Paris done Unconventionally
Posted on: June 23, 2014, by Jill Murwin
After six days in London, we took a short flight over the channel to our second destination: Paris. The descent into Charles de Gaulle Airport provided a view of quilted plains of green farmland and small agricultural settlements in the French countryside, but our stay in Paris was anything but quaint. When we got to our apartment, we found that it was a closet-like room wedged between the courtyard and the foyer, beneath strings of laundry draped between the buildings. The place was likely a converted storeroom for the larger housing complex. That is what 40 Euros in Paris buys for the night! While it was safe and affordable, we realized then that very little time would be spent in the apartment. After dropping off our bags we made our way out of the Chinese district in the North end of town where we were staying, and found the Colonel Fabian metro station. There, we promptly followed the guidance of a young Parisian and hopped the turnstile without paying (this seems to be the norm for many young people in the city). Once on the train, we had one thing in mind: getting a drink and watching the opening match of the World Cup, and we knew just where to do it.
A friend of ours had just finished up a semester abroad in Paris, during which he found a speakeasy style bar in the loft space of a corner store building. Following his meticulously outlined, but somewhat vague directions, we made our way to a tall brown door. To its right were a shiny call box and three white buttons. We pressed the top one and looked up into the camera.
“We’re looking for Adam”, I said.
The door clicked and we opened it. Inside were the bare walls of the entryway and a staircase. As we climbed, a quiet din grew gradually louder until—at the fifth floor—we could hear the clinking of glasses and shouting. We pressed the button and a man propped open the door and greeted us with a smile. We entered into a bedlam of food, drink, and televisions all displaying the pregame festivities. We sat with a group of three girls in a table near the back. They were all from Paris but spoke fairly good English, and as we watched the game (a 3-1 Brazilian victory over Croatia) they told us that they would be spending the next few nights in town before heading to Spain for a week. We decided we’d join them.
The following night we met them at the canal near the center of the city. It was late but the canal was lined on both sides with picnicking couples and teens. We found the girls near the bridge, this time with two other friends. The seven of us sat and ate and drank a cheap bottle of good wine. Half of the conversation was lost on me, but we managed to sit until two or three in the morning before retiring to our apartment. While sprawled on cushions on the apartment floor, we agreed that this was not a Paris we had expected to find, but undoubtedly a preferable one. In the days that followed we checked out the usual tourists spots, the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arch, Notre Dame, and Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, but milling with tourists is not what defined our stay. In fact, it wasn’t activity that defined our stay at all; rather it was the young people we met, the cheap food we ate, and the walks we took. Unlike our regimented tour of London, Paris was somewhat of a blur, but to me that seems to encompass what this city has to offer. It may be a honeymoon destination, but there’s plenty to offer for backpacking young adults if you take the right chances in the right places.