A special treat, my friend, Stella, recently visited Paris. I’ve asked her to share with us her adventure.
Sophia – Thank you for letting me be a part of your blog. I’m so excited to be featured here. I took a page out of your book and planned out each day. (Sorry for giving you a hard time with all your lists and things.)
Oh – my – gosh! Can you believe, for Christmas, Devlin gave me, us, a TEN day trip to Paris?
We left New Year’s Day at 8 p.m. British Air Business Class – oh yeah! Comfort. Lay flat seats and real glasses, plates, and silverware to eat with. Totally spoiled.
My main goals on this trip – aside from a wonderful time with Devlin and seeing all the typical sites in Paris – was to ride a Ferris wheel and a carousel, and try as many artisan chocolate places as I could find. All objectives were met.
Winter Weather and Wardrobe
As my Swedish friend says, “There is no bad weather, just bad apparel choices”.
I found the weather to be remarkably similar to Portland, Oregon. Cold (mid-30s to mid-40s) and damp. It’s the damp that gets to you so layers, baby, layers. And a good scarf or two. Everyone wears scarves. Men, women, children, dogs (okay, not the dogs but some did have little rain coats on).
Though I packed footwear for all occasions, my go to shoes each day were Teva de la vina low boot. They are warm, waterproof, and comfortable. I also appreciated the good tread on the slippery marble steps and uneven sidewalks. Whatever shoes you bring, make sure they are well broken in. You don’t want any surprise blisters.
Smartwool or REI wool socks – soft and warm, but not bulky, and they come in fun colors.
As I said layers. Start with a thin under layer of a lightweight thermal. For luxury get silk though Cuddle Duds long underwear from Kohl’s also work quite well.
Top it all with a good coat. Waterproof (or sprayed with water-repellent before leaving) is a bonus. Remember hat and gloves. Though much time will be spent indoors at museums, you will still be walking quite a bit outdoors and the metro stations are cold. Besides you can have a lot of fun with these accessories. I also found an umbrella to be useful.
One other item to pack that is often overlooked, but very useful to have – binoculars. These are especially handy in cathedrals to get a good view of the high up stained glass.
Where to stay
There are oodles of web sites listing all sorts of accommodation. I’ll let you search those out. Devlin rented an apartment through Paris Nice Homes . We stayed in the Saint-Paul apartment. Pascal, the manager was a huge help in getting us oriented that first day. I loved being located in the Marais area. There is a ton of shopping in this region, a delicious patisserie (on the corner of Rue Tiron and Rue Francois Miron), and a real feeling of being in a neighborhood.
This is the plan that worked well for Devlin and me. Of course, being a romantic getaway we did have a few lazy mornings and a few special dinners out.
Day 2 – Our first full day in Paris was Saturday Jan 3rd. We started out the day slow and eventually made it out of doors and wandered over the patisserie I mentioned. Fun little happening: While waiting at a small table in a tiny room packed with small tables as Devlin to place our orders, I watched a French family, mom, dad, three teenage kids, animatedly discussing plans and looking at a map of Paris. The mom turns to me and in rapid, but beautiful French, asks for my help. I felt flattered that I looked Parisian enough to blend. But being that I’d been in the city less than 24 hours and knew no French, I wasn’t any help.
We spent this day wandering the Marais area, picking up food for our kitchen at the
farmer’s market, and getting a feel for being in a city where we couldn’t understand anything around us. We had a fun and beautiful and surprising day. Surprising because everything I’d heard about the French and especially Parisians being rude was so not true. In every shop we visited, of course we always started out with a few polite French phrases, the clerks were smiling and helpful. Well, except the jewelry store, but isn’t that the way in all upscale jewelry stores?
Sunday Jan 4th – lazy morning
We wandered along Ile Saint Louis with a stop at a crepe place for lunch. Then headed over to Ile de la Cite with a stop to watch street performers before getting in line for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame was as grand and beautiful as we expected. What I didn’t expect was the noise and jumble. So many of the side chapels were filled with storage and displays lined so much of the edge of the isle that it took away from the Cathedral’s intended purpose to house the worship of God. It felt so much more like a commercial enterprise. On other days we visited more cathedrals and these were calmer and more what I expected to see and feel.
After the cathedral we stopped at the tourist kiosk on the corner of Rue du Cloitre Notre Dame and Rue d’Arcole. Here we bought a Museum Pass that once activated will be good for six days.
From there we wandered along the Left Bank and lost (not literally) ourselves in the twisty maze of streets.
Late afternoon found us on the Metro headed to Jardin des Tuilaries. We got off at the Concord Metro stop and wandered around this area a bit. At sunset we caught a ride on the Farris Wheel where the young couple who shared our basket became engaged – so sweet. We tried not to watch but you couldn’t help seeing it out of the corner of your eyes.
For dinner we sought out a little place around the corner from our apartment on Rue des Rosiers called Le Loir. It is a tiny place run by a husband and wife team with Monsieur up front at the bar and Madam doing the cooking. Amazing food with a North African flair. They didn’t speak any English, but we could make out the menu, written on a chalkboard. In fact, with my pronunciation being so bad Monsieur picked up the chalkboard and brought it to me so I could point to what I wanted. We all laughed about his action. [photo]
Monday Jan 5th– (Today we activated our museum pass.) We were up early and to the
Paris-Gare de Lyon train station to head to Fontainebleau. It’s a sweet little town with one of the oldest castles in France. The Chateau’s amazing architecture ranged through several time periods. Using the very detailed audio guide we toured the castle. We ate a late lunch at Le Delice Imperial (I had the salmon crepe) before catching the train back to Paris.
We ended the day at Musee de l’Oragnerie viewing Monet’s Water Lilies.
We ate dinner that night at the much touted Les Philosphes. The food was good, but my Mama’s French Onion Soup is better. Just sayin’.
Tuesday Jan 6th – This day marks the day of Epiphany and the formal end of the holiday season in France. For our first four days in Paris the doorways and streets were strung with lights, baubles, and garlands.
Today we headed back to Ile de la Cite. Our first stop was at Saint Chapelle . Don’t forget the binoculars, as the stained glass windows tower about 50 feet over your head. The ceiling is a soaring 139 feet high. We used the well-produced audio tour for this cathedral. It provided a brief history as well as explained the stories depicted in each window.
Next we stepped down into the Archaeological Crypt. To reach this you go down a nondescript stairway near the street in front of Notre Dame. Below ground you will find remains of Roman baths and other ancient architecture that forms the foundation of Ile de la Cite.
Our final visit for the day was Musee d’Orsay. This is housed in an old train station with beautiful architectural decorations. We did a guided tour. Our guide was quite lively and funny.
We had dinner at Le Rivolux next door to our building. I had a salmon fettuccine and we shared a salad. Quite good, but a lot of cream and pasta. Good thing I’m walking so much.
This night we went to a concert featuring Fredric Moreau and the Orechestre Les Violons de France. Amazing!! If you are planning a trip to Paris check out his schedule and see if you can fit in one of his performances. We saw him at the Madeleine a catholic church built in the Greek Parthenon style. The Madeleine is a wonderful venue. Mr. Moreau also tours the U.S. so maybe you can hear him close to home.