My most non-touristic trip to one of the most tourist-filled cities in the world was spontaneously planned on my friend’s balcony. We decided to visit some friends who lived there in the spring.
Since I had been to Paris before, I decided to skip the most popular sights like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Generally, I think if you really want to get to know a city, you should follow the locals and see where they frequent, where they live it up and where they wind down.
We got lucky, because the house we stayed at was located in one of the oldest and most beautiful historic districts. On the first night, we visited a jazz bar where you can listen to very good jazz bands for free on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Notably, this bar is across the street from the stairs where Gil finds herself travelling into the past in Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris”.
Generally, you can feel yourself travelling into the past at any given moment while you’re in Paris, as the past and present tend to magically intertwine in this city. It’s not hard to discover yourself in a café that Ernest Hemingway wrote from or Cézanne painted from, or a house in which a famous French or Italian designer lived.
Once I got home, I remembered that it was Jean-Paul Belmondo’s birthday the next day. We decided to find his address and leave a birthday card. In the morning, we bought a chocolate muffin “birthday present” and headed out towards Belmondo’s house where we were met with a great surprise: besides us, tens of people were in the street holding photos and biographical books. As it turns out, inviting fans into his courtyard on his birthday is an annual ordeal for which fans from all over the world travel to.
As we waited for the beloved actor, we made friends with a lot of the people there. We met a German man, who visits Paris on April 9th annually, and a French woman who was ready to camp outside the actor’s house for as long as necessary just to get a glimpse at him. Unfortunately, it turned out Jean-Paul had made other plans for his birthday that year as we had all waited in vain. The chocolate muffin ended up being my lunch.
We spent the remaining two weeks mostly strolling around beautiful streets and parks. We discovered there’s a temple of love in Paris; I kid you not. In a park (Bois de Vincennes), with a lake (Lac Daumesnil), on an island (Île de Reuilly), you can find “le Temple Romantique”. Built in 1860 by Emperor Napoleon III, this place is less known with tourists and subsequently perfect for a sunset date.
The only way to get to the lake is by boat. The park is next to the Château de Vincennes, a former residence of the Kings of France. There is also a beautiful little castle, a tropical garden, and a bonsai greenhouse – all of which makes for a great picnic destination.
While strolling around the Montmartre area, we found the café “des Deux Moulins”, where Amélie Poulin worked.
In Paris, it is basically a tradition to sit alongside the Seine, eat baguettes and French cheese and sip on some French wine as you encounter noisy teenagers, elderly couples, tourists and everything in between. In order to familiarize yourself with Paris as well as Parisians are, two weeks is far from enough, but it might be enough to familiarize yourself well enough to always be ready to come back.
Author: Liza Alpaidze