You land in Paris, arguably one of the nicest and most sought after destinations in the world. The bad news is that you only have a grand total of 48 hours to enjoy one of this planets best cities. What should you do?
This is how I spent my first two days in Europe and something you too can easily replicate if you don’t mind doing a bit of walking.
I got in from my extremely cheap flight from Los Angeles via Iceland at around noon. Jet lagged, tired and utterly exhausted from 13 hours of flying which included a three hour lay over and two hours spent sitting on the runway. Nevertheless, I moved forward because WHEN IN PARIS, am I right?
I ended up staying at this awesome hostel called St. Christopher’s Inn right next to the Gare du Nord Station. The hostel was lively, with a bar bumping music into the wee hours of the morning nearly every night. The room was a total of 19 Euros a night and even had a complimentary breakfast if you can wake up between 730 and 10.
The first day I took it real easy, a nap in a very comfy room of 8 people followed by a sunset hike up to the Sacre C’oure.The Sacre C’oure is easily one of my favorite spots in Paris. It’s a beautiful old church which sits high up on a hill overlooking the city, giving you a chance to enjoy the Paris skyline at sunset with a view that simply can’t be beat. There are vendors offering two Euro Heinkens and tons of people to meet and share the experience with. The church is also beautiful inside if you wanted to give it a try but closes around 5 or 6.
Since I was tired and a bit sick I decided a nice bowl of Pho would be just what the doctor ordered. I pretty much walked around the city aimlessly until I found a. Small little Vietnamese joint tucked away on a busy street. The Pho was classic and delicious and the owner even hooked it up with some mint tea after my meal which cost a total of 10 Euors.
Th next day I woke up pretty late so I had to make up for lost time. I figured I would try to walk to Science Po, one of the schools I will be applying to in the coming fall. It was about 3 miles from the hostel but when in Europe, walking is the best way to see the city and feel the vibes it gives off. I love the hustle and bustle of big metropolises. It’s something that generates a very different rhythm and pace than what I am normally used to back home.
After getting stiffed by Science Po and their students only entrance policy, I made my way to a boulangerie in search of delicious eats prior to walking to the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the view with my sandwich. The boulangerie is a thing of beauty; simple, French perfection in a shop. A boulangerie is like a bakery back in the states but high class, with tons of ridiculous baked goods for reasonable prices. You’ve got sandwiches, tarts, croissants all at your disposal, all made in the store, all smelling extremely enticing.
Somehow I just bought one sandwich, although an extremely good one with fresh goats cheese, bacon and walnuts. I took my sandwich, coupled with a cup of fresh French coffee to the Eiffel Tower for a French lunch in style.
That afternoon I made the long walk back to the hostel walking by the Catacombs, Tour de Montparnasse and the Notre Dame. Paris is the perfect walking city, where everything seems to be within reach.
Walking through seemingly a large chunk of Paris in one day, I became aware of some very interesting things. The first thing is that the city itself is incredibly expensive. Food for lunch 32 Euros, a beer for 10, this place is seriously no joke. Only on the outskirts of town or at the smaller stores can you find anything for a reasonable price.
Secondly, the city has a very apparent line where it turns from classic French life to a multicultural mishmash. It happens randomly and if your not paying attention you can easily miss it. The northern part of the city, especially near the Gare du Nord boasts many of Paris’s immigrant communities, with people coming from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The boulangeries and brassieres are instead replaced with Turkish kebab shops, Indian, African and Chinese eateries.
The northern part of the city exemplifies the Paris unknown to tourists, the good the bad and the ugly ;which makes it a very unique and interesting place to be. I like this chunk of Paris and behind the grit and disorientation there are a lot of hidden gems. I decided to have dinner at a nice Turkish restaurant on a busy street filled to the brim with Doner shops, Middle eastern restaurants and cheap bars with beer for 3 Euro 50 even! What a steal.
I opted for some Adana Kebab with bulgar wheat and a Turkish salad, a Stella Artois to cap off my meal.
Traveling by yourself is interesting in itself because you really are your own man out here. There are no people to lean on, no linguistic comforts, no things that make it easy. It’s daunting , lonely and takes brawn but every can do and it everyone should!
I’m in Antwerp now and it’s amazing. What a start to an awesome year of my life.