I arrived into Paris ready to take on an adventure and filled with an excite trepidation, as it was the first time I had ever travelled alone. The journey from Beauvais airport, however, quashed that. An airport that seems to forget it serves the French capital (at least according to RyanAir), an uncomfortable and long bus journey awaits all arrivals, but with one sight of that tower, all is forgotten.
It amazed me that a brown, recognisable smear against an all-pastel sky created such wonder, a feat of engineering that to everyone on the bus epitomised that dreamiest of cities. We had arrived in Paris.
My first experience of the city of lights was in the area surrounding my hostel – a beautiful little suburb filled with canals and fairy-lit side streets. Wandering down the Canal Saint-Martin, I noticed a makeshift beach and summer-filled paradise that was reminiscent of Cannes or the Vendée. The simple beauty of water and an illuminated street made it the talk of the hostel, and the iridescence of the lights was caught in every ripple. It truly was a spectacular scene.
What I really loved about the Canal Saint-Martin area was its realness. It was the Paris of Parisians, not the pastel aesthetic of Instagram accounts. Locals meandered along with bottles of wine and picnics overflowing with cheeses and breads. Families mingled with professionals, as everyone amassed into a cornucopia of true Paris. It was the perfect scene for a sunset and feast of the finest French pastries.
As the sun faded from an exploding pink/orange sky, the area truly came alive. Bars opened out onto the sides of the canal and soon were overflowing with wine and lager. The area was abuzz with excited conversation, music and dancing. What truly struck me was the metropolitan feel. Friends were celebrating new relationships. Colleagues were winding down after a long day. Families were revelling in reuniting. Partners were sharing bottles of sparkling wine. Everyone was catered for here, and everyone was enjoying it.
Although Paris is a city filled with wonder and beauty, there is something ‘real’ about this neighbourhood. The sun soaked streets lined with restaurants and bars provide a real competition for the Champs-Élysées. Of course, one should always visit the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, but make a day or two to explore the undiscovered parts of Paris, and make sure Canal Saint-Martin is at the top of your list.