Yesterday, I spent the day touring a friend of mine (who is currently studying abroad in Prague) around the city of Paris. We spent much of the afternoon walking through the many neighborhoods of Paris with no real plan in mind.
Immediately leaving the Montmartre area from where I picked up my friend at his hotel, I directed him towards the other side of the Seine. Our experience on the left bank yesterday could best be characterized by our traversing the Jardin du Luxembourg, meandering the Latin’s Quarter streets which were riddled with hungry students queuing outside of boulangeries, and soaking up the sun as we ate our macarons from Pierre Hermé’s boutique at 185 rue de Vaugirard.
The right bank presented much more diversity as we walked through the Tuileries, and along rue de Rivoli before turning into the Marais for a relaxed lunch. Another friend of mine and I often seek refuge at Le Trésor for a café or happy hour drink, but we have yet to try their food. So when I saw the formule midi boasting a salad, choice between pasta, chicken, or steak tartare, and coffee for 13,80€, I suggested to my visiting friend that we give it a try. And what a delight the meal was! Sitting outside and watching as people passed by, we ate our hearty and filling meals as we soaked up the atmosphere. For the curious, my friend ordered the pasta, which was a penne dish baked with a three-cheeses sauce, and thus rich and creamy in terms of flavor and texture. I went for the steak tartare, which was well seasoned and matched with crispy fries. To note, the hardest part about serving steak tartare is having the right seasoning for the raw meat; for some reason, it becomes much more apparent when there is too much or too little, and simply doesn’t bode well with the soft and smooth texture of the meat. In any case, our meal was a success, and we left with full stomachs and a need to exercise it off.
I walked my friend out of the Marais and into the 11th arrondisement and showed him my old apartment building at rue de Malte, and then bringing him to my old Oberkampf residence (I lived on rue Oberkampf for my freshman year, and then moved to the rue de Malte apartment for the summer). Noticing that the the blue wooden courtyard door was open, I “discreetly” pushed it open to show my friend the quiet courtyard that contrasted the bustling street. We walked through the neighborhood to find ourselves hopping on the metro to take a glance at Paris’ touristy Champs-Élysées and to daydream about our future lives as we window-shopped along rue Saint-Honoré.
But no tour would be complete without an evening in the Bastille area. We met up with another friend of mine whose birthday we were celebrating and we headed on over to rue de Lappe, which is known for the many bars lining the street, for a dinner and long chat with her school friends. While they went on after dinner to head out to a bar, my friend and I decidedly called it a night and headed on home.
The day in itself, though, I find to be a rarity. Admittedly there are the days in which I stroll through perhaps a neighborhood or two, but to dedicate my whole day to this aimless wandering? It seems almost impossible, especially with the fact that I live my life here and seem to say to myself that there is always “another day” or that I rationalize my excuses with the stack of work beside me. But yesterday, I seemed to have put aside all of this and enjoyed the day for what it was – a warm and sunny one.
It makes me wonder in any case about there being a difference in cultures. The relaxed attitude that you see here so delicately and delightfully lends itself to the occasional wandering whereas the hard-pressed and fast-paced New York (more specifically, Manhattan) attitude that we all have come to know doesn’t seem to lend so well to activities with no purpose. I say this when I try to think of the last time that I took a stroll in a neighborhood by myself without the intent of buying a snack or to kill time before school. Or perhaps, it’s just me finding much more allure in this old European city and thus feel compelled to explore.