In October of this year, my daughters persuaded me to embark on a trip to the illustrious city of Paris. You see, I've never truly connected with Paris. Amra and I had previously visited the city during the Christmas and New Year of 2002. At that time, Paris felt somewhat detached and cold to me. While I always enjoyed the Latin Quarter and Montmartre, the grand boulevards and squares like Place de la Concorde and Avenue des Champs-Élysées never resonated with me. They lacked a certain human touch, seemingly designed for the state rather than its people. Hence, my relationship with the City of Light has always been somewhat ambivalent.
Fast-forward twenty-one years, and here I am in Paris with my three delightful girls. We boarded an Air France flight from Billund on a chilly Christmas noon—a delightful experience with almost deserted airports and a flight just a tad over an hour. Upon landing and retrieving our luggage, I hailed a taxi, and in a couple of few minutes we were on our way to the central part of Paris and our hotel Opéra Faubourg. However, due to Lafayette Street's one-way direction, the driver had trouble finding our hotel. I told him to drop us off nearby, and we walked a mere 100 meters to reach our destination.
Our room at Opéra Faubourg Hotel.
Booking two rooms was a wise choice, affording the girls, Amra, and myself the luxury to unwind without being cramped together. Though not overly spacious, the rooms met our needs, boasting a city view with a charming French balcony, providing a delightful touch. Mornings or late nights, I would step out to watch the city life unfold beneath us.
After a brief rest, we set out to explore the neighborhood. Rue La Fayette, situated in the 9th district and 10th arrondissement of Paris, is a bustling street leading toward the city center. Venturing down this road, we reached the nearby Galeries Lafayette—a paradise for shopaholics (namely, our daughters) with a plethora of world-famous brands under one roof. While crowds flocked inside to capture pictures of the gallery's luxurious interiors, I waited outside. Dinner called, and we stumbled upon a quaint restaurant, Le Vert Tulipe, where we relished our first meal in the city. The girls indulged in Sephora, which to me seems to be some kind of cult for preteen girls. Walking back to the hotel amidst the busy area around Galeries Lafayette, we grabbed delightful crepes with chocolate from a nearby vendor. Amra and I capped off the night watching Before We Go, a surprisingly good film.
Restaurant Le Vert Tulipe not too far from our hotel.
The second day began with a decision to walk all the way to the Triumphal Arch. In our home, there's a photograph of Amra and me standing before this imposing arch, snapped just before New Year's Eve in 2002.
Lovely Avdibeg girls in front of the Arch.
I captured several pictures of the girls before heading towards the Eiffel Tower, despite their complaints about the day's walking. Surprisingly, they rather enjoyed the area around the tower, and despite the rainy and cloudy weather, we managed to snap some nice photos. At the Christmas Market beneath the Tower, I treated them to milkshakes.
The Eiffel Tower.
We leisurely strolled along the Seine River towards Place de la Concorde, enjoying lunch in the vicinity before making our way back to the hotel. After a much-needed break, we ventured out for dinner at the fine restaurant Le Cardinal. Post-dinner, our feet led us to Sacré-Cœur, though blisters on both my feet made the climb painful. We reached the beautiful church atop the hill. The girls, not entirely thrilled, and with a bit of rain, we returned to the hotel, thoroughly exhausted.
Paris by night and Restaurant Le Cardinal.
On the third day, after the breakfast, we embarked on a walk to Notre Dame, still under reconstruction following the devastating fire in 2019. Their plan is to unveil it next summer, in time for the Olympics. It was a delightful stroll with the girls through the area between the Latin Quarter and our hotel, discovering numerous charming cafés and restaurants. Later, we picked up dinner—Japanese for Dina from Budji and Middle-Eastern cuisine from an Israeli restaurant called Taava. The evening's movie choice was Ostavljeni (2010), a Bosnian film depicting the lives of abandoned children in a Sarajevo orphanage.
The following day, we contemplated a visit to Petit Palais. A treasure trove of art, and it's free! The museum, though not extensive in its collection, provided a splendid ambiance with captivating works of art. A stroll past the Elysian Palace, the French President's residence, revealed it to be smaller than anticipated, heavily guarded by the police. The daughters, keen on resting, stayed at the hotel, while Amra and I went for a walk, exploring Montmartre on our own, reminiscent of our previous visit. A coffee at a local café and rejoining the girls for lunch at the charming French brasserie Bo Man Cafe marked a perfect conclusion to the day. Amra and I maintained our travel tradition by watching Interiors by Woody Allen.
On the fifth and final day in Paris, I rose early, indulging in a shower and reading The World-Ending Fire while waiting for others to wake up. A pleasant read during the dim hours of morning as Paris stirred to life. Particularly intriguing was the essay "Why I Am Not Going To Buy a Computer" by the author Wendell Berry—a notable academic and farmer advocating for a better environment and cleaner nature. He strikes me as a Don Quixote battling technological windmills.
A room with a view.
We walked once again to Sacré-Cœur and the nearby Place du Tertre, which was simply overcrowded with people. We had lunch at a fancy Thai restaurant just across our hotel, and then we picked up our luggage, and I ordered a taxi, which actually came after only five minutes of waiting. The journey to Charles de Gaulle Airport, however, stretched into two hours due to severe traffic, far exceeding the usual thirty minutes.
The flight went fine, landing in Billund around 23:00. My middle ear felt immense pressure during the descent. We were home before midnight.
I must admit, my appreciation for Paris has grown, and I've come to terms with some of the city's idiosyncrasies. It holds charm in specific corners, though it would be even more delightful if it weren't as crowded. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and cherished the time with my girls—perhaps the primary reason for rekindling my affection for Paris. Until next time, au revoir, old friend.
The Air France airplane getting us from Charles de Gaulle Airport back to Denmark.