After an extended trip in Europe that ended in London it was time to make my way home. The problem was that my flight home was from Paris and I was on the other side of the English Channel with about 150 Euro’s to my name. All options were researched and I finally settled for a very cheap Ryan Air flight arriving in Paris at 11:00 on the Wednesday evening. There was a catch though; my next flight was only leaving on the Friday evening.
Having planned my whole trip up to the ‘T’, I decided to take a risk and plan things as I arrived in Paris. Having never been to the city of love, beauty and grandeur. I had to settle for one of the things on my ‘to do’ list, to visit the Louvre. I did some research on possible places to sleep, eat and all of this as close as possible to home of the Mona Lisa.
Arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport late in the evening, I found the tube and started my mission to find a place to sleep. I could of course sleep in the Airport, at least I would have a guaranteed chair, room over my head and bathrooms nearby. But I was not going to pass up this opportunity to experience a sliver of magnificent Paris. I set off in the direction of an area that I knew had some back packers, traveling by tube with my 20KG bag full of Camben Market specials.
When I arrived in my selected location nothing was as I expected. There were in fact only hotels and quaint bistros in the area. I inquired at one or two hotels but there was no way I could afford a room. And then I found a backpackers, I rang the bell but there was no answer. Eventually two men came to the door and in very broken English told me I could come in for 50 Euros and then we can negotiate from there. Luckily I was street wise enough to walk away and I approached the hotel across the road. A very friendly, elderly man behind the counter was open to bargaining with me. We agreed that if I cleaned the room I wanted to stay in then I would pay a much reduced rate, only 20 Euros a night.
In my tiny 3m x 2m room I had a good night’s rest and awoke the next morning to bustling street below. Out my window I could see 3 or 4 boulangerie’s and made my way to one. I wanted to have one of everything displayed but I chose a foot long baguette. I still had to buy 5 more meals! At least this would take care of two.
I slowly made my way to Louvre, asking various people for directions as I went along. Every now and again I would pass a shop or a newspaper stand that was much too familiar. Although lost, I was not bored for one moment. Every man and woman that walked passed me looked like they had just stepped out of Vogue. All the buildings had such character. And the romantic sound of French being spoken all around me was like music to my ears. I felt like I was in a movie.
I did eventually arrive at the Louvre. I spent 6 hours inside covering every square meter of the Museum taking in the beauty, pain, opulence and stories that each artwork represented. I spent most of my time among the Greek statues, the perfection, movement and the mere grandeur of such ancient artwork inspired me deeply.
With tired and aching legs I walked back to my little hotel as the sun was setting. Checking my budget I decided that I would sit down at a bistro and order a small starter. The Italian owner brought me a menu and suggested I order the fillet and started chatting to me about Paris and all the places I must visit. I shared my experience with him and he agreed that he would also of chosen the Louvre. I ordered a small salad.
10 minutes later a big round casserole dish arrived covered in bread like pizza dough. Pointing out politely that I had not ordered this the waitress explained that I cannot leave Paris without having tried their signature dish.
It was the most delicious food I have ever had. I still dream about it today. Simply put it was gnocchi in a herby tomato sauce with fresh parmesan. Covering all of this was pizza like dough, almost like a pie but also nothing like it at all. The idea is to break pieces of the bread and dip it into the sauce. Once you have uncovered the whole dish the gnocchi is savoured for last. And to top it off when the bill arrived I was only charged for my glass of wine. With such generosity, I had to hug the owner on my way out.
With a happy heart and a full stomach I slept deeply and woke up rested and refreshed. I cleaned my hotel room, changed the bed sheets, all under strict supervision from house keeper. The last few hours before I headed back to the airport I sat outside the bakery, sipping my coffee very slowly, savouring every bite of my croissant and stared in awe at the beauty of the people walking past me.
I made it back to the airport in time to board my plane with 5 euros to my name, memories of the last two day deeply entrenched in me and the first-hand experience that Paris was friendly, welcoming and more than any movie could ever portray.
Submitted by: Patty, USA