Postcard From: Paris
By Irina Troconis '11, Contributing Writer
Five years ago, when I was flying from Ecuador to Venezuela, I heard the guy sitting behind me on the flight tell his wife that the last thing he would like to see before dying was Paris. Now I understand why.

Before actually coming here, when I thought of Paris I pictured the Tour Eiffel, the Arc du Triomphe, the Louvre and baguettes — tons and tons of baguettes. Now I realize that Paris is not something you can think of, but something you have to live. Everything in the city offers a unique combination of cultures, times, people and spaces, which makes the four months I am going to spend here seem like not enough time. It is precisely that fear that I will not be able to experience everything the city has to offer that has made me try something new every day. Therefore, I would like to mention everything I have seen and done in the last month, but for the sake of whomever is reading this I will limit myself to the top five experiences I have had.

Fifth place goes to the Metro. I know you must be thinking that I am absolutely insane for putting a means of transportation as one of my top experiences in Paris, but believe me, if you want to know what Paris is, you have to ride the metro. Why? Well, because riding the metro implies getting lost, and though that does not sound particularly appealing, I have realized that it is the best way to discover Paris’ secrets. When I first took the metro, I got the lines confused and landed in some street in the middle of God-knows-where, but I have to say that that tiny rue is probably the most beautiful rue I have seen in Paris. The apartments were very small and very traditional; people were doing their shopping in the tiny grocery stores, walking their dogs and eating baguettes; there was a guy dancing to some sort of Latin music with a fish tank on his head (there was a fish swimming in the tank); and there were at least five crepe places, four Greek restaurants and six boulangeries. It really seemed that everything Paris is comprised of was in that little street. So when I got there, and because I was lost, I decided to eat a crepe while figuring out where I was. Well, needless to say, I never figured out where I was, but I ate the best crepe I have had so far, danced with the fish guy and bought a baguette for less than one euro. After that, I just walked and walked until I found a metro station very far away from the rue and somehow got back home. I have not been able to find that street again, but I can assure you it is one of the best places to hang out here in Paris.

Fourth place goes to the “macaron” (not to be confused with the “macaroon”). Macarons are in my opinion Paris’ best sweets. They are these little hamburger-looking things which come in many flavors — my favorite is chocolate — though I would recommend trying strawberry, pistachio and coffee, and, well, they are just incredible. I have no idea how they are made or what you put in them, but if you are ever in Paris, macarons have to be one of the first things you eat.

Third place goes to Notre Dame. It does not matter if you go during the night or during the day, if you are Catholic or atheist or if you love or hate churches, Notre Dame is simply unbelievable. When I went there, there was a mass going on, so I got to appreciate both its beauty and its religious value, and I was speechless. If you go to Notre Dame, you can also go to a nearby bridge from which you see a spectacular view of the Seine and to Boulevard Saint-Michel, where there are many traditional and international restaurants, bars and stores. So, you get three great things to do for the price of one.

Second place goes to Montmartre. I went there with two friends and we saw Sacre-Coeur, got an amazing view of the city, ate crepes and ice cream, drank hot wine and saw the work of many street painters who are always trying to make a painting/sketch/cartoon of you and do not take “no” for an answer. This is probably the best place to go if you want to see Paris in a nutshell and also if you want to lose all the pounds you have gained because of the daily baguettes and macarons (because you have to climb several steps to get there).

Finally, first place goes to the view that you have from the top of the Arc du Triomphe. It takes like 500 steps to get there, but when you finally make it to the top, probably tired as hell and cursing the person who brought you there, what you see is just indescribable. Everything is there: the Tour Eiffel, the Champs Elysees, the Defense; it really seems as if the entire city was opening for you in such a way that you end up believing you are standing in the middle of a postcard.

These are my top five experiences here in Paris so far. They are a weird combination of things (who would put the metro, a macaron and the Arc du Triomphe in the same place?), but I think it is precisely the fact that they can all come together that makes Paris such an unbelievable place.

Issue 19, Submitted 2010-03-25 08:40:13