Every day in Paris started with a slight headache.
Those headaches you get when you know you’ve slept too much.
Perhaps it was the incessant cloudiness that made my head hurt. It might have been the fact that I was sleeping in a hostel bed, listening to people attempting to stay quiet as they packed their suitcases at 5 a.m. Or maybe it was me being in my head so much that did it. Whatever it was, it remained — but it quickly faded each day once I got up and out of bed.
This day was one of my favorites, so I decided to start it in one of my favorite ways: with a movie.
I found a showing of Wes Anderson’s long-awaited film, The French Dispatch (hence this post’s opening song), at a movie theater just a couple of stops away by metro. I am a huge Wes Anderson fan, and since this movie took place in France, I knew that I just had to see it while I was in Paris.
I also hadn’t been to a movie theater outside of the USA before, and boy, is it different! By different, I mean small and simple and quaint. No bright-blue Slush Puppies and Butterfinger Bites in sight. My popcorn even tasted healthy.
An awkward self-timer photo I took in the hostel before my embark into the city. I rewore two pairs of clothes for five days, but I still felt like I overpacked.
I got to the theater quite early, so I stopped at a little bar down the street for a cappuccino & a croissant. It was not as good as the cappuccini I drink every day in Rome, but this was to be expected. I did enjoy it standing up, however: Breakfast at Tiffany’s style.
The theater was small, and I was the first one in. It filled up pretty quickly after about ten minutes, and pretty soon I was irritated by the amount of people beside me.
Shortly into the film, I remember realizing that I was not paying attention. I was biting all my nails off, likely looking very visibly anxious. I quickly grew sick of my popcorn, which had been my lunch that day, and wished that I had gotten something more substantial. I tried to snap back into it, paying extra close attention to Wes Anderson’s brilliant use of color and minute detail, but still, I had a hard time focusing on the stories, thinking about everything in the world that was not The French Dispatch.
Once the movie finished, I’d already known exactly what I was going to do next, since I’d been planning from the moment it had started. Alas, if you’re wondering what I thought of the movie, my thoughts probably aren’t the most meaningful. I do remember that my favorite chapter was The Concrete Masterpiece. But I also remember deciding that The Royal Tenenbaums is still my favorite of his films.
I left the theater and began heading back to the hostel. I was going to go back and grab a couple of things before heading out for the rest of the evening: my ultimate goal for the day was to see the Eiffel Tower up close.
I decided to check out the roof of the hostel right before leaving. The sky was finally blue, and I could see everything:
View of the Sacré-Cœur.
View of the Eiffel Tower.
Seeing Paris from up high for the first time broadened my perspective on the city. It is huge. Obviously. (And the fact that I could get to both of those monuments so quickly just shows how badass their metro system is. )
Here, my brain is a bit fuzzy, and I don’t have anything written down about how I got to the Eiffel Tower. I know I walked a bit to get there, but I definitely didn’t walk from my hostel. I must have stopped somewhere else and then walked the rest of the way.
Whatever the case — I made it. And, of course, it was under construction 😀
I didn’t let it bother me, though. I was standing right in front of a piece of architecture I never thought I’d visit this soon in my life. And while it is, by no means, my favorite piece of architecture, it sure is a meaningful one — and I was finally there.
I walked up towards it, passing couples and friends taking photos in front of it. It was chilly, but the sky was blue, so the whole thing was visible.
I sat on a bench and people-watched for a bit. And if we’re being honest: I was slightly underwhelmed…
I was talking to one of my friends about this recently, how when I see these amazing, world-renowned statues and pieces of architecture, I don’t feel as excited as I should. The reason, I’m sure, is the constant content we have available to us. I’d seen photos of the Eiffel Tower thousands of times before seeing it in person, so when I finally did, my excitement was more of “Wow, you finally made it here!” instead of “Wow, that’s the Eiffel Tower!” Yet another downside of instant gratification.
Anyway, despite the weather, I knew this area would have been packed in the summertime. I’d love to visit again during a warmer season, but I’m glad I got some touristy things out of the way during this trip.
After admiring it from a bench for a little while, I began to wander around. Everywhere I turned, I saw a brand new, seemingly better view of the tower.
I made my way towards the Seine, which I had been wanting to walk alongside since I’d first arrived a few days prior. The sky was slowly darkening, but I wanted to squeeze all I could out of the sun while it was still there.
Being abroad is amazing for so many reasons, but I am a New Englander at heart and was desperately missing fall like I’d always known it. This foliage instantly brought me back.
I walked along the Seine for a while, thinking about the Tiber River back in Rome and how much I love when cities have rivers running through them. I truly feel like it makes it much easier to navigate.
I had an hour and a half until the sun would be down, so I decided to take a bit of a detour and find the Arc de Triomphe.
I stopped at a bakery before for a quick pain au chocolat and ate it while walking down Champs-Élysées. I saw the fanciest McDonald’s of my life and bought some chocolate at Jeff de Bruges (thanks, Abby, for the recommendation!). I also bought a copy of Le Monde, a French newspaper, to add to my collection of newspapers.
I walked a lot that day, eventually ending up near the Notre-Dame. I had a bit of a full-circle moment when I saw it, surrounded by construction, at dusk. When I first visited Italy, in 2019, I watched it burn through a small television screen in my hotel room in Sicily, right as it was happening.
And there I was, 2 years later, staring at the physical remnants, building a new memory with them.
This is Pont Notre-Dame in front of one of the most beautiful sunsets I’d seen — and certainly the best one I saw while in Paris. I sat on the bridge and people-watched for a bit, trying to find a place to go for dinner that evening.
But before heading back to Belleville for dinner, I decided to check out Shakespeare & Company, that famous bookstore you may have seen screen-printed on every other girl’s tote bag (mine included). I got lost in here for a while and bought a few things, admittedly relieved to find a large-ish group of English speakers.
Here’s another view from the bridge, which I walked over again after leaving the bookstore. This one features the Eiffel Tower, which looks 100x prettier at night.
I went back to the hostel quickly and continued doing restaurant research. You’d think I was with a group of five people that evening if you saw how indecisive I was. The thing is, I didn’t get to research too much before the trip, so I knew very little about French cuisine. This is one of the things I regret the most looking back, but I’d say I redeemed myself this evening and the next afternoon.
Since I was staying in Belleville, I decided to look for a place there. It just so happened that there was an Anthony Bourdain-recommended restaurant a few blocks from my hostel, so I looked up directions and decided to check it out.
Eventually, I made it to the restaurant and walked in, asking for a table in sorta-kinda French — only to be turned away by the owner and his family, who were chatting at the tables as I waltzed in. They were closed!
Solo traveling is oh-so-humbling because you literally have to laugh at yourself for your mistakes since no one else is there to do it for you… and if no one is laughing, you will go crazy.
I walked out and found a busier street to find a new restaurant. I glanced at a few menus, but nothing stood out to me, and I was determined to have a really good meal.
If there is a God, I truly believe they were on my side this evening, because this restaurant felt like destiny.
It’s called Le Faitout, and it was entirely vegan. I still dream about this place and about the incredible meal I enjoyed there.
I walked in and asked for a table for one. The owner, who was serving practically the entire small, cozy dining room, came over to me and explained the menu in English. He was one of the nicest people I met on this trip, expressing total pride and excitement for his 100% vegan menu. He recommended a wine to me based on the meal I chose, and he checked in every few minutes to see how I was liking it all. Yet he left me alone long enough to savor it all for myself first, which I am forever grateful for.
Here is what I ate: tempeh tartare, pickled veggies, coleslaw topped with gorgeous watermelon radishes, and fries. I ate every bite, feeling so content and proud of this random-yet-beautiful discovery. For dessert, I had a the richest chocolate mousse of my life that paired beautifully with the red wine. I would pay money to eat this again — and I’m sure, someday, I will.
Besides the kind staff, the restaurant was cozy and warm and dimly lit. It was filled with lively families and friend groups, and I got a front row seat. There was also a cat that hung out on the floor and played with shadows, further proving that there is a God who was kind enough to send me both a cat and a good meal.
I paid, said goodbye, and made my way back to the hostel, feeling a little on edge as I navigated quiet streets in the evening alone. I made it back, though, full and ready for a long sleep before my final day as a free man in Paris.