Paris is always a surprise every time I go back. And always a good idea.
Part of its magic is that it is always changing but somehow always stays the same. Regardless of the fact that I lived there in college and have visited several times since being back in France, there is always a new arrondissement to discover; a new café to mettez-vous à l’aise, a new cocktail begging for my RIB (French speak for wire transfer).
This time in Paris, I got to see my close friend/blogging buddy from D.C. Lauren and her boyfriend Alex. [Can you say FRENAISSANCE?!] I also got to meet up with my very first French-à-la-fac professor Claire, who is the one I credit for finally explaining le passé composé and l’imparfait over many coffees at Hyperion.
I absolutely love showing people around the city, shamelessly returning each time to my crêperie at Place de Clichy, to fondue in Montmartre, and to Pink Flamingo on the Canal St. Martin (even though the past two times I have been there it has been cold and no one else was picnicking). Sometimes though, I wonder how I lived there for so long and never went to some of the most basic Paris-visit attractions…but c’est la vie – especially in France – to do things tranquillement (no, I won’t tell you what I haven’t done because it is simply too embarrassing). Plus, now I have time to go back and do it all again. 😉
I was thrilled that Lauren and Alex had already conquered the Louvre by the time I met up with them, leaving me with Montmartre and the Centre Pompidou and the streets of Paris as my museum (as I prefer). We started with the Galleries Lafayette, walking up the hill to Montmartre for Sacre Cœur, apéros, and fondue.
While they went on a bike tour through the Latin Quarter (which they loved, but I am terrified of riding bikes in cities and opted out), I hopped over to Belleville to go to C.R.E.A.M, a café all my favorite Parisian instagrammers seem to frequent. The pain d’épice was so, so delicious, and (sorry everyone don’t hate me) I loved the more modern atmosphere that many Parisian cafés lack. Plus, I guess eventually I will stop humming Edith Piaf every time I’m in Belleville. Meh, maybe.
That afternoon, Lauren and I reunited and went to the Musée Picasso in the Marais, which, to be fair, was closed when I was in Paris and I was not going to wait in the re-opening line back in November. Not only were the views of the Paris roofs amazing, but it was hard to walk through the museum and think Picasso wasn’t just playing a trick on people his whole life. Let me explain. The museum did an awesome job of showcasing everything from cubism to impressionism to more classical paintings, showing Picasso’s true range of talents that is often overshadowed by the more avant-garde style he’s known for. But what made me really laugh was when really good paintings were hung next to paintings that, politely, were significantly less complex and refined. Tu vois?:
But, what do I know. I haven’t taken art history since high school.
Le Marais meant L’As du Falafel and picnics, and sitting down for the first time. We weaved over to Pompidou after for a view and apéro before our evening picnic on the river in the cold…which just means they’ll have to visit me again when it’s warmer. 😉
Our last day, we went to brunch at HolyBelly, another IGer/blogger recommendation, to celebrate my birthday. It turns out one of the owners went to high school with one of my friends from college – if that doesn’t show you how small a world is I’m not really sure what does. Beyond the modern aesthetics and typography and bourbon butter over my pancakes, I was completely hooked by the café crème. I have had a lot of them throughout my time in France, and this was by far the best.
From there we went one more time to Pompidou for the Jeff Koons exhibition and to actually go inside the museum. Modern art isn’t really Alex’s thing (he loved the Louvre, though!), but we convinced him to just come into the Koons room and give it a try to see the giant balloon animals. The second he saw vacuum cleaners suspended on the wall he said NOPE and promptly left. Hilarious.
I’m still in the process of creating the ultimate must-do Paris guide, but it’s so hard because I keep falling in love with new places and cafés. This is when I start to understand why print is dying – the technology revolution just feeds the evolution of ideas, of places, and of people. But I’ll never tire of the fondue, no matter how old I am. ♦