*please forgive any typos. And do not plagiarize this work.*
The Paris Series: My First Two Days in the City of Lights (Part 3)
I originally began this post on the last Sunday of August 2021. And I thought it would’ve been cool to reflect and go back to the first Sunday of August, which was, at the time, my second day in Paris and I had done a lot of exploring into the city. But then I stalled in finishing this post!
In late September, I had found some scraps from the trip, which was super cool and I was glad to see them again. Included was the original piece of paper that a 59 Rivoli artist had written some thrift shops for me to visit (the one shop I couldn’t remember, for my thrift store post, is called Oh Lumiere), a copy of my vax card, my handwritten and hopeful agenda for the following week, and a promo card from the macaron shop Pierre Hardy that, opened up, features pictures and descriptions of their signature collection. With these findings, I figured, let me go and write that third post about my Paris trip!
It was the day before, on Saturday, July 31st, that my sister and I had arrived in France, ahead of joining others on the Dressed: The History of Fashion tour with Like Minds Travel and the Dressed podcast. I likely mentioned this in my first post, but again, I gotta state that I hadn’t visited France since the late 2000s. That first time in Paris (a combo trip that included London, England) was a dream, but also a daze in many ways! But trust, I still recall so many of the sights and the energy years later.
As time went on, I wondered about when I would return to France, and more earnestly, how to make it happen. Well, little did I know, that hustling in freelance journalism for the last five years, up until 2020, would fund my entire Parisian trip. I had mostly written for small, local indie magazines and newspapers and for one major, mainstream title (Allure!) I’m so thankful that those humble assignments, a lot of which I pitched myself (I had to keep them assignments on deck!) were paid and made it financially possible for me to return to the City of Light.
Like Amsterdam, the Netherlands, when I visited in October 2019, I researched in the weeks leading up to the trip. But unlike Amsterdam, I felt more intimidated this time around when looking up Parisian spots and learning about the culture. I think because my expectations were a tad higher being that I had been before and yet there was such a gap. I also wanted an element of surprise so while Dressed gave us a heads up on the places we would visit, I chose to focus on what I could check out in the hours and days we had free to roam. I went to the library and borrowed a guide book, a 2020 edition from Fodor’s Travel (very handy, and helpful as hell when my phone would occasionally have no service), and I Googled stores, my personal interests such as artsy vibes, areas of quirks, as well as iconic buildings and places I still had yet to see. I was also hoping to run into some of the places from years ago, and that depended on my own memory. (Such as making it a point to spend the late afternoon in Pigalle one day, where Moulin Rouge is located–and I had seen before. Back in then, we had had dinner across the way from it, and the movie had been out for a few years. It was one of those moments in which I wasn’t sure what was happening! Was I really eating across the place in which Nicole Kidman’s character’s livelihood took place at! Pigalle is also right next to and, in my description, merges with the Montmartre neighborhood and that was especially heartwarming to visit again. Montmarte is known for its hills that are nonetheless full of restaurants, cafes, and shops. Post-Paris 2021, Pigalle and Montmartre are for sure some of my favorite neighborhoods in the city).
I also consulted the hidden gem that is Atlas Obscura for ideas. Based on city, state, or country of your choice, a list of idiosyncratic spots to explore and check out are listed. It’s beyond awesome, and I advised this list as well for Amsterdam. It’s a way to balance out obvious tourist stops with the unorthodox and creepy. (Make an account, click on Places, and start listing!)
The day we arrived, we were ahead of the United States, and specifically the north east, by six hours. My sister insisted on taking a cab to Hotel des Mines, and eventually we were in the city thanks to a beautiful man of Algerian descent. I eagerly Snapchatted. It was strange in a way, however! It had been years, and because of Covid-19, traveling overseas felt even more of a gift and bizarre.
Once we half-unpacked and got service on my phone (praise God!), based on my agenda, we began walking on Bd Montparnesse. On the way to Hôpital Necker (Necker Hospital), we passed by a street flea market (where I tried on a too-small Mugler blazer!!) and Le Select, a restaurant (or brasserie) that legend James Baldwin had wrote much of Giovanni’s Room at. When I return to Paris for a third and fourth time (oh yeah!), I hope to eat at a handful of restaurants and cafes that were getaways and in-the-city sanctuaries for creatives in the past.
At Hôpital Necker, I was elated to see Tower, a mural painted by Keith Haring, in 1987, for children patients at Necker. Along with Le Select, both meant a great deal as I’m an admirer of Haring and Baldwin’s art. Trailing their footprints surely added to the magic and reality of being in Paris.
My sister and I found our way to the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel), and what a difference from when I first saw it! The first time is almost a blur of a memory now. I was in awe. There’s even a picture of me taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower that must’ve been taken by my mother. In 2021, there’s fencing around it because of some construction, but still lines to get into Tour Eiffel were long (I’m sure ticket-buying is online-only until further notice) and people can sit on the grass and chill and have picnics. That I liked seeing. Online and even in an episode of Sex and The City, Parisians are stereotyped as hating the Eiffel Tower so much. In-person, I gotta say, I think they actually love its prominence, are proud of it, and it’s a go-to spot to meet someone. It is still a tourist spot though for sure! Vendors were desperately trying to sell mini Eiffels everywhere along with toys that barked and cars that wheezed by.
After walking around, we both felt extremely exhausted and on the bus ride back to Hotel des Mines, I felt like I was going to pass out from how tired I felt. I hate when I’m that depleted. It was a mix of excitement hangover from the first day and jet lag.
We were able to get some snacks and fruit from a convenience store across the street, and all I could muster was to eat one Babybel circular cheese before resting on my des Mines bed. I literally needed to take a nap before eating anything more, brushing my teeth and washing my face!!
Rain had been in the forecast prior to our arrival, and it annoyingly stated rain the entire week! The rain in France sounds so romantic, but…not during an entire vacation. I had even taken out of my suitcase this sixties-inspired off-the-shoulder dress that I had specifically bought for the Dressed tour, from Nasty Gal. While we would be inside for a lot of our activities, it bummed me out that rain wouldn’t permit me to wear it out and about on the streets of Paris. The rain forecast also cancelled my plans to possibly go to Disneyland Paris and Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny. (The rain in Paris is gorgeous! Once, while inside the second hotel, Maison Nabis for the official Dressed tour, it rained for about thirty minutes and I definitely recorded it andmy sister called our mother).
But naturally, I was keeping tabs on the weather anyway once on European ground. Holding out hope that the rain wouldn’t at least wash out some local running around, including Sunday, August 1.
As you might’ve guessed on Sunday, no rain! My sister was able to do a photo shoot (which she was hoping to do), and I would go solo into the city. The weather was spring meets summer. Warm enough in which I didn’t need my vintage Sergio Valente jacket after awhile, and comfortable enough in my sleeveless knit top and long shorts. (Did that makes sense? LOL!) That bizarre exuberance was there, as I strolled and took as many pictures and Snapchats as I could. I loved the streets that were narrower and full of places to eat and drink, as the classic Parisian patio was everywhere. I soon ended up in front of Polly Maggoo, which I immediately recognized from the 2000s. It looks the same with its shimmery, lilac pebble-y mosaic and the image of a woman nearly succumbed within. For years, I assumed it was a theater, but at the time of writing, I now know that it’s bar!
In trying to find the iconic Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, I got a little lost, but I wasn’t entirely mad about it because the weather was perf and I walked a block featuring a handful of comic book and film memorabilia shops. After that, however, I began to feel baffled as to where the bookshop was because looking at my map, I was clearly right by it, so where was it?? I first walked into the Shakespeare and Co. Cafe, which confused me more because I didn’t know there was a cafe(!) and right before I thought I was going to feel really irritated, naturally, next to it was the bookshop. I know that makes sense. I just got frazzled. I’m actually pretty great with maps. It was a tad hidden like it’s a street further away from the road than the average block in the area. Like it looks pushed back. In front of it are book carts, tables to play checkers and a section of rocks, a seating and grassy area, and trees.
I was elated about being in the shop. It’s English-language too, so if you’re an English-speaker, you’ll feel a sense of relaxation. It’s wall-to-wall full of books (duh!), and the building itself reminded me of a cabin. Upstairs, you’ll meet quotes and hanged photographs of legendary authors and artists. During my visit, in the corner, a woman was wonderfully playing the piano and I was lucky enough to get some footage as one thing to be aware of once inside Shakespeare and Co. is that the service is a little bad past the first half of the first floor. But in this case, big deal, because it was all just so tranquil. I was in Paris, listening to a woman play piano, while surrounded by fellow bibliophiles. Dreamy.
I bought two books: Giovanni’s Room and The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde, and a baseball cap with the shop’s name on it.
Afterwards, I visited the vendors along the Seine River aka the Bouquinistes of Paris, where vendors sell antiquarian goods and books and souvenirs. Definitely iconic, I intended on getting a Josephine Baker print, which I did–I got three of them–and I also bought magnets, and a postcard. I wanted a book but they were in French (I should’ve bought one anyway, at least), and while I resisted a magazine, I was amused by items such as the erotic art postcards, and prints and posters of illustrated surgeries and anatomy. Some of the merchandise was wild! Also, be aware that most vendors don’t want you taking photos. But a picture or two can slide.
Nearby, is Notre Dame, which is still closed to the public since the 2019 fire that threatened to completely burn down the church. I was unfortunate enough to see Notre Dame, inside and out, before and I felt bad that current tourists wouldn’t get a similar experience.
Then in search of the Repetto shoe store, I ventured into a whole other side that I hadn’t visited and there were shops, a mall, and restaurants, so I was roughly in the Le Marais neighborhood. And (sidenote: OMG, I was so close to Free ‘P’ Star and didn’t even know it!) before that, I walked by the Saint Jacques Tower.
The Repetto shop I went into is located at 51 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, and it’s a shoe brand that began as a ballet shoe company, and today also makes oxfords, flats, and some clothing items and accessories. I bought a pair of electric blue suede oxfords that were absolutely overpriced, but when I looked online and considered other retailers, UK or American-based, it would’ve approximately cost the same. And I was in that awful “I just got to have them!” mood. The customer service was great, I didn’t feel pressured to buy them and the shopping bag was super cute. It was nice carrying it around, I admit!
As my sister was still at her photoshoot, I continued just enjoying the city. I went into the Les Jardins du Musée des Archives Nationales, the Paul Marais store (I almost, almost bought a bag), and shockingly, to my delight, walked right into the outside of Le Centre Pompidou, and then the Les Halles area that has a mall called Forum des Halles. (Apparently, The Guardian thinks the scope of the newly installed “vast umbrella” is a disaster. There was a line for the Nike store).
And I know this post is getting long, so let me hurry along! A few more things to share. After buying a denim shirt with the amazing embroidery of a black woman on the back at a kitschy shop, I aimed for 59 Rivoli, an artist hub where they can rent out spaces and showcase and sell art. It looked super cool online and was recommended by both Atlas Obscura and Fodor’s Travel. I made sure to peruse every floor, and on one, I walked through a stunningly and purposely messy life-size diorama. And I believe it was the floor above it that Aranxa Ortega complimented my shorts from Opening Ceremony. While said in French, I knew she had said something nice, but I disclosed and apologized for not understanding French (beyond “Merci,” “Madame”). She let out a quick laugh and rephrased what she said in English! (She speaks Spanish, English, French, and I believe the fourth language may be Portuguese. Her ties to the States is Texas and she’s been in France for the last five years). We got to chatting a bit and she offered to draw my portrait for 15 Euros. I thought why not, and she excitedly gathered her supplies and asked me to find a spot to stare at and to stay as still as possible for ten to fifteen minutes.
During so, my sister called and texted to try and find me. I quickly gave her directions and Ortega played music off of a playlist that included Princess Nokia’s “Goth Kid” and even more new to my ears, “Bobo” by Aya Nakamura. I got a few songs written down by Ortega and I did add “Bobo” to my “Francaise? Oui!” playlist on Apple Music.
My sister eventually found the place and got to meet Ortega too. I left 59 Rivoli with a 5×7 illustrated portrait of myself. The selfie I took after Repetto? That’s me in the portrait! I was amazed by Ortega’s talent. I couldn’t believe that the portrait looked like me. It really does! It’s so detailed. Even a passerby in 59 Rivoli, took a quick glance and said, “Yep!”
Currently, I have it framed with some thick, white paper borders and I decorated the borders part with glue-on sparkle dots. It’s such a special, unique recuerdo to have from Paris. Another magical moment. And 59 Rivoli is just awesome all-around. The way bookshops can be floor-to-ceiling of books, this one-time artist squat turned officiated by the city artist community is a must-see. There is art everywhere! It’s also free to visit. Donations are welcomed.
The day ended with us having dinner at La Cooperative (which, at the table next to us, was a relative of author Richard Scarry, best known for The Busy World of Richard Scarry. I used to watch the cartoon on Nick, Jr.! She’s very nice and an author and professor herself) and walking around the carnival at Les Jardins des Tuileries which is right outside the Palais Royal, where the Louvre Museum is famously located. It was fantastic seeing everyone having so much fun on the rides and all the classic carnival treats. I was nearly moved! What a day. I actually couldn’t have asked for a better weekend after all this time. <3.
Come back again for part 4 of the Paris Series.