I’m going to be honest with you. I’m nervous. Nervous of visiting Paris again, because I vowed I would never be back.
But I am going back, and I am excited, but a little hesitant at the same time.
The last time I was in Paris, 7 years ago, I had a couple of bad experiences. One involved a man standing between my then 14 year old daughter and I as we were boarding a train on the Metro, effectively trapping her on the platform with me inside the carriage. I had to quickly shove past him as he stood firmly between us staring at me, grabbing her arm and pulling her into the carriage so she would not be left behind. It shook me. It was an act of such arrogance and for nothing that we had done, or said, that had provoked it. I was rattled. There were a few other incidents where locals did not want to speak or interact with us because we did not speak the language. And it left Paris a little tainted for me.
I believe I am not an arrogant person. I am not good with languages but always try and use the basic words for please, thank you, hello. I am polite and do not expect anything.
We stayed in a small apartment in the 2nd Arrondissement. I obviously didn’t research the neighbourhood well because each night we were kept awake by drunks and partygoers and each morning the doorway to our building smelt like a urinal. I wanted a “local” experience, but this was not the one I had been looking for.
Paris shook me, because everywhere else I have travelled I have felt comfortable. The language barrier has never been an issue. I am respectful and go out of my way not to act like an entitled tourist, something I loathe. I was at a loss, and I was disappointed.
But I am willing to try again. And I want Paris to change my mind. Because everything about it speaks to me. The atmosphere, history, architecture, food …
And this time I will be there on a creative journey. To paint, to walk the paths of van Gogh and Monet, to stay in Montmartre. To take early morning walks and to absorb it all. I will be travelling with my friend and artist, Kathy, and together we will be taking a painting group exploring not only Paris but also Amsterdam and Provence – A Painter’s Paradise.
I don’t want you to think that I thought everything was terrible. It wasn’t at all. There were many things about Paris that I loved. And I am sure there will be many more experiences to add to this list after my next visit.
What we loved about Paris
Musée de l'Orangerie
We loved art. My daughter and I had been enjoying art lessons for a while before our trip and I was eager to explore this newfound passion. I had already fallen in love with Monet and we took the opportunity to take a Tour of Monet’s Gardens in Giverny.
We also visited the Musee de l’Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies. It was an amazing experience and I am so glad to have had the time with my daughter. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere in the two circular rooms that house the eight huge artworks. All I can say is that you need time. Time to sit in the middle of the room and absorb them. To slowly turn around and take each one in.
And then take yourself downstairs to the art gallery and see the permanent collection of artworks.
Musee de l’Orangerie is small and manageable. I hate being overwhelmed by too much, it overloads my senses. But this was perfect.
The Louvre was overwhelming but I am glad we went. With two kids in tow we couldn’t really do it justice, but in our short time we did spend there, it was enough for me.
I was happy with the pre-planning that I did. We visited on a Friday at 6 pm which meant it was open to 9.45 pm, and we entered via the Pyramid with absolutely no crowds to be seen.
There are other entry points to the Louvre apart from the Pyramid that I have read about that allow you to avoid the crowds that you usually find at the main entrance, but at that time it worked out well.
I had printed off a self-guided tour that I gave to the kids to navigate. They did a great job and it kept them occupied. In addition to this, we also visited Napoleon’s Apartments.
Montmartre is in Paris’ 18th Arrondissement and located well out of the main areas of the city. But because of its location on a large hill, the views over Paris are breathtaking.
When I visit again we will be staying in this area. It has a warm, friendly and distinctly arty atmosphere, perfect for a Painting Group. Once home to many artists including Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh and just to name a few, Montmartre seemed like the obvious choice as a Paris base.
On our last trip, we joined a walking tour of the area. It was well worth it. Hopefully, I can track down the same person and have our group join him again.
Sacre Coeur sits on top of the hill in Montmartre and we will be exploring this more on our next trip. Last time the kids had had enough (14 and 10 at the time) and didn’t want to explore “another church!!”
Bouquinistes along the Seine
Since the 1500’s stalls have been set up along the Seine selling used books. Nowadays they also sell more touristy items like posters, which we bought (and framed once home). It is a lovely place to while away the time browsing through their wares.
My daughter and I loved these! It was something that a mother and a finicky teenage daughter could do together. We chose posters that Maddy could hang on her bedroom wall.
We joined a bike tour around Paris. Part of me loved it because it took us to places we would never have seen on our own and the other part of me hated it. I am not good on a bike. Uncoordinated and clumsy in Paris traffic does not make for a stress free activity!
But I made it and I would recommend it, because not everyone is a clutz like me on a bike.
Jardin des Tuileries
Jardin des Tuileries is a public garden located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde. We came here a few times. And because we were here in summer there were people everywhere with chairs pulled up to fountains, relaxing and cooling down.
Located in the west corner is the Musee de l’Orangerie and it is also home to the Jardin du Carrousel.
The gardens are a lovely place to visit and take a stroll. Or sit and relax.
When we meet again
I’m looking forward to my next visit with an open mind. I am eager to put the past behind me and forge new memories. My mind is open to the possibilities.
Paris, let’s try again.
Cindy Reid is the founder of Travel Charm. Cindy has travelled extensively both personally and with her groups. She has now combined her love of art, food and travel and hosts Painting Trips to Europe and continues to explore and roam in Australia.