We climbed the Eiffel Tower in the teeth-chattering winter weather, fell into a trance listening to the boys’ choir in Notre Dame, found the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, meandered through Ste. Chapelle, Luxembourg Garden and admired Monet’s paintings at the Musee d’Orsay.
When I left the guidebooks behind and ventured off the beaten path, I discovered my own Paris in the small streets, courtyards and neighborhoods. Maybe it was laziness, or the fear that I would “miss something” that made me so attached to them. But somewhere along the line, my attitude changed. Maybe it was curiosity or independence. I learned that I like to stumble upon places and make discoveries for myself.
Near Notre Dame on the Left Bank I nestled into a hole-in-the-wall bookstore and read for a few hours in a comfy armchair. Behind the tall book stacks, there are sleeping facilities with thirteen beds in which as many as 40,000 people have slept in over the years. The book stacks open up in a Harry Potter manner, in which the sleeping facilities appear between thousands of books.
I had stumbled upon Shakespeare and Company, famous for being the gathering place for writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.
A secret world unfolded for me in Place Du Tertre, the square behind Sacre Coeur. Local artists set up easels to paint and display their work. I settled into a café on the square with a strong espresso and sweet Nutella crepe.
I did what the French do; I allowed myself the luxury to sit and savor the ambiance and sensation of daily life. I watched couples aimlessly strolling by, fashionable women shopping and noticed that the waiters danced among the crowded tables.
Place Du Tertre is at the heart of the Montmartre quarter. At the beginning of the 20th century many penniless painters such as Picasso and Utrillo lived there.
After dark my friends and I strolled through the neighborhood around our hostel in Montmartre (Le Village Hostel). When we heard music and laughter we popped into a local Karaoke bar, L’Epoque. We spent hours singing and laughing hysterically with the Parisians as we all sang along to American classics, such as Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and John Denver’s Country Roads.
Although I only had three short days in Paris, I have started a love affair that may last my entire life.