Paris, Days 1 & 2
Well, we are finally here!! We landed at CDG yesterday about 10 am. Because we used a charter airline (Zoom out of Montreal), we landed at Terminal 3, which I guess is not used by any of the bigger airlines. We were through customs in less than 5 minutes and had our baggage 5 minutes later. I had booked a shuttle with Shuttle Inter after reading good reviews about them on Trip Advisor.(I just want to say that as I am writing this, I am sipping on a rose in our apartment and eating some macaroons we got at the Bastille market this morning. Ah, Paris!). The fare is 55 euros per trip for a private shuttle ~ IOW, we were the only passengers, no waiting for anyone else. The driver was waiting for us when we left the passenger part of the terminal with a sign with our name on it. We had no traffic coming into the city and were at our apartment in the Marais about an hour after we landed!! We had told Thierry from ParisBestLodge that we would probably be there about noon, and it was only 11:15 when we got there. There was still someone cleaning the apartment, so we went for a walk to orient ourselves while the cleaning was completed and were back about 12:30. On our way in, we spotted the Cafe des Musees which I had read about (49 rue de Turenne). We made reservations for dinner later that night.
We have rented the Place des Voges apartment, which is literally half a block from Place des Voges on Rue de Turennes. The apartment is very cozy and completely spotless. There is a comfortable bed on the upper mezzanine and a sofa-bed on the main level. The kitchen is well equipped and the compact bathroom has a shower with great water pressure. We unpacked and went for another walk, after having phoned Thierry and confirming that he would be by about 6pm to give us an orientation and take our payment. (One of the reasons we booked with Thierry was his very easy booking system ~ no deposit or security deposit except for a cheque we sent him when we booked which he does not cash. He holds it and will give it back to us when we leave. We had to pay him in cash yesterday, so I did have to exchange and carry 1600 euros (800 euros/week) with me, but we really liked not having to pay anything in advance or having money tied up in a security deposit.)
We walked to Place des Voges and realized we had seen it last year without realizing what it was. We stopped for lunch at Cafe Hugo, on the north side of Place Des Voges under those beautiful arches. We each had a wonderful salad for 11 euros each, Den has the Salade Nicoise and I had the Salade Fermiere, with goat cheese, apples and ham. We split a half litre of Brouilly and the total was 36 euros. Fortified with food and wine, but starting to feel the effects of jet lag, we walked to the Bastille where Den bought some earphones for his Ipod at the FNAC across from the Bastille Opera House. We walked down to the nearest Monoprix and got some yogurt, coffee and cream for our breakfast. (There is a boulangerie a half block from our apartment where Den will get our daily pain aux chocolat and croissants in the morning). As we were walking back, we ran across a huge gathering of people celebrating the end of slavery. Den read this morning that President Sarkozy met with representatives of the group yesterday. We got back to the apartment around 4:30 and took a little nap since we had been up since 6am the day before in anticipation of the trip. Thierry came by at about 6pm to explain the appliances and TV/cable in the apartment. We have a washer/dryer, a dishwasher and a computer, which are very nice conveniences to have for a 2 week stay. He showed me how to connect the internet directly to my laptop and I thought everything was OK, but we haven't been able to use the internet on the mac yet because I don't have his internet connection info. Being the techno geeks that we are, we didn't realize that we are not using a wireless network when we connect the internet cable directly to the PC!! We tried various ways to connect and have given up for the moment, not wanting to worry about this when Paris is outside our door waiting to be explored. I may phone Thierry later this week to ask him about it, but have decided to just write my blog through his computer and worry about uploading the pictures later.
We walked to dinner and were seated at a delightful little table right at an open patio window. We had read very good reviews about this little restaurant and were happy to start our vacation finding a recognizable place so easily. We both ordered from la carte. I had mushroom caps stuffed with escargots for an appetizer and Den had saucisse de cochon noire. Both were delicious and we had a bottle of Gamay from the Loire valley, a steal at 18 euroes. Den ordered cuisse de canard which came with Dauphine potatoes and a mesculan salad. I had the mijote of the month, which was lamb shoulder stewed with veggies and potatoes in a delectable broth. Halfway through our meal, we started talking with the people next to us to discover they were also Canadians. They were on their last night of their 2 week vacations and gave us several restaurant recommendations (including Robert & Louise and L'Ami Jean). Den had a chocolate terrine for dessert and I had rice pudding after seeing how much our neighbours enjoyed theirs. Dinner lasted about 2 hours and was a very reasonable 81 euros. We walked the 2 blocks back to our apartment and were fast asleep in about 15 minutes.
We woke up this morning at around 6:30, very excited to finally be in Paris. We lounged around the apartment, drinking coffee and trying to connect the mac to the internet (unsucessfully) till around 8:30, when we walked to the Bastille Sunday market and bought some fruit, cheese, eggs, fresh butter, a baguette and various other goodies. We had been to this market last year and we are even closer (about a five minute walk) this year. Walked back to the apartment, put away our yummy stash, had some bread and cheese and walked over to the Bastille metro to go to the Pere Lachaisse cemetary. We spent about 2 hours walking around, looking for the famous tombstones and enjoying the peace and beauty of the cemetary. Although it was pretty neat finding Jim Morrison's plot, the monuments that had the most impact on me were those which I didn't even know were there ~ the many monuments to the victims of the Second World War and specifically the victims of the Nazi concentration camps. There were about a dozen memorials to the tens and hundreds of thousands of innocent French victims of Nazi atrocities. The carvings were very poignant, reminding us of the horrors of this part of history and bringing me to tears several times. This was the most memorable part of my visit to Pere Lachaisse, which I will remember for a very long time.
We left the cemetary a little after 1pm and had planned to take the metro back, but it was such a beautiful day, we decided to walk back. We walked through the 11th on rue de la roquette, which took us right back to the Bastille, stopping on the way at a little cafe for a break from the sun. As we got nearer to the Marais, Den remarked that we had been in Paris for over 24 hours and not yet visited the Seine, so we coninued walking towards Ile St Louis, with a stop at the L'As du Fallafel for those wonderful sandwiches. Sitting on the curb, munching those huge, delicous monsters, we knew we were definitely back in Paris. We had dreamed about these babies since having them twice in one week last year. We walked through Ile St Louis and towards St Chapelle, hoping to get in without too much of a wait, but there was about an hour wait to get in, so we decided to walk back home. By the time we got back, around 5:30, we had been walking pretty much nonstop for 7 hours and our little tootsies were hurting. We decided to just have dinner in the apartment with our goodies from this morning's market and hang around, listening to the CDs I brought and resting our bodies for tomorrow. I was anxious to enter my first post from Paris and Den is playing with iphoto on the mac, transferring the pictures we've taken so far.
I think we will take the bus to Champ de Mars tomorrow and walk slowly back. I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep and another wonderful day in paradise in the morning.