Tag Archives: Paris

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 airbnb.com 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!

Food
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!

Leaving Les Battees

31 Aug

Well, I did it.  I left Les Battees.  I find that every time I leave someplace on this journey it feels like at least some sort of leap of faith.  New adventures ahead…still unfolding… some are known, but much unknown.

My host Roy couldn’t have been sweeter as I left from the train station not far from Les Battees.  He was helpful in all the little ways that mattered to me in my departure outside of the comfort and nestling of the French countryside.  He walked me into train station, assisted me in turning in my e-ticket for a “real ticket” and directed me to “compost” my ticket, a validation of sorts required for all tickets before entering the train.  And he assisting me in finding my car number and seat number on the train and finding the appropriate section of the gate for my car.  It’s the little things that make a difference when venturing out on one’s own into new territory.

I had fun my last few days at Les Battees.  It was simple fun, but it was what I had grown to count on.  Enjoying the fresh country air, simple lunches outside, strolls in the countryside.  And of course you can’t forget ironing sheets and cleaning bathrooms for the guest house.  Perhaps not always fun, but a good experience in its own way.  I was glad to be there to assist Roy in the myriad of daily activities during his busy season as the Chambres D’hotes.  And, like Mary Poppins, every good custodian of service has a time to arrive… and a time to leave.  Today was my time.

And where did the wind blow me you may ask?  Well not too far away.  I jumped on a lightning fast French train called a TGV and headed to Paris.  And that’s where I am now!  It is still amazing to me that all of the places that we think and dream of visiting and seeing are actually real places that you can get to… if you buy a ticket!

I was a little nervous about leaving the nest.  But I collected my remnants of high school French, left behind Les Battees, and headed on my way.  I have been here now just for hours really.  I am sitting outside a cafe spending a little time until I can check into my hostel in Paris.  So far my two hours of being in Paris have been quite welcoming!  A friendly Frenchman helped me get my huge (it seems to be growing) red suitcase off of the train.  And then I found my way to the metro.  Pretty easy all in all with friendly French staff throughout.

I had an unexpected experience on my way to the metro…  I was attempting to make my way through the large metro door for handicapped and those with luggage.  It took a few times to get through and on the other side there was a friendly Frenchman who seemed to be waiting for me to make sure I made it through.  Once I did he became my escort of sorts… carrying my bag for me and leading me along the long route to my metro line.  He only spoke French so I understood some of what he said, but there were other things I was not quite sure I understood.  He ended up escorting me on the metro and once I arrived at my stop he exited with me and carried my heavy bag all the way up the stairs.  What a help!

Being a suspicious American I did wonder some of what he was asking and saying…  but my instincts told me not to worry.  When we arrived at street level of my stop he continued to speak in French and I continued to only partially understand.  I was able to communicate that I couldn’t check in for another few hours.  And he continued to communicate things that… I wasn’t clear I understood.  So I played it safe and found two nice English-speaking Frenchmen to translate… and suddenly the conversation became simple.  He just wanted to make sure that I could get to my hotel okay with the bag.  “Yes, it is not far” I said.  Then he amicably shook my hand and headed on his way.  Welcome to Paris!

I am spending the night in a little hostel for women only and will spend the next few days touring Paris.  I was fortunate enough to get a little tourist direction from a local connection I have through a networking group.  So I am ready!  Paris here I am come.  But for now… just a little more time before me and my luggage can check into my hostel.  Their doors are only open for check in only from 7-9pm.  So I am writing as the evening sun begins to set and the cool Paris air tosses things about.  It’s good to be in Paris.

I will depart with my favorite new quote from the Course in Miracles workbook, Lesson 244.  It says simply “I am in danger nowhere in the world.”  And so it is.

Photo of Les Battees Guest House nestled in the surrounding French countryside.