By: Susan Gerle
Ah, Paris! It was a longtime dream of mine to visit the city of romance and I wasn’t disappointed when I got there finally. We had made reservations to stay in the Latin quarter of the city. The only thing I’d change on the next visit is to make Paris my destination, rather than a small part of a European vacation. The history and architecture and the shopping is too much to absorb in just a few days.
The nice thing about staying in the Latin Quarter is it is so close to many of the well-known landmarks, like the Louvre and Notre Dame. It is also close for catching a Hop-On/ Hop-Off double decker bus, which will take you easily to other famous structures like the Eiffel Tower or the Arch De Triumph or the Paris Opera House. A 2-day pass is extremely reasonable and you can use it from early in the morning until after dark.
My friends and I traveled in from Switzerland. The train station in Paris was bright, busy, hectic, and even musical with small groups of musicians playing in different cafes situated around the station. The view outside surrounding the square was a mixture of old and new architecture.
We took time to have fresh French croissants at one of the cafes before getting a taxi to our “pension” in the Latin quarter. The price for transportation was reasonable and the taxi driver very friendly even though he had very little English. But that was okay because we had very little French! A friend of mine from Vancouver, Canada was going to join us at the hotel. He had lived in Paris as a student and knew his way around the Latin quarter very well.
The tiny hotel was a 6-floor walk-up. A small entrance and foyer was crowded with luggage from people checking in and out and the reception area only a window cut in the wall. A young woman spoke rapid French but switched quickly to fluent English when she heard my poor attempt at the local language. It turned out she was a transplanted native of New York City!
We got our room and began the journey up the tiny spiral staircase to the forth floor. The first day was agony but after a week of doing the stairs half a dozen times a day, we were in pretty good shape! Our room was small but comfortable. After getting settled, we connected with my other friend and he took us to a local market, just around the corner. There we bought some red wine and cheese before heading off in another direction for croissants. That would be part of our staple diet for the next few days.
The first evening we found a wonderful restaurant serving Turkish fare. The Latin Quarter has a very eclectic selection of dining experiences at reasonable cost if you take the time to look around. We turned in early as we already had a full day.
Our accommodation included a traditional French breakfast every day. The next morning we joined other travelers where breakfast would be served in a small room behind the office. The meal included coffee or thick hot chocolate, rolls, jam, cheese, and usually a bit of fruit. The fact that we tipped the cook the first morning of our stay went a long way. She was pleasant to us the whole time, which wasn’t the case for many other travelers. The wages aren’t very high and so, like in many countries, they really depend on their tips.
There was also a fridge and stove available for guests if we wanted to make our own meals in the evening. A coin operated washer and dryer for the guests’ use was a welcome surprise too.
There was so much to see and do in Paris, we quickly decided what places were on our priority lists. I needed one day to connect with a friend of mine that I knew from Mexico and who was now married and living in the city. That would be my opportunity to travel on the Paris underground railway by myself. I wanted to go to the Louvre and my plan was to see the Mona Lisa. Unfortunately, she will have to wait for my return visit. There just wasn’t enough time, although I did tour the courtyards surrounding the building.
I also wanted to go up in the Eiffel Tower, which I accomplished. What a fantastic view of Paris from the top! Some people were disappointed with the tower for different reasons. It wasn’t as tall as they thought it would be. They had to wait in long line-ups. It was hot and stuffy in the huge elevators that took us to different levels. I thought it was wonderful experiencing one of our international icons and since I am a romantic, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. For the more adventurous, one can climb the stairs up to the first platform.
We took an unexpected and unguided tour of the Paris Opera House. It was normally closed to the public except during performances. We happened to be there when the city decided to open the building up. It was magnificent!
Another place to visit is Montmartre. The climb up the stairs to the basilica of Sacré-Coeur is well worth the journey. During the 19th and 20th centuries it was the best place to paint in Paris for artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec. It has also remained as a quaint little village and is popular for it’s eateries.
If you plan to visit Paris, make the city your destination, not just a small part of your European holiday. You won’t be disappointed.
About the Author:
Susan Gerle enjoys her travels all over the world but she has a special place in her heart for Paris. For a unique experience in Paris, stay in the Latin quarter at Hotel Marignan, 13, rue du Sommerard or contact the hotel at http://www.hotel-marignan.com. The hotel is not equipped with an elevator.