I booked my flights to Europe – including my flight to Paris- just two weeks before the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. While I was undeniably frightened and upset for the people of Paris, it never crossed my mind to cancel that leg of my holiday. I truly believe one of the best responses to terrorism is to not be afraid. Yes, that’s a lot easier said than done, but I felt that if I changed my plans I would’ve been granting terrorists the ultimate victory.
French President Francois Hollande perhaps said it best after the attacks on the Charlie Hedbo headquarters earlier in 2015:
“Freedom will always be stronger than barbarism. We must be aware that our best weapon is our unity … nothing can divide us. Nothing must separate us from one another.”
When I arrived in Paris on the 31st of July I wasn’t feeling as righteous. It was probably a combination of things that brought me to tears in our taxi. First, there was the attack that happened in Nice just two weeks earlier. Then, as we were waiting to get our suitcases, there was a very scary security announcement about an “unattended suitcase.” Then, once security cleared us to leave the airport, I discovered that the glass that we had to stand behind at the taxi rank was bulletproof! And THEN, I saw the military men with MASSIVE machine guns!! I was definitely overwhelmed. I guess it was such a contrast to the laissez faire attitude of Greece (weird because that’s definitely a French word).
Yet as I caught glimpses of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, my anxiety began to fade. It was at that point that it really set in- I was actually in Paris, one of the most celebrated cities in the entire world, a place I have been busting to visit ever since reading my Madeline books as a teeny tiny little girl.
WHERE I WENT:
My time in Paris consisted of two different parts. The first, from the 31st of July through to the 7th of August was with my Mum and Dad. We stayed in Saint-Germain at the Hôtel d’Orsay. My room had a beautiful little balcony which looked out to the street below. The location was perfect, just a 10 minute walk to the Louvre and the heart of Paris. I always expected the Eiffel Tower to be in the heart of Paris, but it’s actually quite removed, so I wouldn’t suggest staying there for sightseeing.
During this time with my parents I visited almost every single shopping centre including the absolutely insane Galeries Lafayette and the La Vallée Village designer outlets. When we weren’t shopping or sitting at cafes we also managed to squeeze in some time for the d’Orsay Museum, the Palace of Versailles and the Michelin Star Jules Verne Restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower (that counts as sightseeing doesn’t it?).
The second part of my time in Paris was spent with my friend Candis. We spent a day with my Mum in Paris before we headed off to Barcelona for five nights, then back to Paris for four nights, then down to the French Rivera for six nights, then back to Paris for two. Don’t think it was exhausting, because it definitely wasn’t. Most of our time was spent sun baking and cocktail drinking- it was great. During our time in Paris we mainly shopped at Sephora and ate French Fries (big surprise there), but we did get a little cultural too. We visited the Louvre, climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe (hellooo claustrophobia), ate cake at Laudree on Champs-Élysées and visited the Happiest Place on Earth. We also dined at the restaurant on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower- 58 Tour Eiffel. (And to think I was confused as to how I gained weight during this leg of my trip?). Moral of the story: don’t go to Paris if you are gluten free/have an eating disorder/on a diet- you will be very bored.
Paris was fave fave fave part of this leg of my holiday. History, food, fashion and a Sephora bigger than the whole of Southland (I may be exaggerating here). I’m literally in love with the City of Love and I cannot wait to go back.
Eat: Perhaps the better question here is where not to eat, because the food in Paris is absolutely out-of-this-world amazing. Don’t eat too close to the main tourist attractions as prices will be higher, and avoid any restaurant which houses a humongous menu which comes in 25+ languages- this is usually a sign that the place is a tourist trap.
I’d suggest making a visit to La Grande Épicerie de Paris, the food court of the Le Bon Marché shopping centre, and buy some beautiful, fresh ingredients for a picnic. Buy a baguette, fill it with butter, ham and SO MUCH CHEESE. Pair it with wine. Cry once you’ve eaten your weight in said butter/ham/cheese/bread.
My favourite restaurant was Les Antiquaires in Saint Germain with its traditional French menu and epic desserts.
Drink: At Café de Flore and cure your writer’s block. The cafe is famous for its clientele of intellectuals including artist Pablo Picasso, philosopher Albert Camus and fictional QUEEN Blair Waldorf.
Stay: In Saint Germain. I know, I know, its cooler to stay in Le Marais, but I just loved its feeling of seclusion and its history as home to artists, writers, intellectuals and celebrities.
Eat: Fresh food from the La Boqueria market. You’ll have to navigate through plenty of tourists and a smelly fish market but the produce is insane. And don’t forget to order some croquettes and patatas bravas while trying out the tapas restaurants (I think I am addicted to carbs).
Drink: SANGRIA! Sangria, sangria, sangria.
Stay: In town, not on the beach. Close enough to Las Ramblas but not smack in the heart of it as you probably won’t get any sleep. I loved our hotel, Hotel Barcelona Universal, which was quite reasonably priced considering it had free breakfast, a rooftop bar and a pool.
+ COSTA BRAVA
I was only here for a day but I just had to include it in this post! Situated in the north-east of Spain, about a two hours bus drive from Barcelona, Costa Brava has a plethora of sandy beaches, rocky coves, tranquil villages and postcard-worthy scenery. My favourite beach was Platja de Castell. A must-visit if you’re visiting Barcelona over the Summer!
Juan-les-Pins is a beautiful town in the commune of Antibes on the Côte d’Azur. Situated in between Nice and Cannes, it is definitely less pretentious than the two, but is still home to some very glitzy and very glamourous French people- especially so when we were there in August as its the time of the year when most French people go on holidays. During our six days here I was *blessed* with a visit to the hospital as I had developed a lovely stomach parasite which lingered for a whole month. I don’t want to get too graphic with you, but because my symptoms limited my ability to be further than 500m from a toilet, I didn’t do much besides sun bake.
While I loved Paris, I wasn’t as enamoured by the French Rivera. Definitely a little too pretentious for both Candis and me.
It is really disheartening to read that Paris has seen a drop in visitors since the terrorist attacks of November 2015. I truly believe that while tragedy has struck Paris, it has survived – and continues to thrive. From the astounding architecture, to the amazing museums, to the absolutely delicious food, Paris has to be seen to be believed. I personally hope to get back to Paris soon, to be swept up in magic of the City of Lights.
This is my last installment in a series of posts about my trip to Europe. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who made my holiday so memorable- Jack, Mum, Dad, Dean, Emma, Maddy, my Yiayia Ariti, my family in Thessaloniki, and Candis. I would also like to thank Chelcie Schirrman for her amazing maps of my holiday- It’s been so fun getting to relieve my journey with you. A big thank you to Stef at Student Flights Southland too, no doubt you’ll be hearing from me again soon!
Oh and an even bigger thank you to everyone that has been reading these posts over the past five weeks! It’s been so amazing to watch my audience grow. There’s plenty of exciting things happening on the site in the not too distant future so do make sure you’re subscribed to receive updates!
Click here to view ‘My European Adventure.’
Click here to view ‘Ten days in Italy.’
Click here to view ‘Greek island hopping.’
Click here to view view ‘Greek road trip.’
THANK YOU TO CHELCIE SCHIRRMAN- GRAPHIC DESIGNER.
Chelcie is a Melbourne-based Graphic designer with an interest in publication and typography. With a keen eye for detail, she has extensive experience in branding, campaigns and logo design. Chelcie works at APR Creative in Black Rock and freelances at www.chelcieschirrman.com.