I knew that I needed a change of scenery after the long and dark winter in Helsinki so I decided to have a little pre-Easter-holiday holiday in Paris. I couldn’t have chosen my destination better – it’s sunnier, and even when it’s cloudy it’s still much brighter here. I can see the trees starting to bud and the fact that people enjoy their café au laits and crêpes outside gives me faith that winter is truly gone. Here are the highlights of my week in Paris and some inspiration for those of you who are planning to travel abroad during the upcoming Easter break!
1. Vegan food.
Yes, it is possible to follow a vegan diet in Paris. Like in Helsinki, small plant-based shops, cafés and restaurants are little by little becoming more and more visible in the street scene. The overall interest in healthy eating as well as in the environmental and ethical aspects have contributed in creating an ever-growing demand for vegan food. Purely vegan restaurants are still hard to come by and they are kind of scattered all over the city, but luckily there are many vegetarian cafés and even the normal ones have vegetarian/vegan options. You can also always just ask them to leave the dairy products out of your meal. I would say that vegan food is far more accessible in Helsinki, but being vegan in Paris is not entirely impossible!
2. Using the French language.
As soon as I got out of the airport and into the city I noticed that it was sort of difficult to get by with just English. Pretty much everything from the underground signs to the ingredient list on a granola package was in French. It wasn’t really a problem since I have studied French, and therefore I understood nearly everything that was going on. We did use English at times and occasionally we were given bad looks because of it, but that was mainly coming from older people. To my surprise we even seemed to pass for locals since several people spoke to us in French – although it could also be a sign of the proudness the French have regarding their language and culture! Something that made me extremely proud is the fact that I actually have decent communication skills in French – I have ordered lunch, had small talk with shop assistants and bought the right museum tickets! It might not sound like much but it meant a great deal for me, since I have always been really self-conscious about my French. In case you miss being around spoken or written English in Paris, I recommend checking out the Shakespeare and Company bookstore just next to Île de la Cité.
3. The architecture.
Before I even get to the monuments or palaces I want to give a shout out to the ordinary apartment buildings in Paris. Well, obviously there are more normal and ordinary looking buildings hidden in the city and especially on the outer rims of it, but to me it seems that almost every apartment building is pure art. It doesn’t matter that much whether you’re in the immediate proximity of Île de la Cité, in the artsy area of Montmartre or in the vivid and youthful neighborhood of the Latin quarters – the building are just amazing everywhere! To be honest, a great deal of the photos I have taken is just of balconies and windows. Then there are the actual attractions which are breathtaking, to say the least. Even if you didn’t fancy the rigid and ostentatious 18th century palaces and monuments I’m confident Paris will have something for you as well.
4. Getting around the city.
Having grown up in Finland with the one single underground line, I’ve always wondered how will I manage to travel within a bigger city without getting totally lost. Well, turns out it’s actually quite easy – not to get lost I mean. This is where Google Maps becomes useful. You can search for all kinds of routes with it and it offers you several different options, and to top that off you can even browse the stops’ schedules too! The underground system itself is logical too since every train has its own stop, so if you just follow the signs there’s only a minimal chance to lose your way. Paris is also easy to get around on foot – at least in the most central arrondissements. I don’t mind walking at all, and in my opinion it gives you a better and a more wholesome picture of the city.
Paris is a city full of art, and appreciation and yearning for it. The amount of museums and the fact that many of the world’s most valued pieces of art reside here makes Paris easily one of the capitals of the art world. Besides, I feel like everything is art here, or everything can be made into art. People dress very fashionably (not in the narrow sense of the word) and there is a plethora of little shops and boutiques dedicated to chocolate, pastries or bread alone. Speaking of which, how come the food is always made so that it also looks good! I’m a huge sucker for the little café aesthetics anyways but the way that my crêpe is displayed gives half the delight I get from eating it! The way the buildings are lit around the Seine in the evening makes everything seem so magical. I believe I know now how Owen Wilson’s character felt in Midnight in Paris.
And did I already mention the balconies?