Paris Holds the Key to My Heart

Raven Hampton City, University of London


November 16, 2018

My adventure begins on the Eurostar. I chose to start early in the morning to maximize my time in Paris. Which means I pretty much passed out on the train. For this trip, I stayed at the Perfect Hotel and Hostel, which was a very easy walk from the train station. The only downside was that it was 1.5km from the city center (roughly a 45-minute walk). However, the walk there was very easy and kind of nice so it really wasn’t much of a hindrance.

Following my usual pattern, I went on a walking tour where I made a friend– Mohamed! Most of the people on the tour were couples and families; Mohamed and I were the only ones on our own, so we sort of teamed up and spent the weekend together. He was the perfect travel buddy since he was willing to try new foods with me and he let me drag him to Shakespeare and Co. (but more on that little slice of heaven later though). The tour itself was fantastic as usual. Sandemans really does a great job! We saw famous sites like the Lourve and Notre Dame and learned the history of the city, dating back to the Parisii tribe, who Paris is named for. The guide, Dawie, also gave some great recommendations about things to do and other tours to try. I actually signed up for one of them because it sounded really cool! Sandemans has a deal worked out with a river cruise service to get discounted tickets so I got a ticket for the 5:00pm cruise the next day, which is when Dawie recommended we go because that’s when the sun begins to set and you can watch it from the river. Plus, it begins and ends at the Eiffel Tower so you’ll be back to see one of the light shows. The light show, by the way, is something you should definitely see. Every hour, on the hour, the Eiffel Tower has a five-minute light show that makes the tower shimmer. It uses 20,000 eco-friendly lights and it’s absolutely stunning. Plus, it’s free to watch so there’s that added bonus for ya!

Oh, and a brief shout-out for my couples out there who are planning a romantic visit to Paris together! I know that a lot of you probably want to visit the “love lock bridge”, but it is now illegal to place locks on that bridge. The city gets rid of any locks every two days and if you get caught you will receive a €86 fine. So, when you do it, do it at night and please don’t throw the key into the river like tradition states because that pollutes the river and upsets the ecosystem. To all my singletons out there, you don’t have to be in love with someone to place a lock on the bridge; so, if you’re feeling rebellious, then I can’t stop you. Just be sure to keep in mind what I told the couples. And remember, I’m not encouraging you to break the law. At all.

Okay, now I absolutely have to talk about Shakespeare and Co. I’ve been low-key obsessed with this bookstore for years and it was such a bucket list item for me and I was so excited to finally check it out! I mean their Instagram is totally my aesthetic and I know how I sound right now, but I can’t help it! Just let me have this. If you aren’t familiar with the bookstore, let me give you some brief background information. Shakespeare and Co. is a bookstore in the heart of Paris that sells books written in English. It developed a reputation of being an amazing bookstore thanks to its online presence (go ahead and check out their Instagram to get a better idea of what I’m talking about). Also, if you’re a struggling author who needs a place to stay, they’ll let you stay in the apartment upstairs for a few nights for free so you can write in peace. Pretty cool right? Anyways, because it’s fairly well known, there was a line out the door when I first arrived and a small crowd of people taking pictures of the outside. However, when I came back with Mohamed, I was pretty much able to walk right in. The inside is so cozy and every nook and cranny has a book in it. They don’t allow you to take pictures inside so to get away with it just pick up a book and use it to hide your phone. I ended up buying a really pretty, albeit overpriced, copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame because I am extremely basic. But you know what? I own my basicness (also according to spellcheck, basicness is a word, so this has been educational for all of us).

A brief recommendation by the way when it comes to Notre Dame and churches. While you should totally visit the famous cathedral, you should also visit St. Chapelle, which is practically across the street. It isn’t as well known, but it has some of the most gorgeous stained-glass windows I’ve ever seen. My cousin told me to check it out, and I certainly didn’t regret it so now I’m highly encouraging you to do the same.

It should be noted that I didn’t spend my whole weekend in the city center. No trip to Paris would be complete without a trip to Versailles! Some advice: buy your ticket ahead of time and get to the palace at 8. They don’t let people in until 9, but the line gets really long. Also, none of the bakeries I passed on the way there were open that early in the morning, so you might want to get some breakfast food the night before. Or you could do what I did, and go to Starbucks. But I would definitely hold off on actually eating the breakfast until you actually get to Versailles. The gardens are open to the public and they’re open at 8am so I walked around the gardens while I ate. It was beautiful, with the sun coming out and shining on the morning frost, making the grass sparkle, a very peaceful experience. And the palace itself is absolutely gorgeous! They give you an audio guide when you walk in so you get to go from a beautiful room to a beautiful room at your own pace and soak in as much as you want. It is definitely something you need to check out during your time in Paris, should you choose to go. If anything, do it to see the Hall of Mirrors!

Now, I mentioned food earlier. One cannot go to France without trying new food! That would be like coming to London and not visiting Buckingham Palace! Or going to Washington, D.C. and not seeing the White House! Actually, I didn’t see the White House when I went there, so strike that last one. But I digress. You obviously have to go to a bakery and try some fresh croissants or a baguette, maybe taste some lovely French wine, delights in a few delicious macarons, but I’m talking about the weirder foods. Things like escargot, frog legs, and foie gras (goose liver. It was meh.), which are all things that I tried. I know it seems gross, but escargot and frog legs are actually delicious (and yes, frog legs actually do taste like chicken). I’ve noticed that once you get past the mental block that tells you that something will be disgusting, you can really start to enjoy the experience.

My next adventures will be taking place in the land of kilts and the home of some of my ancestors. Maybe I’ll learn the bagpipes while I’m in Edinburgh. Only time will tell!