Paris is beautiful. There’s no doubt about that. One glance across the top of the skyline reveals more marvels than you can count on your fingers. But in two weeks, the city truly begins to crack open, revealing its composition like veins under skin. And the pressures of being in a foreign city were beginning to make us crack as well. And together, our unglamorous sides began to show.
This past weekend, temperatures never dipped below the 80 degree mark. Our Airbnb has no air conditioning and the bric-a-brac layout we once thought “charming” was now suffocating. Not to mention I nearly smashed my skull in on the sloped ceiling yesterday.
So for the past few days our activities have centered around air conditioning and limited travel on the Metro, because, as you can imagine heat + packed bodies = unpleasant smells.
Friday we split our work between two spots: Pavillon Des Canaux and La Gaîté Lyrique. The former is located right on the water at a place we’ve mentioned before: Basin de Villette. Lucky for us, there’s a brewery right next door. So after a few hours of soaking up the AC and spitting out some work, we were cool enough to sit in the shade on the deck at Paname Brewing Company.
We finished the workday at La Gaîté Lyrique, an amalgam of workspaces, cafes, gaming areas, tech labs, and more we didn’t see on the five different levels. It was free, it was cold, and the coffee was only two euros. Perfect.
We aimed to spend the evening outdoors (where it was far cooler than our six floor flat.) We headed to Jardin du Luxembourg but its sharp iron gates were closed tight. We walked down a few streets and ended up in the sumptuous area of the 6th Arrondissement. Here, it seems streets are for pedestrians to walk along the cobbled paths and take in the eye candy of bright bistros spilling out into the night.
Follow these paths long enough and you’ll end up in the center of the city by the Seine. I saw a flashing sign for a 14 Euro river cruise and we headed toward it. Vedettes De Pont Neuf has the cheapest fare for an hour long cruise you’ll find on the Seine — and for good reason. As we waited in line, we spotted no less than 12 giant spiders spinning their webs along the unwashed stern of the ship. No big deal. That is until Corey pointed out a rat the size of a small dog milling under a seat on the bottom deck.
We quickly grabbed seats on the top deck and jokingly brushed each other’s ankles for the next hour as we finally learned some history about the city from Marguerite The Tour Guide.
Saturday and Sunday our quest for air conditioning ushered us into memorable places:
A lavish department store with a gilded dome ceiling. Each floor has more designer clothes than the last. Everything seems to be covered in mirrors creating a confusing illusion that’ll have you spinning in circles looking for the escalator.
The impressionist cousin to the Louvre. The top floor is where you’ll find the Monets, the Manets, and the Degas. It’s also where you might take a sweaty selfie in front of the famous “Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies.”
But our favorite piece of art was probably the sculpture of Pompon the Polar Bear. I even bought a mini of him from the gift shop. Okay, so the sculpture is just called “Polar Bear” and the artist is Francois Pompon. But he’s so cute, he just looks like a Pompon.
We spread out in the Invalides Park in the afternoon. Tired and wanting a nap, I told Corey I could make a fortune selling picnic blankets because in that moment I would’ve paid 200 euro for one.
We came back home once the day had cooled off. However, the top floor of our apartment building has a glass roof in the stairwell. So every journey inevitably ends with us walking up six flights of winding stairs, sucking wind, and shuffling for the keys while we suffocate greenhouse-style.
Needless to say, by the end of the day we were in need of a drink. We didn't want to just sit somewhere, so we found a ping pong bar. Sixteen euro will get you two small beers and a half hour of ping pong at Gossima. It was the most fun we’d had all weekend.
We ended the night at McDonald’s and it was perfect.
If you ever had a fake ID, try to remember the first several times you ordered a drink with it. You may have sounded confident on the first go, but your facade could crack with the simplest questioning. That’s how it is ordering in France. So we were elated by the McD’s touch screens that allowed us to order a few burgers and a McFlurry in English. Do we sound like horrible American tourists? We didn’t care.
The “unglamorous side” is much more telling of our downsides than of the city’s itself. What's the classic break up line? It's not you Paris, it's us.
Despite my complaining, I will miss Paris deeply. The city has made it's mark on us, but I've learned that it's only when you leave a place that you truly begin to understand it.