Paris Favorite Tips by Norali
Paris Favorites: 1,824 reviews and 2,149 photos
Favorite thing: I wouldn't remember all streets I walked in but some left vivid memories. One of them is Boul Mich.
I enjoyed walking there, looking at the books on stalls. The area is very atmospheric for being in Quartier Latin. Lots of students. In fact, this is the atmosphere my parents got used to for them having studied in the area end 60s- early 70s.
It was here that, in 1968, students demonstrated against many aspects of French society. They criticized the grasp the state had on French citizens life. Not only students but workers went demonstrating. It was the biggest demonstration France had ever known (8 millions of 68ards). The demonstrators were asking for improvement of their conditions (salary..), for more freedom as simple citizens (miniskirt, contraception pills were introduced in everyday life since women struggled for them... Aaah! from then, they could bath bare-chested on the beach too).
Yet, there have been some signs prior to May. In March 68: arrestation of demonstrators against Vietnam war. Following that, some students of Nanterre (brand new campus at West of Paris region) started a new movement, that called for public debates.
My parents shared with French society then those concerns. Yet, as foreign students, they couldn't take part in the demonstrations. I think that without talking about this, my parents would remember it while sitting in cafés at Boul Mich. As a matter of fact, each time we went to Paris, we went there.
Mai 68 was reported to not be "that" important, seen as movements from kids who wanted to simply counter parental, state authorities. Still, it made Général de Gaulle rethink his task as a president. In fact, on May 68, demonstrators were asking his departure : "Dix ans, ça suffit !". Effect was not immediate but he resigned one year later after French people said NO to an important project of his.
Fondest memory: I learnt in 2002 that my father really wanted to demonstrate but couldn't. I knew from that where this excitement watching Cohn-Bendit, the Gruen-Vert politician, on TV, had come from. He was then one of leaders of an extreme left-wing group, the very one who triggered some demonstrations in end 67-early 68 era, as a kind of prelims of "Mai 68".
A boss excited about seeing Cohn-Bendit le Vert Gaucho... what a fate for an ex-68ard.
On Boul Mich itself... I enjoyed also sitting in cafés, having some ice-cream and watching the world going by.
On my second holidays in Paris (1985), Boul Mich entered in our family collective memory (not "fondest" though). Once, in a sunny afternoon, we were enjoying some drinks and ice-cream in a café on Boul Mich: Café Cluny. Lots of people walking around. We noticed a guy in the pedestrian lane, tall, skinny, walking fast, seemingly in a hurry.
Right after the sight of this guy, we heard a noise, the sound of a shock. Like many in Paris, he hadn't respected the lights. He just crossed the street at the moment he shouldn't have, where he shouldn't have. Got hit by a bus... and died.
What reason could justify this hurry at such an extent that one just can't wait one's turn to cross the street, then loses one's life like the many stray dogs in Tana streets ? It was spectacular but that was my thought at the very moment I knew he died right away. Nothing to do, no doctor to call, he couldn't be saved.
Even now, we still talk about it and even my small sister, 7 at that time, remembered it clearly.
Bassin de l'Arsenal: home of some globettroters
Favorite thing: September 2004: Bassin de l'Arsenal, Canal-Saint-Martin and Les Batignolles - Some days in Paris but without La Seine, La Tour Eiffel & Champs Elysées
With my parents, we decided on a Friday in early September to spend some days in Paris. So, with our confo for room reservations, we headed to Paris on following Monday. No reservation for our Thalys tickets, just bought our tickets at Brussels Midi station 10 minutes before departure. We were lucky enough to have the last seats.. Were they really the last seats? We were already on the OVERBOOKING mode. Well, at least this is what I understood while looking at our tickets. Here I was, with my parents in the city where they had lived for some years while studying. Still, when I asked to visit some places as Bassin de L'Arsenal & Canal Saint-Martin and Batignolles areas, they knew where those villages were but they hadn't actually browsed those areas. That's Paris: very big and made of many villages.
In Paris, villages exist but one has to fetch for them. We took the decision to skip known places, exception of a little street that looks on Bassin de l'Arsenal. It is Rue de la Cerisaie. Ah! also, our hotel was also on rue Alésia (14th), in an area I know I was used to since I stayed there for a month and a half in 1984.
[To know more of my visit in September 2004, check the BLUE tips in the **Off the beaten path** category. From there, you would be forwarded to other categories tips]
Fondest memory: It is Rue de la Cerisaie.
In 1985, my parents, my two sisters and I had stayed in an apartment there during our holidays. As strange as it may sound, the month and a half I lived in Rue de la Cerisaie, I saw only once a boat passing by. In fact, I lived very close to the Bassin but hadn't seen the other end of the Bassin. I didn't know then that Le Bassin was a marina. We even have a picture with us three kids pausing along the fence of the Bassin... but still ignoring about the marina. Oh! I know why. It's because, then, we used to rush into other places and hence skip "our" immediate neighbourhood. It took me a Geo Magazine report on it to "know" about a marina, called Bassin de l'Arsenal in Paris.
OK.. enough said... shame on me ! Hey! I was a teen at that time. Unaware of things. Still, wandering in Rue de la cerisaie made me reminisce some of "sights" of my Paris.
[Tips referring to my visit in early September 2004 are written in blue, whilst the tips in red are part of the "Souvenirs Souvenirs" series.]
A monument on bg: colonne de la Bastille
Favorite thing: It's here that building a page on trips done decades ago becomes weird...
Not that many memories of monuments... I sure had visited Sacré Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, Tour Eiffel and very probably Panthéon, but memories are rather blurry. Well, learning about French history, for a kid of 10, who is not even French, was not that easy...
Tour Eiffel, I remembered that seeing it from outside didn't impress me. It was huge yes but I didn't know its history. Plus, because my Mum was once given a mini- Tour Eiffel as a gift and that used to have it in her studyroom for years, it was not new to me. I loved strolling on Trocadero instead, watching skaters. In the contrary, the ride to the top of Tour Eiffel was something too... Would talk about that later.
Fondest memory: Museums interested me instead, statues in parks and gardens as well. Musée Grévin, Musée du Louvre and Jardins des Tuileries.
I discovered them when my aunt took me with her then bf for a day. They brought me to see museums.
Musée Grévin.. funny for kids of 10.
My memory of Louvre? I heard for the first time in my life the word "philtre" as in "philtre d'amour" (love potion). My aunt brought me to an exhibition. Seems like I learnt something. My then-to-be-uncle was very patient, explaining me lots of things. Then, there was this word I read on a plaque: "...philtre d'amour...". I thought it was an error or a typo. I knew "filtre" (: filter) but it didn't have anything to do with "amour" at all. LoL Again, I carefully read the text, imagining tons of meanings but couldn't seize the right one. Then, I asked my uncle about the "philtre d'amour"... I learnt by then that women had used to use love potions to "trap" guys. From then, my vision of love was altered a bit... In fact, I became aware of the lost innocence in adult conception of love. How could one trap the person one uses to love ? That was weird for me... Also, the notion of "capturing", "possessing", "having a grip on someone" was instilled. Yes, we always learn... lol
Ooh! I didn't even know then about the witchery behind the use and the making of love potions. The lost innocence was enough to intringue and upset the little girl in me.
Favorite thing: Ha! That was something...
This glass-covered funiculaire was something surprising and not expected to all.
I expected the metro rides, the plane ride. But this!
Well, we were visiting Montmartre area when I first (and only) used it. Even in Belgium, I'd never used any funiculaire.
Fondest memory: For that reason, "funiculaire" is tightly linked to Paris, for me... esp. the Montmartre area...
I was impressed by the ride "in the air".. just hanging in a box, thanks to some cables (or so I thought). As usual, my thoughts couldn't help it. I was imagining what if it got stuck in the air or if the cables got cut...
Yet, I was excited by those rides. But excitement was not that long, I just discovered I have vertigo problems... Instinctively, I avoided looking what was under my box... better fixing something far and seeing it approaching (or so it seems while "my" box was approaching the target). Brrrrr...
Favorite thing: OK... I said earlier that I hadn't dreamt of anything Parisian. Now, I remember I had dreamt of the metro rides. I imagined it... Imagination triggered by the tales, explanations adults gave.
I was expecting the first metro rides. For Tana, my home and birthcity, not having any metro system, I'd never ridden any metro... By the way, except for the flights, these were the first times in my life I used public transportations. In fact, I've never used public transportations in Madagascar, except planes and two taxi-brousse rides in 1986.
Then, it was with excitement that I took those metro rides... In some stations, there were those machines where to find your way. Passengers just had to push on a button with the station they are heading to... then the whole ride (connection included) was on display on an electronic map... I was very interested in pushing the button, kind of kinetic type of person... :)
I also noticed that the metro was not that young. I liked the sound of the door opening. Like a metallic door opening sound the younger & more modern Brussels metro cannot produce.
Fondest memory: For who coming from a country without any underground system, this is something to experience.
In fact, I was impressed. How could a kid imagine being able to circulate below pavement surface ? During some of those rides, I was imagining the worst: that soil would fall on the metro trains.. and that passengers would die suffocating.
Since I've never had similar events occuring, it became obvious that I liked this way of travelling. Nowadays [author's notice: in Brussels since this tip was written while still living in Brussels], metro is my best transportation means in Brussels. Quick, underground, no traffic jam... In Paris, I have to say it, metro stations & corridors stink. Don't know why (well, I know, I saw people peeing in the corridors: bums and non-bums alike)... so do some stations in Brussels but you really have to choose them to experience the smell.
Also, I have a memory of Châtelet station, because there is this long "tapis roulant" there. Very long for me... and fun to "ride". Strange enough, I was not the only kid to like this station.
Some other metro scenes kept engramed in my mind: the sight of clandestine vendors in metro stations. They used to sell flowers, some plastic toys. As soon as when cops got close, I saw all of this vanishing in thin air ... that was impressive.
Paris boosts addiction 4 shoes & style in general
Favorite thing: Of course, one of my ways to discover Paris was shopping. Don't laugh ! I mean buying things other than food and drinks.
Be it for clothes, for books.. and for shoes ! Thank God, I didn't know cosmetics at that time... except soaps and shampoos. I say "Thank God" because I think I developed from this first Paris experience my "shoe-addiction" (I was 10). Imagine the damage done on the bank account if I knew about cosmetics at that time... Shoe addiction is enough!
Reading my shopping tips, you'll notice I've developed an interest in make-up products... but later. Far later than this first acquaintance with Paris.
It was mainly Boulevard Haussman area: Galeries Lafayette, late Marks & Spencer (I knew the food section for my Mum buying there Genoa cake: with fruits confits). Then BHV (for DIY section)... not my type of thing. :)
Then FNAC.. fabulous FNAC, for books and comic strips.
Elsewhere, some small shops in 14e arrondissement... shoes, clothes. The closest to my home then was on Rue Alésia. And fabrics shops in St-Pierre area (Montmartre)... and Gibert Jeune shop on Boul Mich (they had the cahiers I wanted so much :))).
Fondest memory: All of the shops had (still have) a common point: they all smell good. Indeed, I have a memory of walking in the streets and smelling some perfumes, home fragrances escaping from the shops. I could literally hop from a fragrant territory to another while walking in those streets. Even drugstores smell good there. I think that confirmed the reputation of French people (at least Parisians) as perfume users. Perfume is everywhere: home, on persons, in shops, in streets...
Compared to Belgium, where shops are clean and that's all, that's a difference.
Compared to shops in Tana, that was even a contrast.
[Side notice: Later on, I discovered that they spray newly launched perfumes (One year in the 90s, I could smell intoxicating Christian Lacroix' s "C'est la vie !" everywhere)... I also learnt during a traineeship in The Body Shop outlets how to promote home fragrance by engraming it in visitors brains: pour some drops in hot water and splash it on the ground and pavement in front of your door. ;-)]
Speaking of shoes.. I remember one night sleeping with my new brand shoes on my pillow. That was because I had a crunch on them in the shop... then I wanted to have them in my sight when I woke up... Still remember of them: brown and black.. The second night I had them, because I felt myself ridiculous, I laid them at the foot of my bed.. but then, I woke up many times in the middle of the night to see them. Of course, it took me days to decide to wear them... :)
I remembered it.. and my parents did too. One of vivid memories of shopping in Paris...
Favorite thing: Oooh! I could never imagine that supermarkets could be that big. I think we went to Carrefour supermarkets. Bought stuffs.
Many stuffs I was not used to: milk powder (used to drink fresh milk), big onions, big fruits, big vegetables, big and fat chicken. Yes, those, at least, were the biggest onions I've ever seen in my life thus far...
Also, I was impressed by the wide range of items cc stationery. I was a schoolkid. I wanted the perfect paper to write on.. les cahiers (notebooks), apple-fragrant Papermate pens. I knew from TV commercials that I'd better buy Clairefontaine (haha.. who wouldn't have wanted to buy it?). My Mum stood firm.. no stationery bought... Indeed, what would be the benefit of buying a cahier "from Paris" if you are going to use a dozen during the school year... Better use the local production for everything (bad quality paper). So went money to something else: visits of Chartres, Versailles and some of the monuments & museums of Paris.
Fondest memory: That was the first time I saw people reading magazines, comic strips in the shops... Not necessarily Carrefour but also in FNAC...
Yes, just pick what you want to read and you may sit in FNAC shelvings reading it without being warned... Still did that sometimes, in Brussels' GB-Carrefour and Brussels FNAC. That was compared to our supermarkets in Tana where we had employees all over the shops... looking at what you do, preventing you from reading your favourite magazine... And yes, FNAC impressed me for many reasons. It's still one of my fave amongst the many department stores... always things to discover there...
Also, a supermarket I really liked to go to: Monoprix.. I don't know why... maybe because it was smaller? The one I was used to is still on Rue Alésia (14ème).
Favorite thing: So, we were brought to my uncle's home. So tired after our long flight that we went sleeping right away. The discovery of Paris started the following day.
Since we stayed at my uncle's place, we first had to go to supermaket to buy all we needed.
On our way to the supermarket, in my uncle's car, I noticed people in Paris used to listen to radio. In Madagascar, we didn't do that that much... or maybe I hadn't noticed others did... Anyways, that was the past... Nowadays, you can't walk in Tana streets without hearing songblast from flash cars, 4WD, SUV the young things use to drive.
Fondest memory: It was during those rides that I listened to Top50 (music charts). I discovered a lot there.. all artists, French and non-French alike... and especially the 80s music "artists".
Say Michael Jackson (with Mc Cartney, they sang "Say, Say, Say" at that time), Tina Turner (a comeback), Rita Mitsouko (only Francophiles would know them)... I am sure there are more. Yes, more: Jean-Jacques Goldman (still listening to him), Lahaie, Phil Collins + Genesis, Cindy Lauper (I like her) ...
Pop music is one of thing I discovered in Paris. I liked it and it changed me a lot from classical music I used to hear playing home. This is also one of fondest memories of Paris.
As for my uncle, he appreciated "Les Grosses Têtes". Both he and my parents liked to listen to this program. It was (and still IS) all about witty humour. Philippe BOUVARD, the host invited(s) persons with his crew. Then, they have some chat, guessing games about news of various topics.. It can be about stars, politicians.. Sthg like "Guess who said this?".. or other guessing games. All of that with culture, laughters, wit and cleverness.
When it was on, I knew I was going to spend sometime not understanding anything. I could speak French but my French was not that rich.. Plus, I was shy. I remembered avoiding speaking to my uncle, the first days, in the fear of having to speak French. hihi... Whenever had then to ask to my parents about things in my uncle's house. My Mum used to say, "Ask your uncle". After some days, I started talking to my uncle and I spoke to him... in Malagasy. :) My uncle is a very tender guy.. really nice with kids.
Of course, in Brussels, I listened to "Les grosses têtes" once in a while... and I spoke French in everyday life, English at one of the jobs I landed. Malagasy is the one I use most, nowadays. :-)
Favorite thing: My first flight was great.. no fear, no malaise... I was with my parents, comforted so it went OK... I was given a plastic gameboard (jeu de dame) as pasttime on board. Yet, I didn't have time to play with it. At that time, kids used to receive gameboards, coloriage books to keep them busy. I think I spent time listening to the many music stations available.
When we landed at Orly airport.... I admit I don't have any memory of it. Except, the shuttle in the airport we took from a point to another (terminal?).
I knew my uncle (mum's brother) was going to pick us up... So, he was there.
Fondest memory: We had a stop over Marseille. And I had some memory of it, indeed. When we landed, I could see then the sea from above... Again, it sounds silly to talk about that but this, so far, was engramed in my mind.
Something you wouldn't expect to be surprising: the sight of French (and whites in general) persons cleaning and removing garbage bins from corners in the plane. That was during the stopover. In Madagascar, vazaha (white persons) use to be bosses... not part of cleaning staff... Well, that was strange for me.
Only French & Malagasy companies to fly Paris-Tana
Favorite thing: As days went by and departure time got close, I got really excited. OK, I said I didn't have time to dream of Paris but I sure got excited...
Excited because I was going to travel abroad. For many Malagasy, the only way to travel abroad was the plane. It is an island, remember. Plus, we would have visited neighbouring islands (La Reunion, Maurice, Comores) and would have used boats and ferries.. but that was the time we considered Europe as more important. And for historical reasons, France use to rank high in Malagasy preference. Well, if not preference, one should at least think of the language problem. Madagascar used to be a French colony so, by large, French country, French language & French culture are the first foreign influences Malagasy had been used to.
Excited because I was going to have a huge flight. It was not my first flight, but the first abroad, the first longest. At that time, a Tana-Paris flight lasted 14 hours (stopover included). Now, it is close to 10 hours.
Fondest memory: For my first flight being to a Malagasy coastal city in 1977 when I was 4 then, I don't have any memory of it. So, this Tana-Paris flight was to be considered as the first. Still have my first passport with me (not of use anymore, of course). It was with a 747 Boeing.
My memory of the flight? I discovered then the big plane, the 747 (since then, Airmad had upgraded to 767). All internal flights were with 737 or Twin-Otter planes or HS (?). Only external ones were with 747. Notice however that to fly to Madagascar, Air Madagascar is "The Natural Choice" ;-)
That was also the first time I went through the "gate", the checking posts. I've seen so many times my parents passing through the gate & the checking points at the Ivato airport... and then, it was my turn. Wow!
Then, I remembered the choice of music stations on board. That may sound silly but I'd like you to remember your first flight... and you'd discover small but meaningful aspects, details. Also, 1984 was a bad year for Madagascar. We just underwent a big economic crisis... People queued up for rice, sugar, soap, oil... Oil was dangerous and not suitable for consumption. Many people died for having cooked with it. Prices of staple food (rice) rocketed so that even middle-class people ate maize corn at noon lunch... uuuh!
Since flights were (are) not cheap at all, I knew I was lucky to have experienced Paris at this young age. With all of that in mind, I was impressed and excited at same time.
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