Thursday, June 6, 2013

Paris Recap (proof we did something other than eat!)

Andrew had never been to Paris before so it was a fun treat to show him around. Luckily he wasn't too interested in doing lots of touristy stuff so we had the chance to do some things that I've been wanting to do but just never had the chance.

We rented an apartment through Airbnb in the Marais, and it was a super fun location. We could walk to a lot of places, we were right next to a métro stop, and it felt lively and full of energy.

We arrived late, and by the time we set our bags down it was already after 11:00. A positive side of arriving so late is that we decided to take a taxi from the bus station rather than the métro, and we drove by the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysées and along the Seine seeing the sights lit up at night. It was a fun welcome to Paris.

We had encountered an accident on the autoroute that caused a major delay on the way into town so we arrived later than expected and we were starving. We desperately ran walked to L'as du Fallafel and inhaled our fallafal sandwiches, fries and 1664s before strolling back to our apartment at a much more leisurely pace.

We had lazy mornings (and days!) in Paris taking our time and enjoying ourselves. We didn't plan ahead for anything with the exception of a reservation at the Musée des Arts Forains and our dinners. Even with 8:30 or 9:00 pm dinner reservations, though, we found ourselves rushing at the end of the day to make it to dinner on time.

Our apartment was in a great location, and we could stroll to the Centre Pompidou and over to Notre Dame and down the Seine. On our first day, we stopped for lunch at Café Le Nemours. The French really know how to compose a salad!

We walked through the Tuileries and went to L'Orangerie. L'Orangerie has always been closed for renovations when I was in Paris so I had never been. I learned from our guidebook that although the building was specifically designed by Monet for his Water Lilies, the museum added a floor above the Water Lilies in the 1960s cutting them off from the natural daylight. The renovation to remove the second floor was completed in 2006 and now there is a skylight in the Water Lilies' rooms.

The Water Lilies were stunning! We arrived about an hour before they closed so there were no lines or crowds and we spent a lovely hour admiring the beautiful paintings.

We toured the sewers of Paris, the world's first underground sewer system, where we learned disgusting and fascinating facts about the rats of Paris' underground. Eek! We also learned about the history of sewers and water distribution in Paris.

We went to the top of the Eiffel, and my heart was so full to be there with Andrew overlooking Paris, the City of Love. So cheesy - I loved it!! - and we fully embraced the cheese on top. We would have enjoyed a coupe de champagne but it was pretty cold, windy and rainy. Our guidebook warned us that if we didn't have a reservation we would be fools to go, but I think the rain scared a lot of people off. We only waited about 20 minutes to buy our tickets.

I ate as many green salads as I could. The lettuce in Europe is amazing! I had never really remarked about this before, but it is so full of flavor, so delicate, so perfect. 

We walked around Place des Vosges, and sipped red wine in a cozy café looking out on the Place.

We ate lots of pâtisseries.

We visited Le Jardin des Plantes and the Natural History Museum where we saw all sorts of taxidermied animals.

We stopped in lots of cafés.

We soaked up the humidity, enjoying not needing to put on lotion or drink a ton of water every day. What a difference it makes to get out of the desert once in a while.

We zipped around on the métro and walked a lot of miles on grand boulevards and quiet little streets.

We spent a day going to Montpellier. Montpellier isn't really a very easy day trip, but I wanted to visit the woman I lived with when I studied there. I haven't seen her for about six years, and she is in her 80s. I showed Andrew around town and did a lot of reminiscing and remarked about what has changed. We met Mme C in the Peyrou gardens, where I walked every day when I lived there. We were waiting at the entrance, and I turned around and saw her running toward us. She is even shorter than me so Andrew was towering over us, not understanding anything we said in French.

We had a wonderful lunch chez Mme C, and I think we both found it exhausting. I hadn't spoken French in years and she has gotten a lot older now and has had some heart problems. We still had lots to talk about though. I heard all about her family, and I told her about our lives in Santa Fe. I translated for Andrew who doesn't speak any French, and at one point as she was chatting away to him, she turned to me and said, the poor guy doesn't understand anything I'm saying, but if I don't speak to him normally in French, he'll never learn anything! I thought that was pretty funny since Andrew isn't learning French. I was pretty sad when we left her apartment knowing it is probably the last time I'll see her. We took the TGV back to Paris and headed to Bistro Paul Bert to enjoy our last night in Paris.

Unfortunately, we did have one disappointment from our days in Paris. I had made a reservation at the Musée des Arts Forains (Carnival Museum), but they emailed me the day before to cancel it and reschedule. They didn't have any other openings for us during the few remaining days we were in Paris so we'll have to visit next time. I was so looking forward to this museum. I called about two weeks in advance to make our reservation because it is by appointment only. Just thinking about missing this museum makes my heart ache. I was most looking forward to the bicycle carousel that the riders power through pedaling. Hopefully someday in the future, I'll have a real recap of this museum because I have the feeling that it could even rival THE FOOD as the highlight of the trip next time. In the meantime, you can read about and see photos here.

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