Exchange Diaries: A Day In Paris

By David Kong (Comm ’14)

Paris was made for biking. Chronic subway commuters hardly witness the picturesque streets. Every backend street can be reached and absorbed by bike. Paris has the second largest “Bixi” system in the world called the vélib. It’s extremely practical; check-in and check-out stations exist on essentially every block.

Biking on Sunday, however, was impossible. The overnight snowfall had covered Parisian streets with a beautiful but dangerously slippery blanket. Happy youngsters affectionately lobbed snowballs at each other, excited by the peculiarity Canadians know all too well. Paris is accentuated by snow, becoming even more romantic.

A typical travel day might begin with a breakfast of croissant, freshly squeezed orange juice and espresso, then a loosely planned bike ride that veers to your heart’s desires. On one day, I peered into the idyllic Jardin du Luxembourg, where Les Misérables’ Cosette and Marius first met eyes. Cafés with espresso machines and on-tap beer are useful when it gets too cold out or for when a bathroom break is needed. I might consult my Michelin guide for a good lunch spot. By the end, I have probably reached the outskirts of the city so I subway back to headquarters (1st Arr., my home). Repeat for afternoon/dinner.

After almost a week of this, I have travelled to most districts. Paris is like an onion that grew layers through the ages. There are more or less three layers, each its own circle to resemble the walls built to protect the city from barbarian invasions. The walls are now down and replaced with boulevards, though apparently a mental wall still exists. The outer circles haven’t been affected as much by tourists. English becomes useless and you become surrounded by French; the shops and restaurants are more authentic; the cultural pockets are charming.

There are more than enough sights in the city to preoccupy tourists. My best advice is to pick a few and not to try to do too much. The results of my efforts: voilà!

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