March 13, 2013

11 Reasons Why Paris is Magnificent

There was once a time when I used to think of Paris as being very cliche. A place that was unnecessarily hyped. Paris was never on my top 5 list of places I wanted to visit. In fact, ever since I knew I would be moving to Europe, Scotland, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Netherlands were my must-visits. Paris? Yeah maybe once I've covered other more quirky parts of Europe and when I'm in the mood to put up with snobby behaviour. And if you know me then you very well know I'm never in the mood to put up with snobby behaviour.  

Then one day, my colleague in Toronto, insisted I visit Paris when I'm in Europe. And that Paris might surprise me. And she told me about the food. The French food. And I live for food. So Paris started to slowly sneak onto my must-visit list. Slowly. And by the time Umair suggested we take a week's vacation to Paris and Belgium, Paris had fully crept onto my list! And I was as excited as the 9 year old Naima would be at buying a barbie dollhouse.

Anyway, I've got a Parisian friend who herself vouches for Parisians being rude and mocking people who do not speak correct French (I gotta love the Germans for never making fun of my awkward German). So are Parisians as snobby as people make them out to be? Maybe. Did I personally experience it? Not at all. And maybe that was also why I loved Paris so much? Who knows. But here's why I definitely loved Paris and would go back in a heartbeat (in no particular order):

1) French Balconies

I love Paris buildings. And Parisian decor. And I think these balconies are such a huge part of what Paris is; they give the Parisian streets so much character. They add to the chic and romantic vibe of the city. Buildings in most parts of Europe are similar in style, but what sets apart the buildings in Paris are it's balconies. Imagine living on the top floor of these buildings in the heart of some awesome district? View of the busy Paris life with traffic galore, huge cobblestone roads, buzzing street cafes and patisseries...sigh!

2) Beautiful Gardens 

Paris has a got quite a few gardens spread across the city. There are the famous ones with pretty buildings and fountains. And then there are also little squares of parks in places you wouldn't really expect to see a garden. Our first day in Paris was spent strolling around the gorgeous Luxembourg Gardens. And there were chairs around! Apparently, there are chairs all around Paris' gardens. Not the wooden benches like gardens usually have. But actual chairs. And people just chill around absorbing the awesome Parisian air. The gardens located all around the city also add to the charm and romantic side of Paris. 

chairs, people, Luxembourg gardens!

3) The French Patisseries 

husband trying to decide which pastry he wants

Scent of freshly baked bread and cute little patisseries displaying the yummy croissants, pastries, cakes, eclairs, macarons can be found almost every other corner of the street. A simple butter croissant is absolutely delish in there. So warm and fluffy and buttery!  All these look so inviting displayed at the windows. And it doesn't help that these patisseries are usually colourful. You're drawn to them against your will. At every corner of the streets in Paris, you are seduced by Parisians and their whimsical patisseries. And next thing you know you're eating your 4th cake of the day. 

4) Laduree - The Macaron Heaven

in front of Laduree. Look at the lineup!

oh sweet heaven! remember when i said Parisians like to seduce us?

Technically this should fall under #3 as Laduree is a patisserie, however it deserves a spot of it's own. Laduree's macarons itself are a reason enough for me to go back to Paris again. Laduree is known to make one of the best macarons in the world. Macarons - those adorable double decker cookie-like things with lush smooth butter cream filling!

How cute do these look?!! They can be found in many flavours, some quirky ones too. Our favourite were salted caramel. Chocolate ones are amazing as well, ooh and also lemon! The orange was quite good too. But salted caramel - you know when I said cheesecake is my favourite dessert? Well, maybe, just maybe, salted caramel macarons are what I'd cheat on cheesecakes with. Macaron is the thing that all cakes would be jealous of. They would hate macaron, but secretly want to be one! But it's okay rest of the cakes in the world, lucky for you, macarons are not as widely eaten as other pastries/cakes. Yet. 

5) Parisian Doors

somewhere around the Le Marais district

photo found on flickr paris mosaic pool

Whether it's a door to a little patisserie, a clothing boutique or a decor shop, Paris streets are filled with whimsical doors! I entered quite a random bunch of shops just because of the doors. Just to see how it felt to pass through such doors. I sound like a door-geek now. That's Paris for you. It makes you a door-geek. Along with making you gain weight. 

6) Art Galleries in Le Marais

My favourite district of Paris was Le Marais. We spent a day here just strolling around. It is one of Paris' main localities for art galleries. This district is also known for it's trendy fashion boutiques and restaurants. I am not going to pretend I know much about art, and I'm never the one to run to art museums. However, the vibe in Le Marais was just so cool. There were narrow hallways with so many art galleries and I loved walking around. 

the hallways with art galleries

inside an art gallery - so weirdly cool!
again, hallways and hallways of galleries and galleries!
Strolling around the galleries, a garden nearby and then walking up to the narrow streets with trendy clothing boutiques and decor shops - Le Marais really is my favourite district in Paris. There is also a Jewish quarter there and they make some of the best falafels in the world! 

7) Red, Blue and Yellow shops

little shop with home decor, stationary etc 

Parisians' aim is to seduce us innocent people. They put up such charming and colourful buildings, with adorable window decor to entice and lure us in. And these seductive techniques are not just limited to shops, but also to their scrumptious patisseries, cafes and restaurants. I read somewhere that Parisians call window shopping 'faire du leche-vitrines', which actually means window licking. Well that makes sense. That's what I wanted to do when passing through these shops. 

Patisseries, cafes, restaurants, shops - everything is so colourful! It makes the city feel so chirpy and vibrant all the time. I think that even when it's wet and rainy in Paris, the city still looks fun and lively. It's like living in a barbie world. When I was little, my barbies used to live in a pretend town with coloured houses and shops. Little did the 7 year old Naima know barbie world exists in real! I grew up in the UAE, and the Arabs don't believe in turquoise doors and red houses. 

8) Crepes for Dinner Anyone?

This post is becoming more of a food post, I realize. But what's Paris without it's amazing food? I don't know why the French aren't fat. I gained quite a few pounds in just 5 days. I love crepes and my favourite is the typical chocolate banana crepe. And I mostly eat it as dessert or breakfast. But the lovely Parisians eat it as brunch, lunch and dinner! Creperies usually are not even open in the mornings for breakfast; they open around noon. Umair tried a salty one for brunch once - with eggs, spinach and goat cheese - he loved it! There's so much to choose from. And the fact that it isn't limited to just sweet crepes, and that people can actually eat salty ones with variations for dinner? Awesomeness!

Just 2 minutes from our hotel, which was in the Montparnasse district, was this street which should be named Rue de Creperie. It was creperie, after creperie, after creperie. Red, green, blue. Cute little crepe restaurants. If heaven was on earth, it would be on Rue de Creperie. Maybe heaven is on earth and I managed to stumble upon it!

rue de creperie! (just so we're clear that isn't what the street is actually called.)

9) Trendy and Chic Cafes 

I love the cafe culture in Europe. I wish we could have this in Toronto too! It's such a contrast from the Canadians who grab a cup of coffee from Timmies and drink it while doing their other important activities. For French, having coffee is one of the important activities! French take their coffee very seriously. In the afternoon, all the cafes are buzzing with people chatting over coffee. Although Munich is very similar to Paris when it comes to coffee time and cafes, sipping a hot drink outside facing French balconies is a completely different feel. 

10) Saint Germain des Pres

My second favourite neighbourhood, after Le Marais. Located in the 6th district, this is one of the more upscale districts of Paris. It's situated along the Seine river, and if you walk along the Seine river from St. Germain for about....65 minutes, you'll see a certain Mr. Eiffel standing tall. How do I know? Because one fine night after having amazing dinner at a restaurant in St. Germain des Pres, I decided I felt like checking out Mr. Eiffel sparkle at night. Umair suggested we walk along the Seine river - as it would be pretty. And pretty it was, yes. But Umair also said it would take us only 20 minutes. And so I agreed! My feet were already dead from the entire day's wandering around and by the end of the night, they were in quite a bit of pain. But I absolutely LOVED the walk. Paris is gorgeous at night, walking along the river with beautiful bridges and architecture and lights - maybe romance in Paris is cliche but it's the kinda cliche that should be done!

we had the most amazing dinner here

St. Germain des Pres is filled with trendy restaurants, some even seat you on the first floor in the French balconies :)

11) The Bigwigs of the Tourist World

Who would not love seeing Mr. Eiffel sparkle under the moonlight? Or the Louvre with it's architectural beauty? And when we speak of architecture, who can forget the gorgeous, detailed Notre Dame? The giant Arc de Troimphe standing tall at the end of Champs-Elysees in all its glory. And then there's Moulin Rouge and right next to it the white beauty Basilica of Sacre Coeur. Paris has some of the biggest tourist attractions. 

Mr. Eiffel

We checked out Mr. Eiffel 3 times during our trip. Once, the very first time when we climbed to the top and got beautiful views of the city. Once when we decided on testing our feet and walked all the way from St. Germain des Pres. And then one last time on our last day - I just wanted to go and lie around the garden by the Eiffel tower. I speak of the romantic side of the city again - soft breeze, garden spread across with the backdrop of a giant architectural landmark...

view of Paris from the top

it sparkles beginning of every hour


Louvre is huge. We walked around for 3 hours and we were still not done. And as expected, Mona Lisa had the biggest crowd. I wonder if they've actually put up the real Mona Lisa picture?

Notre Dame and Arc de Troimphe

Notre Dame has breathtakingly detailed architecture. I had to sit down on a bench nearby to give the details some time and to take it all in. It must have taken them so many years to build this masterpiece. I'm reading 'The Pillars of the Earth' currently which is set against the backdrop of building a cathedral in 12th century England. The book points out details on how long cathedrals take and the kind of work that goes into them - it is amazing and so admirable that there were men who could spend years building something so creative and beautiful. 

From Louvre, we walked across to Champs Elysees to this magnificent monument. It's so huge right in the middle of the road. Paris' roads are huge and I don't know how people drive there! I would be so flustered if put behind the wheels in Paris. The walk along Champs Elysees is great with tons of stores and Laduree! 

Sacre Coeur

we climbed up the Sacre Coeur to see pretty views of Paris

Up there, behind the Sacre Coeur were some art galleries and also patisseries!

Loved how people were just chilling around, some picnicking up around the Sacre Coeur. We first had crepes, then bought some strawberry tarts (again, why are the Parisians not fat?) and sat on the stairs taking it all in. There was a guy singing and playing guitar as well. It was all nice and pretty and romantic until Umair decided we leave. Because the singer started singing (or butchering a/c to Umair) his favourite song, Stairway to Heaven

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