As a regular reader of this blog you'll remember that last year was one long momentous occasion for me. I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris to see Zanie, and asked her to be my wife. I'll start off by saying this: the French visa was probably the easiest visa that I have ever applied for so far. It was also returned to me the fastest (something like 4 days with a public holiday included) to date. There was a rad feature on Our Friends of my trip as well.
Making our way from the Arc de Triomphe; we made a mandatory stop at Ladurée for macarons and Five Guys for burgers before continuing to the Tuileries Garden, and ending at the Louvre. It's a very scenic route and you get to see a lot of "French things" by way of sights that you might want to see. The stroll isn't long, and you can stop at all the shops that populate the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
I had landed just before Record Store Day (Disquaire Day) so we spent the first day running around the streets of the arrondissements of Paris looking for record stores that are squirrelled-away in-between clothing stores, apothecaries, and even the grave of Jim Morrison. What could have been more apt? The street art dazzled me. I'm a huge fan, and I got to see work by Shepard Fairey, Invader, and Blek le Rat but that's not where the scene starts and ends. You can walk every day and find new pieces hiding in alleys or covering pieces that were there yesterday.
It's all uphill to La Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre. Because it sits perched atop the hill on the outskirts of the city, the views are epic on a good day! Steep, winding streets weave through the neighborhood's cobbled pathways as markets, and artisan stores unfurl under a myriad of stairs. Antique shutters, massive curtains of Bougainvillea, and quaint boulangeries make it an enchanting neighborhood. Many people will say that it's too cliché but this was one of the best days because the details sucked me in. If you walk far enough you eventually reach Quartier Pigalle; the Parisian Red Light District. If you're not into this type of scene then it's best to spend your time elsewhere. The Moulin Rouge is a big red carousel of neon lights, while little pastry shops grapple for your attention as quiet men stare at you from stores full of latex, rubber, and dancing girls.
The day that we went to see the Notre Dame Cathedral; it rained. This is where we saw a woman catch a pigeon and stuff it into her coat. I'm still convinced that it ended up in a stew. Just outside of Notre Dame Cathedral; embedded in the concrete of the public square is a small geographic marker known as, "kilometre zero", and it attracts a number of local rituals. Made a promise not to talk about them though. Île de la Cité is a lot quieter than the other arrondissements in Paris but it's populated with book stores, bars, architecture, and gay bars. Our priority after the cathedral was Shakespeare & Co. This is the heart of Paris.
Apparently it would take 100 days to see everything in the Louvre if you looked at each item for 30 seconds, all day without a break. Luckily we did not adopt that tactic. To be very honest the Louvre is not my favourite. I much prefer the Musée d'Orsay. That being said it is imperative that you at least make the trip to see the scale of the structure that is the Louvre. Once upon a time it was the fortress built by Philip II and you can still see some of the fortress in the basement of the museum. It was even the residence of a few French kings. To say that the space inside the museum is expansive would be an understatement – it is an exhaustive task to see everything so take very comfortable shoes, and hydrate. The Louvre is close to Collette; a veritable holy grail of street wear, and fashion culture. The store is reassembled every week as new collaborations are featured so you will never see it looking one way for very long. It's like a museum but different.
There are three things that I noticed in my first few days in Paris: they don't have great coffee, burgers, or streetwear. The best coffee I had was outside the Musée d'Orsay, and the best streetwear I could find was Colette which is arguably one of the best places on the planet. When it comes to burgers; I am not shy to say if something sucks or give props where they are due. In this particular case, and to put it into perspective: I would fly back to Paris just to have Five Guys. No lie.