When I travel, I thrive on experiences that stray from the usual tourist trail. I want to see a place the way locals do, which is why I was looking forward to exploring a different side of Paris. Since it was my second time in the city, I wanted a different perspective; that’s exactly what I got.
What I didn’t realize was that with a new view of Paris, I would quickly begin to fall in love with it. The best part of revisiting a destination is seeing it in an entirely new light. With Paris, I had high hopes the first visit and they weren’t reached, but this time, I managed to change that first experience. By changing my experience, I saw exactly what makes people fall in love with the City of Light.
St. Christopher’s Inn
Located in the 19th, St. Christopher’s Inn is a hostel that sits on Canal St. Martin. The area is quaint and artsy, reminding me of a Parisian Brooklyn. While public transportation is needed to access many of the city’s famous sites, it’s worth it to be away from the hustle and bustle of the tourists. After returning home from a picnic near the Eiffel Tower, I was even more grateful for our little sanctuary away from the crowds. We stayed in a private room, and since it was located on the top floor, there were sweeping views of the canal and life below from the wraparound balcony. It was the perfect location and the room was beautiful and comfortable.
Eat & Drink
Pavillon des Canaux
It’s hard to walk by this place and not go in, as it’s an old house that has been painted purple. Once inside, the magic continues, as each room upstairs is different. There’s a kitchen, a bedroom, a dining room, and even a bathroom, where visitors can enjoy their coffee or wine in an old-fashioned bathtub. Not only is it creatively decorated, we happened to be there when they put on a performance of Alice in Wonderland. While I couldn’t fully understand it because it was in French, it made it all the more special.
All along the canal there are barges and boats turned into restaurants. After this one caught my eye on the first night, I knew that I at least wanted to get drinks there. We wound up meeting my friend, Jade, and enjoying a few cocktails and two bottles of rosé, along with dinner. The food and drinks were fantastic, as was the atmosphere and watching the sun set from our table near the canal. It’s casual and laid back, but the ideal spot to relax at the end of a long day of exploring.
I wouldn’t consider this place off the tourist trail since it’s in a St. Christopher’s Inn, but the food was so good I had to add it here. As a vegetarian, I was nervous about my choices in Paris, but this menu had more choices for me than I often see at home. I got the Ali Baba, a falafel wrap, and a veggie burger, and was pleasantly surprised on both occasions. The atmosphere inside is great for people watching, especially as the night goes on, and there is some limited seating overlooking the canal.
Canal St. Martin
The best part about being in this area is just hanging out on the canal. It’s simple, but that’s what the locals do. Grab a bottle of wine, a few snacks, and wait for sunset. If you don’t like to sit around, you can join the locals in a game of pétanque, a game similar to bocce ball. If you want to get out on the canal, you can rent a small boat for a few hours with some friends and see the area by boat. No matter what you choose to do, this is the spot to be.
While not exactly in the area, it’s close by especially if you take public transportation. I prefer to walk around the cities I visit, as I get a more local feel for an area that way. While Sacré-Cœur is a tourist site, the walks to and from were full of off-the-beaten path experiences and glimpses into Parisian life.
Take Your Time and Wander
Instead of rushing through the city trying to see it all, I slowed down and wandered the streets. I didn’t see Notre-Dame, The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, or Centre Georges Pompidou, as I did last time, but I didn’t need to. I wasn’t in town to see those sites again, I wanted to feel what Paris was about. Of course, I made the obligatory trip back to the Eiffel Tower. But nine years ago, I just took a few touristy photos under the famous site. This time, I slowed down and spent an entire afternoon there relaxing under the shade of a tree while drinking rosé. It felt a bit more local than the drive by speeding through of all the famous sites in town.
In so many ways, this trip was very different from my last trip to Paris and that’s what made all the difference. I was able to see another side of the city, one that I completely fell in love with. It’s just further confirmation that I like the path less traveled a bit more than the one explored.
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I was a guest of St. Christopher’s Inn, but that in no way affected my views. As always, all opinions are mine.