PARIS DAY 1: Natalie comes to visit! (ft. guest appearances by pickpockets, home-away-from-home galleries and a spectacular view

I’d like to take this time to offer a major kudos to all those who somehow find the time to blog whilst traveling. I arrived in Europe with the best of intentions – the desire to document and photograph my adventurous tales. So far, I’ve only done much of the latter.

Time to stop slacking.

Now, a week into my European vacation, I will attempt to explain to you, one day at a time, my journey so far.

PS: part of this is to blame on the fact that I have no computer, and only an iPhone with a detachable keyboard. This is the cause of my partial blogging avoidance and extreme laziness.

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My first full day in Paris was an eventful one. My friend and old roommate Natalie kindly came in to the city to visit. Lovely Ottawa reunions occurred. Since I was still recovering from the mortifying advances of forward French men, it was nice to have the company of a French-speaking friend who could help me ward off the creeps.

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Since Natalie had already done the majority of the tacky tourist stuff I had on my agenda, we decided to spend the first half of our day vintage shopping in a neighbourhood just north-east of the Notre Dame (the name is lost to me, at the moment). Here, we encountered cheap (but strange smelling) garments selling for a single Euro, poorly chosen store soundtracks, cavernous bargain basements and completely unnecessary shoe purchases. We also stumbled upon a variety of cool boutique shops, the likes of which sold Lego-themed waterbottles, Playmobile figure pendants, paint chip-inspired wall deco and colourful clothing hooks. I wanted to buy a Parisian apartment that instant, just so I could furnish it using the store’s overly priced, designer furniture.

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Having gone straight to France in April to start her job at Vimy, Natalie hasn’t been home to Winnipeg in some time now. Due to this, she was particularly eager to visit out next stop: a Parisian gallery featuring, get this, all things Winnipeg. In Paris. Oh eccentric French art enthusiasts. The gallery was short walk from the Place de la Bastille, right across from the Seine. Inside, overwhelmed by Canadiana nostalgia, Natalie wandered through the exhibit, chuckling to herself like the entire studio was a giant inside joke. There was just as much quirky Canada-themed art to appreciate as there was Winnipeg stuff: beavers munching on desk legs, snow-filled images of frigid winters and many references to Louis Riel. I don’t think the French got the ironic nature of some displays.

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From here, we did something completely different, and went to Ladurée, the famous French bakery which I make reference to in many a post, tweet and Facebook photo. You can see more photos from the wonders of that tea room visit (as well as my gluttonous second visit) on my blog, Hilary Makes.

Next, because we hadn’t done nearly enough shopping earlier, we walked over to the Champs-Élysées to complete my obligatory window shop down the street. Okay, not so much window shop. More clothing was bought (on my part) and an H&M was found. Just as we were figuring out ways to get our European chic on, disaster struck.

Natalie got her wallet stolen.

It almost happened to me too. The pick-pocketing technique was seamless: as fast as you could say “macaron,” two girls surrounded their victim (i.e. distracted girls like Nat and I) and just sort of…well…walked into you for an extended period of time. It happened to me first. Being the easily annoyed, get-out-of-my-way-stupid-people-who-can’t-walk person that I am, I elbowed my way on through. Being the paranoid, neurotic freak that I am, I automatically felt my purse. The twisty buckle that normally clasps the flap shut was open. LE GASP.

Alas, my wallet was still there and tears and breakdowns were averted.

Shortly after, a similar situation happened to Nat. Unfortunately, she didn’t get so lucky.

Thank heavens she is fluent in French (I, for instance, do not even know the French word for wallet). After some undiscernable French chatter with an H&M employee and much searching around the store, we walked out, our otherwise brilliant day shrouded by the occurrence of the stolen wallet.

(Don’t think I’m leaving this hanging on a depressing note. The next day, Nat called the H&M, and was happily met with news that her wallet had been tossed and found. All was safe and, although she was a few Euros shorter, she was once again in possession of her attractive Manitoba driver’s license and her other plastic lifelines. So relieved).

After dropping Natalie off at the train station for the night, I decided to trek back over to the Champs-Élysées and check out the view from atop the Arc de Triomphe. My mood was lifted rapidly from here, especially after I found out my admission to the top was free (hello $15 saved!) thanks to my European Union passport. It was also later in the evening, so there was very little of a line. Once I climbed the 284 spiraling stairs to the top, I was met with a breathtaking view, not only of the 12 streets (including the Champs-Élysées) circling the panorama, but also of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur in the distance. Even though I didn’t pay to access the view, the experience was priceless.

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