Is there truly anything that hasn’t been said about Paris?
Maybe not, but again, no one’s experience is ours, so let’s talk about our nine days in Paris last December.
Paris was a new experience for one of us but not the other, so there were definitely things that Cam wanted to do with more time and other things that I wanted to do based on what I knew about Paris from books and movies and learning French. Before we arrived, he asked me to come up with my “must-dos”, so we could prioritize those things first. That way, we could have structured and unstructured days.
Given that we were traveling while France still had COVID-related restrictions, there was some prep required in terms of scheduling tests to return to Saudi Arabia, and getting a health passport to be able to move around in France. We were traveling during a wave so some places heightened restrictions. We kept checking if we would need a test before we left Ireland in order to enter France, but it never happened. Thankfully! Cases in Ireland went up quite a bit while we were there, and it was about impossible to book a test in Ireland for the few days before we were scheduled to leave Ireland. In the end, everything we needed to do, we could do once we arrived in France.
Getting into Paris
We were not sure about taking the train in and whether we wanted to get in a crowded compartment, so we took Uber. As we were driving in, I was not really impressed with what I saw, so I was concerned that we were going to go into a part of the city that wasn’t as nice.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
Our home base, Bastille
We decided to stay in Bastille, which extends through the 4th, 11th, and 12th arrondissement of Paris. The reviews of some of the Airbnbs we looked at described Bastille as a “real Paris” neighborhood, and you can definitely see why. It’s quieter than the areas closer to the better known landmarks, but not for that lacking in amenities. Within short steps of our apartment, e could find small grocery stores, cafes and bistros, bars, shops (including some smaller French designers of both clothing and furniture), bakeries, and truly, anything else you could think of.
Train access, once our feet could not really take going everywhere by foot, is easy to figure out, as the Bastille station provides access to multiple lines that make transferring to the rest of the Paris metro system a breeze. When you go to restaurants, you will see and hear mostly locals. Seeing the regulars at the corner bistro (Bar de La Fontaine, for reference, at 1 Rue de Charonne) and kind of being regulars for a tiny bit of time was really fun! We love going to places where we run into regulars. It speaks to the permanence of places and to an extent, their place in the community.
Bar de La Fontaine doesn’t have a proper menu; it’s just the day’s offering, like in most great places with a European influence. Breakfast is a set menu of a couple of options of coffee, cocoa, and orange juice, with a pastry (pain au chocolate, croissant, or toast with butter and jam). When they run out of a pastry, they run out of a pastry. Which honestly, it’s kind of refreshing. I feel like this doesn’t happen as much in the US. Maybe it’s knowing that food isn’t going to waste that I appreciate.
Lunch and dinner are the daily specials. There is usually some variation of croque monsieur or croque madame, salads, sometimes stews and steaks and that kind of thing, and of course, drinks! When you’re visiting a city and you’re there for a few days, it’s always nice to find a place that is close by and you know that you can go to and get good food without making it too complicated.
It was a part of the city that felt like going home, it was very easy to feel settled in. Our amazing Airbnb and our host, Aurélie, of course helped (her apartment is beautiful and very comfortable).
I didn’t take as many pictures around Bastille as I thought I did…but here are some. Enjoy!
Can Paris look any more Paris? I don’t know that it can. Next time we talk about Paris, we’ll talk about me walking around Paris finally seeing a bunch of historical landmarks that I had only seen in books with a really goofy grin on my face.
Until next time!