Posted by: thedirtybaker | July 15, 2011

Paris, Parte Un

The Cathedral of Notre Dame from the back. It's one of the nicest backsides around!

48 hours after arriving in Amsterdam, I headed off to Paris, partly to get out of my sick friend’s family’s way.  That was a fantastic way to get out of people’s’ way!  Anytime someone wants me to go away, they should pay for me to go to France.

Fortunately, my friend C was in Paris for 6 weeks on a study abroad program.  They were staying with French families (or in her case, and older woman), so she couldn’t put me up, but I had a hotel room, and was able to explore alone during the day and then hang out with C in the evenings.

I also had a list of things to do from my sister-in-law, who LOVES Paris and goes there at any opportunity.   Her First Timer’s Guide to Paris contained far too many things to do in a 3.5 day trip.  It didn’t help, of course, that my train was 2 hours late arriving, and that I then spent another hour and a half in Gare du Nord, the train station that I arrived in.  I needed to get a metro pass, and the line was extremely long, with too few people working in the sales booth. (Meanwhile, some girls were begging under the guise of “The Association for the Deaf and Mute.”  Oddly enough, all of these apparently deaf-mute girls were somewhat dark-skinned and dark-haired, and reacted to noises.  Even odder, when security came to shoo them away, they found their voices.  There were some gypsy women walking around, too.  I think that was not coincidental. I saw this scam in other places later in the trip, too.)  Then I was trying to get to my hotel via Metro, even though the people working in information at the time spoke

My hotel (from the internet)

only French. Granted, this was France, where people speak French, but it’s a major international train station, and they should speak English and Spanish at Information.  I gave up and took a taxi.  C. came and met me at my hotel, and we headed out to introduce me to Paris.  (“Nice to meet you, Paris!”)

Our first stop was the apartment where C was staying, and a walk around that neighborhood.  She was staying in a strangely laid out, but very nice apartment in a great location.

The elevator in C's building

This building had the tiniest elevator I’ve ever seen (unless you count dumb-waiters as elevators).   You could fit two people in it, but only if they liked each other.  Let’s hope it’s true that French women don’t get fat!  It definitely could serve to encourage people to take the stairs, even to the 4th floor or higher

One of the items on my  list was to drink champagne at the courtyard cafe in the Louvre.  That sounded like a good place to start.  We had wine instead, and then joined the many people cooling off  in the fountain at the Louvre.  (I ended up in Paris during a heat wave.  It was probably in the mid-90’s Fahrenheit, but it was very humid.  We definitely needed to cool off!)

The courtyard at the Louvre: modern glass pyramids and fountains in a centuries-old castle.

Red wine and people watching in Paris!

The water felt GREAT!

From the Louvre, we went to dinner.  We ended up on a small street where the restaurant owners were competing for customers by showing us their formule menus – i.e. Pick one from each column.  We went with the one where we could have escargot.  (Very tasty little critters – tasted like the garlic and herbs they were cooked in!)  Dinner took forever.  C kept saying that service was always slow in Paris, but afterwards, when she realized what time it was, she said that it was ridiculously slow, even for Paris.  The food was very good, though!

That night, I tried to plug my camera’s battery charger in the hotel.  I found, though, that the converter that had worked just fine in Israel didn’t work at this hotel: the outlet’s casing was convex, and the converter’s prongs weren’t long enough to reach it.  The hotel didn’t have anything that could help, so they recommended

Really great facade of a building down the street from the Darty (near the Nation metro station). The plaques show that the building mostly contains doctors' and therapists' offices of various specialties.

that I go to Darty for another one, or an adapter.  Darty is a department store, and while I was there (danger! danger! danger!), I also picked up a belt and a bag that was big enough to carry my purse, my maps, and my water bottle.  There were massive sales going on, so it wasn’t even very expensive!

The Louvre was closed on Tuesdays, so my plan was to go to the Musee d’Orsay, pick up a multi-museum pass, and use it for the next two days.  On the way, I decided to walk partway.  First, I walked the completely wrong direction (as my mother calls it, “the scenic route”), and ended up in La Marais, which is the Jewish quarter.  While I appreciated friends’ recommendations to walk around the Jewish quarter (“Go eat falafel!), it was really low on my list of things to do after a month in Israel.

Gentlemen, if you have your hair cut here, you will be more studly. 😉

Eventually, after lunch and walking, I made it to the D’Orsay. I wasn’t particularly excited about this one – it was billed as specializing in Impressionism, which sounded pretty boring.  But my sister-in-law and others swore that it was fantastic and worth it “even if Impressionism isn’t your bag” so I decided to give it a shot.

The lines were insane, like waiting for a roller coaster at a packed amusement park.

Part of the line to get into the Musee d'Orsay

The line then extended out to the sidewalk, and then snaked around again.

Even the line for getting in with a museum pass looked to be about half an hour long, and I wasn’t sure which line to use to buy the pass.  There was no way I was waiting in a crowd in the humid heat.  I bailed, and headed towards Notre Dame.

On the way, I noticed people walking with gelato or ice cream, and C. had praised the popularity, quality, and availability of gelato in Paris.  Did I mention that it was hot?  I went back in the direction that they came from, and realized that I was in one of the neighborhoods my list said to walk around in and explore: St. Germain des Prés.  It was a great interesting neighborhood for window shopping, and the ice cream was really good – especially the amarena flavor, which turned out to be cherry vanilla.

I found the Cluny Museum, but that turned out to be closed on Tuesdays, too, then wandered over to Notre Dame, and was immediately drawn to the sign that said “Crypt Archeologique,” which is part of the museum pass.  I went down to the crypt

Archaeological tales from a crypt? Sounds good!

to buy it, and was told it was up in the plaza.  I eventually found it across the street, and bought the pass to use over the next two days.  At this point, it was time to head back to the hotel and then to C.’s with a little bit of time to spare (i.e. get lost).  I crossed the Seine and found myself  at her metro stop, so I decided to skip going back to my hotel.  Things looked familiar from the day before, but since we’d walked around the neighborhood, lots of places look familiar, and I didn’t remember the street name.  I got thoroughly lost, though I did find some pain au chocolate along the way.  Eventually, I took two metros back to my hotel, and contacted C on facebook. Yes, facebook – neither of us had functioning phones in Paris.   Leaving from the hotel, I made it to her apartment for a home-cooked meal.

The main course

C cooked a very French meal, like the one her host-mom had made when she arrived: Pork chops with mustard sauce, green beans, potatoes, and salad with a mustard vinaigrette,  bread and two cheeses, and a tart with creme fraiche and raspberries for dessert.  It was delicious!!! (C. claims that a “very French meal” must include Dijon mustard.  She’s really sick of Dijon mustard).  I brought wine.

By the way, the Museum pass is fantastic!  It covers entrance into most of the museums in Paris for a given number of days – and that’s a LOT of museums.  (I don’t think it includes the Museums of Eroticism or Playing Cards, but those are the only ones I noticed not being included.)

Beautiful Dessert!

Side note: after a month in Israel (stray cat central), I noticed the lack of stray cats in Paris with appreciation.  It was nice to be able to sit and eat in the center of town without 6 cats vying with each other to stare at me from 4 feet away.

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