Kickin' it like Monet- A holiday in Paris
By Chava Kuchar
I had totally forgotten that Paris wakes up late. Like, really late. Like a time-frame denoting a deep enjoyment of life. In fact, its by such a degree that it makes you reconsider the way you live your life.
After a child free awakening and sloth like movements, we wondered out of our hotel room casually at around 9:30am and emerged into the tight and winding streets of the Marais district only to be faced with closed store fronts, cafes begging 10 more minutes and the general absence of populace. It was like Paris was forcing us to slow down, it was probably the best mental shift to start our short 3-day getaway.
We found ourselves following the suggestions of a foodie friend and made our way to a café, Korcarz, to get a hold of fresh baked French goodies and people watch until midday blew breath into the city. Next, we made our way to Centre Pompidou to touch upon a fraction of their contemporary and modern art collection and then we re-navigated ourselves to some more food and treasure hunting in Paris’s deep deluge of vintage shops. With some luck and patience, we found some delightful pieces and made our way back to the hotel to rest before engaging in more fressing*at Rodchenko, a new-ish hole in the wall Tapas bar. And even though the night was still light and for some just starting, my feet were aching and my aging spirit was ready for bed. It had been a long flight, short night, and even longer day.
After a beautifully full night’s sleep, we started the next morning in the same manner; slow, food, people watching, shopping, museums, picnicking and then the highlight of our trip- the bike tour. We decided to challenge ourselves and do something that we wouldn’t normally do and we organized this bike trip through AirBnB’s activities- Paris End to End. Having been to Paris before, the bike tour allowed us to get a better and more holistic understanding of the city without relying on unachievable walking goals, going underground with the metro or paying high fees for cars, taxi's and ubers. Thanks to Antonio, our tour guide, we also developed an understanding of the the pedestrian and bike friendly nature of the city, history of its iconic architecture and urban development and a better understanding of Parisian culture.
On our last morning, we found out that we were actually in Paris over a 3 day informal public holiday* and that most Parisian’s had cleared out of town. This was the reason the Marais district, a nightlife hotspot and melting pot (La Marais, literal translation “The Marsh”) for religious Jews, the LGBQT community, students and the wealthy had been so quiet the last few days and why we saw so many kids around. It was a blessing though, it gave us a greater insight into the city, its citizens and its history. So, armed with this realization (some might say obvious) we decided to put some more effort in, join the masses and pursue the Parisian pastime of picnicking with more vigor this time around. We purveyed the freshest produce, we picked, we paid, we sat with our bread, cheese, olives, fruit and vegetables and took it all in.
It was sitting in that spot, shaded by its trees, together with families in the Parisian mode of outdoor living long encapsulated by the canon of art history, that I saw Paris differently this time and I was grateful for it. Maybe it was the series of art galleries we had visited, the food, the beautiful French people that we met, the perfect spring weather or the fact that we were on holiday but we saw a Paris that was not the dangerous, discriminative or snobby city the media and general consensus would have you believe. Instead, we saw a living, breathing, dynamic, diverse and multicultural haven of culture, who when faced with terror and menace chose life.
It wasn’t all beauty and wonder in Paris, there is a significant problem of homelessness on the streets of Paris, most significantly from the Refugee crisis of the past few years, Paris opened its borders, the President Macaron claiming it was an “honour to host them” but in spite of promises to expedite absorption, 1000’s still live on the street.
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Paris, has in fact been suffering from an ongoing series of terrorist attacks in the last decade and you could feel the heightened security in all open public spaces. We left on Thursday, and on the Saturday night following, at our very metro stop there was a terror attack where one knife wielding terrorist killed one and wounded four. The response from the mayor, Anne Hidalgo, was in my opinion, typical of the French attitude to these events, “ tonight we (paris) have been bruised”.
*fressing- Yiddish for eating, denoting a tad of gluttony
*3 Day holiday- day two in Paris was May 8 Paris VE Day (independence day) and day four, May 10 Ascension day, the day in the middle is called the bridging holiday and it’s a normal working day but it seems Parisians just don’t work if they don’t have to and take an extra long couple of days off.