Well, I suppose it's no better of a time to post about my time in France! I was rooting for Croatia as the underdogs (but I have no idea if they were actually the underdogs). All I know is I'm glad Russia's ass didn't "miraculously" make it to the end. Anyway, on to the good stuff!
How'd I get there? I paid a lot to ride the Thalys high speed train from Brussels to Paris, I'd rather not divulge how much it cost but just remember that when it comes to trains: It's always best to book as early as possible. Side story: I was on the same exact train that a thwarted terrorist attacked occurred on in 2015. I happened to watch the movie, "The 15:17 To Paris," on my flight home. The actual people involved in subduing the attacker were actually in the movie. It was very clear that acting was not their strong suite. Regardless, it's a pretty amazing story.
Where did I stay? The St. Christopher's Inn. Since it's a chain hostel that I've stayed at a few times before, it was just as expected. The rooms were spacious, beds were comfortable, and they also had the privacy curtains on the bunks. The nice thing is the rooms were far from the bar so there was no noise—as a matter of fact, my room was on a pretty high floor so the view was incredible. At night, I could see the spotlight from the Eiffel Tower panning over the city. I think I had my best sleep in Paris.
Additionally, the location was crazy convenient to the train station. You can walk to all the public transit, so arriving was stress free and getting to the bus or metro was practically outside the door.
What did I eat? ONI Coffee Shop was a quaint and delicious spot. Perfect for a cup of coffee, breakfast or lunch—I sorta ended up having all three. They do combo meals where you can get a drink, main, and dessert. I asked to have my dessert, a fresh homemade cheesecake, with my coffee to start...kind of like breakfast, right? It was incredible. My lunch was stuffed peppers with a side salad and the most delicious fresh baguette. The key to good baguettes is time. They are best probably within only 24-48 hours max. ONI made everything right there in the cafe—no shipments of frozen pastries/sandwiches. In Europe, it seems like bakeries have a special place in society so you have access to amazing fresh artisan bread & pastries everywhere. And here's a pro tip for buying French bread/ baguettes at the grocery store in the States: The freshest ones are hard. The hard outside means it's fresh and the humidity hasn't softened it yet. Anyway, enough about wonderful carbs.
For my last dinner in France, I found BIEN BIEN— a fantastic Thai restaurant. The service was great and the food was incredible. I also learned that I did not eat the spring rolls properly. The lettuce leaves served on the plate are supposed to be used to wrap around the roll, then dip in the sauce and eat. My American-ass thought it was just a garnish.
Coincidentally, I met up with an old colleague who I visited while in Montreal, Canada last year! He was on an extended trip in Paris while I happened to be on my adventure. He took me to a pastry shop and had this tasty and beautiful raspberry tart. When in Paris: eat pastries, drink wine.
What did I do? I accomplished my main goals: Visit the Louvre, see the Eiffel Tower, see Notre Dame, and eat bread/pastries. The Louvre was the first thing I did when I arrived. It really is overwhelming. The Louvre seems to be both the largest and most confusing museum I've ever been to. I got lost a few times but eventually made it to all the main attractions, including the Mona Lisa. Tourism is amazing and fantastic but also the worst. It's very hard to really appreciate some of these iconic pieces of art when there's hundreds of people swarming, pushing, pulling, squeezing to take pictures and selfies. For the Mona Lisa specifically, they have it gated off several feet out so you can't get close to see the finer details anyway. You gotta be Beyonce and Jay Z to get that type of close-up action.
The girl who gave me some tips in Brussels told me to check out Montmarte. I went there one of my evenings and it just so happened to be the night celebrating the first day of Summer (I think?) - As I understood it, it's the one night where they're allowed to play loud music throughout the night. So, they literally had DJs and bands outside and there were thousands of people eating, drinking, dancing—it was pretty amazing. Aside from that, Montmarte was definitely an awesome place to be. It seemed to be where the locals hung out and where the good food was.
Would I go again? Paris was better than I expected. It satisfied my love for big cities—I felt right at home, except for the speaking French part. But, since it is such an international destination, English speakers have no problem—a bit different from Marseille. I would definitely go again.
- Eat pastries and baguettes. Drink wine.
- Wander around Montmarte.
- Either plan out your trip to the Louvre or be ready to spend basically the entire day there.