So wait, a post about Paris? Haven't I been living in Paris since January? Yes. But for a week in April my mom visited, and thanks to her I got out to do and see a lot of new things in the City of Lights!
This wasn't so high on my list, since it's a huge tourist attraction, outside of the city, expensive, and the whole point is to marvel at the incredible excess of the castle and grounds. (The traces of opulence from the Medici family in Florence and of Napoleon in Paris were enough to turn my stomach, so Versaille...?) BUT, I felt like it was something I really should do since I was living in Paris for so long. My mom had visited Versaille in the past, and said that it was worth seeing, and she wanted to go again. In the end, I was really glad we went!
**Budget travelers: EU students get in free, and the castle interiors are the only place you need a pass--the grounds are actually free! We even saw joggers who presumably make a habit of traversing the gardens and grounds**
Predictably, my favorite part of the experience was the castle grounds. I'm an Oregon girl, you know?? That open space and green does my heart good.
Marie Antoinette's escape-hamlet was gorgeous. I was so stupefied the more I learned about the history of the castle, and the sub-castles the king and queen built when they wanted to "get away". From their CASTLE.
Velib since before I came to France, but my US credit card doesn't have a puce elctronique (smart chip), and there are certain places it won't work, including the Velib stations. While my mom was visiting, I asked if we could try renting bikes with her card, and it worked! We spent a beautiful day in Bois de Vincennes, renting bikes and breezing through the many attractions of the enormous park. (Biking is definitely the way to see the park--on foot it would be large to the point of frustration, I think.)
Sprawling parks, floral gardens, zoo, castle, hippodrome...Bois de Vincennes has tons to offer. Bonus: most of it is free!It was so fun (and fast) being on a bike, we rented them again the next day, even daring to bike on the streets in downtown Paris! One of the games with Velib is that, after buying a 1,70€ day pass, the first 30 minutes of any trip are free, meaning if you can find a Velib station and trade your bike in for a new one every 30 minutes, you can ride all day without paying more. You find yourself getting antsy around 25 minutes and starting to scan for the next station, but it's kind of fun! Now that I've tested the system, I think I'll go into my arrondissement's Mairie's office and buy an actual Velib card. With the weather getting nicer, I think I could get a lot of enjoyment out of that.
Strange shapes in the path at Parc Floral
Les Bonnes Soeurs which we love for brunch (Bacon! American portions of coffee! The best-humored waiters in Paris!).
Le Mur des Je t'aime (Montmartre)
We tried to find this in October and failed, but April seemed to be the beginning of Paris's tourist season, and most attractions were obvious when we followed the crowd. Created by artists Frederic Baron and Claire Kito, the mural is pretty and sweet, offering messages of love in 250 languages. It's smothered by tourists taking photos like mine; mad props if you can photograph the whole wall without a tourist in the way.
This permanent flea market in the north of Paris is not only fun for vintage art/vinyl/jewelry shopping -- it's also the best life drawing spot I've found so far! The crowds are diverse and interesting. People meander slowly through the spacious, naturally-lit warehouse, browsing the products and not really paying attention to each other.
Love this mural at Marché Dauphine!