Friday, March 22, 2013

Second Stop: Paris, France

I am not going to bore anyone with a travelogue about Paris.  You need only to put your cursor over my underlined words to get the link to these famous places.  You have either seen all the highlights in person, in books, or in movies. But I will tell you our story of how we arrived at these sights on our second cold and rainy day in Paris.

Notre Dame Cathedral
This is my fourth visit to Paris, Steve's first.  We decided this day in Paris would be spent visiting all the tourist sights: Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Eiffel Tower.  The Cathedral was our first stop. There were hundreds of people waiting to get in so I convinced Steve that looking at the architecture and picturing the Hunchback up in the bell tower was all he needed to see. He agreed.  We both hate waiting in lines.

We continued our six mile trek and headed toward the Eiffel Tower.  If you head straight down the left bank on the Seine you will have no trouble running into this.

 As we were walking down the Seine, a well dressed, good-looking man walking towards us bent down and picked up a "gold" ring. He asked if we had dropped it and I said that we had not. He took my hand, kissed it and handed me the ring saying it was good luck and he wanted me to have it.  I repeatedly refused, but he kept insisting.  After another kiss on the hand he sauntered off, but within seconds was back asking us if we had some euros to spare. It was then we realized we had been scammed.  He was so cute we gave him a couple of euros.

 When we got home we researched and found the ring scam that is all over Europe.  Oh, and my "gold" ring is 100% brass.  Quelle surprise! By the way, this attempt at scamming us occurred three more times in a half hour.  I wondered why we looked like such tourists.  We carried no map or fanny belt and didn't have that lost look on our faces.  I told Steve it was all about the shoes.  We had on comfortable walking shoes.  The French wear FABULOUS shoes and boots!  That's just my guess.

I had no breakfast and was now feeling the need to "take a coffee' with a little brioche. We veered off our path and not only couldn't find just the right cafe, we lost sight of the Eiffel Tower. There were times we saw just the very top of it, but it kept eluding us.  We were determined  to get there because we promised our granddaughter Lexie that I would touch the tower and indeed, I did. Finally!

from underneath the Eiffel Tower

We made it, Lexie!!!!

By now I was getting VERY tired. We walked more than I remember ever walking before. I kept hearing the voice of my very dear friend Karen, who is an OBSESSIVE walker (10 miles a day or more...but she's a little crazy about exercise) urging me on. I wasn't complaining until Steve mentioned "what a trouper I was being". Mistake..that was my cue to STOP being a trouper and complain.
We finally stopped for a bite to eat at a wonderful Belgium place called Leon de Bruxelles that served only mussels and great Belgium beer.   How could we go wrong? They served mussels at least 20 ways. We opted for these:
mussels with a cream and wine sauce
mussels with roquefort cheese....go figure.

Being fully sated, we started our hike once again towards the Arc de Triomphe.  At this point, I was truly looking for any excuse to stop. I think we were about at mile 8 or 9 at this point. A taxi perhaps? Still not quite ready to complain out loud I spotted a hair salon (one of many) on the Champs D'Elysees. Why not? It had been all of two weeks since my last haircut and don't they have those comfy chairs to lay on while you get your hair washed? I decided to get my hair cut shorter. 

Jamal, my hairdresser, gave me a french style

 Jamal was quite incredible with the way he cuts hair.  He reminded me of Edward Scissorshands, cutting with  frenetic motions never seen before.  Hair was flying everywhere and I was nervous. I tried not to worry thinking my hair grows fast enough to overlook any mistakes.  When it came to drying, he used two high powered hairdryers, one in each hand for my new look.  Voila!  I loved it!

Ok, no more excuses...we were off to the Arc!

Finally, we made it back to the apartment, exhausted, with all our muscles aching. Perhaps we walked off our pastries. Or perhaps, we could have just one more taste treat before we settled in for the night. hard to choose!

 A few observations and comments:
  • Everyone in France smokes. As an ex-smoker I inhale deeply in memory of a time when smokers were not considered pariahs of society.
  • The French are no longer rude to Americans. Everywhere we go, people are warm and inviting even though Steve mixes up languages and says things like "Merci, Senor." <sigh>.  I have begged him not to make attempts at speaking french.
  • Our tiny apartment (check out the link) in the 4th arrondisment, 430 square feet (near the Cathedral) is perfect.  However, if I keep eating pastries, I will no longer fit in the TINY bathroom.
our street with many bakeries and cafes
  • Although told it was quiet in this apartment building, a woman above us practices on the piano ten hours a day. At times, this is pleasant. At times, I want to scream. I yearn to tell her she has her scales down perfectly. Now, move on and play something recognizable like Fur Elise!
  • The French make THE BEST pastries on the planet. (Consider me in expert!)  My favorite is a pastachio raspberry custard clafouti or a chocolat-pistache, a snail-shaped pastry filled with chocolate and pistachio.  They will shatter the will of any dieter and have!  ORGASMIC! 
  • Soldiers with Uzis are in many parts of the city.  I am not sure if this is a common event or some terrorist is close by. 
  • Motorcyclists think nothing of driving on the sidewalk.  We saw this happen many times.  We are not sure if this is against the law, but it occurs. 
Until tomorrow......Bon Soir