For New Year’s 2015, I went to Paris for eight days with my well-dressed partner in crime, Salvatore. This a longer post with many photos, because that’s what I personally enjoy in a travel bog! If you have any questions, specific or grand, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them in my next post. J’apprends le français, desole pour mes erreurs.
On Christmas Day, we woke up in Salvatore’s parent’s apartment on Printer’s Row in Chicago. It was a gorgeously sunny, but frigid, day, and we spent the morning making biscotti, looking at vacation spots for their next trip, and playing with the most adorable new member of the family, baby Rosalie. I have to admit, it was a little hard to pack up and leave that warm room full of in-laws, grandmothers, and good cheer. Knowing that I was headed to Paris helped me out the door, though!
The plan was to sleep through the nine and a half hour flight, but Sal hates flying and we had a pretty rough time of it – despite a few G&T’s, movies, and my super-classy Hello Kitty eye-mask. When we landed in Charles de Gaulle airport, however, those few patchy hours of sleep were quite enough for us. We headed out into the airport and bought museum passes*, then found our way to the train station. Eating sad airport ham sandwiches on the RER B train, we watched the suburbs of Paris flash by, then give way to the city itself. I really enjoyed seeing the odd little stone farmhouses still standing among the new white block developments, proudly holding the line of history. I appreciate the way Parisian development will simply flex around some of those older buildings, despite their odd angles and quirky façades.
Once we arrived in the city (now December 26th), it was easy to find our Air BnB; we were very lucky to rent a spot in Place Dauphine, on Île de la Cité. This is the western island in the Seine, which also sports Sainte Chappelle and Notre Dame. Despite our host being out and his friend, our contact, mostly speaking Portuguese and French, we got our keys with a warm welcome. Then we lugged our bags up six spiraling flights of stairs to our beautiful, sunlit flat.
“We’ll get some coffee and go right out…” we said. “Staying up and staying active during the day is the only way to avoid jet lag!”
(cue three-hour nap in our clothes)
Somehow our overwhelming fatigue didn’t actually mess up our internal clocks, because that face-down sloppy nap on the futon was the only real symptom of jet lag we had on this trip. After waking up and wiping the drool off our faces, we quickly showered and headed out into the streets. Our guide for this first walk – and most of the trip – was the excellent little book City Secrets Paris: The Essential Insider’s Guide. This was a gift from Salvatore’s parents and it turned out to be the best inspiration for exploration we had. Sorry, Rick Steves…
We followed a walking tour from the book that took us down Île de la Cité, past the Palais de Justice, Notre-Dame, and the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, and across the bridge onto Île Saint-Louis. To me, this island is a strong contender for “cutest place in the world,” with its jam-packed cluster of brasseries, crêperies, speciality food shops, and extravagantly expensive historic apartments.
We wandered, still somewhat bleary, into a crêperie called Resto Med and resolved to fix our circadian woes with sugar, caffeine, and butter. It also turned out to be a great people-watching spot, with a pair of beautiful young sisters sharing coffee inside (all head-to-toe black and make-up free) and lots of evening foot traffic outside. We gulped down a few espressos and had enormous, indulgent crêpes with bananas and Nutella, and my own favorite, sweet chestnut puree.
Feeling refreshed, we followed along the rest of the walking tour by passing through Île Saint-Louis. Along the way, we couldn’t resist stopping at a fromagerie (I didn’t note the name, but I believe it was La Fromagerie de L’Isle). I followed the very good advice of food writer David Lebowitz and simply asked the man behind the counter for a recommendation. He lit up and came out from his post to show us a sheep’s milk cheese with a mottled rind, using a large double-handled knife to shave off samples. It was heavenly, and we bought a wedge to take back with us. We then cross the Pont Marie and walked up into the Marais and Les Archives. It wasn’t cold, despite being well after dark, and we saw plenty of people out faire du lèche-vitrines (window licking).
In the Marais, we passed luxury shops, restaurants for every taste, and one of the famous street carousels. Finally, when we could walk no further, we stumbled into a three-way alley on Place Thorigny and sat below the patio heaters at Le Petit Place. We weren’t sure what to expect, but this turned out to be one of the nicest meals of our trip. We had beers and charcuterie, because we were too tired to decide on anything by that point. The meats were not that interesting, but – oh! – the cheeses. I think I likened one to “if I were a flying cow in springtime and I flew over a field of delicious grass and flowers and licked it all.”
Hey. I said I was tired…
After dinner, we stumbled back towards our flat and gazed at all the twinkling lights. The last thing I remember really focusing on, before stumbling up those six flights of stairs I’d get to know so well, was the Tour Eiffel, sparkling, and Sal urging me to hurry so I could see the show.