One of my besties and I entered our 30’s in the last year and we wanted to do something to celebrate and hallmark the new season. It finally worked out, and she came to visit England and we had three days in Paris together. I was there six years ago, but it was her first time. We mapped out the “must sees”, booked a decent Eurostar/hotel package and figured we would wing the rest.
From what I have heard, Paris is very French. I know, “Really?!” Everywhere we turned there were patisseries with locals stopping for their morning or evening baguette. We smelled like smoke at the end of a day’s journey. Paris, like any European city, is full of fantastic old architecture with floral shops on the corner, even in winter. I attempted to order a croissant in French and found myself uttering Italian in thanks. In embarrassment, I realized I was attempting three languages and botching it all!
We were travelling on a budget and neither of us fancy seafood or delicacies so our food experiences could’ve been much different than some. On one particular night we decided we would “eat out” and spend a bit more. We looked at the menu of one restaurant and agreed there was something we’d both like. I was craving a good steak, as even in England I find the beef is just not like home! (Oh how excited I am for a barbequed Alberta steak!) We both ordered steak and fries (that was the side offered). However, it looked more like raw hide leathered thin to the embarrassment of the animal sacrificed for our delight. We thought, “Ok. This is steak in Paris.” There was no gristle (as expected on a steak). It tasted off. I didn’t finish it. Later this week we were told that we likely had horse in Paris as if it didn’t say “beef” it likely wasn’t. Images of my little horse Flicka danced through my mind and I shuddered thinking of that steak!
Later that same night, we agreed to go out for dessert. Note to self and all travellers: you pay for location. We were in the Trocadero district, which provides a fantastic night view of the Eiffel Tower. After finding a menu that offered desserts from about 5-8 euro we went in. Welcomed with a “bonsoir”, we were shown to a table. I opted for the homemade chocolate cake and my friend the flan (pronounced “flah-n” as she was corrected when ordering!) Excited at the presentation we saw at the bakery counter, we were sure that our splurge would prove good. However, we looked over our shoulder and saw the waitress take my “homemade chocolate cake” out of plastic, toss it on plate, and ta da, there was my piece of chocolate loaf and her flah-n, 11 euros later.
So our night where we decided to splurge a bit, we were fed horse and packaged desserts!! We laugh about it now, and I guess we got a story!
We could see the Eiffel Tower from our hotel balcony, off in the distant haze of the city. The metro in Paris is very easy to use and they make it quite navigable to get to all the main sites. The Montmarte area of Paris proved to be a favourite with a lucky stumble upon a good quiche in a teeny French country bakery. On our third day we took a train ride 40 minutes out of Paris to a palace at Fontainbleau. Riding the train through French villages, then arriving to eat crepes with the sun shining was a great way to spend our last day in France!
For shopping, we found the best street was Rue de Rivoli, the same street the Louvre is on. Champs Elysses is cool, but not realistic for “normal shoppers” 😉
Paris is lovely, and you should go someday. Bundle up if you go in the wintertime! I have been told if you can enjoy a city when it is cold, then you know that it’s an amazing city. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot out of customer service or food if you’re on a budget (aside from croissants and coffee!), but you should go. There is something thrilling and surreal about the Eiffel Tower, and that in itself is worth a train ticket, expensive coffee and packaged dessert!
Again I repeat, while feeling a bit like “Dorothy”, the red shoes are fun to wear for a time in life, but there really is no place like home. My friend and I rang in 31 with memories, laughs, and an adventure. We both returned with a very thankful heart for home!
So my friend and to anyone else just entering their thirties —- here’s to our 30’s being full of great expectations, surprises, adventures with those we love, and finding home along the way.