When I was ten, I presented a speech to my class on Impressionist painter Claude Monet, obviously. I had a book about him and for some reason, being a terribly sentimental kid, was very moved by his story (the part about how he kept painting through blindness; I was a little too young to comprehend the depression, poverty, and death of two wives as substantial components to the narrative.) But, all of that is beside the point. As a teenager, I was obsessed with the Beats, and in university, the Modernists. So the point is, clearly, I had to visit Paris. This is my one meandering week in the incomparable City of Lights:
DAY 1: The Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Eiffel Tower. Toast the day in Jardins du Trocadero.
DAY 2: In the morning rain, find a laundry mat and while your clothes are in the wash, cross the street for omelettes and crêpes. Afterward, take your wet clothes back to your compact studio apartment and hang to dry, which will turn out to be a big mistake. Head back out in the rain to stand in line for Notre Dame, then cross the Siene to visit the crowded second establishment of Shakespeare and Company. Sip a latte on a covered terrace nearby and feel like a chic wet cat.
Dry off and warm-up at your Airbnb for a few hours. When the rain stops and the sky becomes very dramatic, go back outside for a walk through Jardin des Tuileries while it’s quiet and empty. Ride the ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde, then walk the glowing Siene as night falls. Finish with pistachio gelato beneath the sparkling Eiffel Tower.
Day 3: A day of reading in line-ups: Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, and the Catacombs. Be warned that the narrow steps descending five stories into the Earth are far more terrifying than the actual tunnels of human remains.
Day 4: Wake up and realize, for some reason, all your wet clothes from two days ago never really dried in your tiny apartment with little air flow, and now have a weird smell to them. So, dress in your least smelly outfit and take the train to Vernon. There, rent a bicycle outside the train station and cycle to Monet’s house and garden in Giverny. (And at the end of the day, don’t forget your ID at the cafe where you rent your bike. Otherwise, you’ll have to go through a whole crazy phone call with the poor men there trying to get them to “coop the card” in your very unflattering Canadian accent.)
Day 5: Père Lachaise Cemetery, Sacré Coeur, Montmartre, and the Moulin Rouge.
Day 6: Chȃteau de Versailles. (Not the place you want to smell like mould, but of course, you do.) Also, don’t forget to grab some macaroons from the McDonald’s outside the train station.
Day 7: Spend the last day walking way too much. First, from Place de Bastille to the Latin Quarter (20 minutes), then through the Latin Quarter to Place de la Contrescarpe (10 more minutes). Here you can stop off at a cafe and people watch for a bit. Around the corner, find Hemingway’s and Joyce’s apartments, then walk to Jardin du Luxembourg (20 more minutes-ish), and from there, take a long leisurely stroll to Champ de Mars (approximately 1hr or more). Cross the river (15), then walk another half hour to Champs-Ḗlysées. Then, walk through that. Once you’re sufficiently grumpy, take the metro home.
But in the evening, even though your legs and lower back expired three days ago, take one more short walk to Canal St. Martin. Admire the iron footbridges amongst all the lovely people, and feel like you’re in a painting, or a poem, or whatever, in your very stinky clothes. Feel like a terribly sentimental ten-year old kid, as you say au revoir, Paris.