Unlike many people that I know, I never had a desire to visit Paris. I am not a very artsy person and when I thought of Paris, that’s what came to mind. The site of the Eiffel tower did nothing for me, neither did the thought of seeing monuments, statues and art museums. This may seem odd, as I am a teacher and all, but it was my truth.
My son, however was passionate about experiencing Paris. He studied French for 4 years in school and wanted to exercise his skills outside of the classroom in a genuine French setting. On our way back to Philadelphia for the summer, I decided to plan some stop-over vacations. Since Paris was on the way and Pegasus airline had tickets for under $200, I planned our trip.
Pegasus airline is a no frills airline, no free food, no movies, no wifi, one equal class, but we were quite comfortable especially since our seats were reassigned to the first row. GO US! We had ample leg room and the seats were pretty comfy. My coworker and his family who was flying to Germany was also seated in the first row across from us. We were allowed one checked luggage and a carry on. We were sure our bags were over the limits but we had no problem checking them in. They served us cheese and chicken sandwiches, which I apparently, accidentally ordered online while purchasing my tickets. I gave mine to a gentleman sitting beside us. I got in some zzzz’s while the captain and flight attendants made several announcements in French. I couldn’t understand one word they said but after 5 hours we landed safely in Istanbul.
While in Istanbul I realized that my credit cards were not working. I called the bank before I left Qatar to inform them that I’d be traveling to Paris and Portugal but it never dawned on me to inform them of my layover country of Turkey. The banks in the U.S. would not be open for several more hours, so I called my bank in Qatar and notified them. Advice #1: Be sure to call your banks and tell them where you are traveling and include your layover stops in case you want to buy something there. Four hours later we hopped on Pegasus for the connecting flight to our destination, Paris.
Our checked luggage arrived with us to Paris. I hate checking luggage because I am always fearful of it getting lost and I hate waiting to retrieve it but because I was going home for the summer, I had to take more than what would fit in a carry on. We grabbed a taxi and headed to 20 Rue de Vertes (click here if you want an airbnb just for sleeping in a good location). Since most accommodations in Paris are small anyway, I figured this was a good opportunity to try out an Airbnb. I’ve always wanted to try one out. I settled on one in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, close to the center, but not too touristy. We were pretty close to metro stations and could get around easy. One cab ride later, our host, Jean, met us at the Airbnb. He showed us how everything worked and left. It was small but it had everything we needed to rest comfortably.
We were so tired that we took a short walk, and found Le Potager du Marais, a small vegan restaurant, to have linner (lunch/dinner). I had lasagna and my son had a salad. On our way back to our place we spotted this gem, Hanks Vegan pizza. We were definitely going to try it out during our stay. Close-by was this vegan market that we stopped in for snacks. I was in Vegan Heaven.
The next morning, we headed to breakfast. I used Yelp as a guide and found Bob’s burger, yup you guessed it, another vegan restaurant, where we enjoyed breakfast. I’m mad I didn’t get to go back for lunch to get a vegan bowl. They sounded scrumptious but weren’t available for breakfast. Advice #2: Download Yelp on your mobile device to find eateries, especially if you follow a special diet. This place does not have a sign on the door, in fact we walked right passed it but thanks to google maps we backed up and went in. Advice #3: Download google maps on your phone if you don’t already have it. It gives directions to every where via walking, car or public transportation.
A coworker of mine strongly suggested we check out MontMarte. We looked it up on google maps and decided to walk there. During this 47 minute walk, we were able to take some cool pictures around Paris. It was also during this walk, that I realized, my choice in footwear was not good. I mean I know that converses are not the most comfortable sneakers but they do go with almost anything and I didn’t think about the amount of walking we would do exploring. Despite this, I really enjoyed our walk.
MontMarte is situated high on a hill. You do not have to go to the top of the church to take in some good views. We didn’t go inside either. We just enjoyed the views and took some great shots. Click here to learn the MontMarte’s history.
Next, we hopped on the Metro. I purchased a two-day pass for the both of us. It cost 70 Euros. A day pass cost approximately 35 Euros. I probably would have saved money by purchasing individual tickets, but I paid for the convenience of it all. I did not want to have to purchase a ticket for every time we rode the metro or use my credit card for each purchase and acquire an international fee each time or dig through money to purchase a ticket every time or wait in line every time. Taking the metro was pretty easy too and in my opinion better than taking a taxi or Uber everywhere. That gets expensive, so I saved money this way. Advice #4: Opt for the metro or walking over other means of transportation and if convenience is important to you, purchase a day pass for how ever many full days you will be in Paris.
The Louvre was our next stop. When you get off the metro, you walk into a mall. From the inside of the mall you can see the top point of a triangle, upside-down, made of glass. When you get outside, you will see the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel across from the Louvre. The Louvre is diamond-shaped, made of glass and protrudes from the ground. Beautiful architectural buildings surround it and small fountains. We did not go inside the museum.
After a short ride on the metro, I decided we should get off and explore some more. I found a small shop that sold Pain au Chocolate, a Paris sweet, Danish with chocolate inside. I had read about these so I tried one. It was good. We continued walking and came across this gigantic piece of metal standing on four legs. It was the Eiffel Tower. On this day, we decided that tomorrow we would go to the top. I mean if you see the Eiffel tower, you have to journey to the sommet (summit, but this is how it is spelled in Paris), right?
We took some pictures and headed back to our Airbnb. On the way back, Zamir spotted a statue of liberty. This was pretty cool, since I had read that there were several throughout Paris.
We stopped at Hanks for vegan pizza for dinner. We both had a slice with potatoes, red onions and vegan cheese. Zamir also had sorbet and I had a salad and a cookie.
I have to mention that we discovered this drink by Schwepps called Agrum, that is absolutely devine. Dare I even say, it is better than Pepsi, strong and tasteful. We wished we had brought some home.
Something really strange happened the next day while visiting the Eiffel Tower. We got up early and started our trek around 8 am. The Eiffel tower area doesn’t open until 9am and they don’t start letting people up until 9:30am. Since we didn’t purchase tickets online, we chose to get there first thing. The line was long when we arrived but we waited anyway. The wait was about 1 hour between waiting for the gates to open, purchasing our tickets which were approximately 29 Euros for the 2 of us (tickets are discounted for 12-24 year old youth), and waiting in line to go up. People who purchased tickets in advance still had to wait in a line, a shorter line but still waited nonetheless. Advice #5: If you are not with a tour guide, you will wait whether you buy your tickets online or not, so I suggest going early in the morning before the gates open to cut down on the wait time. The view from the sommet of the Eiffel is breathtaking. You can see Montmarte, The Arc de Triomphe and many more monuments if you know where to look. It’s not scary either. When we decided we had had enough of seeing Paris from 1,000 feet in the air, we went to look for the elevator down, but were told we could only go down the stairs. Once we were on the second level of the sommet, we waited for the elevator and waited and waited for an elevator that never came. Then we also noticed that the steps were blocked. This is when everyone began to stare at each other with curiosity. No-one was being allowed to go down. Zamir looked down and noticed that everyone on the ground was leaving the park and the police were blocking the street to the Eiffel. Then a worker announced that they needed everyone to move to the west side of the Eiffel due to a matter of security. There wasn’t anything we could do but wonder and wait. I called my husband just to be cautious and to see if he could find anything on the news. He found nothing. After approximately 20 minutes, we were all allowed to leave and the park was re-opened. We never did find out what the scare was about but we were happy we made it safely down. We took some photos in the park and made our way to the Arc de Triomphe.
The Arc de Triomphe is literally in the middle of the street and after going to the top of the Eiffel, it seemed pointless to journey to the top of this monument. We strolled the infamous Champs-Elysées street and stopped in Leon de Bruxelles to eat. Here we enjoyed the best mussels ever. Advice #6: Stop here for lunch and enjoy the delightful mussels. We attempted to see the catacombs this day as well, but the line was around the corner. One of the things I wanted to do in Paris was some boutique shopping. I was hoping to find some unique Parisian clothing or shoes. I read about Rue de Charonne, so we took the metro there. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the day of the week into consideration and all the shops were closed because it was Sunday. Needless to say I was very disappointed but it made me want to return to Paris even more. We moved on and saw Notre Dame but the line to go in was too long here as well. I wore my flip flops out on this day. My feet hurt so bad and so did my calves. Advice #7: When considering shoes for Paris, go for comfort for walking over everything else. Oh how I wished I had bought my ugly Birkenstocks with me. Another trip to Hanks for pizza and salad ended our vacation in Paris and the next morning we were back in the airport, on to our next adventure.
I have come to accept the fact that if a vacation spot’s food game is on point, I’m sold. Paris did not disappoint. The vegan choices where we stayed were in abundance as were other food choices. There were other things that I liked about Paris too, the ease of getting around and the freedom. I actually enjoyed seeing couples in PDA, which is a far cry from Qatar. I mean what’s wrong with showing the world how much you are in love or in lust with the one you’re with. I would like to plan a return trip to Paris. Why, to EAT of course, amongst other things. I would still like to check out the boutiques, cruise down the Seine, visit the Paris Sewer Museum, check out the covered food market and street market, go inside the Louvre and see the catacombs. Before going to Paris please note, people smoke cigarettes everywhere and if you are not a smoker, this can get very irritating.
For now, it is off to Portugal. Until next time Paris.
P.S. The day after we left Paris, a police cruiser was rear-ended by a man in a car full of explosives on Champs-Elysées street. The whole area was cut off from the public. The man later died. The police officers were not hurt. This coupled with the events that transpired when we were at the Eiffel tower just makes me thank God even more that my son and I were able to visit Paris unscathed. I really wish people could just be good. I pray for peace. Click here to read about the incident.