Friday, October 08, 2010

Paris 2010

3 Octobre (Domingo-Dimanche) - We leave Barcelona for Paris today.  We set the alarm for 08h00 but I was up and ready to go by 07h30.  The owner had called and said she "might" be here before we left at 10h00.  Given her past record, we didn't think it would happen, but lord-have-mercy, she and her husband showed up around 09h00.  To add to the incredible circumstance, she actually gave back the deposit just as she was supposed to do.  Will miracles never cease?

I would like to make one thing clear.  Although we abhorred the apartment with which we were stuck, we loved the city of Barcelona and highly recommend it if you're looking for places to go in Europe.  The food is great (the steaks are far superior to anything you'll get in France), the weather is fantastic, the prices are low, the people (though quite loud) are very friendly and it's easy to get around.  The only down-side would be that you have to be more careful about pickpockets and thieves than elsewhere in Europe, except for Italy.

Even though our plane wasn't due to leave until 14h20, we left for the airport around 10h00.  We had no problem checking in early, though they did rip me big time for my extra bag.  But I was expecting it, so it wasn't a big deal, just inconvenient.  Of course, we had a lot of time to kill, so we stopped at La Caffé di Roma and had a coffe and croissant.  Then we strolled leisurely to the gate to await the plane.

It was supposed to board at 13h45, but by 14h00, there was still no plane at the gate.  Around 14h10, they announced the start of boarding. Imagine our surprise when we had to walk out onto the runway and walk to the plane, a CRJ100, that seats only 50 people.  Even though it was small, it was very nice and we had a very pleasant flight to Orly Ouest, arriving almost forty minutes ahead of schedule.

I was surprised, and quite happy, to find the weather in Paris to be almost as nice as it had been in Barcelona.

We caught a taxi to the apartment, where we were met by Jean-Michel, the representative for the apartment owner, Jean-Luc.  He explained everything very thoroughly and left.  Within a few minutes after his departure, I was online and uploading a ton of pictures and videos.

Around 19h00, we went out to find the local store, a G-20.  We walked around the entire block, but didn't find it.  We were about to walk around the next block when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the G-20 just a few doors up the street on the next block.  We got several things we needed, and a few we just wanted, and began the return to the apartment.

We put in the code, the door opened and we inserted our inner door key, the door opened.  We took the elevator to the fourth floor (fifth in the US) and walked down to the apartment.  Our key wouldn't fit into the lock.  We thought we were at the wrong door and walked to the other end of the hall.  Same problem.  We thought maybe we were on the wrong floor and tried the third and fifth floors.  No go.  We were at a loss as to what to do, because the concierge was off today and we hadn't put Jean-Michel's number into our phones.

We left the building puzzled as to why everything worked until we got to the apartment, when I remembered something about the entrance to our building.  That was the answer.  We were in the wrong building.  There are two nearly identical buildings with the same entrance codes, the difference is, one is Numéro 12 and the other is Numéro 12bis.  But in the dark of night, you can't see the 'bis'.

Having solved that riddle, we had our first meal at Chez Clément, just around the corner where we had our first-ever experience with the French waiters that you hear so much about.  First, he didn't want to let us in because we didn't have a reservation.  Then, after sensing that we were staying, he took over half an hour to bring us a menu.  I think he was little shocked when I ordered in French from the English menu (we both had escargot {snails}, magret du canard {duck} and a Grand Marnier crêpe).  Whatever the reason, his mood changed perceptively, and even more so when we sent back the picher (pitcher) of house wine and ordered a Saint-Émilion.  We didn't really want to, but we had to admit the food was excellent, especially the duck.

4 Octobre (Lundi) - Our first full day in Paris is not going so well.  Robb has a terrible back pain and some kind of stomache problem.  On top of that, the weather has become as bad as I expected, wet and cold, and there will be no heat in the apartment until 15 Octobre....brrrr.  We left the apartment and walked to Avenue Wagram, where if you turn to the right, you see this sight.  We did turn right, because we wanted to go to the pharmacie.  Robb told the pharmacist his problem and she recommended a medicine.

We walked back to the apartment, but instead going inside, we continued down the street to check out the area a little and to go to the Monoprix just around the corner.  We discovered there are a lot of really great looking restaurants around us, including a nice Thai restaurant and an Italian restaurant just across rue de l'Étoile from the apartment.

We spent a little time in the Monoprix, but Robb was not feeling up to an extended tour, so we walked back home.

We tried to do some laundry, but couldn't get the machine to work.  We called Jean-Michel, who showed up around 19h00 and showed us the secret of making it work.  There is no dryer, so I had to drag out the drying rack and set it up in the living room.

Our second dinner in Paris was tomato soup, cheese and wine, because Robb didn't feel up to going out.

5 Octobre (Mardi) - Robb claims to be feeling better, so we are off to the Grand Palais to see a Monet exhibit.  We walked up to Place Charles de Gaulle - Étoile, found the métro station and went down to get our métro-bus-tram passes.

The last time we did that, it was a very simple process. You just walked up to the window, told the clerk what you wanted, paid your money and walked away with your monthly pass.  Of course, that was way too easy for the French and they had to complicate it.
We walked up to the window, told the clerk what we wanted and he pointed to the Navigo machines.  We went to the machines, went through most of the options and did not see what we needed.  We went back to the clerk.  He very reluctantly came out to help us through a process that we never would have figured out on our own, and we finally got our passes.

I thought we could walk down the Champs-Elysées to the Grand Palais, so we started our journey.  As we approached LaDurée, I suggested we stop for a snack.  I had a café creme et an pain au chocolate lait noisette (creamy coffee and a bun with chocolate and hazelnuts).  Robb had an chocolat chaud et an meringue glace (hot chocolate and ice cream with meringue and lots of whipped cream).

When we got to the Grand Palais, there were gendarmes and police all over the place, mostly in front of the Petit Palais.  I suppose as a result of the announced "terrorist threat".  But there was no Monet exhibit, even though it's supposed to be there until January.
Then we had another very Parisian experience...we tried to get a taxi.  The key word being 'tried', because we did not get one, but while we were waiting in front of the Hôtel Crillon, a 73 bus arrived.  We weren't really sure our passes would work, because the clerk had said something about needing to do something before we could use them, but we had no trouble at all.  As we passed the Louis Vuitton store on les Champs, I noticed a long line of people waiting in line to get into the store.  That makes twice I've seen that now, and I still can't understand why people will stand in line to get into a store.

We decided to go to Fontaine Sully for dinner, and since I had discovered that there is an escalator at the St. Paul station, as well as one at the Charles de Gaulle-Étoile station, we took the métro.  We were kind of hoping they would recognize us from last January.  Quelle surprise!  We walked in and found it quite crowded.  We said 'bonsoir' to Katy, the waitress.  She asked if we wanted to eat and then her eyes got very big and she did the French version of "Oh my God, it's you!", followed by bisous and started explaining that she had a picture of us that she looked at all the time.  We sat down and she brought the menu and a glass of champagne.  Robb ordered the bavette (a steak in a great cheese sauce), I ordered roti de veau (roasted veal).  While we were waiting for our food, Katy brought out her laptop and showed us the picture she mentioned.  It was taken on New Year eve.'

Dinner was as good as we remembered.  Katy asked if we were returning the following night, but we told her we were staying in the 17é this time and would only show up from time to time.  We really love the Fontaine Sully, so we will return.

6 Octobre (Mercredi) -  It is cold and wet again.  Robb is not feeling well again.  We went to another pharmacie on Avenue MacMahon, Robb explained his symptoms and the pharmacist suggested he see a doctor.  Robb asked if he could recommend someone and the guy told him of an office just around the corner.  There were four doctors listed on the door and all four required an appointment.  We copied the names and numbers of three of them (I can't remember why we eliminated one) and returned to the apartment to call.

Did I mention that this apartment has the three-for-one plan (telephone, internet, TV) and the phone has free calling to most of the free world?  As far as I could figure it out, that is not an option in Spain.

On the way back to the apartment, we stopped at the G-20 and bought more soup and some fruit cups.
One of the doctors was listed as an Étiopathe, which it turns out, is only a step above a witch-doctor.  So that eliminated another one.  But then it was too late to call and Robb decided he could just put up with the pain until it goes away.
7 Octobre (Jeudi) - The sun was shining in our window when we awoke, something I sorely missed in the Barcelona Dungeon.

We walked over to Avenue MacMahon, got some money from the ATM at BNP Paribank and then went to yet anotherpharmacie.  The pharmacist here seemed to know just what Robb's problem is and recommended a medicine.  Then, while I was trying to figure out where to get the bus to get us across town, he went back to the apartment to take the first dose of his medicine.
Standing on the corner of Avenue Wagram and Avenue des Ternes at Place des Ternes, I could see all the busses in that area and where they stopped, as well as where they went afterward.  Within ten minutes, the whole thing was crystal clear.
However, when Robb returned and we saw how full the busses were because it was late afternoon, we decided we should should put it off until at least tomorrow. Instead, we wet back to Celio where Robb bought a nice shirt and I bought a shirt to wear to bed at night because it's so cold.  Then we went to Monoprix to get some milk and other stuff.

During our little journey, I managed to get a close-up of the Toyota version of the Smart Car.  It's very close in looks and very nearly the same size, including being a two-seater.  It does seem to have a bit more space in back of the seats, though.

Around 19h00, there was a knock at the door.  It was the pompiers (firemen).  They asked if we were using the gas (the stove is gas and electric). We said 'no', and they left.  A few minutes later, they returned with the concierge.  Apparently, we had misunderstood before, and they were asking if we had a gas stove.  I invited them to come in and have a look.  There was no problem and they left again, but we heard them in the hallway talking for quite a while.

Robb felt up to it, so we crossed the street to Pizza Trionfo.  It was actually warmer outside than in the apartment.  I had Pâtes Bolognaise (Pasta Bolognaise) and Robb had Pâtes Carbonara.  Near the end of our main course, the guy next to us began talking to us.  His name is Jean-Eric. We couldn't seem to make him understand that this was not our first time in Paris and he kept mentioning places to go.  But he was very pleasant and even bought us a digestif (a drink that is supposed to aid in digestion, but is just an excuse to drink more alcohol).  It was a very nice evening and I'm sure we will return many more times.

You can see all the Paris pictures here: Paris 2010
À la prochaine, mes amis. 


Anonymous said...

The Monet exhibit I think you are speaking of is at the Grand Palais until January 2011. Here is a link for you :

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Someone beat me to the explanation on Grand Palais which is right across the street.

So glad you are in Paris. I have a restaurant to recommend in the 17ième. Written up in Pudlow's as best value in 2008 -- Hier et Aujourd'hui (Karin and Franck) but it is small so you must have reservations. If you go, tell them I said hello.

Bon weekend!

Megan said...

I can't believe the buildings had the same entrance code!
Guess the heating is a building-wide start date.
Hope Robb feels better. Here in Marseille they are moving to the smart passes for public transportation, with a chip inside. only problem is that it is for monthly+ subscriptions, so it can be reloaded with 10€ or so at a time.