Friday, January 05, 2018

Ah, Paris

I have to admit to some qualms as we boarded the plane. What if we got to France and didn't love it as much as we remembered?
Well, the ache in my cheeks from too much smiling prove that hasn't happened.
Us riding on the giant ferris wheel, la grande roue.
Have we only been in France for 36 hours, because it seems like we have lived a lifetime since we arrived Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m.
First, can I tell you that we were so lucky to get airline seats in the bulkhead, which have no seats in front of them and gave Earl plenty of space to stretch his legs. I had to put my carryon bag there to rest my feet on since my feet didn't reach the floor. What can I say, I'm short.
We flew United/Lufthansa, and the flight and entertainment were fine, but the food dimmed compared to Air France.
The plane arrived early and as we came off the flight and through passport checks, I handed the customs agent my passport open to the correct page and flipped to the page with the Visa.
"J'ai un visa, aussi," I told him, I have a visa too.
"Ah, oui?" his eyebrows shot up. Apparently most Americans who aren't students don't have visas, but he stamped the page behind opposite my visa and Earl's as well.
Once we'd gathered our bags, seven total bags counting carry ons and personal items, we wheeled them through customs without being stopped and were met by Andre holding a phone with my name printed on it. We apologized for the number of bags and he waved us off. He had a big car, he assured us. And he did -- one of those van/delivery truck vehicles. Within half an hour, he dropped us at our hotel. It was still dark out and the lights lined the wet marble walkway up to the door.

The hotel was happy to store our luggage for us, but we couldn't check in until 2 p.m. Neither of us slept at all on the plane so the day loomed before us until we could take a nap. We spent it at the Louvre. Yes, we've been there before, but there's no way to see everything. Since my next book, Autumn in Aix, is based on the Code of Hammurabi, we searched it out and found some other amazing near Eastern art too.

We were truly flagging around 11 and sat down for a drink, Orangina for me, Nestea for Earl, before we went to see some French paintings. We avoided the Mona Lisa and the crowds, but I thought this painting of twins might have inspired the twins in The Shining.

Around 12:30, we left the Louvre and began our walk back to the hotel, looking for a place to eat lunch. Since our hotel is near Notre Dame and near St. Michel, both very popular tourist places, we looked to avoid touristy restaurants, but wandered into one anyway. Nevertheless, my duck and fries was delicious; Earl was a bit lukewarm on his beef bourguignon, but this goat head on the wall above our heads seemed very festive with its French scarf.

Back to the hotel where we fell into bed for a two-hour nap before we wandered out again, this time to La Grande Roue, Paris' giant ferris wheel.

I got a nice picture of the Eiffel Tower from the ride and it just felt festive, something we'd never done in Paris before. We stopped for a light dinner on the way home and I had foie gras with fig jam. Oh, my. So tasty. Earl had goat cheese salad, which is another of my favorites.

The next morning, technically today unless I don't finish writing this blog post, I slept in until 9:15. That's unheard of. It meant that I didn't get to go for a run, but I still got my 14,500 steps in from walking around Paris.
While I showered, Earl search the Rick Steves' guidebook for something to do in Paris that we hadn't done before. The only new thing he found was the market on Rue Cler. It had a famous tea house there, along with a chocolate shop and some other things that seemed attractive. When we went to the hotel lobby, I asked the front desk clerk how to get there and he wanted to know why we would go to the market there. They sell apples at the market, just like they sell in the U.S., he said kind of sneeringly. I guess it's hard to explain the attraction of walking through a French market even if you aren't buying ingredients for a French dinner.
He was being nice, but trying to steer us to something more interesting. He suggested we visit the market on Rue de Seine. We walked from the hotel along the Seine, turning left at the Academie des Beaux Arts. The street was lined with art galleries, furniture and jewelry shops, which made for excellent window shopping, but the actual market only had a few stalls when we arrived -- maybe too late in the day. We stopped at a bakery for breakfast, a chausson des pommes (apple tart) for me and a pains aux raisins. Then we rebelliously decided to head to the market at Rue Cler anyway.
We took the metro near the Champs du Mars, which leads to the Eiffel Tower and got a few pictures there on our walk.

When we reached the market at Rue Cler, it was mostly finished there too,
This chandelier hung in a chocolate shop on rue Cler. 

but Earl hadn't been satisfied with his tepid cup of tea at the bakery, so we sprang for our a much more expensive tea experience at Mariages Frère.

 I should have taken a picture of the tea menu because it was overwhelming. In tiny script, it listed hundreds of teas to choose from with a 10 Euro price tag, that's about $12. Since I'm not a tea aficionado, I decided to order something different. I got a tea milkshake, and that was the flavor, white tea.

It turns out that the 10 Euro tea, was actually for a pot, so I could have simply shared Earl's tea, but when will I have another chance to drink a tea milkshake?
We took the metro back to the hotel so I could get a little work done before our wine and cheese tasting appointment. The kids bought us an experience in Paris for Earl's birthday. The meeting place was only a nine-minute walk according to our Google maps, but we got turned around and ended up a few minutes late. We weren't the only ones late though.
Luiz is a sommelier, an expert in wine, he gave us a bit of a history tour as we walked through the 5th arrondisement from Saint-Etienne du Mont, a 15th century church in one of the higher spots in Paris and the building behind it, the Pantheon. We walked down to rue Mouffetarde to a wine shop where he explained French wine labels. The best advice, he says, is to tell the people working in the shop how much money you want to spend and they'll help you find the best wine for that price.
We stopped and bought three loaves of bread -- more advice, but the traditionelle loaf, which is better than a baguette. And in Paris, you can call it "tradi" which is short for traditionelle.

Our group was made up of four couples. One couple was from Australia, another from Wichita, and a young couple still in college. We found things to discuss with all of them and Luiz gave us a lot of information about wine and cheese. By the time we sat down and finished tasting and eating, I was definitely tipsy, so that's my advice to anyone preparing for a wine and cheese tasting, make sure you eat more than one chausson aux pommes and a tea milkshake for the day.
When we left the restaurant, night had fallen, and I snapped this picture of the town hall for the 5th arrondisement of Paris.


sillygirl said...

Having visited Paris several times and gotten there in the morning and needed to keep moving to stay awake until the proper time for bed I experienced all that again with your writing. On Rue Cler there is a little shop with a ceramic bun outside - it has pink pieces in it and they are wonderful! There is also a shop on the right bank - I know how to walk to it but can't tell you the street. Keep writing about your days!!!

antonia said...

That hotel looks amazing. Can you tell me the name?

Jeanie said...

ah, yes! Arriving in the morning! Somehow you just keep moving!

Your hotel sounds like it's in a terrific location and I can't wait to hear more of your adventures. I always felt sad that the cat cafe on Michel Le Comte opened after my last visit. I needed a cat-fix! (not to be confused with a fixed cat, though that's good too!)

It rather sounds like your first nights in Paris were perfection. A great idea on the wine and cheese experience. You know I would adore that!

Do keep writing and sharing!

Noreen said...

I feel as though I am there with you! I am enjoying every moment of "our" adventure : )

Mystica said...

Love the experiences you are sharing. I visited Paris for the first time in October 2017. I'll need many more to satisfy the cravings!

http://www.barefootinhawaii said...

I'm beyond excited for you! You guys did it!! You guys look so happy!

Esme said...

Very Very Exciting. Have you been to the Mussee Chase et de la nature?
As for Rue Cler it used to be better-I would go to marche algeries in the 12 on a Sunday.

What is the name of your hotel-it looks very familiar.

You should also go to Mokonuts-It will not disappoint.

Paulita said...

Silly Girl, Yes, we stopped at the chocolate shop and bought a brioche with the little red pieces of praline. It was delicious.
Antonia, The hotel was very nice and I choose it because of the beautiful outside. It is Melia Notre Dame hotel. We reserved it with our flight, so the cost wasn't very much, but it's a 4-star hotel -- chocolates on the pillow each night.
Jeannie, We knew we had some housesits coming up with cats so we didn't need a fix, or a fixed cat, lol. The wine and cheese experience in Paris was definitely worth it.
Mystica, I didn't know you visited Paris. I'll have to look at your blog to share your experiences.
Gina, So glad you are happily settled in Hawaii. Are you writing a blog anymore? I bet your kids have grown so much.
Esme, Thanks for the tips on places to visit. I'm sure we'll be back in Paris again soon to try more places. The hotel is Melia Notre Dame. We enjoyed it.

Paulita said...

Noreen, I didn't mean to skip replying to you. Yes, you know that I definitely feel like you're along every step. And there have been a lot of steps.

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