Paris – day 6 and day 7.

Read about Amsterdam here and here, and Bruges here.  These vacation recap posts are sooooo long!  But it was either five super long posts over two weeks or ten kind of long posts over four weeks (you know I can only manage two or three posts a week).  Pick your poison.  Or actually, I picked it for you.  And I just wasted another thirty seconds of your time with this lengthy, pointless monologue.  The rambler’s gotta ramble.

Day 6 – Monday

We cabbed our way to the train station from our beloved hotel on Monday morning to ride the rails from Bruges to Brussels.  After a brief stop in Brussels (long enough to get food and coffee), we hopped a high speed train to Paris.  I was lulled into a nap by the sound and feel of the train, and Kevin watched the Belgian and French countryside fly by out the window.

The high speed train did its job well and we arrived at Gare du Nord.  Europe’s train system is so awesome.  In just over an hour we found ourselves in a completely different country!  With a completely different metro system to figure out.  The ticket information people were helpful yet again and soon we were the proud owners of a 10 pack of tickets to use throughout the week on the public transportation system.  To get to the recommended stop for our AirBnB accommodation, we had to transfer lines and switch trains a few times, but we made our way there without a hitch.  We found the Paris metro system to be easy to navigate and really an effective way to travel throughout the city.

Suitcases in hand we ascended to the street level and caught our first view of Paris.  It’s a happening city with a series of interesting juxtapositions.  On the one hand, there is the frenetic energy of the cars whizzing by and the people hustling about in every direction, while on the other, the cafes are filled with people enjoying a leisurely meal or reading a book, oblivious to the chaos around them.  All of this is set amidst buildings that are hundreds of years old – stately and serene…with a Footlocker occupying the street level spot.

We made our way to the quiet street of Rue de Bellechasse and found our apartment.  It was on the 4th floor and Kevin, being the gentleman he is, carried both suitcases up all those stairs in one trip.  The apartment was charming with old wood floors, classic Parisian shutters, a decorative fireplace in the living room and in the bedroom, and a lot of natural light throughout.  There were also a few quirks, as you’d find of some variety in any foreign {to you} house or apartment.  The place was as described, and once again, we were satisfied with our decision to use AirBnB.

IMG_0129

We dropped off our stuff and Kevin’s cousin, Doug, met us at the apartment.  He took us to a restaurant right down the road for a late lunch, which was delicious.  Doug is fluent in French and it was nice to have someone to translate the menu more precisely than we would have been able.  I had an entrée (appetizer, as it is the “entry” to the meal) of green beans with pomegranate, cilantro, sesame seeds, and a light cream sauce – it was a strange combination of ingredients that really worked!  I also had a pork dish, which was good, and Kevin had a delicious white fish with a cream sauce, in a broth of assorted spring vegetables.  We split a rich chocolate torte for dessert.

It was really great to catch up with Doug.  He was so generous with his time when we were in town.  He is something of an expert on Parisian history and culture and it was so delightful to have such a knowledgeable guide.

On that note, he took us on a bit of a marathon trek of Paris that afternoon.  We saw the Luxumburg Gardens, the Senate building, the Pantheon, the Sorbonne, the University of Paris, the outside of Notre Dame, the Pont Neuf, the outside of the Louve, the bohemian book sellers along the Seine, St. Michel, the Justice Building, and a myriad of other sites.  It was a whirlwind, but a great way to see the city.  And it was all excellently narrated by Doug.  He is passionate about Paris and it shows!

Travel tip #11:  Find a Doug on all your travels.  Obviously this isn’t a realistic travel tip, so I suppose in lieu of a friend or family member to show you around a city that they love (for free), I’d recommend travel guide books.  We bought Rick Steves’ Pocket Amsterdam book, Rick Steves’ Pocket Paris book, and one about walking tours in Bruges.  We got our money’s worth out of each!  But seriously.  Doug put the travel books to shame with his knowledge, and dare I say, we didn’t look the slightest bit touristy. 

IMG_0120

IMG_0122

IMG_0121

IMG_0119

IMG_0118

IMG_0117

Over 18,000 steps later, we were all exhausted.  Kevin’s boots weren’t made for walkin’ and my Sperry’s were protesting that they were boat shoes, not sidewalk shoes, and Doug, accustomed to hopping on buses and metro trains, said he never walks as much as he did on that day.  We made plans to reconnect with him the following day and parted company.  Dinner was at a little café near our apartment – Croque Monsieur’s for each of us.  And then rest!

IMG_0123

 

Day 7 – Tuesday

We had a very French morning – strolling to the Eiffel Tower with fresh pastries from a local patisserie in hand.  This would be one of our favorite mornings.  Paris pulled out all the stops to deliver awesome weather, which was perfectly sunny and 70 degrees.  We staked out a bench in the park at the base of the Tower and enjoyed our morning pastries and beverages with that gorgeous hunk of metal in view.  It is massive, majestic, and unforgiving in its steel hard resolve.

IMG_9953IMG_0125

IMG_0126

IMG_0124

There were these random women who kept coming up to us and saying, “Do you speak English?” and when we said we did they pushed a clipboard at us and said that they were trying to get signatures on a petition for blind orphans or some other sad cause.  We kept saying no, not interested, etc. until they would finally leave us alone.  This happened a few times and then Kevin had the idea to answer, “Nyet,” {no in Russian} if someone approached us again.  We had our opportunity just a few moments later.
Woman with clipboard:  Do you speak English?
Kevin:  Nyet.
Woman with clipboard:  Ah! Russian!
Then she started blabbering on in what we assume was Russian!  So that backfired.  But we still laugh about it, so I guess it makes a good story.

Travel tip #12:  Don’t fall for scams.  Did the “petition” ask for passport numbers and signatures?  If I took the time to look at the clipboard, would a co-conspirator rush over and steal my purse while was I distracted?  I don’t know what the scam was in this particular situation – maybe they were really trying to gain support for blind orphans.  But I seriously doubt it.  It pays to be overly suspicious when you travel.  If the weather permits, wear a jacket over a cross body purse so it can’t be cut off you from behind.  Otherwise, try to hold the actual purse in your hands  in front of you, close to your body, whenever possible, not just the strap.  If you carry a wallet in your pocket, keep it in your front pocket rather than the back pocket of jeans, and wear a shirt long enough to cover the opening to the front pocket, which will make access to it even more difficult. 

We spent around 20 minutes hunting for a note that Janelle had left for me when she traveled to Paris in March.  She had tucked it into a plastic bag and found a great hiding spot, which she sent pictures of.  I am 99.9% certain that we found the spot, but the note was not there.  Sad!  The park seems to be impeccably maintained with no trash lying around, so I think a groundskeeper must have seen it in the crevice of the rock wall and thrown it away.  Sorry, Janelle!  I guess this just means that we need to travel to the same place again in the future.

After admitting defeat, we walked across the street to Palais de Chaillot, which is a nice place to view the tower.  Probably better in the afternoon though because the sun would be better placed.

We walked back to our ‘hood and met Doug for lunch at one of his favorite places.  I had pasta carbonara – probably my favorite meal of the trip.  Kevin had the chicken leg with mushroom sauce and liked it as well.

After lunch, we walked around with Doug and he pointed out some of his favorite shops, including an espresso shop, to which Kevin said, “Espresso?  I could drink some espresso.”  And that was the beginning of a magical afternoon experience at Comptoires Richard.  It was a highlight of the trip for Kevin and I still tease him about his afternoon in Paris with Richard.

IMG_0127

Those people knew their coffee!  They had two “specials” of the day and asked questions like, “Have you already eaten lunch?” before recommending one special over the other.  The espresso was amazing and Kevin decided he need to bring some coffee from this shop home.  As he and Doug explored the store, considering the options, a knowledgeable saleswoman fired more questions their way:  what time of day will you be drinking the coffee, how will it be prepared, what type of filter is used….  She waved her arms in the air and said, “Oh no, none of these!  These are all wrong!” and directed them to another part of the store.

This is a good example of something that struck us about Paris – everything is specialized.  There is a little shop for everything you could possibly need in each neighborhood.  This becomes your butcher, that is your patisserie across the street from your cheese shop.  I mentioned that I may have underpacked on socks and Doug took us to a sock shop (which was sadly closed).  {And there I was just thinking a three pack of Hanes ankle socks would get me by – not in Paris!  In Paris, only specialty socks would do.}

Kevin walked out with a bag of specialty coffee and a deep devotion to Richard, whoever he is.  We made plans to meet up with Doug at the Louve on Wednesday, and Kevin and I headed to the Hotel des Invalides and the Musee de Armee, which was housed in this beautiful building we’d passed en route to the Eiffel Tower.

IMG_9954

It houses Napoleon’s tomb and a comprehensive history of weaponry, uniforms, and war in/involving France. The exhibits were awesome!  So well laid out and fascinating.  There was a very detailed account of French history in the decades leading up to World War I, then WWI, and WWII, including the French Resistance, which was really interesting.  We closed the exhibit down and then went next door to the gold domed building that contains Napoleon’s tomb and a cathedral.  Six coffins stacked like Russian nesting dolls within a massive wooden tomb.

IMG_9956

 

IMG_9955

IMG_9958

We grabbed dinner on the walk home – Italian.  This was our highest step count day thus far – 21,000 steps – so it’s safe to say we slept soundly that night!

 

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Paris – day 6 and day 7.

  1. The Russian story is the best Kevin story I’ve ever heard. And those Croque Monsieur’s seriously make me want to hop a plane there for lunch.

  2. There is a line of handbags that are made to deter pickpockets. There is a thin wire in the strap so it can’t be cut off. There a lot of other qualities too. When we traveled, we kept our passports in that bag and took it with us everywhere

  3. Pingback: Paris – day 8 and day 9. | A Desert Girl

  4. I need to find a Doug on our next Europe trip for sure!

    Ahh! The Eiffel tower! And you guys! So perfect! I love that you guys had time to sit there and enjoy it. I just shared your “speaking Russian” story with Christopher and he found it as funny as I did. That sounds like something we would try. ;)

    Kevin and Christopher were meant to be friends! They have the same love of good quality coffee! Christopher would have loved Richard’s!

    I love that Janelle left a note for you! What a cool idea! It’s a shame it wasn’t still there, but it’s still such a cool idea!

  5. So much walking! This is our (Justin’s and mine) biggest complaint about vacations. They are so tiring! I’m glad you were able to avoid the scammers! I remember carrying a money pouch down under my shirt when I went to Paris on a school trip years ago–they asked us to avoid carrying purses or backpacks if we could help it. I’m glad that the people in the shops were so friendly to you! I remember being treated rudely–in particular, being thrown out of my seat/table at an ice cream shop because I hadn’t paid enough (though that may have been ignorance on my part–perhaps there was a fee for the table just like there are fees for the restrooms). I just remember my friends and I moping our way out the door and eating our ice cream sitting down on the curb outside.

  6. This makes me want to be back in Paris so bad. You guys did really get around on the first day! We took the same train except from Paris to Brussels :) We upgraded to 1st class and it was totally worth it (it was only $8 per person) and they offered soda/drinks and sandwiches. It was worth the price of soda alone. Great pictures!

  7. I’m not surprised the note was gone although it was well hidden. But still! DANG IT!!!!!! Argh. I went through a lot of anxiety hiding that thing, wondering if someone would think I was up to no good. I’m bummed it was gone.

    I can’t believe how much you saw in Paris! You guys sure did squash a lot into only a few days. And I’m impressed with your use of local transportation in Europe. Did you ever consider a backpack over a suitcase? I’ve been reading lately how they’re so much better if you’re traveling around like you did. Although… you did have Kevin, who is All That Is Man, so maybe it’s a moot point ;)

  8. Pingback: To-do in 2015: the halfway point. | A Desert Girl

  9. Pingback: To-do in 2015 – final recap. | A Desert Girl

Comment! Please! I love comments like macaroni loves cheese.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s