Sunday, August 10, 2008

7 days in Paris

We flew SkyEurope from Prague to Paris on Tuesday, August 5th. The flight was nice, though not much leg room, especially because the woman in front of me insisted on putting her seat back in the tiny amount of room I had. No matter, I was on my way to Paris!

We arrived at 4pm and took the RER-C into Paris from Orly Airport, to the Luxembourg stop. The RER, it seems, resembles the Metro North or LIRR (for you NY folks). I thought I followed all instructions properly, however, after switching from the Orlyval (the airtrain) to the RER, we found ourselves at the exit of the Luxembourg station, attempting to get out... and unable to. See, to exit these stations, you have to put your ticket through the machine at the end of the trip and obviously I failed to buy an extra ticket, or something. I don't know specifically how I screwed up, but I did, and was on near-breakdown mode since there are no attendants there to tell you what to do... but Andy spoke English to some worker who came through an exit (who probably didn't know what the hell we were saying), but the wonderful man let us out.
Thanks to that man, otherwise we'd still be there... mole people of the Paris RER system!

We stayed at the Hotel Cluny Sorbonne, which is on the Rue Victor Cousin, directly across the street from the Sorbonne. The Latin Quarter. It was also down the block from a lovely square, the Place de la Sorbonne (or something like that...). There was a lovely cafe there with some wonderful food (L'Ecritoire) and great benches and fountains. This was our home base, and it was fantastic.

Paris was... pricey. I am sad to even have to mention it, but because I see Paris as a great foodie (hate that term) experience, this really impacted our trip a bit. The dollar is quite weak right now, though I'm not completely sure of the exact exchange rate. An example, though, is that a 70 euro meal was actually 100 US dollars. Paris was hugely pricey anyway, no matter where we went, and with the weak dollar... it was tough. An average cafe breakfast of cafe au lait and a croissant was about 10 euros (for one person - crazy!) which ended up being about 13 dollars. So, the best deal is to go to a patisserie or boulangerie and get food there and go eat breakfast in Luxembourg gardens (which we were right near). We also found an excellent little crepe shop, very local and not fancy, but offering great cheap crepes AND great cheap coffee. It was on the rue Monsieur le Prince, up some steps, walking away from Boulevard Saint-Michel. Awesome.

Needless to say, we picnicked a lot. And it was great!! Wine is super cheap at the grocery stores, and so we often found ourselves out drinking great wine and eating some cheese or baguette with pate, or something yummy. Despite being pricey, it was great.

We planned on going to Versailles, but didn't. The RER trains, which we had to take there, were all screwy and confusing and we just didn't get around to it. But we did go to Notre Dame, and Montmartre and hanging at the Eiffel Tower quite a bit. We were accosted by gypsies at the Eiffel Tower. When I said "no, sorry" in response to being asked for money, then insisted I give them food, a cigarette or my wine... "Give me your wine" were the exact words. I said "no, sorry" a few more times until she walked away saying "no, sorry, no, sorry, no sorry" really nastily to herself!

Our favorite place to picnic was right on the Seine, down the steps on the Ile St Louis. Facing the right bank, which is turned into the "Paris Plage," or beach, in the summertime, was great. The city brings in sand and sets up sprinklers and drink and food stands, and its really lovely, as well as watching the boats go by... it was a great picnic spot. We always found a seat, though lots of groups of locals also picnic there. We saw students and adults, and children... it was great. People even brought candles with them to enhance their nighttime picnicking experience!

We did a ton of walking (sometimes up to 12 miles a day, which is a lot in city walking) and got very familiar with the entire left bank, and some of the right bank. This was also a good way to walk off all that pate de foie gras, my favorite french food which they put on everything, including salads. Ah, I love Paris. Except now I have some weird frictiony-rubber band feeling in my left ankle/foot area. It doesn't hurt, it just feels weird. And freaky. You can even feel it if you put your hand on the ankle. Weird! Does anyone have any clue what this is?

Anway, we had a great time in Paris. We went to some lovely restaurants, as well, including my favorite, the Cafe du Marche on the Rue Cler. We also went to Crémerie Polidor, which is a classic bistro where all the greats have eaten - Joyce, Hemingway, Kerouac and others - but they had changed their menu and so didn't have the veal, and were out of the foie gras! I had beef with tomato sauce, which was quite simple and good, and Andy had kidneys. We had an amazing lemon tart for dessert... the best I think I'd ever had.

Enough about food. Paris is also about history and beauty and elegance and style. It was great. We got all that in abundance. Fabulous trip. If you haven't been there, go.

Paris pics un

Paris pics deux

Paris pics trois

The lovely glittering, twinkling Eiffel Tower.

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