A Walking Tour of Paris
Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
12Trip End Sep 02, 2010
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Where I stayed
Totally forgot all my french. Guess I better take it off my resume. Being semi-fluent 6 years ago means nothing now. Have put together a few sentences but overall feel like a total idiot. I even just said "número trente" mixing my poor Spanish in too. Embarrassing.
S and I went to Harrods with my friend in London, had delicious Indian food nearby then headed to St. Pancras to await the train. Took the advice of one of S's family friends and had champagne and strawberries with cream while waiting. Truly a beautiful train station.
The train was super quick! I completely missed the whole Chunnel! But I finished "the Girl who Played with Fire"!! Wish I had bought the last book even though it was hard cover. Didn't realize it continued right off the bat unlike the first two books. Started "the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" instead at a friend's recommendation. Funny thing was that I heard a British voice in my head as soon as I started reading before knowing it was set in England. Wonder what about it made me realize it was British.
Had bought a carnet of dix metro billets in St. Pancras so got on the metro right at Gare du Nord (amidst heavily armed military!). Made it fairly quickly to the hotel then went across the street to il Pescatore for pizza and lasagna. Yum! Very friendly staff and really good food. My first time staying in Quartier Latin. Many many restaurants, a bit harder to find neighborhood boulangeries, etc. I don't think S or I would choose to stay in that area again if we had the choice. But maybe. We think perhaps because Paris had emptied somewhat, especially of students, that we ran into difficulty finding places that stayed open late and grocery stores, etc.
Walked down rue St. Jacques to find a wedding dress place where I hoped to try some on on Saturday. Closed for the August holidays - not the best time to be in Paris. But luckily was able to try some on at Galeries Lafayette the next day! Think i may have found one I like - the duyen from Cymbelline for those interested but I have to order by the end of September if I want the exact lace I tried on... May have to see if the New York branch can get it! (Update: there is a branch opening in Fogelsville, PA, so I'm heading there to try some on)
I keep getting sidetracked so here we go:
Musee Rodin: no line - got tix for the Musee d'Orsay together for 12 euro each person. We didn't get the Paris museum pass b/c we only had a few places we really wanted to enter - not worth 30 euros for just 2 days access. Paris in my mind is still frozen in 1999 when I lived here for the summer working so it's strange to see all the big pavilions that have been added to all he museums, such as for Musee Rodin. I guess they're nice but it somehow takes away some of the charm. I wasn't quite as enchanted with the museum as I have been in the past but was still in awe at the genius!
We walked through the Jardin Luxembourg on the way to the museum and past les Invalides after on the way to le Tour Eiffel. So many people everywhere! More than i've ever seen there. Ate crepes on the Trocadero steps. Not as good as in the past: pre-made crepe pancakes, they no longer had chicken as an option, and forget about hoping that these stands still put lettuce and tomato in the crepes: the ingredients are super standard now (egg, cheese, ham, ham&cheese, egg&cheese). Sad.
Then to l'Arc du Triomphe. LONG line for those wanting to go up. S had never been up so I had wanted to take him up there but the line was too long. It is an impressive structure no matter how many times I've seen it.
We then walked down the Champs-Elysee - not that great ot romantic anymore, passed Place de la Concorde, on the way to Musee d'Orsay. Feet killing. It didn't really matter that we had tickets already - the line wasn't long even though we had to fight the crowds to see the beautiful Monets and Renoirs, etc. (it was under construction). I also don't remember the restaurant - which looked nice but I remember being able to look out the pretty clock window...I dunno. Again the money-making changes (if it was indeed a change) has made some of the charm disappear.
Having seen delicious looking moules frites on the Champs Elysee, S and I stopped at a restaurant on St Germain de Pres for some. They were ok but we didn't find a place that specialized only in mussels so I was slightly disappointed. So tired. Passed out soon after getting back.
S and I woke up and took the metro up to Sacre Coeur. Neither one of us being a huge red-light district fan, we decided not to walk. It was still beautiful going up the steps to the top (I believe there are 300 steps up to the top). There wasn't a line to buy tix to get in, but the crypts were closed.
We walked around Montparnasse for a while. Many, many people right above Sacre Coeur but the crowds thinned out as we got further along. On our way to the Opera Garnier, we detoured to go past the Montparnasse Cemetery. It was really huge. Neither S nor I really understand why people find cemeteries romantic, but it's always awe-inspiring the mausoleums (is that the word I'm looking for?) and tombstones, etc. that people build for the dead.
The Opera Garnier will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first place I ever watched a ballet or opera. My roommate and I back in 1999 would come and get the last minute tickets. I believe it was 35 French FRANCS at the time. And it was always the most expensive tickets that would be left over. So we had the most fantastic orchestra seats in the world. And of course the shows were amazing. I can't remember how many we went to there. But one of my favorite moments from that summer was when we took our guy friends who were on their a capella tour in Europe to see an opera with us. I think somehow we got 5 seats together. And we listened to the beautiful voices, translating the French "subtitles" for our friends, and just soaking in the environment. The opera house is under renovation right now, but you can still tour the inside. Sadly the season was over, so S and I could not catch an opera or ballet there, something you should definitely do. And I think the last minute tickets are only for those under 26 (which sadly I am no longer), but double check that. You can get some really fantastic seats for really cheap.
In any case, S and I ran into coworkers from last summer after purchasing our tour tickets! One from each of our firms (a couple, like us). So funny. They were taking the self-guided tour. We chose to take the guided tour because I wanted to share my love of the building with S and only those on the guided tour got to go sit in the seats and to really take in the beauty of the opera hall. It was a bit too long a tour (1.5 hours) but learned and saw some things I had never seen before. We cut out slightly early and headed to the department stores. Things are so expensive here now! No sales at all. Depressing.
But happy after we got gelato on Ile St Louis.(Berthillon!) yum yum. We went twice this trip. =)
Then the boat rode on the Seine. So tired, feet hurting, grumpy. Headed home - no dinner. Had thought we would have bread and cheese and wine by he seine bit after bypassing the boulangerie and the chees store on Ile St Louis - none to be found in St Germain de Pres at 9 p
... So just came back to read and sleep.
Place de la Madeleine - went on recommendation from S's family friend. We were able to pick up some cute souvenirs for people (of the culinary sort). We shopped and went into the church. Forgot to say that at sacre coeur they actually turned away people with too short of shorts! Id only seen that happen in Italy! Shoulders are ok...though they ask you to cover them if you can.
Anywho - got some cute gifts for family members around place de la la Madeleine. Walked by Concorde, le Louvre, down Rue de Rivoli back to Ile St Louis for gelato again. So hot. So tired. Resting before heading to Versailles tonight for l'eaux musicales nocturnes (or something like that. Haha. Told you my French is now terrible). Very excited! S said he's only been there in the winter and I've only been there during the day so it should be nice!
In the books for tomorrow: mass at Notre Dame, up the tower, then Giverny, and Rouen. Ready for some relaxation, cooler weather, and a little less walking around. One good thing about the walking though...dropped at least 5 pounds! Haha. When all that p90x was toning me but did not reduce the law school weight gained at all. :P
L'Eaux Musicale Nocturne was amazing! S and I took a picnic of wine, bread, cheese, cookies, and chips with us and ate on one of the walls on the edges of Versailles. We got there fairly early (official start was 9:30, I believe) and sat and ate. There were SO MANY PEOPLE, as everywhere in France this August. But it was beautiful, and we really enjoyed walking around pondering what it was must have been like back in the days of Louis XIV and what the courtiers would have felt like, etc. They even set some of the songs with these flamethrowers throwing up fireballs from the lawn. Something not to be missed.
One thing to know is that people begin gathering on the main steps in preparation for the fireworks super super early. If you don't like standing, then you may want to consider having someone camp out on the steps. The fireworks began at 11:05. S and I headed back in the direction of the main steps at around 9:45 and they were full. The best seats are the middle of the very top step (the other spots would be obstructed by rude people who would refuse to sit down in front of you, etc.). S and I somehow were able to stand directly behind these people with the best seats. A long while to stand but the fireworks were pretty awesome. The French really know how to do fireworks set to music. I've never seen as good of a show anywhere else outside of France. The 14 juillet fireworks, sitting by the Eiffel Tower are great too. The metro after, not so much. So do what you wish.
We caught the last train back to Paris and were EXHAUSTED.