blissful july days in Paris

I had a few days to soak in in Paris before inevitably leaving France. The weather was therapeutic, spending my final few days in very good company. I crossed some things off my “to do” list in Paris. One of them was seeing the La Grande Mosquée de Paris, the largest mosque in France. The gardens were tranquil and the architecture amazing. It also had a charming little café with sweets and mint tea, taking me right back to Marrakesh. Afterwards we headed to the Jardin des Plantes, a huge botanical garden which makes for a lovely afternoon stroll, and not to mention, completely free! There was nothing left to do then hang our legs over the Seine, watching the tourists glide by in their boats.

I also ate at some pretty amazing restaurants. After my day strolling around the 5th, I met some friends at Tribeca on Rue Cler. I love going to the markets on Rue Cler during the daytime, and the ambiance still exists at night. This is a perfect spot to eat on a budget – lots of delicious Italian staples with the classical Parisian terrasse for people watching. Plus, it is right around the corner from the Champ de Mars, so after dinner we settled down to wait for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle. Still never gets old.

On the 4th of July, I joined some fellow Americans for Aunt Jemima’s maple syrup and pancakes at Breakfast in America in the Marais. Of course, what followed was the most strange and mildy mortifying events of my life – us homesick expats took mimosas and freeze pops to Place des Vosges, and toasted while singing the national anthem. Needless to say, we were subject to much speculation and even photographs from French witnesses.

I also went to a Lindsey recommended café in the 10th, and had a fun time exploring that neighborhood which I know so little about. Afterwards ambled through the neighborhood, crossing another thing off my Paris list – I finally saw Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris’ most famous cemetery.

Jeanne A is an épicerie that serves as a little bistrot as well. The male only staff with crisp white aprons had me thinking of one thing – the movie Ratatouille. That didn’t help when I saw a little mouse run by my table! Luckily, not even the mice could turn me off to my delicious peppery gazpacho followed by melt-in-your-mouth gratin potatoes and pork. French people make the best potatoes gratin (can you say butter and cream?).

My favorite moment in my stay in Paris was the 14 juillet. While we know it as Bastille day, anyone who has not been to Paris during this time must book a ticket for the 2012 festivities right now. It starts off the night before, when all firehouses host a charity party. We headed out to Canal St. Martin, a beautiful spot to celebrate France! The music was amazing, and we even made it home early enough to catch the parade the next day on the Champs Elysée. Finally, the day ends with magnificent concert and fireworks display on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. This years theme was American showtunes :) Fate.

My heart broke as I got into my shuttle in the 13th and made my way to Roissy airport. Why must my stay end? As my French teacher once told me, “don’t worry, France will call you back”. She was right once, let’s only hope she is right again.

i’m dreaming of…paris

So if (hypothetically speaking), I were curled up in my bed in Verdun drinking tea on a Friday night, there would be one thing I would be dreaming about: Paris!

My first time in Paris was the magical experience all young Francophile girls dream about (please tell me I was not the only French obsessed high schooler out there?). I visited l’Ile de France with my high school French class. I’ll never forget my first warm and buttery croissant, the little slippers that my host parents gave me to wear around the house, or my first awful experiences attempting to speak French. Of course, all dreams are dreams, and they only stay magical for a short while, until the bubble is popped and the shimmer fades into reality. Soon enough, I was being yelled at in a café, stepping in dog poo on the street, or nearly getting mugged in Montmartre.

Regardless, there will always be a special place in my heart for the city of lights. I was beyond blessed when I studied abroad with the American Graduate School of International Relations in 2008; I spent a summer month galavanting about, eating baguettes in the Luxembourg Gardens and taking to picnics to Parc de la Villette for evening Cinema en Plein Air. It was one of the most blissful summers of my entire life – I don’t ever recall having a bad moment, let alone a bad day.

What didn’t I do? There was museum after museum: The Louvre, Picasso, Rodin, Orsay, Centre Pompidou. We went to UNESCO, studied in the Bibliotheque Nationale, met diplomats at the US Embassy, watched court cases in the Palais du Justice and networked over champagne in Hotel Crillon.

After all that, I still managed to find time to wander around the sunny summer Paris at a leisurely (French) pace. I adored reading the poetic gravestones of Simone de Beauvoir at Cimitiere Montparnasse, taking a trip to see the antiques in the Marché aux Puces in Saint Ouen, going to mass at Notre Dame, or picking up fresh peaches on Rue Cler.

To celebrate my return to the city of lights next week, I am going to write a few posts about one of my favorite cities in the world: Paris.

What are your favorite things to do in Paris?