So let's continue, the best of Paris. My way. The same kind of "smart tourism" that I spoke about in the last post. An ode to the city of love, revisiting a few of the places that I liked most through our photos.
Starting at Montparnasse; we headed for the iconic Eiffel Tower. This is it. The big French radio tower. You've come all this way how can you wait this long to see it? There are long queues, and a lot of activity surrounding the tower (you gonna be offered more bottles of wine than you are prepared to turn down) but it is an awesome structure to behold.
On the day that we decided to visit the Catacombes de Paris; it rained. There was a long queue. It rained the whole time. The tone is very somber in the catacombs – as you might expect. It's a little bit of a suffocating experience so if you're queasy in tight spaces maybe give it a skip. There are plenty of stories of people sneaking into areas they shouldn't be in and getting lost. Don't be one of those people.
I know that your first thought about museums is going to be: "The Louvre, right"... but Musée d'Orsay is by far the better experience, I promise. From the architecture to the artworks; this museum is an incredibly beautiful visage that was completely arresting. Seeing the artworks that filled my art school textbooks in their "Full HD" epic scale is a totally indescribable experience.
PRO TIP: the single best cup of coffee that I had was from the little café outside the museum.
Belleville is a neighbourhood full of shops, bars, and places to eat. There's a market near Richard Lenoir (in the morning). It's a lively neighbourhood that is as colourful as you could wish for. This was where we found an amazing Asian restaurant called Wen Zhou Mei Shin Lin, a small bar that had psychedelic rock 'n' roll paraphernalia hanging from the ceiling, and even a little sneaker collector that had dead stock Ewings on display. Mostly the pricing in this area is reasonable and there aren't many tourist traps.
Tip: Aux Folies is a drinker’s institution, never empty – the whole area still packs a distinct buzz. In summer, the terrace crowds spill onto the narrow Rue Dénoyez, while on weekends the street bustles with pedestrians, art stalls, bands, and graffiti artists.
The 11th arrondissement of Paris is a massive district made up of République, Oberkampf, Bastille, and Charonne. One of the largest squares in Paris is Place de la République – I saw a lot of people sitting. And a lot people skating. This the district where you'll find Isabel Marant and Maison Kitsuné. There's also the Edith Piaf Museum where you can pay homage to ‘La Môme’ in one of the tiniest museums: tucked away in two rooms of a private apartment in the Ménilmontant neighborhood that Edith Piaf frequented. There's also a pretty rad burger spot called Starvin' Joe that is on my list of approved joints. There are a few flagship stores around here like New Era, Kiehl's, Levi's... it's a good district to explore especially for a beer, and something to eat. This was also one of the stops we made on Record Store Day.
Paris is a mix of Cape Town, and Johannesburg to me. It's exquisitely beautiful in some places, and they're the expensive parts. The areas that are more affordable are not the scenes from the movies. It's these little gems that are hidden but have the character that I like to find. The 11th arrondissement is the kind of district that I like to get lost in. Thrift stores, music, graffiti, coffee shops, and boulangeries are the landscape that appeals to me. It's not that I don't want to see the landmarks; I just appreciate experiencing a destination without the tourism.
I'm not sure that I have the same connection to this city as my wife but I can tell you that I'd like nothing more than to revisit this city! There is still so much that I haven't seen. I really would like to go back and visit someone from each arrondissement to get the inside scoop!