Paris_sky
Blue sky, Orange leaves in Paris

Hello Paris!

…It was a lightly sunny and fully breezy Parisian afternoon, the winds carried Marie’s excitement as she led two of us on a captivating tour along the Seine River and many hidden gems of Paris. We strolled towards the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral, adorned with characteristic gargoyles spouting water, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. We wandered through leafy stone-paved sidewalks, explored grand statues, and traversed vast squares, playfully crossing intersections before the traffic lights could change, leaving us in awe and laughter….

Saying Hello to France for the first time (for me) and the second time (for him), our journey unfolded through the charming streets of Paris, a city that captured our hearts and revealed its wonders at every turn. From the picturesque Seine River to the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral, our days were filled with exploration, laughter, and the vibrant energy that defines the City of Lights.

Arrival and First Impressions:

Arriving from Amsterdam, traversing Rotterdam, and making a pitstop in Brussels, we reached Paris via the “classical” Ouibus – a French bus brand operating through the enchanting landscapes of Europe.

Our initial impression of Paris was framed by quaint cafes neatly lining the sidewalks and the soothing hues of the sun filtering through peculiar orange-leaved branches and trees.

The climate in Paris, though still the mildly cold Western European weather, felt warmer and less chilly compared to Germany, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Perhaps it was this unique blend that made Paris resonate more with my tropical origins after experiencing straightly cold nights in Frankfurt, icy breezes in Moravska Trebova, and supper windy mornings in Haarlem.

As we delved into the Parisian atmosphere, we couldn’t help but notice a striking frame of a large map displayed at the subway station, intricately detailing Paris’s metro system, seemingly complex at first glance, but logically organized in fact. Thanks to his previous visit, we could decipher the intricacies easily, while for other Paris-newbie travelers, it might be a crazy maze of colored lines and numbered routes.

Exploring Le Marais:

In the first couple of days, we didn’t rush to iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and other touristic highlights, choosing instead to adopt a leisurely pace, exploring the quieter corners in search for the city’s soul hidden in alleyways and modest squares.

One evening, we wandered through the historic district of Le Marais, one of Paris’s oldest neighborhoods. The area retained its medieval charm of narrow cobblestone streets and intertwining alleys, a contrast to Napoleon’s grandeur-driven transformations that turned much of Paris into wide avenues and squares in honoring his power and wealth.

Amidst the preserved architecture of Le Marais, I could almost envision a Paris from the 12th and 13th centuries – a modest, intimate city, with quiet streets and unassuming corners, a stark departure from the glamorous image associated with modern Paris.

Random French Fries:

Venturing into a random street food local spot, Tung and I ordered a large serving of French fries to fill our empty stomachs. And we discovered that, randomly choosing French fries with a naked mind and without a local guide led to subpar results!

While munching on average-quality fries, memories of exquisite fries in small towns in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands lingered, we were extremely looking forward to a reunion with our old French friends in the days to come.

However, the lackluster fries failed to dampen our spirits during the evening stroll in Le Marais. Finding secluded spots on the sidewalk, we indulged in slow-burning cigarettes, gazing at walls painted in subdued yellow with white wooden windows – reminiscent of antique windows in Hanoi during the French colonial era.

Reunion with Marie – our cute French Friend – my Fritch

The next day, we reunited with Marie, a dear friend from our university days in Hanoi, which made a more delightful turn for our Paris experience.

It was a lightly sunny and fully breezy Parisian noon, the winds carried Marie’s excitement as she led two of us on a captivating tour along the Seine River. We strolled towards the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral, adorned with characteristic gargoyles spouting water, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. We wandered through leafy stone-paved sidewalks, explored grand statues, and traversed vast squares, playfully crossing intersections before the traffic lights could change, leaving us in awe and laughter.

Marie was like our super energetic tour guide taking us through Paris’ gems, sharing anecdotes from a local perspective. From the windy Seine to the Gothic marvel of Notre Dame, the grandeur of large squares to the legendary Louvre Museum and the iconic Eiffel Tower, Marie infused each location with her local insights, although Lyon, her hometown in southern France, was her true origin.

As our personal jokes, I called Marie my Fritch (my French Bitch) and she called me her Vitch (her Vietnamese bitch), and we were like “vitamin bitch” to each other during the walking tour and Tung was somehow like a happy third wheel who enjoyed to laugh at our “friendshit” jokes.

Sitting in a cozy corner with three espressos and a basket of croissants, we reminisced about university moments, recalling bar-hopping escapades in the old quarter with crazily forever young squads.

Marie, unchanged in stature and with her distinctive curly blonde hair, listened to our thoughts on multicultural lifestyles and our evolving definition of wealth and multi-value personal growth.

A Parisian Picnics and Nostalgia:

On my birthday (which perfectly matched our Paris schedule), Marie shared her favorite spots, leading us to a delightful picnic in Luxembourg Gardens under the summer sun. The rich savory cheeses, smoked hams and jambons, topped with characteristic French beers elevated the experience and filled our afternoon with laughter and camaraderie. The lush greenery of the Luxembourg Gardens, shared with lively French youths indulging in their own picnics, created a picturesque setting for our celebration. Some subtle melodies of French jazz from a nearby group of energetic teenagers added to the charm. The reminiscent sound of their smooth saxophone and the rhythmic beat of their drums played a Parisian melody, blending harmoniously with the rustle of leaves and the soft conversations around us.

An Evening at Cinéma en Plein Air:

Our evenings in Paris were just as enchanting. We stumbled upon Cinéma en Plein Air à La Villette, an outdoor film festival. The vast lawn became a canvas for classic French films, surrounded by groups of locals enjoying picnics. That night, we immersed ourselves in “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud,” a black and white noir thriller, sharing the magic of French cinema under the starry sky.

Chasing the Night at Eiffel Tower:

Our Parisian adventure wouldn’t be complete without a nighttime rendezvous with the Eiffel Tower. As it sparkled in silver brilliance, we marveled at its hypnotic beauty. A chance encounter with a dazzling, sparkling Eiffel Tower transformed our last night, etching a surreal memory that would forever linger in our minds.

As we bid farewell to Paris, having missed the last train, we reflected on the sparkling Eiffel Tower, the laughter in Luxembourg Gardens, and the cinematic magic under the open sky. Paris, with its charm and surprises, had left an indelible mark, and as we embraced an Uber ride back to our hostel, we knew that our journey had been an unforgettable chapter in the City of Love.

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