Thursday, July 16, 2009

6 Paris, France

The morning after our wedding we woke up at 8am filled with utter anticipation, brunched with friends and family, and then packed like mad to close up our apartment and make our evening flight to Paris. It was sad to say goodbye to our home of two and a half years, but we were excited for the road ahead.

We landed in Paris a bit fuzzy from the red-eye flight but zoomed through passport control in a matter of minutes and were on the RER train downtown. At this point Patrick, still adjusting to the unfamiliar feel of a wedding ring, and worried about it slipping off while washing his hands, suggested that he could always just take it off. This was just over 24 hours after being married, so you can imagine Katrina's reaction. Needless to say the wedding band remains sitting quite nicely on Patrick's left ring finger.

Paris is a great walking city and we spent much of our time wandering the charming streets and gardens. This is a great way to visit the famous sights while getting to know the many arondissements. We stayed in the Marais District--a historically Jewish neighborhood now known for its variety of brasseries, cafes, cute shops and lively nightlife--so our days began there. It is an easy 30-minute walk to the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre down Rue Rivoli, passing Paris's beautiful Hotel de Ville (City Hall) on the way. But we also had a great time navigating the small back streets further from the Seine, where we found some great spots--like L'As du Fallafel branded as delicious by the long line out its door, to Rue des Petits Carreaux, which is a street absolutely packed with less expensive dining options with French clientele on their lunch hour. These spots sure came in handy as we were ravenous after waking up early and spending the morning at the Louvre. We left the Louvre around 2pm, and believe it or not the line didn't look longer than half an hour. In retrospect it would have been great to sleep in that day!

Notre Dame is just on the other side of the Seine and is one of Paris's great free attractions. From there, it's not far to the Sorbonne (which is surrounded by a fun student neighborhood), St. Sulpice, St. Germain de Pres, and the Pantheon. We spent a great afternoon at the nearby Luxembourg Gardens where open bottles of wine are welcomed but sitting on the grass is strictly forbidden and enforced by intimidating policemen with loud whistles. There is a designated "grass sitting" area, but we found it much more pleasant to pull two of the abundant chairs provided to a quiet shady nook for our picnic. Just pick up a baguette from a boulangerie and some cheese and wine from the market on your way and you are all set!We chose to dole out climbing fees for only one of Paris's many monuments with a view: L'Arc de Triomphe. And climb we did, up a very long spiral staircase to the top where we got fantastic city views and a great perspective on the crazy traffic circle that surrounds the Arc. We forewent the climb of the Eiffel Tower but enjoyed taking it in while snacking on a crepe from a nearby street vendor. Not far from there is the Hotel des Invalides, which continues its original purpose of serving wounded veterans while also hosting a fantastic military history museum displaying royal armor, weapons, and even Napoleon's tomb. This was actually the first stop for revolutionaries to stock up on weapons before storming the Bastille on July 14, 1789, and since we visited on the anniversary entry was free!

But that was only one of many, many perks of being in Paris on Bastille Day. Festivities actually begin the night before with parties all over the city hosted by each arondissement's fire station. Our hotel was located just a block from the one for the 4th Arondissement, and we can attest that these parties rage literally to the break of dawn. The blaring music of Abba and the Beatles at 2am definitely took us back to our wedding reception just 48 hours earlier.

On July 14, Paris celebrates with a huge military parade down the Champs Elysees beginning at 10am. Many of the streets and bridges are closed, so we had to power walk westward along the south bank of the Seine until we found a bridge that was not only open, but where we were allowed to walk towards the Champs once on the other side. This ended up being the parade lineup point--and we arrived just in time. The event starts with a military plane flyover that can only be described as an air parade. The first flock jettisoned smoke streams in blue, white and red making up the French flag, and was followed by aircraft after aircraft. In the parade marched thousands of service people representing every branch of the french military, plus tanks and even a brigade of firemen! These firemen were the only ones to get applause--we're not sure if people were just very pleased with the parties the night before or if there is some sort of special French fascination with firemen. After the parade we walked over to the Hotel des Invalides and watched helicopters land on the esplanade and paratroopers fall from the sky with French flag parachutes. And at night, when the sun finally set at 10:30pm, they put on an amazing fireworks show with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. Those French really know how to celebrate their national holidays!
Our home while in Paris was the Hotel Jeanne D'Arc, a cute little hotel in the Marais. The place definitely has its own character and the rooms are in a word, serviceable. We also had a fantastic window with charming views. Right next door is the Brasserie de Jarente where we enjoyed our first French dinner on their patio with musicians playing in the alley. However, dining out is not cheap in Paris (a Coke at a cafe can set you back $5!) so our staples were baguettes and croissants from the abundant boulangeries around town. We were astounded to find that a cheap bottle of wine at a supermarket was about the same price as a half liter bottle of soda: 1.50 Euros. This led Patrick to adopt the rule, "I'm not paying more than 2 Euros for a bottle of wine."

More pictures from Paris can be found here.

6 comments:

  1. Crepes with bananas and nutella! Lemon and sugar is also good.

    The DJ played ABBA at the wedding?

    huh, I don't remember that...

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  2. Thanks for the update. We loved the wedding!

    I had the same reaction when I got my ring but Catherine reminded me that it stays on my finger no matter what. You will get used to it very soon. :)

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  3. Nice pictures. I love to walk in Paris too. I was there last time before 2 years thorough last minute travel. It is wonderful beautiful city.

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  4. Graceful and beautiful. You, the Post and the photographs.

    Really fun to see a young couple getting married and going to celebrate away from home, no worries and thoughts, and just so enjoyed from the European atmosphere that is interesting and different, just so jealous!

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  5. Paris is among the most stimulating cities in the world! The beautiful architecture will make your jaw drop, each Paris area is so different, like tons of little hubs that form one beautiful capital.Thanks for sharing such a wonderful Blog/site Keep it up..!!

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  6. To be honest with you, the only locals who pay less than €2 for a bottle of wine...are the many bums who spend their days getting wasted. You can get pretty decent red wine for about €3-4 a bottle, but should avoid anything cheaper than that. Also: those tiny independant-run grocery stores who stay open late at night and are usually run by French Arabs are very convenient, but way overpriced: spending €5 for a bottle will get you crap wine. I'd advise spending more, or shopping at slightly larger (chain) grocery stores, where you'll get better bang for your buck. Oui, monsieur. Really glad you enjoyed your stay in my city, and thanks for sharing with us through this nice blog.

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