Paris, oh Paris…it’s a place that I’ve written about numerous times on this blog, to the point that I’ve had to chronicle each visit based on the date I went (April, October, now March…). Crazy to believe that I used to dislike this city when I first moved to France in 2015– now, it’s one that I can’t get enough of, as I make any excuse to return, again and again.
I knew that I wanted to celebrate my birthday in Paris this year, so I took it upon myself to book transport and accommodation up to two months in advance so that I would be ready to jet off once it happened. Never mind that I was in the middle of an exhausting semester of teaching (and with plenty of papers to correct)– there was no way that I was going to spend my birthday stuck in my flat doing work. Especially since I’d spent each year traveling for my birthday in France (from Brittany to Dijon to Avignon), I knew that I wanted to do it again.
Booking trains in advance was a good thing, since it was cheaper (I also had a SNCF discount code for 30% off, which helped!). As for accommodation, I really wanted to find a place that wasn’t a hostel– considering that I’ve stayed in hostels many times in Paris (and have enjoyed them, don’t get me wrong), I wanted to “treat myself” to some extra privacy and comfort.
That said, I looked into Airbnbs– at first, many places in the city center were pricey (about 120-130€ nightly, on average), but I managed to find a place in the 12th arrondissement for 25€ per night! Granted, it was a shared living space with the host, but it turned out to be quite nice. The host was busy and not always home, so I ended up having the place all to myself for those four nights in town.
I caught the train at noon and arrived into Paris by 15:00. It was a matter of walking to my Airbnb, which was about 20 minutes away, and I soon arrived in front of the building. Since she would be working when I arrived, my host had informed that I could receive the key inside of her mailbox, which would be unlocked. However, I discovered that there was no key! After texting her and her going into a panic, she got off work early to rush over to let me in with her spare key. Apparently, her last guest had accidentally left with the key, but thankfully, we worked things out in that I could take her key during my stay in Paris.
After getting settled into the Airbnb, I went out to grab some groceries at the nearest supermarket before returning to make dinner. Considering that the Paris hostels I’ve stayed in had no kitchen, I was glad to actually have one this time around. Saves on having to eat out all of the time!
Funny enough, though, much of my money spent in Paris that extended weekend was on food and drinks. Similar to my visit back in October, I spent my time trying different eateries, cafes, and bars in town. Sure, I also visited (and revisited) some landmarks, but much of my time was on the gastronomy. Admittedly, I spent as much money in those four days as I’d done in Romania in a week(!), but again, it was my birthday weekend, and I allowed myself to fudge the budget a little. I swear, I don’t always spend this much on my travels!
I had a simple dinner in the Airbnb before I headed out to explore town in the evening. It was a “drinks out” kind of night, as I hit up a speakeasy (accessible through a Laundromat door) and a posh, secluded bar in the Montmartre district. Having to “search” for these hidden places was half of the fun, and it made the cocktails I ordered all the more enjoyable! Plus, the views of the Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower in the distance made for a magical first night out.
Breakfast the next day was at Stohrer, the oldest boulangerie in Paris. Dating back to the reign of King Louis XV in the early 18th century, this bakery/pastry shop is not far from Châtelet, and I got there early to have a freshly-baked pain aux raisins. I kid you not, it was probably the best pain aux raisins I’ve ever had– I usually don’t like them, but this one made me fall head over heels with them! Each layer was absolutely drenched in butter, all the while being so crispy and flaky. It was a satisfying start to my day, as I headed over to my next stop to burn it off.
I reached le Village Royal, a passageway just next to the église de la Madeleine. Similar to the Galerie Vivienne, it offers plenty of high-end stores, boutiques, and cafes for people to indulge in their shopping fantasies. However, I wasn’t there for shopping– in fact, there happened to be the Umbrella Sky Project going on, which is essentially a temporary, open-air exhibition that features hundreds of colorful umbrellas seemingly floating in the air. It’s the stuff of an Instagrammer’s dream, and this project can also be found in other places like Portugal or Romania. I managed to be there for Paris’ exhibition, which would go until the end of April– I got my photos in, and I spent some time just admiring the colorful palates above my head.
While killing time until lunch, I revisited some old haunts in the 8th arrondissement. They included the rival department stores– Galeries Lafayette and Printemps Haussmann— both of which offered free views of Paris from the top floor. I’ve visited them numerous times, and they never get old! If you don’t feel like paying for views of the Eiffel Tower and city skyline, these department stores are the places to go.
More of my time in Paris in the upcoming post. Until then!