Friday, October 14, 2011

Night on the Town - Parisian Local Style

metro stop near my new hostel
This morning I met my other roommate - she is an American from California who is traveling for 3 months around Europe on her own while her husband is finishing school. She recently had back surgery and since she had to take time off from school for that, she thought "why not travel - it's a great way to get in all the walking that my doctors want me to do." With the advice of her and my Swedish roommate, I got a list of places that I should see during my first time in Paris. I wasn't so sure about this hostel when I checked in - it seemed like a lot of high-school aged people, but after meeting my roommates, I am kind of bummed to be leaving and switching to a new hostel. The reason I switched was because my roommate Krista (from college for those of you who may be confused by me calling her my roommate since I lived alone in St. Paul) had recommended a hostel that she and Ben and Ben's siblings stayed at while traveling in Europe last summer - she said it was one of the best hostels they stayed at. Unfortunately that place did not have any available rooms for my first night in Paris, so I booked at a different hostel. At least the one I moved to had free WiFi - a definite must in this era of technology and constant connection to the world...

Sacrè Cœur
So I pack up my stuff, check out and make my way via the metro to my new hostel, St. Christopher's. While walking off the metro stop, I run into a girl who asks me if I speak English and if I am going to St. Christopher's. With a "yes" to both, we walk together the rest of the way to the hostel. She is from Great Britain and has been traveling around Europe for nearly 6 weeks. Paris was her last stop. We arrive at our hostel (after getting turned around at least once) and find that we can't check in until 2 pm (it was about 1030 am at the time). So we drop our bags off in the luggage storage area and decide to head up to see the Sacrè Cœur in Montmarte. It is this beautiful cathedral on the top of a large hill that provides an excellent view of the city's rooftops. My American and Swedish roommates from my previous hostel had both recommended going here. They were right - it was absolutely breathtaking. As I have looked at my picture of the rooftops of Paris, I am liking it more and more. At the time, I was not all that impressed as I thought Paris looked much better on the street level - which it does. You don't get the same feel of the city from up above as you do down on the streets. But it was lovely nonetheless. On our walk up the stairs, we were approached by one of the major scams in Paris - women with clipboards who want your signature for some petition and once you sign, they say you owe a minimum of 10 euros. (Another scam is men with embroidery thread asking for your wrist - they make you a bracelet and say that you then owe them 5-10 euros - basically say "no" to everything you are offered on the street in Paris.) 
rooftops of Paris from the Sacrè Cœur

We decided to wander around the cobblestone streets of Montmarte since we still had some time before check-in and passed by a man hanging from the side of the house. He was so still and so impressive that I took a picture. We stopped for lunch at a pizza parlor and each had a pizza and wine. The pizza was adequate - Punch Pizza is better as is I'm sure the pizza in Italy and the house wine was delicious! After eating and paying (tip is included in the price so what is listed is what you pay), we headed back to the hostel to check in. By the time I got settled into my room, it was time for me to leave again as I had made some plans with a friend of my brother's, Dan, who is going to school and living in Paris. 

Before meeting him, I decided to try and find a bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. This bookstore was featured in the movie Midnight in Paris (I didn't see it yet, but I hear the movie is all about the American authors living in Paris in the 1920s). It is the bookstore where the American writers - Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, among others - hung out and wrote at while living in Paris. Unfortunately, I could not find the bookstore and had to leave to meet Dan at a café not too far away from where I was searching for the bookstore. 

The café was in a very cute neighborhood. We sat outside and drank espresso - things actually cost more if you sit and eat/drink than if you take your food to go our stand at the bar to drink. We had never met before, but we spent over an hour chatting and talking about the most random things. Dan was going to meet up with some friends at a bar in Paris later that evening and asked if I would be interested in joining there group. There are several graduate students at the American University in Paris from the US that hang out together. On our way to meet them in the Bastille neighborhood, we pass by the monument at Bastille - the place where the Bastille Prison was once located and torn down during the French Revolution. We stop at the French version of a fast food restaurant, order some falafel, and take it to a nearby park to eat (again, cheaper to take it to go then to eat in). After eating, we make our way to the Bloody Mary bar (they are known for their great beer happy hour special...not Bloody Mary drinks interestingly enough...). The bar is small and you actually have to make a reservation if you want to sit and drink vs. just standing at the tiny bar to drink. We had a table for 8 and in all, about 15 people were in our group. There was no room in that bar for anyone to move! The bathrooms were outside in a courtyard that is surrounded by residential properties. I met a ton of new people and had a great time hanging out! 
Gare du Nord Metro Station

We all left the bar after several hours and several of us went to the apartment of one of the group. He had a beautiful apartment with a great view of the neighborhood. The renter of the apartment made a late night snack of some delicious pasta and after another few hours of hanging out and talking, we made our way to the metro to go home for the evening. I got back to the hostel just before 2 am and went to bed. It was a really fun night meeting new people and experiencing parts of Paris that I probably wouldn't have as a tourist. Great first full day in Paris!

1 comment:

  1. I would love to go to that place and stay at the nicest accommodation in town.

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