Author: Carol N.
Date of Trip: September 2006
We were so lucky on our flight over to Paris to have the two seats across from us open so we got to spread out. And I successfully carried on my lip balm in my pocket!
Tues: Our apartment was in a good location; right on the Champs Elysees by the Arc de Triomphe and we had a view of the upper half of the Eiffel tower from the wonderful floor to ceiling windows. The tower is lit at night and every hour on the hour it twinkles – very cool. Our landlord’s mother met us at the apartment and she was delightful although spoke barely a word of English – led us around the rooms with a ‘voila!’ for here and a ‘voila!’ for there. We just dumbly nodded and smiled and after she left, the girls eventually figured out how to use to washer/dryer combo unit and the big screen TV. The apartment was subject to the street noise (even 5 floors up) but we were grateful to have so much room for our stay.
Spent the first evening (after we settled in and unpacked) wandering the Champs Elysees and got our first sticker shock upon discovering coke goes for oh, 5 euros a glass or 12,50 a liter – sheesh! We had pizza, thought we’d be familiar with that but the toppings are a bit different – what is it with the French and eggs? And we learned that ‘aubergine’ is eggplant – which actually tastes pretty good on pizza.
Wed: Thought we’d go discover the ‘real Paris’ and visit the Rue Cler, a street with all the little shops one hopes to poke through – chocolatiers, pastry shops, butcher, grocery, fruit & veggies, cafes – we bought baguette sandwiches for lunch (their ‘fast food’) and were quite gauche as we had to sit on the curb to eat. Boy, did people stare, though one old lady did wish us “bon appetit.’
On to the Eiffel tower and we rode all the way to the top. The structure is amazingly intricate and I didn’t realize the four corners were set in large concrete pedestals. Poor Melody dropped her camera while we were in line and so broke it the first day we were there – too sad. We bought tickets for the double-decker tour bus and rode it till we were blocked in by (orderly) protesters – so we bailed the bus and walked back to Notre Dame where we got great pictures of Melody shoving her purse under her sweater as Quasimodo (once again, I think our humor is lost on the French).
Thurs: The girls like to sleep in (grrrr), so I went to the post office and got stamps and stopped at La Brioche for breakfast pastries (raisin snails, apricot filled croissants, and pain du chocolat). The girls wanted to head back to the tower to take photos, so off we went. We met our first beggar – a Bosnian girl who asked if we were Americans, then started kissing my hand and begging us to read a note about her plight. I gave her 2 euros, but we were to find many more beggars. Can’t really call them homeless, just beggars.
After pictures, we got on the red bus again and continued the tour of the city till we got to the Musee d’Orsay where we thoroughly enjoyed the Impressionist art. Seeing many familiar works like Degas’ ballerinas, van Gogh’s self portrait, Toulouse Lautrec, Manet, Monet, etc.
We went to the show at the Moulin Rouge at 11pm and though it was crowded, we did have good seats. Although the dancing seemed almost amateurish at first, it did improve and the skits and acrobats rounded out the show. But man, I am disappointed they didn’t do that whole can-can thing! Just a brief bit of it. The costumes were extravagant and colorful. We each were given a half bottle of champagne (I saved mine) and when they brought it to the table we tried to also order orange juice and water, but were told it was too late to order anything else! So we continued in our efforts to endear ourselves to the French people by eating the ice chips out of the champagne bucket.
Fri: The Louvre. You enter through that funky modern pyramid and security checked our bags (soldiers with uzis were patrolling the square) and we headed for the Mona Lisa (which, honestly, as you pass all the other radiant paintings you have to wonder why this picture is so revered). Also saw statuary like the Venus de Milo, the winged victory, mercury, and so on. And so many paintings that were familiar and so many new favorites.
We lunched in one of their museum cafes and I had my first croque monsieur…mmm, tasty (it is a kind of French-toast grilled ham and cheese). Afterwards, we wandered out to the garden and laid on the lush green lawn like the locals and rested up. From there I wanted to find a recommended perfume shop, Catherine’s. It is a small shop but the service was excellent as she sprayed us and sniffed us and made recommendations as to scents and we were quite taken with the experience. And practically next door was a Godiva shop (wee hoo!). I got the girls some chocolate and myself my favorite cherry cordials. Sixteen pieces cost only 11 euros – a lot less than at home. The candy does taste a bit different as there is liqueur in the cordials.
Mel spotted a ballet store where there was a whole wall of slippers and tutus. Moms and their little daughters were shopping – we loved it. We ate at the “American Dream Cafe” and it was a hoot. Back to the metro and ‘home.’ I was pooped, but the girls went and climbed the Arc (some 286 steps – forget it!)
Sat: Off to the church at Sacre Coeur in Monmartre, a very popular place on this Saturday. Paris is crowded and people are always rushing and no matter where I stood, 5 other people wanted to occupy that space! We bought baguette sandwiches and ate by the carousel. Mine was an “Americane” sandwich – ham and cheese and the ever-present egg – hard-boiled and sliced (which I have never seen an ‘Americane’ eat on a sandwich), and enjoyed a marvelous slushy drink of apricot/mango.
I was disappointed that we were here in the morning instead of dusk but that’s how the schedule went today. We found the square with all the artists and it is so interesting to see the different styles and methods. Melody had her portrait sketched, and Stacey and I picked out paintings we liked (though I wish I had bit the bullet and got the really pretty one that cost more). Oh, and we had our first crepes – I didn’t realize you are to eat them in hand, like an ice cream cone.
I had been hoping to go into the Salvador Dali Museum but somehow we missed finding it. The streets are picturesque and wind around, and I love the window boxes with the bright red geraniums. And I must say that Paris is so clean. Later sat at an outdoor table and had cafe au lait — at least the girls did as I don’t like coffee. I thought the hot chocolate was supposed to be so good here, but it is not sweet. The girls wanted to stay out longer so I went on home, after stopping at another pastry shop for an apricot nougat crème, and a layered passion fruit torte that we all shared later. And a ‘take away’ pizza.
Sun: Off to Versailles. Finding the right train was a bit confusing, but finally we got there through the group efforts of various other tourists! Having our museum passes was worth just skipping the ticket line at Versailles. But as we tried to enter the gardens we were told ‘not today’ – special event, buy another 7 euro ticket. Poor girls, I walked them all over the grounds – it was so gorgeous there. And today was the day that fall came. Windy, dark clouds moving in, a spot or two of rain – loved the whole thing! Sheep and horses in the fields, people on bicycles in the wooded lanes.
Eventually we found the restaurant and canal area, and ate our baguettes by the water. Tired by now, we rented a golf cart for an hour and zipped around looking at the grand and petit trianons and gazebo with cupid in it. I am bummed that we didn’t make it over a bit further to the hammeau – a recreated little perfect village built for Marie Antoinette. Really wanted to see that but had to get the cart back… Finally did buy the garden tix just so we didn’t have to hoof it quite so far back to the chateau, and were glad we did because of all there is to see on that walk. And the hall of mirrors is being worked on but part of it is finished already and so we got an idea of its glory. The chapel and the opera theater are more impressive. Everything is just so ornate! Finally found an internet cafe and we each spent time connecting with home.
Mon: Shopping day because the vast majority of the museums are closed on Mondays. We went to the Lafayette galleries. We entered from the metro stop and were in the basement. Kind of dark, exposed pipe etc…when I went up a floor it was like going from Kansas to Oz! Brilliant light, glass and chrome, a massive gorgeous stained glass dome – awesome. Found a few items and totally enjoyed myself – meet up with the girls later for lunch at McDonald’s there on the 3rd floor. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and the bacon was Canadian bacon…oh, those French. After a few other stores the girls still wanted to shop but my feet hurt and my arms were full so I headed back to the room.
Tues: The girls wanted to visit more than one country and figured Belgium was closest so they took the train (1.5 hrs) to Brussels. I wanted to go back to the Louvre and to the perfume shop and the Rue Cler, so I stayed behind. I’m sure they were ready to be rid of me. I waited till 10 am at the Louvre, with a whole group of people, till a guard finally came over and told us it was closed on Tuesdays! Drat! Guess I’ll have to return to Paris some day with Bob. I did see the filming of a music video there though – fun to watch for awhile. (And yesterday the girls had a near miss sighting of the Olsen twins. They waited out front of a store for 30 minutes with the paparazzi, but finally left).
Wed: Visited the Rodin Museum. And guess what, today the music video people are shooting across the street from our apartment by the arc. Also went to a mall on the Champs at Porte Maillot and discovered a great food market – why are they so colorful and wonderful looking? And a great home interior store (graine d’interior) where we enjoyed the very different styles and Stacey found some gifts.
Our last evening, we ate a pizza by the quay as we waited for our boat tour along the seine at 9pm. It was so enjoyable to see the lights of the city and revisit the places we’d seen one last time.
Bon soir, Carol