Yesterday I moved back to London after the most sensational six months living in Paris, so today’s blog post is quite different to my usual ones, but this seems like the perfect opportunity to reflect on my experiences and share the highlights with you. Check out my post dedicated entirely to my favourite spots for Brunch in Paris here (and my Brunch in Madrid post here!), or read the Insider’s Guide to Paris that I wrote for the Health Bloggers Community Magazine here.
Writing this blog post has encouraged me to go through hundreds of photos, think about events that occurred, the memories that I made and people that I met – allowing me to relive some of the most special moments. I can genuinely say that I did not take the opportunity for granted, and appreciated every little thing, from my internship at a luxury interior design PR firm, to living in my own adorably French rooftop apartment in the heart of the Marais. I came to feel like a true Parisian as I got to know the character of each arrondissement (district) and tried to fit in and live like a local.
Having already spent the first half of my Year Abroad in Madrid, I knew what it was like to move to a new country and how to settle in, so when I arrived in Paris is January, I was excited to immerse myself in another culture, to sink my teeth into the rich diversity, to stroll the streets aimlessly and of course to enjoy the French cuisine. I fell deeper and deeper in love with this magical city with each day that passed by and constantly discovered hidden gems.
As a foodie, let me clarify that French bakeries offer SO much more than the baguettes and pain au chocolats that we hear about on the other side of the Channel; even a gluten intolerance could not prevent me from the occasional indulgence in the delights of a freshly baked croissant, still hot from the oven. However, to my delight, frogs’ legs and snails proved less common in reality than in the British imagination!
So here is a little round-up of the very best spots and some things I will never forget:
The stunning Haussmanian architecture, wide tree-lined boulevards, cobblestone courtyards, colourful doors that make me have to stop for a photo, live music in Le Marais on Sundays, strolling the streets of Saint-Germain, the charming artists’ village in Montmartre, climbing the spiralling staircase of the Sacré-Cœur, brunching on repeat, sipping cocktails in the garden of the Mandarin Oriental, soaking up the sunshine in Place des Vosges, balconies spilling with flowers everywhere you look, the gorgeous fountain in Place Saint Sulpice, throwing dinner parties with friends where I made my Chocolate Chip Blondies, weekend rituals at Café Oberkampf and its recently opened sister Café Méricourt, spotting Nôtre-Dame from the other side of the river, finding props for my blog at the coolest concept store Merci (ceramic bowls are the latest obsession), the pond in my favourite park Jardin de Luxembourg, the queue at L’As du Falafel (worth it every time), people-watching from Café de Floré, lunch at Alcazar, the weekend flower market on Île de la Cité, cosy cups of coffee at La Caféothèque, the impressive dome ceiling at Galeries Lafayette, hunting for the freshest fruit and herbs in Bastille Market, picnics by the Seine, rainbow coloured houses on Rue Crémieux, boulangeries and patisseries on every street corner, sunny summer evenings spent with good friends and a bottle of Rosé, cute window shutters, a visit to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for the new Dior exhibition, hotel terraces and rooftops bars that became part of my routine, tea at the Plaza Anthénée, peony season when Paris was in full bloom, the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Bois de Boulogne, the spectacular view of the City of Lights from the Le Perchoir du Marais, delicious açaí bowls at Love Juice Bar, the fairground in the Jardins des Tuileries, the famous Hotel Costes, matcha lattes at Café Kitsuné looking out over Jardin du Palais Royal, avocado toast at Season, admiring the 20,000 sparkling lightbulbs in the Eiffel Tower, the impeccable fashion sense of French men and women, Café Marly overlooking the Louvre, the whole roasted cauliflower at Miznon, tacos and cocktails at Candelaria, my local food market Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, hanging out by Canal Saint Martin, drinks at Le Comptoir Generale, the fun vibe at Café Oz rooftop club which is as close to my university life at Paris gets, the Balenciaga exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle, proudly showing my family and friends around my hometown when they all came to visit, and waking up before my alarm clock went off and enjoying a pretty pastel sunrise outside my window.
It would be lie to say there were no challenges – there were definitely a few differences that took getting used to. Firstly, there was the issue of the language, but even though I could barely order a cup of coffee when I arrived, with time and practice my French is without doubt the best it’s ever been – and probably the best it ever will be, for that matter! Anther challenge was that most shops, banks and Post Offices in Paris close on Sundays, and often Mondays, which I found quite frustrating. Then there were more than a couple of near-death experiences when I forgot to look in the opposite direction when crossing the road! I also had to adapt to the fact that EVERYONE smokes – I seemed to be the only person in Paris without a cigarette constantly in my hand.
Looking back on my time in Paris, I can genuinely say that I’ve never felt as independent as I have in the last few months and I can only hope that I continue smiling just as much during the next year, although let’s be honest, my final year of university in Nottingham cannot compare to the life-changing year that I have just experienced. As I begin to adjust back to my “old” life and return to uni in September, I feel that I will never be quite the same person I was one year ago. The time flew by so quickly, yet so many things happened. I’m so grateful for all the wonderful memories I’ve made this year, which I will cherish forever. Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this journey in one way or another!