Travels two years ago this month: Paris. Four days, three nights, one woman on a mission: to explore Paris without stepping foot into a single taxi. For four days I used buses, le Métro and my two feet (with the help of the Rick Steves Paris Guide to navigate the subway system). I also wanted a no-repeat visit, meaning I’d investigate areas of Paris I hadn’t on my two previous visits. This worked to some degree: I had to go to the Louvre Museum to see the Mona Lisa and the Near Eastern Antiquities, my favorite collection in the museum. Obviously Cathédrale Notre Dame as well (my plan was to attend an actual service, but I never made it).
New to me this visit? Wandering around the Carnavalet Museum, a mansion in the Marais filled with relics from the history of Paris; free and warm on a rainy day. Walking tours with Paris Walking Tours; I did their Christmas Lights Tour, a safe way for a woman traveling alone to experience Paris at night, and their World War II tour (I had just finished reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky).
This time, instead of department stores and shops with names from back home, I shopped for gifts at an outdoor market filled with freshly cut Christmas trees, and found that while my French wasn’t much help, my high school Spanish enabled me to communicate with a shop keeper from Argentina who sold hand knit sweaters that were perfect for little Gonzo Girl.
The only culinary sight on my to-do list was L’As du Falafel (34 rue des Rosiers, Paris, 75004), which was part of my self-guided Rick Steves Marais walk. Not having a plan didn’t stop me from finding a perfect French bistro for lunch, where I had wine, rare beef and crispy steak frites that kept me warm after a cold morning walk (Mark Bittman did a great piece on steak frites a few years ago in the New York Times). My favorite treat was a chocolate crepe that I consumed in what seemed to be one bite. Even today I can’t pass by the Nutella display at Costco without longing to bring some home with me.
Next time I visit, I want to attend cooking school, or at least a class or two. I’d like to bring little GG along, maybe renting an apartment for a week or two and exploring beyond Paris. And next time, I might visit in the spring. Then again, with enough long underwear for warmth, Paris in the winter is pretty fantastic.