As I wrap up my semester abroad in Paris, here is a list of the five things that I really enjoyed doing while I was in Paris. Take a look below.
1. Macaroon. Hopefully you have all heard of what a macaroon is. The most famous brand is probably Laduree, which can be found in the United States as well. But my favorite go-to brand is Pierre Hermes. I don't know if you have ever heard of it but it's like, party in your mouth. There is actually a Pierre Hermes very close to Sciences Po (next to Eglise Saint Sulpice), about a ten minute walk. Unlike the traditional flavors from Laduree, Pierre Hermes offer flavors that might sound bizarre but taste delicious at the same time. Also, they alter their flavors in accordance to seasons so I was very bummed when I returned in December to find my favorite flavors gone. For those of you getting to Paris in the fall, please, for the sake of me, try the olive and the Ceylon tea flavor. They are to die for! In december, they also have the fois gras flavor. Unconventional? I think so. Worth the money? Absolutely.
2. Skating. I know that the rink at Waterfront is pretty great, but it's nothing compared to the open-air skate rinks in Paris. Probably starting from mid December, open-air skate rinks will pop up. There's one close to Champs-Elysee, but don't go to that one, it's tiny. I heard there's also one on the Eiffel Tower, but I'm not sure how big that can be either... but how cool would that be though, skating on the Eiffel Tower? My favorite one is probably the one in side the Grande Palais. It's massive and has all sorts of different light shows at night, though it is a little bit pricey (€25). If you're looking for a moderate sized rink at a relatively cheap price, I would recommend the one near Hotel de Ville (The Town Hall). Entrance fee is only 6 euros. The nice thing about French rinks is that they have regulations on how many people are allowed on the rink at a time, so it's never too terribly crowded. The down side? You might have to cue up in the cold wind for a very long time. My advice? Don't go when it's around Christmas time because that's when Paris is flooded with tourists and people who are on break. Go sometime earlier and in the afternoon instead.
3. Fontainebleau. You have probably heard of Versailles, but that's just, way too crowded for my taste. Actually I went to Versailles in December where there were barely any tourists. It was incredible because I never expected Versailles to be empty but I walked in the gardens this time instead of just inside the palace, and it was peaceful and quiet because most tourists would just tour the inside of the palace and call it a day. Fontainebleau is another chateau near Paris and I personally prefer it better to Versailles, simply because I've been to Versailles three times already. It's a little bit harder to get to, in comparison. You'll have to take the Transillien train from Gare de Lyon. If you have a youth card, it's approx 8 euros, other wise it would be 16. After you reach Fontainebleau, you'll have to take a bus to reach the Chateaux. The rooms are just as lovely as the ones in Versailles, if not more lavish. Napolean actually preferred it more to Versailles. We went towards the end of December and there were barely anyone there, which was awesome. "All these lands are mine! mwahaha" The town of Fontainebleau is really cute too, so that's definitely a plus.
4. Canal Saint Matin. I personally prefer the canal saint Martin cruise to the conventional Seine cruise, just because the canal passes through a part of Paris that's usually less touristy. There are usually two cruises per day. The one in the morning departs near Musee D'orsay and goes to Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondisement. And the one in the afternoon does the vice versa. After October I think, the cruise only operates on the weekends. The area in the 19th arrondisement has a lot of quaint bars around the canal, so it's a really nice place to chill when the weather is still nice and there are also a lot of really cool little stores scattered around the neighborhood.
I really enjoyed touring Europe in winter because it's the low season and there are so much less tourists around. So I would wait around a bit when you first get to Paris if you're doing Fall Abroad because the end of august/ the beginning of september is still sort of too touristy for my taste. Lines are long and people are everywhere. Maybe wait until around end of october/ beginning of november to start doing the touristy things. (But that's also the time when Sciences Po has its midterms and exposes, keep that in mind). I stayed for a bit after my semester is over in Paris, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the touristy spots a lot less crowded than I have imagined.
Till next time, Paris!