Let’s talk about Paris.
Paris, Paris, Paris! Has there ever even been a city as talked about as PARIS! From the belle epoch to the swinging sixties, Paris has been at the heart of all things chic for centuries. I think we can all agree that that Marie Antoinette sure knew how to throw a party!
I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Paris on five occasions before because growing up I was very lucky and my family visited friends there *doing the humble brag - sorry I know - but let’s just get that awkwardness over and done with now*. As a result, while I wouldn’t say I KNEW Paris, I certainly feel comfortable walking around and exploring, and have a vague idea of the way the city is laid out.
On arriving in Paris, we decided to take taxi into the city. I’d advise if you’re going around any big city at night and you’re not that familiar with it, shell out for a cab. It just isn’t worth the anxiety especially with big backpacks.
Our lovely Taxi driver drove us through city and gave us a mini scenic tour via the Louvre. We could see the Eiffel tower in the distance with twinkling nighttime lights glowing. The bright city was illuminated all around and the Louvre looked like it was from a fairystory. Matt and I had our jaws on the floor. We just couldn’t believe we were actually in Paris. Matt turned to me “Oh my god, I love Paris.”
Our Air BnB was situated on Rue De Martyrs in Monmartre, the formerly bohemian part of Paris, just a 15 minute walk from the Moulin Rouge. Our host was out (she had indicated she would be), but after calling her and waiting for 10 minutes or so we were let in by a lovely French woman, who cheekily told Matt he was lucky to be with a lovely girl like moi (let’s be honest - we all want an 80 year old French woman to rate us highly, amiright ladies?)
Our room was small but comfortable, with a good shower. We had an outside courtyard behind us and the weather was warm and humid so found ourselves leaving the window open. I conveniently could almost always asleep straight away, but Matt would find over the next five days that the echoing voices of summer dazed Parisians would keep him awake at night. We were so excited to have arrived that we dumped our bags and went out immediately for a drink, desperate to soak up the atmosphere around us. At a corner restaurant, off a wide boulevard, we ordered two glasses of red wine and even though the waiter spoke perfect English, I insisted on making him suffer by responding with my French. Matt and I felt like we’d fallen into a dream. “I can’t believe we’re in Paris” we kept repeating. We felt like we were coming home.
And that was it - as quickly as that Paris became the truthful and honest answer to the question we would come to be asked endlessly in the months after our 2018 10 week holiday: ‘What was your favourite place your visited on your trip?’ Sadly our answer was so predictable that we now avoid answering the question for fear of disappointing the polite questioner.
The next morning, we woke, had a shower, and stepped onto the streets. We decided we would visit the Louvre but walking the half hour into town, we changed plan and decided to visit my favourite museum in the world - Musee D’Orsay. As Matt and I skipped along in the sunshine, our heads turned by the beautiful architecture around us, I spotted a bakery where I ordered ‘jambon beurre’ and bought two yoghurts (when travelling, yogurt is an essential and easy breakfast). We arrived at the Lourve again, by walking in almost a straight line from Monmartre, and then took a right turn inwards to stroll into the Tuileries to eat our rolls and yoghurts. We chatted amicably, breathing in the dappled sunlight, the sandy ornate buildings and the waiters wearing tuxedos who stood behind us in the formal outdoor cafe close by. There really are not words for what we felt sitting side by side, watching some tourists take photos of themselves in the Autumn leaves. Unlike anywhere else on the trip, Paris just had placed her magic spell on us which we simply didn’t recover from (and are yet to do so). Put simply, Paris made us feel alive, and in love.
Matt and I continued into the Musee D’Orsay, just across the River Seine. We opted for the audio-tour, which is always really interesting, and started with the more formal academy pictures before going upstairs for the real treat - impressionist masterpieces. My favourite painting ever, Dejuneur Sur L’Herbe is housed at Musee D’Orsay, painted by the artist Edward Manet. This story has personal importance to me because I learnt about its origins when I was 12 for an assignment, and how it is still being used as a magnet for satire today. I think I was attracted to the fact that the subject, Victorine, is starring out very boldly of the painting, breaking the fourth wall with the viewer.
Victorine didn’t seem shy, nor sexy in a conventional way. It fired my imagination and I think that like other artists I would come to admire, like Patti Smith, Cat Power and Jenny Lewis, exemplified a restrained and poetic ability of women to tell stories from their own position and perspective, rather than being the subject of the male gaze. I mean, I’m working this out in retrospect with an art history degree - 12 year old me was more instinctual.
After exploring many more incredible and inspiring impressionist works, including the classically confronting ‘L’Origine Du Monde’ - always one to be mature Lucy - we finished our day by heading home and out for dinner at a local restaurant. Over three delicious courses at Les Anges we found ourselves eating beautiful french food (except my fish - not sure what was up with that) and enjoying the warm evening.
On another we had organised to pop up the Eiffel Tower (it is IMPOSSIBLE to get a good photo of yourself up there - totally packed and a nightmare), and then visited the classic Instagram spot of the National Library.
One of our most beautiful experiences was buying fresh local produce and walking up to Sacre Coeur together, to enjoy figs, truffle cheese, anchovies, wine and salami while we watched the sun set over Paris.
While it may all melt into one blissful French memory, I have to tell you about our beautiful day we experienced in Versailles. Our day started with our first and only trip on the Metro (typically we were nervous about getting something wrong, but managed to pull it off without trouble). We arrived at the station and instead of going straight to the Chateau, we walked on to the Sunday Versailles local market in the square. While most of the food on offer was for home cooks, such as snails, vegetables, fruit, flowers, meat and fish, we did manage to secure a giant, hot chicken and duck fat roasted potatoes. While not a typical breakfast, we found ourselves, dressed rather nicely, filling our faces with ‘poulet’ in a back street in Versailles, greedily knowing we wouldn’t eat again for a few hours. The bright sun, the greasy and salty chicken, and rich potatoes, with our freckled arms reaching into the white papery bag. Bliss.
We walked back to the Chateau and found ourselves having to stand in a huge queue. Unfortunately, while we had pre-paid for tickets, that does no good at all unless they are timed. So, with everyone else in Versailles, we had to wait for about an hour in the heat to be allowed entry. Top tip? Buy timed tickets.
While Marie Antionette’s chambers were closed for renovation (quell dommage!), we had a long and thorough look around Versailles. I loved a painting of Joan of Arc in one of the halls depicting famous french battles, and of course the hall of mirrors was breathtaking. But it was just the start…
The rest of the afternoon was a beautiful and exhausting stroll through the ground of Versailles which are MASSIVE. Matt wanted to visit every grove and garden with many protests of ‘But we haven’t been there yet’. I had to try and temper his expectations - it’s just so HUGE.
We did go to the Petite Trianon, Marie Antionettes little village, the Grand Trianon and a few of the beautiful garden groves. It was so lovely to see all the locals come out on this beautiful and hot afternoon to sit by the river, rowing in boats or eating picnics. While you do have to pay to enter the main house and gardens, the wider gardens are free to visit and lots of Versailles locals appear to make the most of that. We were absolutely shattered on our way home, and on arriving back attempted to have drink but could barely speak to one another.
We finished the perfect day with a delicious dinner at Yoom. Experiencing truffle and chicken dumplings was worth going out again for - they’re the most delicious thing I’ve ever possibly ever eaten.
Our final day before leaving for the next flight to Barcelona, we visited the Louvre, which somehow got pushed to the last day. It was a bit of a rush but we did manage to see some of the best Renaissance art in the world, including the Mona Lisa, Madonna of the Goldfinch and Madonna of the Rocks. My art history nerd was running riot. I also loved seeing Liberty Leading the People.
As we said goodbye to Paris, after five dreamy days, with the most beautiful food, weather (not one grey day!) and scintillating culture, we tried to articulate what it was that made Paris so special on our trip. Was it the above? Was it the gorgeous history of the city? The architecture? Maybe… But on talking to other people, it isn’t something everyone feels. Perhaps, just perhaps, the magic of Paris was less about what Paris did to us and what we did to Paris. Two young New Zealand lovers, wandering hand in hand, with open minds, ready to embrace the city of light.