The Parisian Dream: Realistic?

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Where does your mind wander off to when you hear the words ‘Paris’ or ‘France’? Does it conjure up images of endless pavements filled with sprawling terraces, the melodic chitchat of French and romantic fumes of cigarette smoke on a lazy summer’s day? Does your mind drift off into the streets of Montmartre while Edith Piaf’s ‘La Vie en Rose’ plays in the background? Or do you smell freshly baked baguettes instead?

If so, you’re not too far off but you’re not seeing the full picture either. More often than not, tourists and first-timers are shown the shiny side of town. Eiffel Tower, Galeries Lafayettes, Arc de Triomphe, Le Louvre, La Seine, Champs Elysées et tous les incontournables! And do you know what? That’s okay because it is part of what makes up the true essence of Paris.

What’s not okay is thinking that that’s all there is to this city. What about Chinatown aka the 13th arrondissement? The slums around Paris? The colourful graffiti and the kebab restaurants that can be spotted here and there but especially around Gare du Nord? All the places that tour groups avoid because they’re not always pretty?

Perhaps it’s just where I used to live, but people often seem to have a rather distorted image of what a Parisian lifestyle truly entails. You have French bureaucracy (which is your worst nightmare and that’s putting it lightly), you have some interesting people to put up with, not speaking French will render even the simplest tasks impossible or highly complicated and the transportation is a mess.

BUT

You have delicious bread. A friend of mine once said, “If it’s not made in France, it’s not a baguette.” I thought it was just arrogance….until now, and while I’m on the topic of food, what about the countless gastronomic restaurants that make this city a chef’s dream? The museums and exhibitions are top notch and there is ALWAYS one happening somewhere. Summertime is when you sit along the Seine and share a bottle of crisp rosé with friends, laughing about life. The architecture is gorgeous, for the most part, and the shopping is great!

I guess what I’m trying to say, and this goes for everything in life, is that one should always try to be as realistic as possible. This way, fewer people would be susceptible to the “Paris Syndrome” (It’s a real thing!). Falling in love with anything or anyone requires you to accept the flaws just as much as you accepted the beautiful and the positive!

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Sicily: Day 1 Cefalu

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Nine days of non-stop travelling around the island, a different city each night and several foodie discoveries! Below is a recount and a few tips on how we managed.

What you absolutely must not forget to pack:

  1. COMFY SHOES! A pair of trainers is a must, flip-flops for the beach and some casual summer shoes should suffice! Wedges are alright if you absolutely must but you definitely won’t be needing your heels, girls!
  2. Sunscreen – You will need a lot of it especially when exposed to the Sicilian sun.
  3. A hat – Most useful for preventing a heat stroke
  4. A guide – because even if you do buy 3G/Internet, chances are, you won’t be getting a strong signal all the time. For the francophones out there, we found Le Routard to be most useful!

 

Recommended:

  1. Go right before or after peak season. Two return tickets with Easyjet for two adults were only 200 euros before peak season (we went around late June, early July) whereas a friend had paid 600 euros because his flights were during peak season.
  2. Book a car for your trip if you want to see several spots around the island autonomously which is how we did all the cities and spots below in nine days. We booked with Europcar who are more or less reliable but their Sicilian branch aren’t the best at answering their phones!
  3. Book accommodation via Booking.com (this website worked the best for us) and always go for the bed and breakfasts! They tend to be cheaper, especially before peak season where a night will cost you only 35-60 euros for two.

 

What To Remember:

  1. Sometimes there is a “coperto” or in other words, a cover charge for restaurants. It can be anywhere from 1-3 euros per person.
  2. Sicilian restaurants are incredibly generous in terms of portion. Usually, a meal at an Italian restaurant consists of:
    • antipasti (starter) – fresh salads, platters etc.
    • primo piatto (first dish) – usually risotto or pasta
    • secondo piatto (second dish) – meat or fish
    • contorni (side dish)
    • dolce (dessert)

Italians will typically have all of the above for a special meal but if you’re dining with one other person, most Italians will share a starter and order one primo piatto each. In my case, we often shared the full menu since we wanted to try as many different dishes as we could. Most of our meals came up to 30 euros on average.

  1. Parking can be expensive, ranging from 7-10 euros for a few hours…However, most of our bed and breakfast hosts provided free parking! The cheapest parking was at the Riserva naturale dello Zingaro where we paid only 3 euros for the whole day.

 

DAY 1 – Cefalu
We landed in Palermo early and picked up our
rental car (an adorable mini Fiat) at the airport. Most of the morning was spent driving to Cefalu which was a one hour and a half drive from Palermo airport. We arrived at midday where we lunched by the beach and ordered way too much food as it was our first day and we were completely unaware of the copious Sicilian portion sizes.

All in all, Cefalu is a lovely, little seaside town with charming beaches dotted around its harbour. Though it didn’t make my favourites list, it was a lovely welcome to the beautiful island of Sicily.

 

Not To Be Missed

 

Restaurants

Popular with tourists as their outdoor dining area sits directly in front of the ocean. Perfect spot for watching the sun set over dinner but rather expensive coperto if memory serves me well…

 

Accommodation

Daniella was a gracious host! She spoke English and the check-in time was relatively flexible! The location is excellent and provides an amazing view of the city. The pool was a huge plus and the breakfast was laden with sweet and savoury pastries and breads for only 4 euros per person! The one and only downside was perhaps the mosquitoes but you will be given two repellents: one for inside the room and the other to be placed outside the apartment.

 thepool

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