A Weekend in Paris
Trip Start Sep 20, 2009
10Trip End Oct 07, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
We found out the night before we were to arrive in Paris that Hotel Stella was booked; Chad was crushed. Although, I didn't really want to stay in the same place that we stayed last time, I couldn’t argue that the neighborhood of the Latin Quarter was a fun and ideal location. But, this trip for me was all about new places, with new people, and new experiences, so I was excited to try somewhere new.
We arrived around 4-5 pm and settled the folks at a café in the train station to wait for Roger (a Stamm cousin who had some business in Europe and decided to take the train to meet us in Paris for the weekend, a great surprise) while we began to find some lodging for our stay. The tourist information booth was not at all helpful, so the pressure to speak French was on Chad to call hotels and find us a place
After getting checked in and settled, we walked around our new neighborhood, which turned out to be within walking distance to the Latin Quarter anyway. This area also included a lively street called Rue Mouffetard, which was filled with restaurants, bars, and shops. Each day, an open air market lined the street with vendors of cheese, meats, veggies, fruits, etc. Anything you could possibly want was on this street.
We had a nice dinner, with a hilarious waiter, and Roger ordered a dish of raw meat, better known as steak tartar. It continues to baffle me why Europeans, especially the French, eat raw meat and raw eggs without any issues. Are salmonella and e-coli an American thing? How is that possible? I have to admit, the steak tartar is pretty good too!
After a few drinks and some fun observations of the student scene and nightlife in the area (we were situated pretty close to the Sorbonne), we headed for bed. Following an uneventful night, except the line for the toilet down the hall at 1 am, we began the next day with our first full day of touring Paris, again. Since Chad and I had spent a significant amount of time here the last time we traveled, many sights and streets were already familiar. It was nice to be able to recognize things and get that "remember-the-last-time?" feeling as we passed restaurants and streets we spent time in nearly three years ago. We revisited Notre Dame (which was just as crowded as we’d left it), explored each of the different neighborhoods all over the city, did the “march” from the obelisk, down the Champs Elysees, through the Arc de Triomphe, and finished at the Eiffel Tower. We climbed the stairs of the tower, currently undergoing some construction, and enjoyed all the spectacular views it has to offer. We reminisced about spending my 30th birthday atop the tower three years ago and it made us smile.
We decided on a drink/appetizer hop for the night to be able to check out many different places. My favorite place by far was a place called “sweet lounge”. Not because the food or restaurant was anything special, but because it was here that we met an 81-year-old opera singer who became Chad and my companion for the next hour, and onto the next day actually. We realized afterwards that we never even got her name. She spoke many different languages, so Chad and I were able to speak with her in both Spanish and French. At times, she would speak to me in Spanish and then switch mid-sentence to French. I would look at Chad and he would know to take over the conversation
The next morning, we allowed ourselves a later morning to sleep in and went to a local café for breakfast. My omelet was served with ham, cheese, and raw eggs. I asked for it to be cooked longer and after receiving a dirty look, it returned 10 minutes later, still raw in the middle. I politely pushed the plate towards Chad and ate my rice cake.
We took the train to Montmartre (which seemed even more crowded than we left it), but since the weather was beautiful, we joined the masses in walking around, getting great pictures of my favorite church painted for me by my husband, Sacre Coeur, and watched the artists in the square at work
On this day, upon stopping at a cafe for a refreshment, during a visit to the WC (wc=water closet, water closet=bathroom), I ended up getting locked in the stall. Of course it was a single stall so there was no one around to hear my plea for help. I have no idea how the latch got stuck, but I pulled on the door so hard that eventually part of the lock flew off and landed in the toilet. The rest was easily disassembled and I was liberated. I hurried us out of the restaurant as if there was a fire and didn’t explain myself until we were clear of getting charged for destruction of property! Only me…
For our last night in Paris, we went for dinner in a new area called rue Cler. Since it was Sunday, many places were closed, and the restaurant we set out to find was booked. So we settled on a pretty touristy place called “tribeca.” We had great food, good wine, and ridiculously decadent desserts. Unfortunately, dinner was briefly tainted by a situation we refer to as “the ugly American travelers”. This was actually an unbelievable display of drama including three older women, a claim that a waiter who moved a chair hit one of the women in the leg, which not only caused her great distress and a request for ice, but also ended up sending her limping around the restaurant until she got the attention of the hostess, who was then forced to pick up the entire bill
I did realize though that they were catering to us as Americans as the waiter attempted to clear my plate before everyone (Chad) was finished eating. In America, a server clears your plate when you are finished no matter who is still eating. This is the etiquette of our culture. In many other countries, they do not clear the plates until everyone at the table is finished. Since I married molasses, I have gotten in the habit of keeping my plate at home until Chad is finished, even though I am usually done before him. This is a custom I prefer and look forward to while in Europe. I was just short of wrestling it away when Chad finished.
On the subway on the way home, we noticed a young couple in matching Marmot jackets, and again, we smiled and reminisced about our honeymoon trip, where we too had matching Marmot jackets!
Although I had no real desire to visit the Louvre again, I agreed to go the next day in the hopes of actually enjoying it this time. I was pleasantly surprised that Rick’s tip for entering through the side door, the minute the museum opens, was the best kept secret for limiting the waiting time. We walked right in, sipped our espressos while we waiting for the gates to open, and were amongst the first to see good old Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. I really tried to enjoy some of the art, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that as the hours passed, my interest waned
- You are more likely to be run over by a bicycle than a car.
- How do they drive so fast and so crazy without lines on the streets?
- What’s up with these major streets that go around in circles? If you get stuck on the inside lane, do you ever get out?
- The Eiffel Tower is everything it’s cracked up to be.
- You can meet the strangest people in Paris….Cousin Roger….spending time together was a great highlight of Paris.
- Where did Chad learn all that French?
Riding the TGV train to Paris was a thrilling experience; so fast, on time, organized and did I say, fast? We met Roger in the station; him finding us while we were looking for him
What’s crazy is that we never found out her name. I wanted to call her Edith Piaf, but Edith had long been buried in Pere Lachaise on the other side of the Seine. Our Edith, though, at the Sweet Lounge, which was really just a small creperie on Rue Mouffetard, was at least 75, probably 85. Between my French and Alli’s Spanish, we began to extract her story:
She was originally from Sicily. When Mussolini came to power, her family fled to Tunisia, a French colony at the time. As Tunisia gained their independence in 1956, her family moved to France where she still lives today, just down the street from the Sweet Lounge, which happens to be owned by a Sicilian.
She came from a musical family, and she loves to sing
No, Je ne regrette rien. No, I do not regret anything. And she didn’t either. You could just tell. This lady had seen a lot, been through a lot, but there was nothing to regret. Maybe it was her voice, maybe it was her forceful eyes, maybe it was the red wine. But our new friend Edith certainly meant what she said and what she sang, so when she invited us to come down to the square behind the local church the next morning, we showed up. We were treated to more of her singing, as well as a few classical French café favorites from the neighborhood’s local band of troubadours. I guess you could say, for the weekend, we became part of that neighborhood.
And of all the time I’ve spent in Paris and of all the wonderful things I’ve seen, the most amazing part of a visit to Paris is simply assimilating into a neighborhood and becoming local
Though I would have killed for more downtime to assimilate in the cafés to do some sitting, writing, drinking, nothing – the best part about this quick visit to the City of Lights was getting to share it with family. It was cool literally running into Roger at Gare du Nord. It was fun watching Pam trying to excite my dad about a trip to the Louvre. But I think my favorite image was on our first night as we rounded the corner to the front side of the Pantheon. The Eiffel Tower stood off in the distance in front of a pinkish sky (La Vie en Rose), and as I turned to my right, my dad literally stood there with his jaw dropped. The Fountain of Youth? I don’t know. But the Eiffel Tower made at least one old timer look like a kid.
Over the course of the weekend, we all did some of the familiar stuff to Alli and me: visiting Notre Dame, walking across the Pont des Arts, strolling through the Tulieries (though this time stopping for a Kronenbourg), marching up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, and of course, we had another blue sky day just like the last time we hiked the stairs of the Tour Eiffel
On this trip, though, it was finally time for me to visit the Louvre. No more holidays, no more cancelled night hours, no more Let’s Go incorrect guidebook bullshit listing the wrong hours. We got in, we got in early, and we got in often.
We began with some Greek figures including the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo, and then we found the grand hallways upstairs where the Italian Renaissance paintings are held. Yes, Mona is kind of small. Yes, it sucks that you can’t get close to analyze the brush strokes. But it’s still amazing nonetheless to see a work of art that symbolized the Renaissance, though I will say that Michelangelo’s David is a much more powerful statement in my opinion. What I enjoyed the most was probably the French Romantic paintings including Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, and after a couple of other small discoveries during our visit, I realized that, guess what, I’ll probably need to go back.
But as I said, the best part of this visit Paris was being able to enjoy it with family. We had some very memorable table time including some classic French dishes with St
As I thought it would, Paris still inspires me. I like being surrounded by all the architecture that makes the city both lacy and haunting, the artistic and literary history that makes it so humbling, the sheer volume of books for sale and works of art on display that makes it so intelligent, the café singers and making-out metro riders that give it so much passion. Paris just makes me want to make something, too – a book, a painting, a two-hour lunch, a baby? Well, it at least makes me want to practice those things.