Perfectly Paris

By Lynn Strough

Travelynn Tales

35Welcome to another chapter in the ongoing series by our world traveler, Lynn Strough. This week, we visit Paris.

Ahh, Paris! City of lights and romance, art and architecture, amazing food and wine. It’s one of my all-time favorite cities.

 

There are, of course, the iconic sights, like the Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe, the River Sienne and the Tuileries, and the Louvre, which is equally as lovely in rain or shine. Stick around for a day or two and you might get both.

 

As a tourist, you’re sure to enjoy all of this. But as a traveler, you get to see even more. After such a great experience couch surfing near Venice, I thought I’d see what Paris had to offer in the way of sofa accommodations. I wasn’t disappointed. An English teacher named Sylvie answered my query and offered me her couch in her small flat. The thing about couch surfing is that it’s not about the size of the accommodations, it’s about the generosity and heart of the people hosting. Sylvie and I both love art and travel, so we had common interests from the start. She opened her home to me and shared something amazing.

45

 

She tangos with a group late at night, dancing in front of the Eiffel Tower. She invited me to go watch and it was magical, hearing the music, seeing the dancers swirl and turn in front of the twinkling lights. I even got asked to dance. But between wearing my tourist gear (jeans and flats) I didn’t exactly look the part — the female dancers wore dresses and heels. Also, I’ve never danced the tango in my life, and who wants to fall flat on their face in Paris? Sadly, I had to decline.

 

We also climbed up to Montmartre and slipped into Sacre-Coeur just before closing one evening, where we each lit a candle. In addition, Sylvie gave me tons of directions and suggestions for making the most of my brief three-day stay. I was a short metro ride away from almost everything, and it was fun staying in a regular neighborhood versus in a touristy hotel. The metro is easy to navigate, and relatively clean, cheap and safe.

 

(continued under slide show)

 

 

  • Ahh, Paris! City of lights and romance, art and architecture, amazing food and wine. It’s one of my all-time favorite cities.
  • My couch-surfing accommodations.
  • Tangoing at night, lit by the Eiffel Tower.
  • The metro is easy to navigate and relatively clean, cheap and safe.
  • I wanted to go to the d’Orsay as it’s my favorite art museum in the world.
  • The architecture of the old converted train station...
  • ...and the views from the top are worth the visit alone.
  • But add in the works of the likes of Matisse, Monet, Morisot, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bonnard and many more of my favorites, and I could spend all day there.
  • You never know what you'll find in the quaint and beautiful neighborhoods -- art is everywhere.
  • Hotel de Ville is another place I’d never been -- it’s not a hotel at all, but the City Hall.
  • It’s worth a visit to Galeries Lafayette, a gorgeous department store with stained glass, polished brass and chandeliers...
  • ...and designer shops so exclusive that they have armed guards minding the doors.
  • My head said go straight, but my heart nudged me to turn left, so I followed my heart, right to the wisteria-covered restaurant.
  • Frederico, the man in charge, said it was almost closing time -- between lunch and dinner -- but that I’d just made it.
  • The guide led us up a narrow spiral staircase to the top of Notre Dame, where the flying buttresses soared over our heads...
  • ...and the views of Paris were incredible.
  • And we got to slip into the secret rooms downstairs where the treasures of the church are stored.
  • Yes, Paris is a beautiful city!
  • As visits to cities go, in my book, Paris is perfect.

 

 

I’d been to Paris before, and because my stay this time around was so short, I knew I had to prioritize. I wanted to go to the d’Orsay as it’s my favorite art museum in the world. The architecture of the old converted train station and the views from the top are worth the visit alone, but add in the works of the likes of Matisse, Monet, Morisot, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bonnard, and many more of my favorites, and I could spend all day there.33

 

Eventually, after five hours in the museum and on visual overload, it was time to wander some more, which is my other favorite thing to do in Paris. Not just the tourist streets, like the Champs Elysee, but the quaint and beautiful neighborhoods, where you never know what you’ll see –- art is everywhere.

 

I’d never been to Ille Saint-Louis, a tiny island behind Notre Dame, and would love to go back when I have more time just to look at the signs, peek in the windows, and gawk at the galleries and architecture.

 

20Hotel de Ville is another place I’d never been, and I discovered that it’s not a hotel at all, but the City Hall. It’s a place where tons of tourists and locals alike congregate, and I happened by right at the golden hour when everything glowed.

 

Even if you’re not in shopping mode like me, it’s still worth a visit to Galeries Lafayette, a gorgeous department store with stained glass, polished brass, and chandeliers, and designer shops within the shop so exclusive that they have armed guards minding the doors. What’s in those purses anyway, diamonds?

 

Sometimes, synchronicity creates amazing events, like a private tour of the top of Notre 17Dame. I was wandering around, trying to find a restaurant I’d gone to seven years before. I didn’t remember the name, only that it was somewhere near Notre Dame and covered with wisteria. I thought about stopping at the famed cathedral, but I’d been inside once on a previous trip, the entry line was long, and I was starving. My head said go straight, but my heart nudged me to turn left, so I followed my heart, right to the wisteria-covered restaurant.

 

16Frederico, the man in charge, said it was almost closing time, between lunch and dinner, but that I’d just made it. He reminded me that this was the oldest building in Paris. It was pricier than I’d remembered, but I had free accommodations and was eating mostly home-cooked meals, so this was my splurge. And it turned out to be the best splurge ever, as Frederico said, “What are you doing next?” He invited me and a couple of American guys to go on a private tour of nearby Notre Dame he’d organized for some of his friends. The two guys declined, but I gave an immediate yes. A few other couples joined us, and one was from my home state of Michigan. Later on Facebook, I learned a friend of mine in Atlanta knows Frederico as well. It truly is a small world.

 

We raced along the Paris street behind Frederico, dodging traffic, and followed his tour guide past the very long line into a special side door as people looked on, wondering who we were and why we had such privileges. I thought it would be just a standard tour, but the guide led us up, up, up a narrow spiral staircase to the top of Notre Dame, where the flying buttresses soared over our heads, and the views of Paris were incredible.

 

And we got to slip into the secret rooms downstairs where the treasures of the church are stored.

 

Yes, Paris is a beautiful city!

 

3About Lynn Strough

Lynn is a 50-something-year-old woman whose incarnations in this life have included graphic designer, children’s book author and illustrator, public speaker, teacher, fine art painter, wine educator in the Napa Valley, and world traveler. Through current circumstances, she has found herself single, without a job or a home, and poised for a great adventure.

 

“You could consider me homeless and unemployed, but I prefer nomad and self-employed, as I pack up my skills and head off with my small backpack and even smaller savings to circumnavigate the globe (or at least go until the money runs out). Get ready to tag along for the ride…starting now!”

 

travelynnlogoAll images copyright Lynn Strough and Travelynn Tales

Reprinted with permission

Comments

comments