I got to Paris without a single idea of what there was to do. The only reason I even found myself in the city was because I had scored a $20 bus ticket from London and because, hello, it’s Paris. An aura of romance surrounds the city. Visions of fresh croissants, bottles of wine and the sparkling Eiffel Tower were dancing in my head.
So I braved the eight hour bus ride, (let me repeat that, the eight hour bus ride) and found myself in The City of Lights (do people actually call it that?)
After lugging my giant backpack through the front door, I basically grilled the hostel receptionist on the best places to go in the city. She gave me the usual answers of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, which of course are musts, but I was hoping for something a bit less touristy and a bit more Paris. Still, with Metro map in tow, I went out to explore the city.
If I had to sum up my time in Paris with only one word, it would be “walking.” I would take the Metro for a few stops, get out, and then walk around somewhere with a view. It became a routine for me and I have the blisters on my feet to prove it.
These are my favorite places to walk in Paris.
The Seine is a commercial waterway that runs through the center of Paris and basically divides the city in two. Walking along the river bank I waved at boats sailing by, stumbled upon countless picnics and was very tempted to change my life plan in order to live on one of the extravagant boats tethered to the dock. Someone told me once that true Parisians can crack open a bottle of wine and sit at the river’s edge for hours. I tried to follow suite but ended up getting caught in the rain and being forced to take cover under a bridge for an hour. Fail. At least I had a view of Notre Dam.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Yes, you read it right, a cemetery. While a questionably morbid place to take a morning stroll, Père Lachaise Cemetery is home to many celebrities’ final resting places. While I may be too uninformed to recognize most of their names I was able to see Jim Morrison’s grave and blasted The Doors on my metro ride back to the hostel.
My first night in the hostel I walked into my dorm and found a girl from Finland packing up her bag to go out. Being the nosy person that I am, and still having no idea what there was to do in Paris, I asked her where she was going. She told me she was walking up to Sacré-Cœur, the church situated on top of a huge hill that was just up the street from our hostel. I shamelessly tagged along and we ended up sipping beers at the top of the hill, looking out over a beautiful view of Paris. Now this hill ain’t no joke, my quads were burning by the time I got to the top and I regretted skipping out on the tram the takes you all the way up, (there was no way I was parting with one of my precious T+ tickets). But the church itself is beautiful, or at least it is on the outside. Its costs 3 euros to enter and yes, I am that cheap.
Truth is your girl isn’t so good at directions, therefore travelling solo quickly becomes getting hopelessly lost somewhere and trying to find my way back to civilization. One day, while walking to a museum, I took a wrong turn and suddenly none of the street names were matching up with the directions I had saved in my phone. Now I had two options here, get frustrated, find a metro and go back to the hostel, or look up, enjoy the sights, and ask strangers in a mixture of French, Spanish and English where I was and which way I should go. I chose the latter and realized that getting lost is a real good way to see a city. The street I was walking on was lined with cozy apartments, they were kids laughing and playing in a park, and older extravagantly dressed ladies taking their morning stroll. I couldn’t help but feel like this is really what life in Paris actually looks like, and it was even better than the Eiffel Tower.