My final morning in Paris, I met up with one of the girls from the bar crawl to go to Musee d’Orsay. Before heading to the museum, we stopped at Café Kitsune for coffee and pastries. We took our drinks … Continue reading
Category Archives: France
An American in Paris — Act 3
When I booked my day at Versailles, I also signed up for “Bike Le Marais & Canal” the very next day! After walking around so much at Versailles, the thought of biking the city was a little daunting, but my … Continue reading
An American in Paris — Act 2
Monday morning, I woke up ready to move. I had researched adult ballet classes in Paris, but was shocked by the lack of options. One class that I found was at the Centre de Danse du Marais, a 20-minute walk … Continue reading
An American in Paris — Act 1
I travel a lot (obviously), but rarely do so on my own. The thought of 6 days alone in Paris was both exciting and terrifying. What would I do? Who would I talk to? What if I needed help? These questions and more were racing through my brain in the days and weeks leading up to my trip.
My flight from Berlin to Paris was uneventful—just how I like it! Upon landing, I was able to easily grab a cab to take me to my Airbnb studio apartment in the 1st arrondisement. As instructed, I knocked on the landlady’s door for the key, but hit a roadblock when she showed me a notice for the building. I don’t read or speak French, and she didn’t speak English. We were able to communicate well enough for me to understand that she’d email my host to explain the situation. First problem: solved.
With keys in hand, I set off, hauling my large suitcase, duffel bag, and tote up to my 5th floor walk up. Along the way, I had to unlock and weasel my way through 3 different doors. By the time I got to my room I was sweating, but as soon as I set down my things and looked around, I relaxed. The apartment was small, but had plenty of room for just me. It had beams and vaulted ceilings, seemingly a renovated attic space. Windows lined two sides of the room, offering nice views and, as I learned the next morning, plenty of natural light. The bed was comfortable, and the décor simple. It was, in a word, charming. My host had also left me a welcome note, directions (complete with photos) on how to operate the television and windows, and a numbered list of bakeries, restaurants, and grocery stores with a corresponding map.
I was too hungry by this point to even look the map. I grabbed my wallet and keys, and set off to find food. I ended up at a nearby Mediterranean restaurant called Liza. I treated myself to the Liza Paris, champagne with rose syrup, and a delicious entrée of chicken skewers served with roasted potatoes, white cabbage, and grilled zucchini and cauliflower. Instead of dessert, I ordered a single espresso. Although the waiters at first seem flustered by a young woman dining alone on Saturday night (they initially seated me at a 4-seat table, then asked me to move to a smaller one), they were kind and attentive. The meal was delicious, and I was able to enjoy some sneaky people watching. It was a lovely start to my time in Paris.
I woke up the next day ready to explore! My first stop was La Moulin de la Vierge, a bakery/café recommended by my host. I sat at a small table outside, across from a lovely old church, and enjoyed a double espresso and delicious croissant—flaky, buttery, soft and crispy at the same time—that I fear has ruined American croissants for me forever. I next walked to the Louvre. The lines were atrocious, so I took a few photos outside, and continued walking, hoping to stop as La Musee des Artes Decoratifs. The line there was also daunting, so I strolled through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Musee de l’Orangerie. After a short wait, I was granted free admission to see the 8 giant Monet water lily paintings and the extensive Impressionist exhibit housed at the museum.
I wove my way back towards my apartment, window-shopping along the way. I made the mistake of going into Bonpoint, a children’s clothing store, and almost walked out with a cashmere onesie for my future nephew. Luckily, reason got the best of me and I resisted the impulse. I also stopped in Le Pain Quotidien for a latte and avocado toast. While sipping on the latte, I had a bizarre encounter with an older gentleman sitting behind me. He tapped me on the shoulder, asked if I spoke French, and then in broken English explained that he felt he needed to say hello because I looked just like the woman on the cover of his book. He handed me the book so I could take a look, and I had to agree that the resemblance was remarkable. The title of the cover painting translated to “The Woman Between Two Worlds.” I have since tried to find a picture of the painting or that edition of the book, but have been unsuccessful. The title struck me, because I felt it sort of applied to me at that moment. I’ve been feeling disconnected in my present circumstances, but anxious and unsure about the future. I continued to have an amusing conversation with this man, as he asked about what brought me to Paris. He found my career fascinating, and had many questions about my training and ambitions. After I politely declined to exchange contact information, he wished me luck and said goodbye.
I sat there for a few more minutes, reflecting on the strange encounter and on my trip thus far. My time in Berlin and first day in Paris had made me feel more relaxed and refreshed than I had in months. I didn’t know why, but I felt I was right where I needed to be.
I returned to my apartment for a short rest and a wardrobe change, and then set off for the Champs-Elysses. I grabbed an outdoor table for one at Café George V, and ordered a kir royal. While I was enjoying my cocktail, accompanied by a sampling of pretzels, popcorn, and pizza, a young man at the table next to me introduced himself. It seems I was especially approachable that day! His name was Mark, and he was born and raised in Paris. He asked what brought me to town, what I’d done since I arrived, and suggested some bars and clubs that I should check out. I got the sense that an invitation was soon to come, but I had to run to catch a performance next door!
The performance was at the Lido de Paris. I have been intrigued by this show for years, because it was choreographed by Benoit Swan Pouffer, former director of Cedar Lake Dance Ensemble in New York, and produced by Franco Dragone. Additionally, it is known for hiring tall dancers. As a dancer that has had limited opportunities because of my height, I applaud any employers and productions that appreciate women of stature. My ticket included a glass of champagne and pre-show entertainment, which unfortunately included multiple performances of “Happy Birthday.” The show was quite a spectacle, full of glitz and glamour, and celebrated the beauty of Paris. The choreography was not what I had expected, but it was entertaining. An ice-skating pair and adagio couple wowed the audience, but in my opinion, broke up the progression of the show. A male dancer dressed as a mime opened the show performing a few magic tricks while popping and locking, and returned to the stage multiple times during the performance. He was amusing and a unique mover, but I felt he overstayed his welcome. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining evening!
After just a day and a half, my fears were dissipating. I enjoyed being able to move at my own pace, follow my whims, and be a little selfish! I went to sleep that night, unsure of what the next day would bring, but feeling more calm and confident than I had in months.
Perfection in Paris
My aunt had never been to Paris, so we decided to maximize our time there by hiring a car to drive us from the port in Le Havre to the “city of love”. We met our driver outside the port terminal at 8:30am, and embarked on the two and a half hour drive. I had spent the night before at a crew Halloween party, so I napped for most of the ride.
Upon reaching Paris, our driver (I can’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Francoise) started taking us around the city to see some of the famous monuments. Our first stop was the Arc du Triumph. I’ve seen similar arches in New York, Lisbon, and Bucharest, but this one is the largest and most impressive. People were able to go up to the top of the arch, but we decided we’d rather see more than wait in line.
Our next stop was the Church of Madeleine. The exterior columns stretching down the side of the building were beautiful, as was the carving on the front of the building. If I remembered any of my vocabulary from art history, I’d be able to describe the church in much more detail. As it is, I’m not doing it justice! It seems I’m suffering from early memory loss…
We continued on to the Academie Nationale de Musique. The gigantic building had carved stone on all sides and gold angels on top. Pink, blue, and gold details popped out against the stone.
We moved on to the Louvre. Francoise pointed out the difference in the color of the walls outside the plaza versus inside. The inside walls have been cleaned, but the outside ones have not. We were able to spend some time walking around and taking photos at the museum. I’ve seen the Louvre in so many movies and photos, so it was exciting to see it in real life! I need to go back to Paris and spend a good four days exploring all the art inside. Francoise confessed that he’s never been inside, as he more of a contemporary art fan.
The last stop on our driving tour was the Notre Dame Cathedral. We stopped just long enough for photos before getting back in the car. Francoise got a bit lost on the way to our drop off point, so by the time we got out of the car again, I was starving! We were dropped off on the Champs Elysses for 3 hours of free time. My mom, aunt, and I headed straight for food!
After a glass of white wine and a delicious piece of quiche lorraine, I was ready for more exploring! We set off for the Eiffel Tower. It was about a 20-minute walk from the restaurant to the tower. My aunt, seeing it for the first time, was ecstatic. We took plenty of photos, and she even took a few selfies!
We walked back towards Champs Elysses, and had just enough time to stop for some wine before meeting Francoise again. I was unable to sleep on the ride back to the ship, but enjoyed talking with my mom and looking at the idyllic French countryside. Francoise pointed out his hometown as we got closer to Le Havre.
When we got back to the ship, I had to get ready for a farewell performance. I was sad to be saying goodbye to my family the next day, but was happy after a great week with them, and a practically perfect day in Paris!
Captivated by Cannes
One of the first ports of this cruise was Cannes, France. We’ve had some extra work for the past 2 weeks, so my friend and I were excited to get out and relax. She was craving some sunshine, and I was in need of good food. We were both satisfied by the end of the day!
We had to take a tender boat from the ship to shore. On the boat, we spoke with a guest that recognized us from our show the night before. She is a singer at clubs back home, so she had a real appreciation for the arts. It was nice to talk to a fan!
Once on land, we started perusing the menus at restaurants near the beach. We settled on a small restaurant with a covered patio. I ordered mussels, which ended up being large enough to feed a family of 5, and my friend had a pizza. The food was great, as was the house rose we both ordered.
While we were eating, we spoke with a couple that is cruising on our ship. They were very friendly, and upon learning that we were dancers, asked if they can get a photo with us after tonight’s performance. It was very flattering.
After lunch, we went looking for a good wi-fi spot. We found a small cafe that fit the bill, so we ordered some beers, sat outside, and took some time to connect with the outside world. Once we were satisfied, we bought 2 beers to go, then headed to the beach.
The beach was absolutely beautiful. I could have stayed there for hours! The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, a light breeze was blowing, and waves were crashing in. I took off my shoes to enjoy feeling the sand between my toes. I didn’t want to leave!
It was a simple day out in a fantastic city. Cannes has joined the list of places I must return to!
A Nice Day in Nice
We stopped in Villefranche last week, and I headed out with a few friends to catch the train to Nice. We had to take tender boats from the ship to the port, and then it was just a 10 minute walk to the train station and an 8 minute train ride!
Once in Nice, we walked to a little shopping street to find food. I felt obligated to try a Niciose salad in Nice, and was not disappointed!
After lunch, we slowly made our way to the beach. A Finnish skater in the group went in for a swim, but I chose to just admire the beautiful blue water from the sidewalk. The water was much too cold for me!
We unfortunately didn’t have much time, so after stopping at the beach, we wandered back through some shops, grabbed a quick drink, and headed back to the train station.
Although the day was very short, it was nice and relaxing. I’d love to return to Nice to see more.
The City of Love
We had a two-day cruise to Le Havre and back to Southampton last week. At the last minute, I was able to join a crew tour to Paris. The bus ride was long, nearly two and a half hours, leaving us with just two and a half hours in Paris before we needed to return to the ship. Although my time there was brief, I had a fantastic day! I can’t wait to return to Paris.
One of the other dancers and I tagged along with the sound tech from the theater. He was meeting a friend from high school that has been living in Paris for 7 years. It was great to have a local show us around!
We were dropped off near Invalides, and walked straight to the Eiffel Tower. The walk took only about 15 minutes. Although we were walking quickly, we were able to enjoy the sights along the way. In my travels, I’ve sometimes felt that certain landmarks and cities aren’t worth the hype. The Eiffel Tower, however, was even better than I expected!
We met our guide under the tower. She led us across the street to get better photos, and then we jumped in a cab to go to Notre Dame. While we were driving, she pointed out other important buildings and told us more about the city. We even drove through the tunnel where Princess Diana had her fatal accident.
Notre Dame was beautiful, but seeing it made me wish I had my notes from Art History so I could fully appreciate all of the architectural details. We were already running out of time, so after taking a few pictures, we walked around to find lunch.
We stopped at a café called Le Sainsev on a side street that our guide had been to before. My meal was delicious! I got 3 courses for just 12 euros. To start, I had mussels in a white wine sauce. My entrée was fish with a cream sauce. My dessert of chocolate mousse was too rich for me to finish! It was on of the best meals I’ve had in months.
By the time we paid our bill, we had to take another taxi to get back to our bus on time. It started raining as we were driving back to the ship, so the ride was longer than expected. After a busy day out, I napped the entire ride!
My few hours in Paris were fantastic. I can’t wait to go back!
We stopped in Villefranche, a small town between Nice and Monte Carlo on a perfect, sunny day. I got off the ship with a fellow dancer, hoping to find food and wine. We took a tender boat from the ship to the terminal. During the boat ride, I enjoyed some fantastic views and a nice, light breeze.
Once on land, we walked through a small outdoor market, then wove our way through some small side streets, looking for a good place to stop. We settled on a restaurant near the water, where I had some delicious pizza and a mediocre glass of rose.
After lunch, my friend went to find her boyfriend, and I went back to the market to buy a locally made perfume. I then stopped at a small café, where I had another glass of rose. This time, the wine was great! Sitting outside, sipping vino, and people watching was the perfect way to end my day out.
This cruise has confirmed my desire to move to the Mediterranean. I never want to go home!