I returned from Paris disheartened yet enchanted.
Paris was beautiful. The architecture was elegant, ornate, yet so delicately balanced as to not seem overwhelming or pompous. I fell in love with the street lamps, the architectural flourishes, the small boulangeries and chocolateries tucked neatly between fashion boutiques and cafes.
While les Parisiens did not impress me – rather, were quite offensive – the city itself was charming, eloquent. It spoke in many tongues and frequencies from soft murmurs to audibly vivid words. Some encounters with customer service staff were comically unpleasant – for instance, the man who told me to order my transit tickets before interrupting my feeble attempts at forgotten French to take a phone call, followed by turning off the mic and continuing full chortle to socialize with friends. My expression of bewildered exasperation must have been priceless. Sadly, he was only one of many considerately rude employees I had the displeasure of dealing with. I’d heard Parisiens were rude but I always want to give everyone a chance.
Our 48 hours in Paris were but a brief taste of something much deeper in which to indulge had we had another moment to spare. We spent most of the day walking, exploring, following some general outline of what we wanted to see without the constraints of a true schedule. It was largely un-stressful, like an endless stroll broken up for an occasional meal, photograph, or pause.
Upon arriving around 1pm on Wednesday, we checked in to our hotel and took off for St. Germain Des Pres. Starving, we indulged in ham and Camembert baguettes at a corner cafe. Our next stops included a peek into the old church and a sweet indulgence of rose and chocolate macaroons from Laduree. Mmmmm!
We continued to walk throughout the Latin Quarter – the Roman aqueduct, Rue Mouffetard, small streets and specialty shops, and anything that caught our eyes. Our stroll then led us over the lock-filled bridges crossing toward Notre Dame and Ile de la Cite. Eventually, we wandered the cobbled streets toward the Bastille and a wonderful seafood dinner at Brasserie Bofinger. We then returned to our hotel, located conveniently near Gare Du Nord, and innocently asked the bar attendant to open a bottle we picked up earlier on Rue Mouffetard. Cheers to a fabulous first day!
Thursday morning began with a quick breakfast across the street at Gare De L’Est — you guessed it, ham and cheese baguettes! When in Paris? We then nipped over to the Eiffel Tower, hoping to arrive before massive lines. Not only was there a decently large crowd around 9.30 A.M., but also half of the tower was invisible behind a layer of fog that remained all day. Oh well. We decided it wasn’t worth paying to see the top, nor were the lines worth waiting to climb the stairs to the second level. Until next time!
We headed to the Louvre area and walked around a bit, stopping for a pre-lunch shared Madame Croque, cafe noisette (surprisingly hazelnut sized, not flavored), and hot wine infused with orange and cinnamon. Is 11 ever too early for a warm winter drink? I think not! It was time for the Louvre and the 40-minute line that led to the entrance. Note to self: pre-book tickets, woman! Theworst part is that I knew I should’ve yet somehow didn’t. Luckily, we had discovered one of the chocolate shops I wanted to try – Michel Cluizel – and a few sneaky bites kept us content while waiting.
I have always wanted to go to the Louvre, for as long as I can remember. It was completely worth the crowds and waiting. I could spend all day there – if only I had the time and patience. We did, however, manage to see the main sights -The Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Mona Lisa, the Colossal Statue of Ramesses II, Aphrodite (Venus de Milo), and a quick run back to the Denon wing for Saint Mary Magdalene. The Mona Lisa – a must see simply because – was less vivid than imagined for its fame, yet larger than the puny size I had heard it was. Perhaps it was all in the framing. Regardless, I was content to see it.
We left famished and found a cafe/bistro, La Cooperative, that was absolutely great. Not only was the waitstaff helpful and kind, but the food was incredible. I realized I much prefer the laid-back attitude and simple food of steak frites, salad nicoise, and a coconut-chocolate crepe to the fancier dinner from the night before that was triple the price. I guess I’ve changed quite a bit, no longer the pretend socialite of my college days, now more attuned to simplicity and great company.
Our afternoon thereafter consisted of strolls in the neighborhood and a spectacular view from L’Arc de Triomphe at night. Even the Eiffel Tower was visible in the haze with its bright lights. And, to add to the enchantment, on the strike of the hour it dazzled all with a sparkly display of lights. On our walk back along the Champs-Élysées, we found another delightful treat – mulled wine and Jeff de Bruges chocolate shop. So good were the almond paste sweets we tried immediately outside (energy boost!) that we ran back in to buy more as a take-home gift. The shopkeeper stifled a laugh at our eagerness to indulge. YUMMMM.
Our last night in Paris ended with a simple dinner at 9.30 – baguette of ham and cheese and a country-style salad with blue cheese, ham, and walnuts – and a stroll through the Louvre and back along the river Seine. (Where we encountered another weirdo – soaked from having jumped in the river? Je ne sais pas du tout.)
Before our 11am train to London, we woke up to breakfast wine – leftovers we couldn’t bear to toss – and stopped for a tasty morning set on our walk to Sacré Cœur. The yogurt was one of the best I’ve had in a long while. 😀
But that may just be due to the fact that Japanese yogurt is pretty terrible.
We finished our Paris excursion with a viewing of Sacré Cœur – not as old as I’d thought but still pleasant within – and a quick exploration of the surroundings before power-walking to the hotel. On a final sweet note, my boyfriend brought me to a surprise destination – the wall of Love, where “I love you” is written in dozens of languages. Very cute.
As we pulled away from the station at Gare du Nord, I let out a sigh of relief. We made it! (Another note to self: Don’t check-out and run to the station, forgetting about the annoyances of immigration and security, with less than half an hour before the train pulls away). I was able to find a point of redemption for les Parisiens, however, when I hastily dropped a 5 euro note as I paid for water and ran to my train, and the shopkeeper made a note of it. Thanks! or rather, Merci beaucoup!
And just like that, Paris, c’était fini!