Paris (Sunday May 27th-Wednesday May 30th) aka Museums and Munchies
No sleep on the flight in, but the food was surprisingly good. Go KLM! There were no crying children or whimpering mini-dogs in a woman’s carry-on. A good sign.
When we finally arrived in Paris, two obnoxious women of unknown origin cut in front of us in the tourist information line where we were attempting to find out about museum passes and a less-expensive mode of transportation to the airport. They felt that the poor woman behind the counter was lying to them that there was no accomodation option in classy hotels in the downtown area for less than 50 euros a night. Our hotel is five metro stops (and a transfer) from even the Latin quarter and is it over 350 euros a night. Now, it’s a VERY nice hotel, but it puts what “Classy” would be in perspective, doesn’t it? This was the first appearance of tweeddle-dee and tweedle dum. My aunt has quoted my mother: “For fifty euros a night, the rooms comes with pets.”
We went for dinner to a restaurant recommended as “casual” by the concierge. It cost a small fortune (which was not pleasing), but the food was excellent. I ordered my steak rare and it came…RARE! The french fries were moist and a little sweet (yummy!) and i had a vegetable mousse (eggs created the fluffiness i think) that was scrumptuous. We shared a piece of almond-apple pie. Apparently my French is “pretty good.” I have to laugh.
Woke up at 2am. I would attribute this to jet lag but for two mitigating factors: 1) I hadn’t been able to sleep at my parent’s house since moving back in last week either; 2) usually i can sleep anytime, anywhere – and 2am is 8pm – my usual after-dinner “i want a nap” time. My uncle called at 4am and scared the daylights out of us. My aunt couldn’t fall back asleep, but since i now had company in my insomniac adventures, we mapped out the rest of our stay.
The morning’s breakfast led us on a wild goose chase for a bakery, Julien, recommended by the guidebook recommended by Zach (Let’s Go), but it was closed despite the book saying it was open 7 days a week. We were not pleased, but the Louvre soothed our poor spirits. We spent over six hours in the building but only visited one wing. We also met an American woman who decided to share with us that “the writings are useless because they are not in English.” I explained the concept of Roman copies of lost Greek originals to her and then ran for cover. I discovered new favourites: Muller and Chardin while revisiting old faithfuls like Claude Lorraine. I didn’t make it to either the Boticelli’s or the Da Vinci’s, but am planning on returning in the future – oh i must!
We breaked for lunch around 1:30 and went on ANOTHER wildgoose chase. La Carte Blanche no longer exists despite it’s being recommended by Let’s Go. We ended up in a pokey little bar filled with Parisians on lunch break who gave us the evil eye for intruding. My aunt was served a hamburger with a fried egg on top. I had a salad. The salad was good. The hamburger was supposedly surprisingly good. I will be trying this at home when i get back.
Exhausted, we came back to the hotel after perusing a mediocre gift shop (the museums here have nothing on the Metropolitan’s) for a power nap. At nine we did our best to find another of the suggested restaurants in Let’s Go. This one, Vavin, near us. We got lost, hailed a cab, and made it just before closing time. Lucky thing too, because there kitchen was just about to close. The flamiche (leek quiche) was FANTASTIC as was the rhubarb pie. Yummies. We did not get lost coming back to the Meridian Montparnasse, though there was much debating in front of every map.
Woke up and walked to the Catacombs. Got there early so we decided to go for a cafe creme, hot chocolate and croissant and a cafe/restaurant on the corner. Yum. We then walked around in the catacombs (buns of steel) and were pleased to see the light of day after 2km of tunnel. Next time i will be sure to do the sewer tour. We metroed over to the train station and headed over to Versailles. The gardens were just lovely, but the inside was a little…well…overboard. You see one gold-plaited piece of furniture you see them all, but then again, i am not a huge fan of the decorative arts.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, i took a bath and read with a glass of red wine until it was time for our nighttime tour of Paris which began with a cruise down the Seine. Then we were shuttled around all the main sights by van. Though this was rather kitch, it was pleasant too because otherwise our heavy museum schedule would not have permitted these stunning views. Unfortunately, the tweedles made an appearance again. A mom and daughter from Maryland were in the van with us on a two-week tour of Europe which included a day and a half in Paris. They asked questions, didn’t answer when you responded, and called the Haagen Dasz ice cream store “exquisite.” Oh my. There was also a moment of freaking out over the hotel where Princess Diana was staying when she died in the car crash. I managed to not be snarky…but the moment of jaw-dropping over the sparkling lights on the Eiffel Tower was enough to make me hurl. Clearly there is nothing to see in Maryland.
We got up at a relatively good hour (9 i think) and walked to our breakfast spot of the day before for crepes aux confitures. We then got on a metro for the Musee D’Orsay to ogle the Impressionists. Around five we walked over to Notre Dame, sat and stared, then went for gelato and ended the evening at the James Joyce Pub. The irish stew was fab! But the stay had not gotten us any bubbly yet, so we stopped at a grocery store for provisions: sparkling white wine, pate, crackers and sticky cheese (as well as the ever-important madeleines).
The verdict on Paris: the weather was shitty which was well, shitty. There was too much to see for such a short visit. I would love to live here, but am unsure how anyone affords to. Next time there are still many monuments on the list to visit, but most importantly, i must go theatreing. There are posters everywhere and it was killing me…i need a travel companion whose French is good enough…any takers?