Sunday, May 04, 2008

Paris 2008

29/30 Avril - We are here.....finally. What a time we had. The AirTran flight from Fort Lauderdale was okay, and the Atlanta airport was very nice. Of course, some of you probably already know that it's a lot bigger and nicer than Fort Lauderdale. We had to get off the plane because it was just reloaded and headed straight back to FLL. We checked the flight schedule and discovered that instead of leaving for Newark at 2:15, our flight was delayed until 2:53. Then a flight attendant didn't show up and we had to wait for her. By the time they got it all sorted out, we were not due to arrive in Newark until 6:00 PM. Somehow, the pilot managed to get us there by 5:30, but then we had to wait and wait and wait for the bags to show up.

To make a long story a bit shorter, we got to the L'Avion ticket counter just as they were about to shut it down for the day. Thankfully, they were really nice and we explained that our plane had been a couple of hours late. They checked our bags, gave us our boarding passes and we literally ran to get on the plane, though I'm pretty sure they would have held it for us because I heard the guy at the ticket counter tell someone that two more were on the way.

L'Avion was disappointing and wonderful at the same time. The plane was a bit bigger than it looks in their videos and the seats were nice and wide with tons of leg room. However, there was no pre-flight champagne. They did offer it with the dinner, which was pretty good but not great. I think it was prepared in the US. The champagne wasn't too good, maybe a tad better than Korbel but not much. The purser was even better looking in person than his picture and was really super nice. Other than the purser, there were three female flight attendants, who were also very nice. I didn't know there are two Orly airports, Orly Sud and Orly Ouest; we landed at Orly Sud which is not as good as the other.

The taxi ride to the apartment was great and cost about ten euros less than coming from CDG.

The apartment is very nice, but a bit smaller than we were expecting. We were greeted by Mme Chicha's mother who gave us the keys, the digi-code (to get into the building) and showed us how a few things worked. I was happy to find that connection to the internet was easy. I even had the choice of using her ADSL or a wifi connection.

I got a surprise call from Mme. Chicha (owner of the apartment) asking if we would mind if someone showed up to check it out because he wanted to rent it for the rest of the year after we left. A few minutes after she hung up, the guy called. He asked a lot of questions and then said that because we are Americans he was just going to take our recommendation and rent the apartment, instead of coming in from the airport to check it out during his layover as he had previously planned. I suppose that meant that he thought, "If those nit-picky Americans like it, it must be okay".

We're very tired because neither of us slept much last night. We did run out to the local store, a very nice Franprix about four blocks away and picked up some coffee fixins. Our first dinner in Paris consisted of ramen noodle soup that we found in a kitchen cupboard, because we were just too cold to go back out into the raging ice storm that greeted us upon our arrival.

1 Mai - Today is a big holiday in France (May Day) so almost everyone had the day off which resulted in a lot of noise for most of last night. People were still coming in at 2h00, slamming doors and stuff like it was the middle of the day.

Neither of us slept very well; me because my feet were freezing and Robb because he didn't eat enough. We managed to rouse ourselves around 11h00.

We had coffee and then took off to find the métro that is somewhere near Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. We located the métro with no problem, and on the way back to the apartment, found an unexpectedly open Petit Casino where we bought a few things that we didn't get yesterday.

Because today is our "official" anniversary, I booked us on a Champagne Cruise on the Seine. Only seven of us showed up for the cruise and we all drank a bit more than we probably should have. But it was so good. It was an interesting group; two girls from London, a couple from North Carolina, a girl from someplace where they speak French and Robb and I. We sampled three different kinds of bubbly. Most of us preferred the second offering which was a bit sweeter and smoother. I'm sorry I didn't get the brand names, but at the time it just didn't seem to matter. I'm sure you understand.

After the cruise, Robb and I checked out a carnival-like thing that was taking place just opposite the point of the cruise embarcation point. Then we walked up the stairs, across the street toward the Tour Eiffel to a taxi stand. We got a taxi to Le Fregate, a restaurant on the Seine, where I had Oignon Soupe, then Sole with potatoes. Robb had Canard Foie, then Duck. We shared a demi-bottle of Sancerre and finished with a café.

2 Mai - After suffering all night with a headache, the day began in a rather curious way. The doorbell rang. When I answered it, there was a little old French lady there with a cat. She started talking at a mile-a-minute and, of course, I had no idea what she was saying. But by watching what she was doing, I figured out that she was asking if the cat was mine. I told her it was not and she left to check all the other neighbors.

We had our coffee and left for our meeting with Katia and Kyliemac. They do a podcast a couple of times a week to which we listen. I had told them we were coming and would like to get together. Yesterday, Kyliemac called to set up the meeting point. It was agreed we would meet outside the Gare Montparnasse at the Odessa exit. The only problem was that when we got there, there was no Odessa exit because she was confused about the location of the exit (the Odessa exit is actually in front of the Tour Monparnasse, though I didn't know that at the time). But she did mention a Hippopotamus restaurant just across the street, and when we found that, I called her to see where they were waiting. They were standing just a few feet from the Hippopotamus, near the métro station entrance from which they had thought we would emerge. We walked down Boulevard Montparnasse to Le Select brasserie. We got a nice table on the terrace for people watching, I gave them the Mint Crisp M&Ms I had brought from the States, and then we started the process of getting to know each other. They are very different and yet, at the same time, very similar. They were cute, warm, funny, and very easy to like. We are glad we had the opportunity to meet them. They insured us that we would be invited to a lot of ex-pat get togethers during our stay in Paris. That is going to be a lot of fun because I already know most of them from their blogs. We chatted for a couple of hours and then they had to take off to keep an appointment across town. Oh yeah, while we were sitting there chatting, les pompiers (firemen) showed up and put out a fire in La Coupole (a famous brasserie) which was just across the street.

After the girls left, Robb and I wandered around the area for awhile, then headed back to the apartment, where I pretty much just crashed for the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening.

Around 10h00 we left to have dinner. Robb wanted to go to a restaurant we had seen on our way to the métro station, but I didn't want to walk that far. As a result, we found a very nice place just a couple of blocks from the apartment, called
L'Artiste Café. On the way inside, I saw the specials and had Osso Bucco. Robb had lamb chops. The Osso Bucco was great and there was so much that I couldn't even come close to eating all they gave me. Robb wasn't too happy with his lamb chops. He claimed they were too fatty without much meat. Even though I couldn't finish the Osso Bucco, I had desert anyway; créme caramel, while Robb had a fantastic fromage blanc with raspberry sauce. I will definitely have that the next time we go.

I forgot to mention, when we were walking to the Champagne Cruise, we were stopped by a lady who appeared to be either Japanese or Vietnamese, looking for directions to Place d'Italie. She thought we were French and was so happy when we spoke to her in US English because she was from California.

3 Mai - Yesterday, we tried to buy a métro pass for the month at the closest métro station, Philippe Auguste, but were told we had to go to the Père Lachaise station, so today we went down there and got the pass. It was a bit more than I was expecting, but it's good on the métro, the bus and the RER, so it's not too bad. And, of course, it's for unlimited rides.

After getting the pass, we wandered down rue de la Roquette to small park just a block from the apartment. Do any of you remember the 2CV?

We hung out at the park for a while and then came back to the apartment so I could rest before we went out to dinner.

Last night, after leaving l'Artiste Café, I saw a place just a couple doors down that looked cool, so that's where we went.

Bistro Expo was was practically empty inside, everyone was sitting on the café terrrace; smoking of course. That was okay by us. We checked out the menu and decided on a tagine with chicken, olives, potatoes and lemon peel. It was fantastique! We shared a pichet du vin rouge (a small pitcher of red wine). For desert, Robb had a pomme tarte, but I had le gâteau du chocolat fondant (soft-center chocolate cake). If you love chocolate, you would have been in heaven eating this confection. Beside being soft-centered, it was swimming in the richest, darkest choclate sauce I've ever eaten.

Paris 2008 - III
Monday, May 05, 2008
Here are some miscellaneous pictures. Originally, I had the pictures here, but Blogger really sucks at stuff like that, so I had to put in the links.

A South American band that was playing at the carnival-like thing after the Champagne Cruise.

The entrance to our building.

Robb entering the elevator to go to downstairs. The elevator is about 2 feet by 3 feet. We are on the 4th floor (5th in the US).

I could never figure out what everyone found so fascinating about rooftops in France, but here's a couple of shots from our apartment. One. Two.

This is typical of the way drivers park in Paris. You can see he's on the corner. I believe in the US that would guarantee him a parking ticket, but here, you see it all the time. This was taken about fifteen feet from the door to our building.

4 Mai - We didn't do much today. We walked down to Place Léon Blum, about five or six blocks south of us. I recognized it from the good ole days of Parispourvous which had a lot of fantastic webcams around the city. Sadly, they sold out to Orange who has progressively screwed it up. Half the webcams don't work, they got rid of a bunch more and the ones they've added are so small that even with my 23-inch screen, I can barely see them. At any rate, the purpose of our visit there was the only open pharmacie in the area. I got really lucky and discovered that I can buy my meds there with no prescription, and just to make it totally outstanding, they cost about half as much as they would in the States.

We left the pharmacie and started back to the apartment. We stopped at a patisserie, where I bought a couple of croissants. Then we wandered across the street to a little store that sold a little of almost everything. I bought a euro extension cord and a package of screws so we could fix Robb's suitcase.

Just across from parc de la Roquette, there is a small café, where we stopped to have a café and enjoy the weather.

Around nine-ish, we walked back to Place Léon Blum to have dinner at Au Cadran Voltaire. I wanted to have the Coté d'Agneau, but they were out of it, so we both had the Poulet Roti. Again, there was so much food I could barely eat half of it. They gave me a piece of chicken that could have fed a family of four. Needless to say, Robb ate every bit. We ordered two small pichets of Saint-Émilion. No dessert for a change. The usual café to finish off the excellent meal.

Except for the night before the holiday, this place has been exceptionally quiet.

I would like to apologize in advance for not keeping up with all your entries. I'll try to catch up from time to time.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Wow! I didn't know you were coming back to France again! Hope you have a great time in Paris. When are you leaving?