Paris, Je T'aime (Part 2)

Paris Travel Blog

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Bastille Monument (near our hotel)

The weather in Paris was perfect - slightly cloudy and breezy, much cooler than Barcelona.  After finally getting our laundy done, and some shopping, we finally had some decent fashion options!  We headed out to walk around and catch the sights of Paris.  We hopped on the Metro and exited near the Eiffel Tower.  Needless to say, the view from near the base of the tower was spectacular -" nearly 1000 feet tall, le Tour Eiffel is the tallest structure in Paris, and is iconic of the city.  We later learned that the continuity of this wonderful piece of art was at risk at least twice:  It was meant to be dismantled after the 1989 World Fair for which it was erected, and was ordered to be destroyed by Hitler before the liberation of Paris during World War II.

 

After walking around the Eiffel Tower and taking in the surroundings (quite a bit of tacky tourist stuff nearby, vendors selling every size replica of the tower, a carousel, etc.

Tartelette and cafe au lait
), we hopped on the Metro to check out another neighborhood and get dinner.  We rode to Boulevard Montparnasse, which was lined with large cafes.

 

After finding a seat at one cafe (which is not an easy feat around sundown in Paris), we discovered that Paris presents a much more complicated menu than we had found in Spain or Italy.  In addition to the various courses (entrée, plate du jour, etc.), there are many prixe fixe options.   We had thought we would be able to order the midi option (€19), but the waiter informed us it was too late - apparently the hours of midi (early evening) are well known and don’t appear on the signs or menus.  Dining is also much more formal in Paris, even at a café.  The waiter was very attentive to the placement of the silverware, and was very adept at juggling many plates at once.

Hotel Pavillon Bastille
  We ordered a first (salmon over salad and melon with cured ham) and second (duck and skate wing) course each.  The food was delicious, if not very rich (butter and salt are indeed staples of French cuisine).  We also discovered the pace of café dining in Paris is much slower than anywhere else we had been ��" our dinner was a 2½ hour experience without desert or coffee (which may have been a rude decision given our waiter’s response!)  After a bit more touring the city at night (which is quite a sight in that Paris is aglow, flooding its major landmarks in light), we headed back to our hotel.

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Bed at Hotel Pavillon Bastille

Our Elipsos train from Barcelona arrived right on time into Paris Gare D’Austerlitz at 9AM.  We were not too much the worse for wear, having endured a very bad dinner and little sleep in our hot cabin.  We unloaded our bags and headed for the Metro station.  We bought 2 Paris Visite passes for 2 days, which would enable us to travel on all the trains (Metro, RER – the local commuter train, etc.) for 2 days.  We made a quick connection on 2 Metro trains, and got off at the Bastille station near our hotel.  This took less than 30 minutes from the time we got off the train.  One of the great benefits of traveling by rail is that you are always within the city center, and usually can connect to local transportation immediately.  (As opposed to our odyssey from Venice to Barcelona, which required excursions to and from two different airports!)

 

We dropped off our bags at the Hotel Pavillon Bastille (just 1 block from the Metro stop), and found that our room wouldn’t be ready until 3PM (or at least that’s what Don’s limited French conversation with the attendant seemed to imply).

Chairs at a cafe (facing out)
  We headed out and began to wander around Paris.  Paris is huge, walking around and taking the Metro feels a lot like New York City.  We walked towards Le Marais, the lively gay district in the 4th arrondisement.  (Paris is organized into 17 neighborhood which spiral counterclockwise out of the center of the city; the 4th or “4e” for “quatrieme” in French is just east of the center of town).

 

The streets of Paris are lined with cafes, patisseries, boulangers, and a variety of other restaurants, bars, and food shops.  One thing that appeared immediately different is that the chairs in the cafés are always arranged to point toward the street – a couple will typically sit side-by-side to have a good view of the street.  We stopped at a café to have some traditional French breakfast – café (which is really what we would call espresso) and tartine (baguettes sliced lengthwise and toasted with jam).

Rob at the Tour Eiffel
  This meal was the beginning of four days of pain, pain, pain!

 

We wandered around Le Marais for a few hours, and did some more shopping.  As in Barcelona, the summer sales (soldes) were on  in full force and great deals were to be had in little boutique stores as well as the big department store nearby (BHV, Bazaar d’Hotel de Ville).

First course - salmon tartare & melon et jambon
  After hitting another cafe for more café and a tarte, we headed back to the Hotel Pavillon Bastille to check in.  Our room was very nicely decorated, if not a bit small (but about the same as you would expect in New York).  The hotel had a charming little patio overlooking Rue Lyon and the Opera House next door.

After a quick shower (it had been more than 36 hours since we had one!), we headed back to Le Marais where we had seen a laundromat.  We had intended to do laundry sometime in the trip around Barcelona, but we had never managed to find anywhere (there was one near our hotel, but it had been closed the whole weekend along with all the other shops).  It was actually fun and kind of a nice break to fais le menage (do the housework) on the trip, and to do laundy in Le Marais was even more interesting.

Bastille Monument (near our hotel)
Bastille Monument (near our hotel)
Tartelette and cafe au lait
Tartelette and cafe au lait
Hotel Pavillon Bastille
Hotel Pavillon Bastille
Bed at Hotel Pavillon Bastille
Bed at Hotel Pavillon Bastille
Chairs at a cafe (facing out)
Chairs at a cafe (facing out)
Rob at the Tour Eiffel
Rob at the Tour Eiffel
First course - salmon tartare & me…
First course - salmon tartare & m…
Second course - skate wing and duck
Second course - skate wing and duck
Paris metro station
Paris metro station
Hotel de Ville at night
Hotel de Ville at night
Paris
photo by: Sweetski