At the time that we visited Paris, there was a transit strike occurring, which limited the availability of buses and trains. So, when we arrived early in the morning on our first day in Paris, we went to our hotel, which was really more of a bed and breakfast, checked our bags and headed out into the city, determined to make the most of our first day. We were staying on the famous left bank in the Latin Quarter, just a few blocks from Notre Dame. We had heard before we arrived that the strike was occurring, so we knew that transportation was going to be limited. Undaunted, we decided that we would simply walk to the places that we wanted to see.
Our first stop, the Eiffel Tower. Along the way, we walked along the Seine River, strolled through beautiful gardens, and gazed at the amazing historic architecture. Instead of being frustrated that it took as long as it did to make our way to the tower, we really felt like we were able to truly immerse ourselves in the city. This was the first time that we explored a city exclusively on foot and it has become our favorite way to really get to know a city. Do you need to be smart and avoid certain parts of a city, especially at night, of course you do. But as long as you’re smart about it, you will be fine, even in cities that are known for crime.
Walking the side streets of Paris allowed us to find small shops with various goods that we would have never found otherwise. We discovered restaurants along the way that we would make sure to come back to later and enjoy a fine meal. One of our fondest memories was almost one of the most expensive impulse purchases we’ve ever made. We found an old book store that sold rare books, so we just had to go in and check out the old leather books that adorned their shelves. We spoke with the owners, who showed us a first edition of Don Quixote, which we examined wearing white gloves. We are huge fans of books and we were tempted to purchase the two-volume set, but chose not to blow our daughter’s college fund on such a self-indulgent gift to ourselves.
As the day wore on, we were getting quite hungry as 6:00 p.m. approached. Unfortunately, unlike the United States where restaurants start getting busy around this time, in Paris restaurants don’t even open their doors until 8:00 p.m., so we couldn’t find a place to eat. We had decided to go back to our hotel to change clothes before going out to dinner, but we found that we were a little bit lost. We found a restaurant that, although not open for business, did have its doors open, so we went in and asked directions. We speak enough French to get by, but apparently didn’t put the correct accent on the street name, so it took several attempts, but finally it clicked and they were able to point us in the right direction.
Our first day in Paris was definitely a long, full day, but walking the streets made us feel like we were locals before the day was over. We fell in love with the city and enjoyed our time there immensely. We probably would have loved Paris just as much had we not been forced to walk around the city, but strolling down the streets certainly made it even more memorable. We often compare it to our trip to London, where we rode on the tube and “popped up” at the different locations, feeling like gophers popping up, looking around, and then retreating back underground. We never felt that we got a true sense of the city like we did in Paris, so we’ve been determined to try and walk as much as possible ever since, just so that we see a city the way it is meant to be seen, on foot.