts.
Considering that I’ve visited Paris countless of times during my time in France, many might wonder why I chose to return to the French capital for my October holidays. Besides deciding to stay domestic (as I only had a week off from teaching), I wanted to go to Paris for a specific art exhibition, which was a temporary one happening at the Atelier des Lumières. The exhibition focused on the artwork of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, as well as other similar artists.
Truth be told, I didn’t actually know about Klimt and his work– in fact, what inspired me to attend this art exhibition was the fact that it was a digital art presentation. The Atelier des Lumières is basically an art space that showcases art through technology, i.e. light installations, and I happen to come across it through a video online that was highlighting Klimt’s work. It looked so good that I knew that I had to go.
With that said, I booked my ticket online (9,50€ reduced price– it’s necessary to book online, as tickets can be sold out quickly. It’s that popular!), and I headed over to the Atelier des Lumières with my timed ticket for 14:00 that day.
The art exhibition was everything that I’d expected– in fact, it exceeded my expectations! As soon as I entered the massive, warehouse-like studio, I was bombarded with walls of animated artwork from Klimt: the art floated and disintegrated in time with the music playing overhead, and I didn’t mind the lack of seats (many people just sat on the floor) to enjoy the colorful spectacle happening in front of my eyes.
Aside from the Klimt exhibition, there were two others based on other artists’ works, on the topics of architecture and artificial intelligence, both which I found equally fascinating. There was also a smaller room where a color exhibition was going on: upon stepping inside, I was immediately hit with a palate of bright, neon colors in animation. There were seats in the room, so I got to sit back and watch the visuals play out.
After spending an hour at the Atelier des Lumières, I left with a satisfied impression of the exhibition– I’ve since learned that the studio exhibits other digital animations, and I hope to check more out in my next visits to Paris! I ended my afternoon at a matcha-themed cafe (which I’d gone to back in January and greatly enjoyed) before returning to my hostel to rest a bit. I befriended a traveler who’d just arrived that day, and we chatted for a bit before I went out to get dinner at a Senegalese restaurant, as a friend had recommended it to me.
I went as soon as it opened for dinner, since I had no reservation, and I was able to get a seat– by the time I finished eating, the place was pretty much full. Since it was my first time ever trying Senegalese food, I had no idea of what it’ll be like– however, after trying it that night, I can say that I’m a huge fan!
What I ordered was the yassa au poulet (chicken yassa), and it was absolutely bursting with flavor: the dominate flavor was lemon, followed by a complex blend of spices which I couldn’t quite put my finger on– what I can say is that it had an unbelievably earthy taste, along with a spicy heat that I fully embraced. Definitely recommend Senegalese food, and I want to return to try more dishes from the menu!
The next day was spent taking a day trip to Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley (which I’ll recap in a later post). I returned to Paris in the evening: it was Halloween that day, and I’d made plans to meet up with other assistant.e.s who were also in Paris to celebrate, along with the traveler whom I’d befriended in my hostel the night before.
We met up with the others at Châtelet (basically ground-zero of Paris) and got drinks at a bar. It was absolutely hopping that night, as tourists and locals were out and about celebrating Halloween, some even in costumes. We spent the rest of the night wandering the city and ended it with views by the quay near the Notre Dame. It was a lot of fun, as I got to meet more people and explore Paris at night.
The day after Halloween was a jour férié (observed holiday) in France– originally, I’d wanted to do another day trip somewhere, but I ended up just staying in Paris since I was concerned that there would be limited services that day. I got lunch at a Szechuan restaurant that an assistante had recommended to me, and it was absolutely delicious! Especially in a country that is repelled by anything spicy, I was happily surprised that the dan-dan noodles I ordered served up some heat– I opted for a level 2 on the 0 to 5 scale, and that was just the right kick! Definitely would return.
I passed through the passage Choiseul and the Palais Garnier on my way to Printemps Haussmann, where I then took the escalator to the 9th-floor terrace for views of Paris. I’d been to the one at the Galeries Lafayette, the rival department store, and Printemps Haussmann offered equally-gorgeous views of the Eiffel Tower and Parisian architecture…for free!
Following the views, I took the Line 1 metro out of Paris to la Défense, located in Puteaux, the business district of the Paris metropolitan area. It’s a huge contrast to the elegant, historic center, as this part of town consists of futuristic skyscrapers and a grittier atmosphere to it. What it’s known for is the Grande Arche, which is to mirror that of the Arc de Triomphe, albeit in a modernist style. This area gets a bad rep from Parisians, as they deem the architecture “ugly,” but I think for modern-city lovers, it’s not a bad place to check out.
I returned to my hostel afterwards before I headed out that evening to get drinks with a friend who’d lived in my city last year and is now working in Paris. We caught up on the past few months of not seeing each other, and that was about it. I returned to my hostel by 21:00, since I had to get up early the next morning for another day trip.
The next day was spent in Reims, and upon returning to Paris that evening, I got dinner at a popular Korean restaurant near Palais Royal, which served a delicious (and legit) bibimbap. It was my last night in town, and I ended it with a hearty dinner and a good time at a bar afterwards. I would be returning to my city the next morning, thereby ending my week-long October vacances.
Overall, I would say that my trip to Paris this October was busy, but at the same time not as packed as previous visits. I had just the right balance of sightseeing and leisure, and I got to meet even more cool people, try many delicious restaurants, and enjoy myself outside of work stress. I plan to return to Paris soon, in order to discover more things to do!
More of my October vacances to come soon!