How I met France, take 5

I’ve been to Paris four times before. Once as a young girl with family, once as a student with school, once as a student with college, and once as a treat with my brother. I’ve mounted the Eiffel Tower; strolled the Champs Élysées; eaten ‘french’ food; had my portrait done at Montmartre; sat for a church service at scare-cœur; visited Versailles; taken two cruises down the Seine – once in the day to understand the locks, once at night to watch the lights; been through the louvre and watched the city glitter at night. 

All these trips and I couldn’t once understand why half the world fell in love in Paris, and the other half fell in love with Paris. In fact if I had one word for Paris, it would’ve been ‘tacky’. 

But. But. But. 

Fifth time lucky. 

I’ve spent almost two months here, but not once have I been on the Champs Elysees, I passed the Eiffel Tower once, and I haven’t eaten any Lebanese meals, or boiled potatoes peas and carrots on rice. Instead I’ve seen a more local small town Paris. I’ve met lovely people. I’ve learnt to relax. I walked the Parisien version of the Highline on Saturday. I eat good meals and love my studio apartment. I’ve been to the Loire valley, even visited a bit of Normandy this Sunday. And maybe just maybe, I’m falling in love with France. I don’t want to leave, and I already want to come back. 

Let’s back up to Saturday, when I woke up very late to a very hot 35 degree morning and decided to head out for burgers at Ellis, which I discovered in Amsterdam, ate at again in Brussels and was happy to learn existed in Paris too. I met a cool Irish photographer from London, we chatted about travel, art, math and flying. I realised after that I didn’t know her name, she didn’t know mine. So here’s my burger, to the cool stranger I met! 

Then, being in the 12th arrondismemt, I walked the Viaduc des Arts, and above it the Promenade plantes. It’s a 4 kilometre stretch around, where underneath the arches the Mairie has dedicated the space to craftsmen – leather, bicycles, paper, fabrics, ceramics, woodwork…was so cool to walk through! And above it, is a long, lushly planted (and un-charistically Wild for the French) promenade, which gives you a long high view of Paris without any notable buildings and lots of silence. The promenade and associated gardens are apparently known as the lungs of Paris. 

There’s a few wide viewing patches like this:

But otherwise it’s mostly narrow and quaint like the second picture. 

At the far end I chanced upon this sundial 

It was ridiculously hot – I returned home wiped out, and even then couldn’t sleep until 4 am or so because I kept tossing in the heat. 

But. Paris has no gradient. I slept at thirty something degrees uncomfortable even without a blanket, and woke up at 21 degrees, uncomfortable because j didn’t have a blanket. Just like that, summer was over. 

But. Not a bad thing, cause I was cycling vernon-giverny Sunday! I took a morning train to the town of Vernon, which you do to head to monet’s hometown of Giverny. From giverny you can take a car or bus or tram, or like me, rent a cycle for a day, and make your way to giverny (just 5-6 km). 

The bike ride was wonderful, monet’s house frankly I found tacky, his gardens had the wildest flower variety I have every seen, and were truly pretty but overcrowded with Asian and American tourists. I spent the second half of my day cycling along the seine, and then on random streets of vernon just to see what I could find. I’ll let the photos do the explaining… Like my cousin said ‘you’re a character from an illustrated book!’ 

Et voila. 

Monday morning was a charm – summer was over and as I left my studio, for the first time in weeks everyone on the street was raising their shutters and drinking their coffees. Paris is open! 

A tout ! 🙂