Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
So, last weekend Hmsies had a reunion in the city of crazy drivers and very over-priced beer. That’s right, we’re in Paris people! As Jasper has already been there a few times before, we decided not to do any of the typical touristy things again but instead try and see it more from a “local’s” point of view. Although it was a very quick visit, we still had a really good time and here are some of our stories as well as tips for those who want to visit this very beautiful city!
We started the day off in Versailles – a croissant and coffee to kick the day off and off we went to take a look around. I wanted to show Jasper the Versailles Chateau but he got a bit distracted by the horse statue instead.
We then decided to go to Paris but to really avoid the hot tourist traps, we decided to do a city tour organised by an online international group to explore “hidden Paris” and find out things about the city that aren’t obvious to the casual observer, like random cannons partially poking out of house-like buildings and rusty, worn down street signs.
Uhhh..did I already mention that Jasper gets distracted by statues?
There was no time to stop and look at cakes/macaroons in the windows of cute little boulangeries either as our tour guide was on a mission! A mission, it seems, to reach a 4.7 kilometre former stretch of train tracks that had since been converted into a garden path. So, we tottered over there from Bastille (Olesya wisely decided to wear her high heels that day) and we walked, and walked and walked and walked..
The tour guide never lost his pace and was walking/jogging somewhere in front of the group. Me and Jasper however, having had no lunch and nothing to drink, were really struggling to keep up and every time we tried to sit down on a nearby bench to rest our (very blistered) feet, someone from the group would spot us and order us to get back up and continue on. In the end, we were a little bit too achy to keep going and so we turned off just before the end, travelled 6 metro stops back to Bastille to go for a refreshing beer and to watch the rugby match in one of the many Irish and Scottish pubs.
Tip 1: If you are a very active person and you don’t mind heights then check out this promenade plantée. It runs through the 12th arrondissement starting at Place de la Bastille and ends at Montgallet and it offers you some nice views from the rooftops of Paris. It would be fantastic to do if you are there in the spring or summer as the trees and plants will be in bloom.
As if our day wasn’t masculine-themed enough; Jasper wanted to go for a Chinese after the Rugby match. However, it couldn’t be any old Chinese! It turned out that Jasper has very strict preferences on where to eat that “perfect” Chinese meal. The conditions were:
Tip 2: For those looking for a more authentic experience and who find it hard to find a good place to eat in such a big city, go to the districts of the cuisine you want to eat. For example, for a good Chinese, we can recommend the 13th arrondissement where you will find a large choice of Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai and Cambodian restaurants. They are less expensive, less touristy and offer you a great choice of authentic meals.
We also went to a few pubs and bars in Paris and Versailles, and the price of just one ordinary beer made Jasper choke on just a single sip! Whilst he had got used to paying at least £4.20 for a very ordinary beer in Brighton or London and €3.50 for a very good beer in Munich, we were very lucky to find anywhere that sold a pint for less than €10! With this in mind, we’ve never really understood how people in Munich complain about how expensive things are there when you pay two or three times as much for something not even half as good in the south of Britain or the French capital.
Otherwise, the pub culture in Britain and France is actually quite similar. The only main difference being that you drink beer or ale in a British pub and wine in a French one, but many have that old rustic charm that Jasper came to miss, given that German pubs are either more restaurant-like or very small and often cramped places. In France however, walls will be lined with old books and board games dating back to the 80s. In fact, we played a game of trivial pursuit that was so old, we hadn’t even been born yet, the U.S.S.R. was still in existence and Pluto was still a planet!
Tip 3: Although it is very easy to stay in the touristy areas, we really recommend you to check out some other streets in Paris where you get a much more local feeling and better prices. We went to some bars in Versailles, a 15 minute train ride from the city centre such as this one for wine and board games or this one if you want a more lively pub. If you do want to stay in Paris city-centre, then check out Rue Mouffetard (5th Arrondissement) for a street with bars full of young Parisian people and great happy hour prices for beers and cocktails!
So that was Hmsies’ little reunion in Paris! By the end, we were full of croissants, Chinese food and great memories! Jasper really got into the spirit of all things French too…
Of course, if you haven’t been there before, go see the Eiffel Tower, peruse the Louvre and fight your way down the Champs Elysees, but do try and see everything else as well and go off the beaten track because there is plenty to see and do, and who knows, maybe you could discover your new favourite place as well?