I have found a new direct path to happiness. It’s called: Paris. When back home not even friends, chocolates or retail therapy can’t do the trick anymore, it’s best to get out for a couple of days and visit a place that is full of charming people, gorgeous architecture, delectable wine and food and countless little shops that make your heart swell with awe.
Compared to my hometown of Berlin, Paris enjoys far better weather all year around with temperatures never really dropping below 0 and offering many days of sunshine, which certainly helps with the happy feelings. Few cities are more fun to stroll around in, getting lost in the cobbled side streets of Montmartre, dreaming away on the terrace of a café in Le Marais, enjoying the view from Sacre Coeur or taking a deep breath beneath the trees of the Tuileries.
It’s also one of the best places to be a girl in. It feels like you can have anything simply by smiling, any self-respecting Frenchman would rather bite his tongue than to disregard a lady. Don’t worry if you don’t think of yourself as a lady, by some weird Parisian voodoo magic, pretty much every girl turns into a lady the moment she arrives in the city of love. You will suddenly find yourself smiling a lot more, walking straighter and more conscious of your (beautiful) environment, smiling back at people and to yourself when the 2 guys from the cafè try to catch your attention with a quick “Bonjour Mademoiselle!”.
Since living there back in 2006, I have noticed a few things changed. The most notable difference appears to lie in the 18th arrondissemet, the area around Abesses and Pigalle which in the recent years has seen a development that is reminiscent of that of the Lower East Side of New York City or parts of Brooklyn. The streets that used to be lined with prostitutes and small soulless stores selling chinese import ware are now thriving with colorful little shops and cafes and more and more people line up to move here. Finding accommodation is not for the faint of heart and that is not only due to the fact that tiny spaces are being rented at 3 times the price a comparable apartment would go for in Berlin. Expect a line around the block when a popriétaire invites people over a public viewing.
Clearly this fact does not make it much easer to find affordable accommodation in town, making local friends (and their sofas) invaluable (merci Sonia). Without local friends, it’s still worth checking Couchsurfing for a decent place to rest your head (make sure you are picking a place where the owner got good reviews from past visitors) or scrape together a few Euros and book a room or apartment from noteworthy booking-engines like Housetrip or Wimdu, who are sporting a selection of affordable Paris flats.
One of the good things about Paris is that most neighborhoods are interesting and make good areas to stay in, even if you’re on a short break. The city is not too big and there are metro stops virtually anywhere, making it easy to get around and affordable too, since one ride on the metro only costs €1,25 (provided you opt for the Carnet of 10 tickets, saving you a buck or two). Another fantastic way to get around, especially for shorter distances, are the Vélib bikes, a bike sharing system that has become hugely popular since its initial installment in 2007. Tourists can buy a one day or 7-day pass online or at a Vélib station, if you stick around for longer you’re best advised to get a long-term subscription to the service. For more info on how it all works, click here.
A perfect Paris weekend involves a lot of walking, but never at a fast pace. You stroll through the streets, stopping here and there to marvel at a pretty building, the patisseries in the store windows that always seem too beautiful to eat (get a Gaugin at Delmontel, 39 Rue Martyr – to die for) or the ease people here seem to live with. Joie de vivre (joy of living) they call that, and it’s a big deal. Few people here are interested in fast food and coffee to go. Here you sit down to have your petit café, if only for 10 minutes, time to unwind, relax, recharge.
Finally, many ways lead to Paris – buses, planes, carshares and trains. On my last trip to Paris I tried the City Night Line train, which I found to be a lovely and relaxing way to travel. Taking the night train home, watching the sun set at the end of the quickly passing landscape, catching up on some reading or writing this blog post while lying comfortably on the fold-out bed with the clean white sheets is bliss, i tell thee.
A perfect way of ending a chilled and happy weekend in paris…
If you’re still not convinced that Paris is a happy cure, check out the video below by Stills in Motion who asked 50 people in Paris what makes them happy.