A rough guide for the Art Punks. The New Yorkers that crawled from their LES dives and went abroad. The Bohemian Non-French People of the world. The outsiders. This is a list for you.
1. Go to the Caveau Des Oubliettes. The name of this bar translates to “cave of the forgotten,” and that’s exactly what it used to be. Apparently, it was a holding spot for prisoners awaiting the guillotine. The entire basement has been converted to a spot for live music, now. Upstairs there’s a pretty sweet little bar.
2. Stand a good couple blocks up from L’Arc De Triomphe and give yourself a minute or two to admire it. It will make that adorable little fixture in Washington Square Park seem utterly adorable (and by that, I mean adorably ridiculous). Also, it’s good to be reminded of home, even in small ways.
3. Spend at least five hours in the Eiffel Tower. Shame on you if you scoffed and thought for even one moment, “but everyone sees that.” I know, I know. She’s a tourist trap. She’s also a stunner. There’s a reason centuries of travelers have been drawn to Le Tour Eiffel. And, yes, you heard me right: in—not under or nearby. The view, at all points from within, actually takes your breath away. And, spoiler, there is a little spot tucked away in one of the floors of the Eiffel Tower devoted to film and the Eiffel Tower (and French culture) in film. It’s pretty great. Plus, it’s called “The Cineiffel Cineiffel” which is just too fucking cute to pass up.
4. Drink absinthe with locals. And be sure to ask how the hell they smuggled it into their home. The story will be equal parts hilarious and astounding. It’s a trip if you can swing a full French meal beforehand. All the more reason to couchsurf. They host, you swap stories (and quirks about your respective language), they make you a full French meal, you clean up. Drink absinthe and let the adventure begin.
5. Spend a day in the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Get lost. Actually, if you’re going to spend a day there, getting lost goes without saying. Pay a visit to Proust, Morrison, and of course Monsieur Wilde.
6. See Le Pompidou. Rock out to some modern art. Explore the strange layout of the place. Adventure.
7. Go on a bike ride. At night. Through Le Louvre, preferably. By the way, this is where my post-absinthe adventure led. You want a freaking strange unforgettable time in Paris? There’s your ticket!
8. Party in Saint-Michel. In the streets. In the summertime. With a bunch of Parisian kids. Don’t be shy! It’s totally worth your time and energy. One could make a pretty sound argument that Saint-Michel is the Lower East Side of Paris.
9. Bonus points if you can get a French security guard to shout at you for some inane thing you’ve done. Or maybe something shocking you’ve done—whatever suits your fancy. (Just so as long as you’re not doing something harmful to the City of Lights!) My personal encounter involved setting a flower down on Jim Morrison’s grave while construction was happening nearby, totally blocking his gravesite. There’s nothing like an angry, middle-aged, fat Frenchmen yelling “Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!” blowing his whistle while you jump a fence to make you feel like a hooligan. I also hear you can party down in the Catacombs—might make for another good opportunity. (Note: this is advocating for some mischief, not that you get arrested. Be reasonably safe, mes amis!)
10. Be still. One fatal flaw of any foreigner traveling through Paris is the rush. Hurry to all of the key places: see the art, drink the wine, photograph the history left behind. That’s all wonderful, and, yes, see as much as you can! But also stop and take it what’s around you. Whether you’re on The Avenue des Champs-Élysées or a nameless narrow alleyway in Vincennes: stop and take it in. Everywhere there’s bits of poetry, of magic, or art. Sit down and watch it happen around you.
All images courtesy of the writer.
Renée Aubern is a California born, New York bred poet, writer of songs, and kook. Constantly on the move, she documents the world around her in photographs and notebook scribbles.