A Journey in Paris — Capturing the Spring of France

In March 2024, I visited Paris during KubeCon EU, experiencing the local culture, cuisine, and daily life nuances.

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In March 2024, I had the special opportunity to visit Paris, France, for KubeCon EU 2024, a gathering of cloud computing and open-source enthusiasts from around the globe. Utilizing this chance, I not only gained insights into the latest technological trends but also embraced the history, culture, and everyday life of this city. My Parisian adventure spanned from March 16th to the 24th, during which I explored as much of this enchanting city as possible.

Visa Chapter

For us Chinese, obtaining a visa is always the first step to traveling abroad. The French Schengen visa, requiring a multitude of documents including a company sponsorship letter and itinerary, was made relatively easier by my company’s profile. Fortunately, unlike the Japanese visa, the French visa did not require freezing substantial funds or showing a hefty bank deposit. I received a six-month visa, offering more flexibility and possibilities for my future travels in Europe.

Arriving in Paris

The journey from Beijing to Paris was filled with anticipation. I flew with Air France, departing in the early hours from Beijing and, after a 13-hour flight, arrived in Paris early in the morning. On my way back, I chose to transit through Istanbul, adding an exotic touch to my travel memories.

First Impressions

The Charles de Gaulle Airport was adorned with elegant Chinese signs everywhere, reflecting the French attention to detail. Although the customs process took nearly an hour, the diverse crowd reinforced the international vibe of Paris. Navigating the metro, I attempted three times before successfully boarding due to the crowd. Using Bolt taxi service, a kind Frenchman helped me communicate with the driver in French, showcasing the warmth and friendliness of the locals.

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Charles de Gaulle Airport

Parisian Daily Details

In every corner of Paris, you can see uniquely designed trash bins that are not only practical but also consider safety. Some are explosion-proof for glass bottles and cans, while others are simply covered with clear plastic bags for the same reason. These details reflect the meticulous and thoughtful city management.

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Parisian Street Trash Bins

Dining in Paris

Despite the allure of Western steaks and pastries, I found myself craving the flavors of home. In Paris, I discovered a Sichuan restaurant named Yang’s Kitchen; their beef noodle soup, while different from those back home, was delicious and reasonably priced. Additionally, the street fruits in Paris were not only more affordable but also tastier than those I usually purchase online, especially the pears I love.

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Chinese and Western Cuisine in Paris, including Macarons
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Street Stalls and Bakeries in Paris

Living in Paris

Paris, the capital of France, is renowned for its romance and history and has a unique administrative structure. The city is typically divided into “Greater Paris” and “Lesser Paris,” with Lesser Paris referring to the inner city from the 1st to the 20th arrondissement, covering most of the famous historical landmarks and cultural areas. Greater Paris includes the suburbs around Lesser Paris, forming a broader metropolitan area.

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Map of Lesser Paris
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Comparison of the Area of Lesser Paris and Beijing’s Third Ring Road

Paris’s street planning is unique; the roads crisscross in non-strict north-south directions, and with traffic lights set on street corners, it can be disorienting for newcomers. The city’s bike lanes are well-developed; I rented a power-assisted bicycle, experiencing an unprecedented sense of freedom cruising through the streets of Paris. The metro system is complex yet comprehensive, with a convenient payment system that mostly accepts credit cards.

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Bike Lanes on Paris Streets
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Paris Metro

Healthcare Experience

The second day in Paris, I suffered from diarrhea due to improper eating, which lasted two days. During this time, I visited a local pharmacy to buy medication. The pharmacy opened punctually at 8 AM, and there was always a line outside, impressing me with their timeliness and order.

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Anti-diarrheal Medicine Purchased in Paris

Sightseeing in Paris

During the KubeCon EU, I used my spare time to visit several of Paris’s famous attractions. The Eiffel Tower was a must-see; I ascended to the second-floor platform, which offered a spectacular view of the entire city. The Louvre, a haven for art lovers, drew countless visitors to Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile. Although the Notre-Dame was under repair, its charm at night remained irresistible.

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The Louvre Museum
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Foucault’s Pendulum inside the Pantheon
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The Seine River
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Madeleine Church
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Sacré-Cœur Basilica

About the Olympics

The modern Olympics were initiated by the French in Paris. It may be that the French are accustomed to the Olympics, or it could be an effort to minimize disruption to local life. During my visit to Paris, I did not feel any ambiance indicative of the upcoming Olympic Games. Only a few iconic buildings had stages under construction, possibly for Olympic use, and some shops were selling Olympic memorabilia.

Comments

Recently, there have been several videos on Chinese internet platforms depicting the poor security and environmental conditions in Paris, such as prevalent street theft, public urination, and a lack of public restrooms. Fortunately, I did not encounter any thieves nor did my companions. However, I did notice a urine smell, especially around tourist areas, and encountered a few homeless people asking for cigarettes. Additionally, it was challenging to find restrooms in the Louvre; the only men’s restroom I found was under maintenance.

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Street near the Louvre filled with trash and urine smell

Conclusion

Paris, with its unique charm and rich cultural heritage, left a profound impression on me. The locals were warm and friendly, and the scenery was breathtaking. Although some tourist-heavy areas were a bit chaotic, that’s an unavoidable aspect of any tourist city. My trip to Paris was filled with wonderful memories, making me look forward to visiting this romantic land again. I hope this travelogue will help those planning their first journey to this enchanting city.

Last updated on Jul 12, 2024