I sat in a train and watched the views changing and the small German villages passing by; I’ve always seen the tight-built villages as the main characteristics of a german landscape, whereas in Finland, my home country, you barely see a house every two kilometers, when driving through the countryside. I was listening to the announcements, which were in German and then repeated in French. I was on my way from my hometown Stuttgart to Paris.
Last autumn was tough, so a little romantic getaway was needed. Exactly one year ago I was still studying in Copenhagen and at the same time slowly settling in in my new life in Stuttgart, which I already had begun a few months earlier by doing my internship here. I also had a severe case of homesickness and was still struggling with the language. The stress from all the changes was turning into some sort of hatred against Stuttgart: howcome Stuttgart doesn’t have any cool cafes like Copenhagen did? Howcome there are no lakes here, like in Finland? Why is there so much traffic? Now I felt for the first time priviledged being a ‘stuttgarter’, having the possibility of travelling from my hometown directly with the train to Paris within a few hours! In Finland this would never be possible, since you always have to take the plane to reach other countries.
Already few years now I’ve been getting an urge to visit Paris in the fall. Regardless of the rain and the chilly weather, I find it magical there. There were very few tourists, because the summer season was long gone, which meant all the little wineries and even the museums were mostly filled with local people. Of course you can’t expect at any point to go to Paris and visit Eiffel Tower without queuing, but everywhere else I found it very easy to travel. The colors of the autumn were everywhere on the streets and in the parks making the city even more magnificent.
The good ol’ classics
The trend of today’s travel highlights more and more the uniqueness of the travel experience: it is no longer the main goal of the travel to see the main attractions but to experience the destination with the eyes of a local. This is also shown as an increased interest to interact with the locals through Airbnb or coach surfing. I’m fully agreeing with this trend, but in a city like Paris I felt, that it was almost necessary to visit all the hot spots. Things such as Moulin Rouge we skipped, but the Louvre Pyramid and the Eiffel Tower were definitely on my to-do list. Besides those, we mostly just walked around without plans, which, in my opinion, adds an interesting twist to the experience. When you don’t plan everything, there’s a bigger chance to see something unexpected.
One evening we decided to have a little evening stroll around Louvre, and for our surprise, there were no people! I’m not excaggarating, when I say: we were the only people there. You could still hear the sound of the traffic, cars slowly passing by, but you couldn’t see anyone there. The athmosphere was amazing, and I really do think it would have been completely different with a crowd of tourists. The building was lit in an amazing way, reflecting from the fountains and the glass pyramid.
Regardless of the fact, that monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and Sacré-Coeur tend to always impress, somehow the most memorable experiences come from the normal, unplanned visits. I have such warm memories of our walk around Palais du Luxembourg and eating a warm crêpe there in the crispy autumn air. As well our visit to Shakespere and Co. bookshop to browse through old books. I guess it is as well about the expectations you set for the visits: if you don’t set expectations to everything, you just might find yourself all of a sudden experiencing something, which you will never forget – no matter if it’s something you see, taste, or feel.
When in Rome
I have personally never been much of a museum visitor. I have a very weak knowledge of art, and for me for example modern art exhibitions do not offer much of an entertainment. I guess I can say the same about my travel companion; for him art is even less familiar topic, and the last place to find him, would be in an art gallery. Though, as we both concider ourselves as curious and open-minded people, we did not want to completely miss out on the museum scene in Paris, as it is known to be one of the best in the world. We looked through the selection of all the museums and exhibitions in Paris and picked out two of them: Le musée Rodin and Centre Pompidou.
The museum presenting the artwork of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin was a very positive experience for rookie-museum visitors like us. You can also visit only the outside sculpture park for a lower fee of four euros, but I recommend to buy the ticket to visit the mansion as well costing a total of ten euros. The mansion “Hôtel Biron” was the artist’s home, and besides the artwork, you can also admire the beautiful details of this building from the 18th century. Before Rodin, the mansion was occupied also by the writer Jean Cocteau and the painter Henri Matisse, among other interesting characters. I can say here you could as well see the lack of tourists, which made the visit even more special. We were able to walk around sculpture park almost alone, and also inside the mansion we managed to avoid the crowds. The visit to this museum was definitely worth the money, and perhaps we also learnt a bit more about art.
If you are interested in architecture, I definitely recommend to visit the futuristic Centre Pompidou. The building from inside and from outside is something you have never seen before. The main focus in this building is the technical characteristics of it: the technical elements are not there just for the functionality of the building, but as well the main visual attraction point of it. For example all the technical functions of the building are color-coded: blue for circulating air, yellow for circulating electricity, green for circulating water and red for circulating people. We did not visit any of the exhibitions, but were regardless able to visit the premises without extra fees.
Notes for the next visit
For the next time I would probably search more information about the restaurant scene in Paris. We did not plan the eating at all before hand, and it turned out a bit tricky, when you can’t always tell the difference between the touristic restaurants, where the prices do not always meet the quality and the good local ones. All in all, we found some good places and ate our share of the snail pans, but I bet there would have been plenty of amazing restaurants, that we didn’t know existed.
Perhaps another thing about the food there is, that a hotel breakfast in Paris is maybe not the worst idea. In general I have kept away from hotel breakfasts when travelling, because I want to try out different things and visit interesting cafés. I also am not very hungry in the mornings and therefore paying for a whole buffet seems like a bit of a waste. During this trip we visited some cafés and had coffee and croissant, or pan au chocolat basically every morning and it costed for two people a whopping 10-12€. Hotel breakfasts usually cost around 10€, and if they’re good, it’s worth the money. Unfortunately most often the hotel buffets turn out to be dissapointing, but perhaps concidering the price range of Parisian cafes, it could have been a good idea.
Another thing, that I want to keep in mind for the next visit in Paris, is to take the time to visit the museums. I may not be the most cultural person, but I think the museums in Paris are definitely worth devoting time for. We were both so happy we visited even these two museums, that the next time we’ll gather some courage and might even go to Louvre! There should definitely be a lot of fellow tourists packed around Mona Lisa, in case we manage again to avoid the crowds in other places. I also want to discover more about the shopping in Paris. I tried to find information about shopping in Paris, but all the recommendations were about shopping malls and luxury brands. The only good place I have found so far, is the outlet store of the French brand Maje (address: 92 Rue des Martyrs, 75018 Paris), and other shops located around that area. Other than that, would be great to find for example some Parisian vintage stores.
I think I have only seen a small part of Paris with my two visits, so I definitely go there again next year. I do have to say, how lucky I feel to have such a quick access there from Stuttgart, which gives me even better excuse to visit there more often!
P.S. if someone has some good tips to share about visiting Paris, please write them in the comment box below 😉