I would also like to apologize in advance for not putting accent markers where they belong (or at all). I am too lazy.
Ah. My first morning in Paris.
Our apartment was just around the corner from a dozen adorable cafes so the perfect thing would have been for us to wake up, cascade down the cool wooden spiral staircase in our apartment building, skip out onto the cobblestone street (taking in the spring morning air) and grab a seat at the first cafe we see, and order a big puffy croissant and cafe creme.
Instead, I heated up some water in the kitchen and poured it into my Starbucks Via powder. Stirred. Drank. Opened fridge, pulled out a whey protein milk shake (bought at Costco) and downed that. Ready to go.
How’s that for classy?
The goal for the day was to walk until we could walk no more so I wanted to be energized from the start. My next trip to Paris will be about slowing down. Now that I’ve seen all of the city I’d be happy to spend 80% of my time just puttering around Le Marais. Ah. Next time.
And walk we did. We headed south from our apartment directly towards the Hotel de Ville and Notre Dame, then over to the Latin Quarter across the river. Our first goal was to pick up a Paris Street Guide By District. I recommend getting one before you arrive. It was extremely helpful and we couldn’t have gotten around without it. Once we picked up our guide we stopped at Starbucks for an Americano. Yep. We did that. And we walked around the Latin Quarter with our Starbucks in hand. Hey, if Parisians don’t like the idea of coffee to go then they should not allow one million Starbucks in their city. Just saying.
After fetching some Euros from an ATM, goal #1 was to find a little bakery on a tiny, windy road just a few blocks off the river called Patisserie Sud Tunisien. After a few wrong turns we finally found it. I expected it to be bigger. It was really just a small, boxy space and two foreign men stood inside. I’d heard that their Tunisian sandwiches were delish so that’s what we were there for but they had some pretty amazing looking pastries in the window. I asked one of the men if he spoke English. He said a little. I held up 2 fingers, my forefinger and middle finger (apparently the wrong 2 fingers) and said “2 sandwiches please.” He gestured to the other man and the other man started making the sandwiches. Then to me he said, “8.” I handed him a bill and he returned some coins. The sandwiches were ready almost immediately and we thanked them and headed out. That went fairly well, I’d say!
Out on the street we tried to figure out how to eat our sandwiches. They were big, messy looking, and bready. Not really something that seemed okay to eat while walking around. (Actually, it turns out that while Parisians don’t do coffee to go they are often seen eating baguette sandwiches on the go; this sandwich was a bit similar than a baguette sandwich so it would have been totally appropriate, albeit messy, to eat it as we walked.) In the end, we found a spot on a bridge along the Seine to consume this lovely (and very bready) sandwich. This thing had spicy sauce and tuna in it. And whole olives. And a WHOLE BOILED EGG. Amazing!
After consuming good food we were ready for some serious walking. We headed towards Luxembourg Gardens, passing from a distance (without really seeing) Shakespeare and Company, Sorbonne, Musee de Cluny, and The Pantheon (which was under renovation and covered with a shroud).
Luxembourg Gardens was, um, how do I say this? Underwhelming? Maybe because it was a kind of cold day there weren’t many people there. And beyond the central fountain, heading west through empty picnic areas, it was a little depressing. That was also where we encountered our first gypsy children. Their trick is to ask you if you speak English and if you say yes, they ask you to sign a petition. While signing this fake petition, they’ll try to pickpocket you while you’re distracted. My trick was to immediately tell them “No!” and shoo them away when they asked me if I spoke English. It worked every time. I’m actually surprised anyone would fall for it but apparently it happens all the time. Anyway, I’ll give Luxembourg Gardens another try and spend more time exploring there when I return. It was really just poor timing and me being in a rush, I’m sure.
We continued heading in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower (which we got our first glimpse of at Luxembourg Gardens). After a quick downpour in the relatively quiet 7th Arrondissement, we came upon Les Invalides and the Musee de l’Armee. We went into the museum and considered paying for admission but then changed our minds because later in the week we planned to buy a museum pass. It didn’t make much sense to spend extra money on an unplanned museum when we could instead spend it on wine and beer. See how we think? That is how we do.
We arrived at the Champ de Mars and I texted The Boy to tell him where to meet us (he had class in the morning but said he’d meet us later near the Eiffel Tower since his apartment which was just across the river in the 16th). More gypsies and many more tourists. Ugly tourists, oh my. I am way too self conscious to travel, I’ve decided. I want to look completely like a local and I try so hard that I end up not really enjoying myself and seeing things. I need to find a happy medium. The Boy found us and we headed to the Eiffel Tower admission line. We planned on climbing the stairs and the line for that entrance (the Pilier Sud entrance) was much shorter than the line for the elevator but still took us about 30 minutes to go through. After going through security we headed up. It was kind of fun to look at the structure up close like that. I’d been reading about the construction of the tower in the book Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced It and I couldn’t help but imagine the men up their manually pounding in the rivets and looking back down at the Champs de Mars and picturing the World’s Fair going on down below with Thomas Edison’s popular phonograph recording exhibit packed with people eager to hear the sound of their own voices. I highly recommend putting the book and your first visit to the Eiffel Tower together. Fun!
We didn’t climb to the top but to the 2nd level (I don’t even know if you can climb to the top). From the 2nd level you can see all of the city and it’s really remarkable. We stayed a bit and took some photos, then headed down.
The Boy took us across the river so that we could see his Chambre de Bonne and grab a few things to bring back to our apartment (laundry, mainly, since his local laundromat was temporarily closed). Originally, The Boy wasn’t going to stay with us in our apartment but due to the laundromat situation and his room’s fridge having died while he was away it was the sensible thing to do. After a quick tour (the building he lived in was very nice with a private courtyard and an amazing backyard view of the Eiffel Tower; his room faced the opposite direction from the tower, unfortunately, but still he had peek-a-boo views of quaint apartment balconies and rooftops), The Boy escorted us to the Passy subway stop and we made our way back towards Le Marais. That is where we got to witness our first packed subway. It’s interesting to see how people deal with being packed in tightly on mass transit. In Taiwan they really packed themselves in and no one really seemed to show any expression about the situation. In Paris, they were equally packed in but the attitude was a bit different. People paid just enough attention to each other to move a bit as needed, offer a seat if necessary (and if possible to move) etc. It was pleasant chaos. Also, sweaty. I couldn’t wait to get off.
Once back in Le Marais I was anxious to go “home.” I used to think of myself as super adventurous but I need a mixture of excitement and routine these days. Before heading to our apartment we stopped at the local grocery store (thank god it was opened on a Monday) to picked up dinner-y things and wine. I really came to love that stupid little market during our week in Paris. It was just a mini-Monoprix (called Monop’). To The Boy’s delight they stocked Dr. Pepper (the Monoprix in the 16th where he normally shopped didn’t). My exciting purchases included duck liver pate, smoked meats, soft French cheese, mini baguettes, bottles of Bordeaux, tabouli salad, salmon lox, blinis, etc. Yum! And crazily affordable (in particular, the wine and cheese was way cheaper than I was used to).
Upon returning to the apartment, I slipped off my walking shoes, made myself a huge plate of yum, poured a big glass of red wine and we all watched Elf in French (because it was there) followed by more wine and listening to TSF Jazz*.
*Give TSF Jazz an “écouter” and tell me you don’t hear the lady between songs say “Thin Set Jazz” rather than TSF Jazz.
Next up: A romantic walk along the banks of the Seine (with accordion music even!) plus “Project Get Good Beer” continues and a visit to a cool old train station. Bonus: A mom cooks hot food for The Boy. This makes mom and boy happy.