We are safely back in the States now and are attempting to finish updating you on the last leg of our travels: Paris. Don’t mind the grammatical tenses – this was written IN Paris but we’re just now posting it. Don’t worry, I know you understand. *Ahem*
You know how some places you visit for the first time and it is just excellent. You have rose-colored glasses on the entire time, everything has a sunny glow, and you leave not being able to wait until you get to return. Upon that return you worry that it may not be as great as it was, perhaps that rosy glow was just colored by your excitement and the reality may not be up to par. Yea, there are places like that. And then there is Paris.
Ah to be back in Paris is wonderful. There are such few places that hold an ‘ah I am home’ feeling…one of those is Chapel Hill and much to my delight I have discovered that Paris is another. For some reason the smell of the metro, the hustle and bustle, the rude pan handlers and the language leave me with an all-too-American, slap happy grin on my face. For those of you who don’t know, Adam and I honey mooned in Paris almost four years ago. Being back has been such a fun way to end our trip; reminiscing about our time here, re-discovering our favorite neighborhoods, sights and eateries. And yes, quite a few are just the same as they were four years ago!
To give everyone the run-down: our first day here was a very busy one – after quickly getting settled into our rooftop apartment in the Marais (hello six flights of stairs) we set out to see the Eiffel Tower with our friends. Clearly we hadn’t gotten our fill of climbing towers, climbing stairs, and avoiding elevators – the line was so long we decided to experience the climb up the Tour Eiffel as well – all 600+ up…and later all 600 + down. We had forgotten how tall the Tour is…the views are incredible making you feel on top of the world here. After this we took a city bus that takes a very scenic tour a la Rick Steve however, after getting stuck in rush hour traffic, we quickly departed and walked along the Seine through the two isles, seeing the Bastille, Place des Voges and picking up groceries. We later met up to see the D’Orsay museum by night (for discount ticket prices!) and got our full of the impressionists and other artists including a great exhibit on Van Gogh. The D’Orsay seems to always be undergoing some type of renovation and that night was no exception, however, most of the exhibits were happily open to the public.
Since it was well after dusk we headed over to the Eiffel Tower area to see the light show and luckily caught it at one of the hourly displays which is so magical! I know that some find it tacky but how can you say that?! It’s basically the world’s largest lamp post all lit up with sparkly lights (lamppost you say? No wonder I love it so much…). I couldn’t help myself and had googly eyes from the pure oversaturation of romanticism and love that abounds in some parts of Paris. Dinner that night was at a restaurant of Mason and Melissa’s choice – a very small restaurant where you can see the entire kitchen in action. We had delicious French food – boeuf bourguignon, bouchee de la reine, escargot and phenomenal gateaux chocolate! Add in some great house red wine and you have a perfect first night in the city of lights.
Our second day dawned with the wonderful itinerary of “do whatever floats your boat, you’re in Paris”. We translated that to mean a nice cooked in breakfast, espresso and café aux lait in the Marais and then slow meandering through our favorite neighborhoods of the Marais and Les Halles. We had lunch in a square where Adam’s family actually stayed when he was just a teenager – we visited this place four years ago and decided to come back this time for lunch in the park. We were very surprised to see brand new baby trees planted due to an underground parking lot being placed there however, not much else has changed. The park is still full of boule and bocci players, brasserie’s along the sides and the funky Hotel de Henry IV. I know I’ve said this already but it was truly a highlight of the trip re-seeing some old sights! After a short afternoon siesta we headed back out to the Champs l’Elysees to see the Arc de Triomphe and, of course, the maisons de Louis Vuitton and Chanel. We had a very long walk back down this road through the Obelisk circle into the Tuilleries gardens. That night after having a must-have falafel we met up with Mason and Melissa at Pont Neuf to show them the more homey night life of Paris as we remembered it. Pont Neuf is a wonderful spot to bring a few bottles of wine and some cards because you have the entire Seine to yourself. Well and to the million boat cruises that go by with their blazing lights and enamored tourists. Aren’t we all?
Far too quickly our last full day and night in Paris arrived. It was nice to not feel the pressure to see a ton of sights at this point in our trip leaving us to make our way up to Montmartre for a stroll and lunch on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, all while listening to the local artists playing music – a harpist, four piece blues band, guitarist, rapper complete with acrobats…you name it, you got it. Several evasions of scam-artists later and we are making our way back over to the twin isles to walk along the Seine again. Our only solid plan that day had been to end our day with champagne in the Tuileries at sunset to get a good spot to watch the Eiffel tower light up from a distance. Champagne, check. Plastic cups, check. Delicious coco gateaux and brioche, double check. Rain storm right after our first glass??? Unscheduled, but check. Drinking in the streets is – as far as we know – legal in Paris, but I don’t think there is any getting away from the “no way this is legal” feeling while finishing your bottle of champagne under the street awnings at 6:30 PM. After a quick au revoir drink at Mason and Melissa’s flat we headed back to the Marais to seek out a few dinner spots that were recommended by our apartment owner. After nixing a few we stumbled upon a very small restaurant called Les Elles – the menu was the most different from the other “prix fixe” places and upon meeting the waiter who quickly established that he did not speak English our choice was made. What a great decision! We started off with some delicious clams in a lemongrass curry type sauce, had pork medallions, roast lamb, delicious red wine and a phenomenal 100% Francais clientele. C’est parfait! At the end of our meal the owner/chef Christine came out to tell us goodbye – such a nice, intimate gesture that I feel was prompted due to my excellent parle francais….but who knows (let a girl dream!). This was an excellent meal to end our trip on, and it literally was right around the corner from our apartment making the fact that we hadn’t packed yet less of a big deal.
In comparison to our last trip (there I go again with the comparisons!) 2 weeks definitely does not feel like 4 ½…and I can honestly say that we are NOT ready to come home! Paris is one of the most beautiful places in the world and so full of everything. Life, lights, l’amour! Sure it has some interesting smells (a potential blog post title: The smells of Paris), fair share of homeless people, raging scam artists who yell at you when they realize you’re wise to their game. But honestly it’s part of why I love this city – I don’t feel like a tourist here, I just feel like a Parisian – albeit an illiterate slightly mute one, with the language skills of a first grader – but a Parisian none the less. You should be able to bottle this kind of joy and love that you feel just from being here…isn’t that called Chanel No. 5? Maybe I’m thinking of something else…