Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Falling for the City of Love

Out of all the cities that we visited, Paris was definitely my favorite. It was my second time there and it far exceeded my experience the first time around. I attribute this to 1) my ability to communicate was significantly better compared to the first go round when I had only taken one year of high school french, 2) the locals being much more willing to speak English if needed, and 3) having more freedom to explore the city than I did last time (and the freedom to drink wine with every meal wasn't too shabby either!)Our first day we got checked in and just kind of wandered a bit.  It was my mom's birthday so we took it easy and saw the Notre Dame, did a cruise down the Seine and then got ready for dinner.

The courtyard area next to our hotel, looking out at the Sorbonne. I can't recommend our hotel enough- it was in a great location and the staff was extremely helpful. 

On the Seine with Notre Dame in the background.

No explanation needed.

 Cute little side street.

Every July and August they have this thing called "Paris Plage" where they bring in a bunch of sand and palm trees and turn the banks of the Seine into a beach complete with boardwalks and sand castles.

 People laying out against ocean backdrops.

 A giant sandcastle.

In front of Notre Dame.

After freshening up a bit, we jumped in a cab and asked the driver to take us to the Champs-Elysees area and recommend a few places for dinner.

One of his recommendations ended up being Le Relais de l'Entrecote which I had remembered seeing on Elizbeth's blog a few weeks before our trip. Since we were somewhat familiar, we decided to give it a shot.

Upon being seated, we were informed that there was no menu because they only served one thing- steak frites. It wasn't exactly what we had in mind seeing as how it was my mom's birthday dinner. After a quick debate, we decided to stay and I'm so happy we did. It was amazing:

By the time we had ordered there was a line wrapped around the building. Not too shabby for a place that is a one-trick pony:

And then there was this guy. He was sitting next to us and everything about him reminded me of Robert Pattinson. He had the same unruly hair, the crooked grin, etc. So of course I had to try to strike up a conversation with him in french to ask him if anyone had ever told him that. He blushed about four shades of red and then admitted that, yes, he gets it all the time. He and his friend were about as charming as they come and chatting with them made our dinner even more fun. Here he is flirting with The Dot. :) 

The next day we went by the Louvre on our way to Musee D'Orsay. As I said before, the Louvre wasn't at the top of my list of things to do in Paris, so I was happy when The Dot agreed to skip it. However, the pyramid is so iconic that we had to stop by.

 See mom! Now you can say you've been to the Louvre!

As it turns out, it was probably a good thing we didn't go to the Louvre since my mom SPRINTED through the Musee D'Orsay. I had an inkling she wasn't much of an art buff since she did the same thing at the MoMA in NYC, but this trip confirmed my suspicions. In her words pertaining the famous works of art housed in the D'Orsay... "I've seen the pictures of all of these paintings my whole life. I'm here, see the real thing and they look the exact same so now we can go."

This was my favorite- Monet's Londres, le Parlement.

Our favorite moment at the D'Orsay was not appreciating a stunning piece of art or admiring the brushstrokes of an original Van Gogh. It was when we were sitting on a long concrete bench resting our feet before continuing on and this little, old man next to us sneezed and simultaneously farted so loudly that I swear it echoed throughout the whole museum. He then proceeded to stand up, SHAKE OUT THE ASS OF HIS PANTS, and leave. We tried to stifle our giggles, but as soon as he was out of earshot, we were laughing so hard we literally had tears streaming down our faces. 

After our hysterics at D'Orsay we left to find this little street that my mom had heard about named Rue Cler. We stopped and had a crepe, people watched for a bit and then shopped our way down the little street. We had reservations at the Eiffel Tower at 6:30 which was about two hours away, so we decided to pick up a bottle of wine and some cheese and have a little picnic in the park in front of the Eiffel Tower*.
*It should be noted that there are signs everywhere saying that alcohol was not permitted in the park, but there were also random hustlers selling tourists bottles of wine and Eiffel Tower key chains, so we figured if worse came to worse we could probably blame the illegal hustlers saying we thought it was okay. While, I do not condone said approach, it was quite enjoyable to have a little boozy picnic with such an incredible view.

She can't claim to be an art connoisseur, but she CAN claim to be a lightweight. One glass of wine at lunch + half a bottle during our picnic did this one in. She was hilarious! We had a great tipsy time traipsing around the tower. {Say that three times fast!}

 View from the top of the tower.

 The very top has a champagne bar. It was really more of a champagne closet, but who are we to judge?      We just wanted some bubbly.

We took an elevator to the halfway point and then walked down the rest of the way. They cram as many people as possible into the elevators and I was lucky enough to be herded into the elevator in such a manner that when the doors closed, my nose was smushed into this 6'4" european dude's armpit. And let's just it was very apparent that he had been sightseeing all day long. Longest elevator ride of. my. life.


 Looking down one of the "legs".

 In the guts of the tower.

We made it to the bottom just in time for the first round of sparkles. After dusk, the entire structure twinkles with sparkly lights every hour, on the hour. I have seen it before but I still got butterflies. :)

Happy girls!

The next day we wandered around, went back to see the inside of Notre Dame, and explored St. Germain des Pres.  For some reason I just loved the front of this little cafe.

Our dinner the third night wasn't quite as successful as Le Relais de l'Entrecote. We had walked by this place the day before and thought it was adorable, but its appeal unfortunately did not carry through to the food. The waitstaff however, was hilarious. My favorite moment was during dinner when I was attempting to get the waiter's attention and said "Excuse moi, monsieur" to which he replied (as he zipped past me) "I'm coming baby!" to which my mom replied "that's what she said".

And then I'm pretty sure red wine came out of my nose.


My absolute favorite thing we did while we were in Paris was a wine class at Ô Chateau. If you ever find yourself in Paris, you must do this. Seriously, don't let me find out that you went to Paris and didn't. Deal?

So basically, Ô Chateau is a wine bar that does educational tastings that teach you about french wine, in english. You learn about the wine producing regions of France, how to read french wine labels, what to look for when you're tasting wine, etc. It was great information and our guy, Remy, was funny, knowledgeable, and spoke impeccable English with just enough of that sexy french accent.

This quote from their website talking about why they are different sums them up perfectly:

(We are) different because we are a young company started by young people, different because we don’t see wine as something we should worship (how about drinking it for starters), different because we happily acknowledge that everybody in this company gets drunk regularly (too much?), different because we hire our sommeliers based on their personality just as much as their wine knowledge, different because in the end… teaching foreigners about French wine is really a different job!

And if  I haven't sold you yet, they also do cheese plates to go with your tasting:

Ô Chateau was started by this (french) guy, Olivier Magny. Who in addition to being easy on the eyes, wrote a very funny book "Stuff Parisians Like." The book pretty much spends 300 pages poking fun at the seriousness of Parisian culture. Gotta love a self-deprecating frenchman.
He was there during our tasting so I bought a copy of his book and he wrote a funny little inscription inside the cover. Later on we had a slight shopping bag mishap, so my book is now permanently covered in red wine- which for some reason just seems so appropriate.

 Our last day in Paris we spent checking out Sacre Coeur, shopping, and eating.

Despite both of us being in pretty good shape, we were hobbling around like little old ladies after taking the stairs down the Eiffel Tower. Needless to say, The Dot was none too happy when she realized this was the one and only route to the church (and this was halfway up).

Sacre Coeur is up on a hill (obviously) and is a very prominent part of the Parisian skyline. It was targeted during the bombing of Montmarte during World War II. I forgot how many bombs were dropped but not a single life was lost and the only damage to the church was that the stained glass windows were blown out. Pretty amazing.

Our last night before heading to London, we went to Les Deux Magots for dinner. I have always wanted to eat here and while I'm glad we did, I think there are other lesser known spots that probably far exceed the food at Les Deux Magots. It was good, just a bit over-hyped in my opinion. However, mid dinner it started pouring down rain which I just loved. Tucked just far enough under the patio awning to stay dry in my favorite city in the world with my favorite weather made the romantic in me swoon. {You could put good money on the fact that if I had been there with a boy instead of my mom I would have had #14 checked right off my 30x30 list before the waiter had a chance to bring "l'addition"!} 


I was so happy that we decided to leave a week early in order to add Paris to our trip. I loved seeing it through "grown-up" eyes and, as always, my mom was a great (and patient) travel buddy. We almost got to spend a little extra time in the city since we missed our flight to London the next day, but that is definitely a story for another day...


Katie said...

This is a great trip recap! You travel the way I will when I finally get to go one day!

Maggie said...

I love this recap... I'm looking for a Paris hotel now for our Christmas trip, and will check out your recommendation!

PS: Your mom sounds hilarious!