Two Days in Paris

5 Sep

It was almost a miracle to me that I was able to carve out two days in Paris.  After spending the summer just hours away I wasn’t sure I would make my way to Paris.  But I found a way to do it… even on my very small gypsy woman budget.

The cornerstone of my stay?  An inexpensive place to stay!  We are talking unbelievably inexpensive…  Through the website I booked a place called Paris B&B for Girls.  Now, the term B&B may be stretching it a bit but for the remarkable price of 8 Euros a night (about ten dollars) I got my very own bed in a group room.  While it was far from “fancy” it was a very clean place run by a nice family who spoke good English.  It was tucked away in a safe neighborhood that had easy access to all there is to see in Paris.  They even offered complimentary croissants and orange juice in the morning!

After my first night’s sleep on Friday I woke up on Saturday raring to go.  I hit the streets walking and purchased an overpriced map of Paris.  I became a shameless tourist, map in hand and camera not far behind.

For me Paris was a visual feast.  Here are some of the highlights of my two days in Paris!

That’s me in front of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral 
There she was in all her glory.  I was easily led there by my trusted map companion.  Just arriving there felt like some sort of personal victory for me.  I soaked up the fair weather day as I admired her flying buttresses.  It is free to enter the cathedral and I eagerly joined the queue.  Within minutes I found myself inside gripped by the sense of majesty in the silence.  I wondered around looking up at the ceilings and down at the floors.  I was in awe of the stain glass windows.  Being there felt epic and I felt large and small at the same time.  I wandered through an exhibit on St. Teresa the Little Flower and then stayed around for mass.

Sacre Coeur Basilica
I almost didn’t go here.  It was “out-of-the-way” from where I was visiting and staying.  But one night I found myself heading in that direction and gave way to a visit.  I wandered down the nearby Avenue de Clichy and couldn’t help but be struck by the contradictions.  As I walked down the street I passed the Moulin Rouge and various other sex shops and shows with their bright colors flirting with the tourist crowds.  And then a quick left turn, a short walk up a hill through a crowded street and Sacre Coeur was in view glistening in the evening sunlight.

I have to say she didn’t disappoint.  I may have even gasped in wonder at first sight.  There she was on top of a hill overlooking the city.  I made my “pilgrimage” to her, one step at a time, one flight of stairs at a time.  My ascension was surrounded by street musicians and vendors.  Shameless tourism danced and played all around the Cathedral.  There was a puppet show of Noah’s arc and designer knock-off purses for sale.  I paused from my determined trek up the stairs and turned around.  I felt my heart leap as the city of Paris opened up below me.  Around me there were people laughing and lounging while beer and water were peddled to the masses.  By this time it was early evening on a Saturday night and the monument had turned into a party.

I stood around and took in the scene.  The musician playing his guitar and singing to the crowds.  The performer swinging from the street lamp while juggling a ball with his feet.   And then finally… I entered Sacre Coeur.  I was greeted by the gentle but awesome energy of the  mosaic of Jesus with his arms open wide and his sacred heart.  I let the basilica, her beauty, her history, move through me as I walked around.  Until… it was time to leave and I made my way back out to the party.

On  the way down I discovered there is an elevator of sorts that looks almost like a ski lift or a carnival ride to take tourists up and down the someone daunting elevation to Sacre Coeur.  Ever the budget traveler, I smiled at the idea of taking a ride then continued down the path by foot until once again surrounded by the streets of sex and scandal.  I found a metro station and made my way home.

In the Jardin de Luxemburg

Jardin de Luxemburg
I found this unexpectedly.  The Jardin de Luxemburg.  Me and my map had been playing around town and I was on my way to the Pantheon.  What a thrill to stroll the streets of a city speckled with so much astounding history and beauty.  A funny thing happened on the way to the Pantheon.  I got tired.  I mean really tired.  And in no time at all I was offered gentle respite.  It was an inviting reclining chair in a park-like setting.  I wasn’t yet sure exactly where I was, but for a good long moment I took it in and just enjoyed relaxing in the moment baking in the late morning sun.  As my body gave way to the chair and the moment, I couldn’t help but notice the sound of music coming from not too far away.  Like following the tune of the pied piper, my body, despite its fatigue, rose to find out where it was.

In no time at all I discovered a bandstand surrounded by a cafe in the midst of a garden and trees.  A Parisian jazz band was playing and the crowd soaked in their tunes.  A little girl was up front unabashedly struttin’ her stuff and I appreciated the musical respite.  In time I found myself distracted by a beautiful array of flowers framing the front lawn of the French Senate building.  As I investigated further I found a large fountain where children could rent and launch miniature sailboats.  The garden led me to neatly manicured cubist trees and locals and tourists alike enjoying a warm Sunday afternoon.  What a beautiful detour, distraction and delight!

Thrift Store Shopping
No, not the typical Parisian diversion.  A friend of mine suggested that I buy myself a little something at a local thrift store to remember Paris.  A great idea that fit my budget!  I am not a vintage or discount designer kind of gal.  It took a while to find your basic thrift store where one could find a sweater for just a few Euros.  But I found one.  It’s called Guerrisol.  A not-to-trendy but popular store with five locations throughout Europe.  It took a little effort but with some time I found a sweater that suited me for just a few Euros to take home.  I happily brought it to the check-out counter and handed them a 2 Euro coin.  The man took my money and smiled and said “c’est bonne”  which means literally “it is good”.  Yes it is!

As someone who doesn’t eat sugar and does my best to stays away from breads and pastries, France was not the best place to eat on a budget.  Mostly I ate very simply purchasing a few items at local markets doing my best to eat healthy simple food.  I found a beautiful little bakery in the streets of the Ile Saint-Louis that had lovely little open-faced sandwiches that were calling my name.  For only 3 Euros 50 I had a beautiful piece of toasted fresh bread with tuna, roasted veggies, lettuce and cheese for lunch.  Delish!

Croque Madame at Le Nemrod

For a treat one day I took myself to a local budget friendly restaurant called Le Nemrod.  I went there curious to try what is called a “Croque Madame” kin to the Croque Monsieur, Paris famous ham and cheese sandwich.  The croque madame adds a fried egg to the sandwich. I arrived at the restaurant after much walking.  Grateful to be seated at a table I was soon greeted and playfully teased by the local staff. I ordered my croque madam, a small cup of decaf coffee and a glass of water.  I enjoyed a little conversation from other waiters curious about where I was from.  Happily, I enjoyed my meal and for the bargain price of under 10 Euros.

Even with a very small budget, my visit to Paris was priceless.  The city itself has so much to offer and I am much richer for the experience!

4 Responses to “Two Days in Paris”

  1. Marylou Smith 09/05/2012 at 16:57 #

    Paris is a magical city. Thanks for the walk through some of my personal memories from previous adventures I’ve enjoyed there.

    • nancieteresa 09/30/2012 at 02:40 #

      Hello Marylou! So great to hear from you! Yes Paris is great to visit and revisit in your imagination! Love to you!

  2. Marilee 09/07/2012 at 21:30 #

    Nancie, I happened on to your blog on Paris trip. Thoroughly enjoyed!

    • nancieteresa 09/30/2012 at 02:41 #

      Hi Marilee, Thanks for dropping a note! It’s great to hear from you and I’m glad you enjoyed the entry!

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