photo.

Paris or how to surprise a colleague

A while ago I got an email asking me if I would like to join a secret surprise party in Paris.

Alix missed out on celebrating the big thirty last year and so her sisters decided to make up for that by inviting all her friends to a secret surprise party in Paris. As we wanted to go to Paris for a while now, Doro and I happily accepted the invite. And we took Nadia and Anna with us. 

We headed to Paris on a Thursday evening, excusing us from work and flying with the dreadful cheap orange airline to Orly (ya rly). Anna was on the same flight and we only had to endure the stress that comes from flying in seats not wider than an anorexic model’s hipbones. Nadia on the other hand had a long trip on the night train. She did not dare to go to the bathroom or anywhere outside her small compartment as Alix herself was on the same train. Nadia did not know where she was and chose to take no chances of bumping into her, potentially destroying the surprise.

We landed in the afternoon and after finding means of transportation from Orly to Paris we used a tram and the metro to get to our fancy air bnb apartment near Opéra in central Paris.

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After dropping our luggage in the tiny tiny studio apartment, we headed to the nearest supermarket and from there to Louvre where we had a lovely first night in Paris pick-nick. We had white whine, cheese, bread, hummus and even some mediocre tabbouleh.

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And while we ate we had a spectacular view on the Eiffel tower and its light show every full hour.

After filling our stomachs with French delicacies we went for a little night tour of Paris.

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This was the first time of many when we realised how bad Paris smells. A coworker later said that it is rotting leaves but we rather identified the smell as piss. This impression was reinforced by some people actually pissing at statues and walls while we walked along the Seine. Imagine the beautiful view of night time central Paris with the stingy smell of urine. This was our first night’s impression.

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And there she is. The famous Mona Lisa or la Joconde as she is known in French. We were lucky to actually see her, usually she is covered in tourists.

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We overdid it already at the first evening. We walked for around two hours after the exhaustion of the trip and that’s why we fell to bed and instantly asleep.

The next morning we wanted to prepare for Nadia’s arrival and get up and ready but we hardly had left the bed when she knocked on the door.

After hearing her tales of the train ride of fear we headed for breakfast. A rather difficult task near Opéra as people here usually don’t go eating, the food is delivered and spoon-fed to them. We found a small bakery with decent croissants but no real way to sit down and have breakfast in peace. Plus the coffee came from plastic pads and a tiny machine.

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We climbed the Galleries LaFayettes to get a view over the city from the terrace. And some group pictures as a proof we were there.

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From the shopping centre we crossed the street and went into the food department which is housed in a separate building. We then frolicked at all the fancy food.

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Like some decent mac and cheese.

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This is for all the Mateolics. Be happy to be in Berlin where Mate is cheaper than bottled water.

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For lunch we got some burgers from le camion qui fume. We stood in line for about an hour and got some okayish burgers, good fries and no fork for our coleslaw. I would not recommend waiting for this burger truck when in Paris, probably there is better food to find.

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Next stop Montmartre. While climbing the hill towards la Basilique de Sacré Coeur we stopped by a discovery of our last trip a few years ago. A tiny bakery filled with delicious bread and pastries and home made marshmallows.

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Sacré Coeur was overrun by tourists. And salespeople with cheap plastic toys. And one annoying street performer who was just an asshole to people in the street and made other assholes laugh at it. Imagine groping, imitating, touching and bumping into people just for the lols.

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At this point Doro had developed an upcoming cold and felt rather bad, so we parted ways, Nadia and Anna headed off for some more Paris action while I brought Doro home.

This is the way out of our only window by the way. Note the missing Eiffel Tower that should be seen from every window in Paris by law.

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For Dinner we wanted to repeat yesterday’s pick-nick with Nadia. And so we did.

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This second night was marked by couples kissing. We looked at them with mouths filled with baguette and cheese.

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The next day. The day of the actual surprise party. We wanted to do some sight seeing in the quartier Latin, well knowing that it is Alix’s favourite whereabouts when in Paris. So we stumbled through the area struck by paranoia of bumping into her.

But first some LaFayette shopping for food to bring home and a quick visit in the Asian area to get some delicious Banh-Mi.

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We managed to not run into Alix although we learned later that she visited the Pantheon just at the same time when we were there. Luckily the two and a half million Chinese tourists that were there as well provided cover. And this is no stupid racial stereotype, there were so many Chinese people in Paris that the LaFayette provided their flyers in French and Chinese. My guess is that for every French person there are four to five Chinese groups visiting Paris.

Anyway, we headed home before the big event.

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And then it was finally time. Nadia got as excited as a teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber for the first time. I was happy she didn’t get a heart attack. Alix did enjoy the surprise.

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The party then went on for hours. We drank and ate and danced. Even I danced and of course I won at dancing. I didn’t even mind spending 9 Euros on half a litre of beer.

We stumbled home some time late at night. We had a long and drunk discussion on things along the way. In my experience the best time you have at a party is the way to and from it, especially when you are drunk.

We slept in of course. Over night it had rained and for the first time washed away the stench of urine in the streets. Also less people were outside. Paris becomes a decent city when it rains.

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We said goodbye to Anna who had an early flight and see you later to Nadia who wanted to see the Louvre from inside. Doro and I strolled along the city towards the centre Pompidou.

What we didn’t know was that on this weekend all public museums were for free. We checked online before but there was no mentioning of this on the poorly presented websites of the French museums. Alix told us later, but we couldn’t ask her beforehand for obvious reasons.

Taking advantage of the „get in free“ weekend Doro and I entered one of the National Archive buildings. Of course it was also overrun by tourists, but sometimes we got some room.

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Story of my life.

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And then we discovered what we were looking for during the previous days. A proper Parisian street market. They had seafood and baguettes of which we bought 5.

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We arrived at the centre Pompidou just in time to take shelter from the rain. We didn’t have the time to go to any of the exhibitions but it was still worth the visit. The centre Pompidou felt modern and elegant, different from the rest of the city which seems to cling to its tradition and romantic take at buildings and general design. I was sometimes unsure whether this traditional look was purely on purpose or if the city is just so overgrown that it is impossible to modernize it.

Anyways, the centre Pompidou does an excellent job in presenting the modern art Paris. Dead tired we slowly walked around and looked at things.

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At one point we headed back to the studio, packed our things and Nadia did so as well. Just as we wanted to leave and Nadia wanted to get some rest before jumping on the night train back some Chinese lady knocked on the door, forced herself in and then made clear that she did not speak French or English. She handed us her iPhone with some guy on the other end who was also close to not speaking French or English. Purposely he was the host of the flat and she should clean but we could not really get what he wanted. Instead we just left, Nadia spent her free time at the train station, we took the flight back to Berlin. Together with Ursula von der Leyen. But this is another story.

Maybe you already suspected it: I did not really like Paris as a city. I was there before but usually I avoided the central area. For good reasons as I know now. Paris is loud and full and smelly. It was still fun though, we managed to do some nice things, the party alone was worth the trouble and on the last rainy day we could discover some of the interesting and less exhausting Paris. My advice is: if you go there, don’t stay in a room in the centre. The metro is good enough to stay a bit further away and then the city is way more bearable.

I’m going now to eat some of the 10 baguettes we brought and froze.

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Hi. I live in Berlin, I write about food and photography and everything else. I am a plant scientist and I studied biotechnology in Berlin. I am younger than some but older than others.