When I fall in love with a city I usually make the decision I want to go live there one day, may it be for a month, years or even a life time. I start making plans of future travels, thinking of all possibilities for renting a cheap flat and finding all activities possible that could keep me entertained there.
For some reason, however, I never fell in love with Paris, despite its great reputation as one of the best and most charming cities in the world. Every time I go there I am somehow disappointed by the vibes the city gives me. Contrary to popular opinions, I feel like it is a city that had its best time a while ago rather than now. It is rather stuck in its passed golden ages and kind of never re-innovated and re-invented itself as cities like London or Berlin have, for example.
Both the German and the UK’s capitals are great hubs for today’s european youth, offering great opportunities for young people who want to build their futures abroad and have a large number of resources available whenever. I hardly hear of people moving to Paris for its “young and dynamic environment”.
But maybe this time the city may have proved myself (partly) wrong.
I have spent the last few days visiting my best friend from High School Luisa, who just moved to Paris to study for about four months as part of an Erasmus programme – same thing I am currently doing in Utrecht.
I left from Amsterdam on Friday morning and took the Megabus service, which took me about 9 hours later to Porte Maillot in the suburbs of Paris. I have to be honest, travelling by bus is not as bad as it may sound, but if you find traffic on your way (like in my case on Friday) it could get terribly nerve-racking. The journey back today, contrarily, was great. I was on the bus with just other 10 people, got to sit in front of the coach and the whole journey was almost traffic-free. I actually got to Amsterdam 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
What I enjoyed most of the journey on land is that you get to gradually see the differences between the three countries you get to travel in when moving from Amsterdam to Paris. What I found interesting was the slow shift of language from Dutch to French as the first part of Belgium you cross speaks the former language, Bruxelles mixes both and eventually the last part of the country speaks the latter. So while when travelling though, for example, the French-Italian border you get an immediate shift from one language to the other, when travelling through Belgium it is way more gradual. And I found it particularly interesting.
Luisa lives in one of the most lively and local areas of the city. The street she is on is literally packed with nice bars and clubs where Parisians gather together on weekend nights for their drinks and cigarettes.
But even more exciting is the neighbourhood which is at walking distance from Luisa’s flat. It is called Marais and it is by far my favourite in Paris. If you’re from, or just live in London imagine a parisian version of Shoreditch. Vintage shops, cozy cafès, hipster- yet somehow chic looking people and talented musicians playing on the streets. All of this, without the touristy feel places like Champs Elysées and the rest of the centre of Paris usually give you. Parfait!
We also found a proper second hand shop where we bought clothes for as little as 5 euros.
I had never visited this area of the city before, despite the many times I have visited Paris since I was a kid. Every time I go back I always find it very hard to link it to specific life memories. Some places would remind me of my trips during Christmas and New Year’s with my family, the trips to Disneyland and that time when we celebrated the beginning of 2002 in Paris and I exchanged my pocket money of 60,000 Italian Lire with merely 30 Euros; it was probably one of my unforgettable childhood traumas. Other places, instead, remind me of more recent trips to there, especially memories of when I started travelling alone or with friends, like my 2012 InterRail across northern Europe which started from the French capital.
But le quartier Marais is a new-entry and it has given me a whole new opinion on Paris and about the people who live there. Some of them do dress with a very cool style and not all are snobby bastards as we all probably think.
On Sunday I will be heading back to a French speaking city, Brussels, for a University project me and my friend Evan are working on. Besides, if you did not get the chance to see it yet, go check out our website inEurope where we publish weekly news from and about Europe on topics focused on the interests of young people. You can read my new article on the new ways of travelling for young generations across Europe here 😀