Last Updated on May 6, 2021 by Karina Safaoui
Over the past few months in Paris, I found myself taking comfort in areas of the city I’ve already visited. Every trip to each location always seemed to engulf me, know me and provide me with what my life seemed to need in my new environment
Here are the top five places in Paris that I feel were pivotal to my experience. They will always feel like home to me.
Jardin des Tuileries
My encounter with this lovely garden occurred by chance one morning in September where the clouds in the sky were just giving way for the sun to shine down and expose all the incredible history that lay beneath it. From that moment on, I returned incessantly, for I discovered something new about Paris and myself each time.
The mornings I spent there running through the gardens and the Louvre made it feel as if I was moving through history with each stride. From the Greco-Roman inspired statues to the Arc du Carrousel, history unveils itself in a spectacular way.
I was able to tap into a vibrancy within myself as a result of the L’Orangerie. The way I looked at the scene in front of me was as if I was looking through a lens because of the Jeu de Paume. Mondays and Wednesdays meant art history in the Louvre, after which I made sure to carve out a portion of my day dedicated to many (failed) attempts at drawing reading chapters from books that sparked my interests and increased knowledge. The gardens helped me discover aspects of my personality that I had yet to be acquainted with while simultaneously introducing me to a new part of my new home.
In the 6th Arrondissement of Paris is a quaint street lined with restaurants, apartments, and shops. It is bustling with a plethora of people; laughter and good conversation stem from every direction. Le Cavern is a bar equipped with a dance floor and stage on the bottom floor frequented by dancers and singers alike. For me, this location thrust me into the heart of French life and helped assimilation so much easier. I was embraced by people who would become my dearest friends at open mic nights and danced with those I had crossed the Atlantic with, making memories that I will forever look back on fondly, accompanied by a wide grin.
(Disclaimer: if that doesn’t seem to be something that interests you as a reader, there’s an amazing Mexican Restaurant right beside it.)
Musée d’Art Moderne
As cliché as it may sound, I was introduced to an artistic side of myself in Paris that I had yet to meet. The biggest inspiration came from this museum located in the 16th Arrondissement. Modern art provoked me, challenged me and forced me to adopt a new perspective on the way I looked at the world and people around me. There I found the most abstract works, spending ages analyzing every image, before I could make any sense of them. I fell in love with them instantaneously, such as the photographs of Benjamin Katz. Each time I return to the museum, I am dazzled and intrigued, for there is an element of surprise in each work, even if I have gazed upon it before.
Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel
Upon my arrival in August, I was elated to learn that I was not more than a 15-minute walk away from the Eiffel Tower. I spent many hours seated on the grass on the Champ de Mars with a book in one hand and camera in the other, basking in the sun.
As September came to an end, so did the abundance of warmth and sunshine, yet my relationship with the monument steadily increased. Long walks through the piles of bright yellow leaves during fall were the norm. I often noticed their immense beauty. As I grew closer with members of my study abroad group, we designated a specific spot that we called “ours.” Looking back, I think this claim of sorts provided a sense of unwavering comfort.
Although living in a different country gives one opportunity and insight, it can also be stressful. Dynamo is a cycling studio that gave me an outlet for all my frustrations, whatever they may be. It gave me a workout and a support system. I can honestly say I have never had so much fun working out while strengthening my listening comprehension skills. The loud music and dark room accompanied by an instructor yelling droit//gauche empowered and encouraged me to strive and succeed. Not only did I get stronger physically, but my mentality and language skills also got a workout. I learned that positivity and patience exceed everything else and that they are necessary in life to excel in every aspect, while learning how to loosen up and have fun.
This post was contributed by Karina Safaoui, who is spending an academic year studying abroad with AIFS in Paris, France.