Although I hadn’t been back in Paris for more than 24 hours when I visited in March for my birthday, I’d already managed to see a lot of the city. Of course, I continued my exploration that first full day in, as well as for the remaining three nights I had in the French capital.
Just before heading to lunch, I stumbled across the passage Jouffroy, one of the many covered passageways in the city. As it goes with others like Galeries Vivienne, this passageway was filled with people shopping, eating, and otherwise enjoying the beautiful architecture underneath its coverings. Perfect way to explore Paris, especially if it’s a rainy day!
It was just around the block from passage Jouffroy that I had my lunch. It was at le Bouillon Chartier, a historic restaurant that dates back to the late 19th century. Besides its history, it’s known for offering traditional French food at affordable prices (think 20€ or less). As I’m a foodie and a budget traveler, I was definitely interested in seeing how it was.
Since it’s famous, there’s bound to be a queue, and I wasn’t surprised to find a line when I turned up before its opening at 11:30. Thankfully, I arrived early, so I was one of the first 20 people to get in and get a seat. I ended up being placed with strangers in a table for four, with an elderly couple from Orléans and a middle-aged man from the Alsace region. Kind of a new experience interacting with strangers over a meal, but otherwise that got me to practice my French!
The food itself isn’t what you expect to be “high-class,” especially considering its affordable price. All the same, however, I enjoyed my three-course meal (with a small pichet du vin) for a solid 19,70€, which would’ve never happened elsewhere in Paris. I especially liked my boeuf bourguignon, which was really hearty and tender. A filling meal with good conversations with strangers and friendly service– what more could you ask for?
I took a quick gander inside the passage des Panoramas (just across from the passage Jouffroy) after lunch before I headed to the église Saint-Eustache, my personal-favorite church near les Halles, and then to the hôtel de Soubise in the Marais district. I’d tried to visit it the last time I was in Paris, but unfortunately it had been closed for the national holiday. This time, though, I managed to get in, all the while for free (25-and-under, represent!). Made it all the more worth it, as I finally got to see the incredible architecture of the royal apartments– one could say that one feels like royalty in these places!
Feeling the mid-afternoon slump, I headed to a cafe in the Oberkampf district for a cup of coffee before I return to my Airbnb to rest, as well as grade papers– even if I’m on “vacation,” I still had to work! It was then a matter of heading out later that evening to the 11th arrondissment, which is well-known for its hopping nightlife. I was to meet up with a friend, who was a local. We caught up over a few drinks at one of the bars before checking out another one on rue de Lappe, which is notorious for its bars, nightlife, and at times strange antics as the night progresses. We eventually left sometime past midnight, taking the metro back to our respective places. I was exhausted by the time I returned to my Airbnb, but it was a fun night out.
The next day was a Sunday, but thankfully, the cafe I wanted to go to for breakfast was open. Although service was super slow (and inefficient), I had a hearty tarte aux marrons with my cup of tea before I continued on with my day.
I revisited the Galeries Vivienne, where I ran into two Chinese tourists who were lost in finding the musée de l’Orangerie. Somehow, I ended up taking them there, guiding them over and subsequently practicing my (very broken) Mandarin with them. Turned out to be an unexpected, but fun distraction, and it was great to have helped them out…even if I wasn’t a local!
My afternoon was spent in the 18th and 19th arrondissements, as I first headed to Buttes Bergeyre, a “micro-neighborhood” that contains a small vineyard and direct views of the Sacré Coeur in the distance. Not too far away was the église Saint-Serge, a Russian Orthodox church tucked away in a gated community– unfortunately, it was closed when I visited, but its unique exterior was already a pleasure to see. Really, the 19th arrondissement is chock-full of underrated gems, and it’s come to be my favorite district in Paris.
I returned to the Montmartre district where I captured the “Sinking House” (just on the right side of the Sacré Coeur) before heading north towards the périphérique, where the immeuble Deneux is situated. More precisely, it’s on rue Belliard, and its geometric imagery reminiscent of the Middle Ages offered an architectural wonder in the middle of the somewhat gritty northern part of Paris.
Feeling rather tired, I took the metro back to the Airbnb, where I corrected more papers (never ends!) before heading out for dinner that evening. I revisited my go-to Sichuan restaurant in the Beaubourg district before trying my second speakeasy of my stay. Situated behind the kitchen of a hotel, I ordered a drink that was *literally* on fire! Delicious all the same, though, and it put me in good spirits as I headed to one of my usual bars to chill out and celebrate my birthday once it struck midnight.
I spent my last full day in Paris by taking a half-day trip to Provins, a small town far-off in the île-de-France region (more on that in a different post). I was back in town in the afternoon, and I enjoyed a pleasant pause at a Korean cafe which offered red-bean bungeoppang (fish pastry) and bingsoo (Korean shaved ice). I rested in my Airbnb afterwards before I headed out on my last night in town, first to the Champ de Mars for views of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, and then to the third speakeasy, located behind an Italian joint near the Bastille. It was then a matter of returning to the Airbnb to crash for the night, as I had to catch my train back the following morning.
Overall, it was a short, but much-needed weekend away from my flat. Although my wallet wasn’t happy about how much I’d spent in Paris, I’m glad to have seen and experienced some places that I’d been meaning to see while in town. Much food and drink had been consumed, and Paris is one place that I’ll definitely be returning to in the near future, birthday or not.
More coming soon!