Arrived in SUNLIGHT. I'll repeat that only because I love to see it written out- SUNLIGHT. That's the first time that's ever happened.
Paris was extremely quiet. Someone had written me that she was very concerned that the city would be very busy due to the school vacations. I told her lots of French leave the city at that time. I'm not sure she believed me but was it ever true. Very, very quiet.
Where did all the Americans go? At our first 7 meals, eating at Le Reminet, Cote Seine, Wadja, Le P'tit Troquet, Le Petit Yvan, La Sourdiere, and a brasserie near Musee Marmottan we didn't hear or see one single American or hear one word of English spoken. They weren't in the stores, they weren't on the streets.
It all goes so fast. Arrive, unpack, start walking, and start packing to go home.
Usually at some point I have a few stomach problems - always pack Pepto Bismol and use it at some point. This time not a second's worth of upset. We made a couple of changes. We started eating full meals for lunch instead of salads and omelets like we had before. Also we started drinking white wine for lunch. Normally we only drink red and never drink wine at lunch but we started drinking white for lunch - Sancerre, Riesling - and we were never better.
Had a wonderful birthday lunch (I didn't know it was going to be a birthday lunch) at L'Ardoise. There was Chris (CohaChris) and Bert, Dezi (DeziWrytes) and Terry, Peg (Mini mn), Bobbi and myself. We were sitting and talking and suddenly presents came flying at me and a card that sang Happy Birthday. Then my slice of Tarte Tatin with a candle and everyone singing - it was just great.
How do the French make those incredibly adorable little kids clothing? Bobbi's in her glory shopping for Noah, and the stuff she gets is the cutest. They just have a way with little figures, animals that nobody else has. As my kids always say - he's the cutest dressed little kid in Ann Arbor, MI. At one restaurant we sat next to a couple who had arrived a couple of days before. They told us they took the RER into the city, then the metro to their hotel. In the metro a very nice man offered to help them and, since they had a lot of luggage, they accepted. Well, you know what happened. He took off with some of their stuff including passports, credit cards.
Coincidentally the following day I was hit on, and not by a gorgeous Madmoiselle. Bobbi and I were in the metro station, just about to enter the train. I had on my buttoned overcoat (which protected stuff in my pockets) and over my shoulder a purse. As I started into the car two guys fell against me. One of them pointed to some metro tickets on the floor as if to tell me I dropped them while the other again brushed against me on the purse side. I gave him a shove with my elbow, and pushed into the car while clutching the purse. When I got into the car several people nodded their approval. Of course, the joke was on the two guys. Had they succeeded and went to divvy up the spoils, all they would have had was a copy of my Guide to Paris, the Plan de Paris street book, a dictionary and some lists of restaurants, etc. Mmmm, wonder if they would have fought over that stuff. Oooo, I get the Guide, you can have the list of restaurants.
One day I wanted to surprise Bobbi and take her to see the greenhouses of Paris - she loves flowers. So we took the metro far out, then walked, and walked, and walked - crossed over the Peripherique, out past a huge park, and finally entered the area with the greenhouses. The only problem was we couldn't get into the buildings. After we wandered around a bit someone showed us where to go - around the other side and we entered large buildings which housed the individual greenhouses. Unfortunately they were all locked so we could only peak in a window and sure enough there were plants inside. But we could only see the ones right in front of the window. This would not be on my recommneded to see list.
There's nothing like a more than half empty plane. Going over almost everyone could take three seats, pick up the armrests and lay down to sleep. What a pleasure. Who needs first class? We were met once again by a bus to take us from the plane to the terminal. This was not an air bus that rises up to meet the plane - we had to walk down steps to the tarmac. Unfortunately the steps were broken so we sat around the plane for half an hour waiting for new steps to be brought.
The pilot had announced that it was raining in Paris and we just said - "so what else is new?" But on arrival it was clear and sunny. We had never seen Ch de Gaulle that way. The first time we came, in 1984, it was cloudy and drizzly and the taxi driver said - "Paris is a gray city. It looks better when it's gray." Fat chance of that being true. Paris had the most beautiful weather I can remember, and it was February. Cold, yes, but beautiful. Clear and sunny many days, not a cloud in the sky. The only time we opened our umbrellas was after our last dinner walking back to the hotel - we opened them for about 3 minutes when it drizzled just a little.
With the beautiful weather we walked more than we ever had, went through many areas of Paris and I tried to look at them objectively, to see if any were "better" than the others. IMO all areas that are centrally located are great. They have their differences of course, but they're all terrific to be in. The only areas we didn't like were the outlying ones. So when people say you must stay in this or that arrondisement, I don't feel it's true as long as you're central area.
The walk along the Seine has to be one most beautiful walks in the world. We've done it over and over and it only gets better each time. Bobbi stopped, as always, to buy some compacts; the ones with the Monet paintings and other French scenes on the top. She gives them as gifts to friends and they love them. Think about them if you need inexpensive gifts. They're sold in all the souvenir shops but the cheapest, at the bargain rate of 3 for100FF, is from the bookseller on the left bank across from Restaurant Cote Seine on Quai des Grands Augustines.
We went to many of the department stores to catch the February sales but they were at the tail end and little was left. The stores are still wonderful to walk through, especially the kitchen departments. I'd love to bring home one of everything. Last time I succumbed and bought a crepe pan with the wooden spreaders. I made some pretty lousy crepes and went back to my old frying pan. But now I have a genuine French recipe for them so I'll have to give it another try.
We hadn't been to the Musee Marmottan in a few years so we went back. It's still a terrific museum. They have a lot more Monets there, part of an exhibit, with the other impressionists moved upstairs. There's a pretty little park you pass as you walk from the metro to the museum. Such a great scene - little kids playing there, the girls in little dresses and shoes, the boys in pants and shoes - no jeans and sneakers there. The quiet of Paris always impressed me. Not the traffic, of course, but the people and the kids.
It's the same in the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries. Large amounts of people but everyone quiet. At the pond, if kids do something wrong, the parent admonishes them quietly
Anyone hear of Lisa Eckdahl? Walking Ile St Louis heard this beautiful singing coming from a restaurant. I asked and that's who it was. I never heard of her but I have to find that CD.
Bobbi discovered Arche shoes. Said it was like walking on air. She has never been so comfortable.
Still no Americans around.I don't know where all the tourists have gone but they certainly didn't come here.<
We went to Madeleine and took the M14 line all the way to the end. If you haven't been on it go, just for the experience. The track area is completely behind glass walls. There's no way to get to the tracks or throw anything on them. When the train comes in, it stops adjacent to sliding glass doors that open when the train doors open. When the train doors close, they close also. The train itself is like a long tube - no separation between cars. No conductor or engineer - it all works by computer. Very fast - you really zip along. We got off at the end - Bibliotheque station. Lots of high-rise, modern buildings and the library. Nothing to see. Went back one station to Cours St Emilion station. They've built a great little area. It's rows of little shops and boutiques in a walking area. They're built into stone arches and buildings. Hard to describe but it's definitely worth hopping the metro over to see it.
Speaking of libraries - it seems that the libraries there are rental libraries. People don't walk in and borrow a book with taxes paying for the libraries. They pay to rent them for so many days, then have to return them or pay additional.
Some people e-mailed me for more information on Cour St Emilion. It's actually called Bercy Village and is right at the exit of the metro station Cour St Emilion on the #14 line. It reminded us of Stratton Village in Vermont with a large walking area with shops and restaurants. One was called Resonances which was very much like Restoration Hardware, there was also the most beautiful Sephora Store I've ever seen. The place is about 2/3 full with 1/3 of the stores empty but they're working from one end to the other and one by one finishing off the stores.
The sun continues to shine. This is unbelieveable weather. Sunday afternoon we were walking down rue de Rivoli and suddenly there came a couple of police cars followed by thousands of roller bladers. This was the Sunday roller blade uh.....roll? which starts at Trocadero and swings through the city. It's touted to be a much more low key event than Friday Night Fever which is much more serious. There were men, women, kids, people eating their baguette sandwiches as they rolled by. Just terrific. You can't believe how long it stretches - block after block after block of skaters.
At Cote Seine Sunday night we met the same elderly couple we've always met there Sunday nights. That's their spot for that evening - they always have the same table across from us and we always talk a little. Sadly he's having trouble with his heart. I hope we continue to meet them there. Without telling anyone it seems the wine producers have made their bottles of wine smaller. At least we think so. We used to struggle to finish a 1/2 bottle of wine; now we easily finish a bottle and would drink a bit more if it was there.
We went to the ballet at the Opera Garnier. It was a bunch of dances choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It was wonderful except for about 15 minutes worth of Stravinsky music and weird dancing. The rest was danced to Chopin with a pianist. The 2nd half he was right on the stage. They're still on strike so they have a minimum of scenery. The last 30 minutes were super. They did an extremely clever comic ballet, the first I've ever seen like that. It reminded me of the Astaire- Rogers comic dance number in "Follow the Fleet" - great dancers doing wonderful dances, moves and steps but in a very funny way. Even the pianist took part. It was so adorable during intermission to see a bunch of little girls jumping and twirling in the lobby. Boys throw a football around after watching a game, girls dance after watching ballet. Please, no comments about my P.C. or lack thereof.
Bruno came over for a drink, which is now a firm tradition (he's our taxi driver for returning to the airport for 12 years). To feel REALLY French, you have to go to a cafe with a French person, order some drinks, and sit there and speak French in the midst of all the French people around you. For some reason I can understand Bruno very well while some other French people I have a hard time with.
One day Bobbi met her friend Veronique and I bachelored it. During lunch I took the opportunity to watch the French waiters at work. They really are amazing. They get more done, with less effort, taking care of more people more efficiently, than any waiters I've seen in the States.
Paris is starting to lose a little bit of its charm - very little, but the signs are there. Many of the old shops are being redone with modern look to them. The saddest example is the old, old, really old cafe on the corner of rue de Buci and rue de Seine by the Buci Market. This was an original "step up to the bar and quaff a glass of wine or a beer with the locals" type of place that has been there and looked that way forever. Well, they're gutting it out and making a more modern place. How sad. Also, at our hotel, they've dispensed with the old keys with the tassels attached and now have gone the magnetic card route that you slide in and out to open the lock and you keep with you - you no longer leave the key at the desk. I would assume this practice will spread.
Walking along the Seine we saw a couple strolling on the bank across the river with a good sized dog. I'm not sure what happened but suddenly the dog was in the Seine with no way for the couple to reach down to drag it out. Someone put in a phone call and, in a few minutes, a very large inflatable boat with motor came along with uniformed guys inside and they were able to pull it out of the water and push it up onto the bank. Dog saved. Vive le chien.
We stopped in at the Roman arena, Arenes de Lutece. Hate to think what went on there way back when but now it was fun to sit and watch the kids playing soccer. They kick a ball around like our kids throw a ball around
After pondering this for many years, looking at it from all directions, balancing one against the other, taking into account all the ramifications, I have come to the conclusion that I like packing to go to Paris better than packing to go home. But pack we did and home we went. Bruno came right on time, the plane was on time, everything was perfect except that we were going in the wrong direction.
Here are the restaurants we went to. I didn't include some small brasseries I don't remember. Some were repeats, some were totally new, some were old friends revisited that we haven't been to in years. We loved every one except the last one on the list.
If you read the list, imagine "very good food, service etc." in all of them so I don't have to keep repeating that. We would gladly return to every one and look forward to doing just that. If, in my opinion, it's better for lunch than dinner (due to ambiance, general feel, etc) I put an (L) after the name. Please, that's in my opinion, so no nasty letters if you disagree.
These are in no particular order except for that not recommended place which is placed last.
Le Reminet - Christophe
3, rue des Grands Degres
Pretty restaurant, lots of fish dishes.
45, quai des Grands Augustins
Still our favorite, always enjoyable. Open 7 nights for dinner, Sunday for lunch also.
Les Bouchons de Francois Clerc
12, rue de l'Hotel Colbert
Lovely restaurant, wines at cost. There are a few other branches but this is the one we go to.
28, rue de Mont Thabor
Just off rue Castiglione near Place Vendome.
Le P'Tit Troquet
28, rue de L'Exposition
A lovely, sweet, charming, gentle little restaurant
4, rue de La Soudiere (just off rue St. Honore)
A very wonderful, small, local family run restaurant near the Tuileries.
16, rue Tholoze
A wonderful little local restaurant tucked away on a side street in Montmartre.
Wadja (L) - Denise
10, rue de la Grande Chaumiere
Very local, very French.
Lots of them around Paris. Quite good food.
1 biz, rue Jean Mermoz
Just off the Champs Elysees by Rond Point. Busy, busy. A bit crowded but enjoyable
Cafe Med (L)
rue Ile St Louis
For truly great crepes, also quiches, other food. Galettes are incredible with ham, cheese, fried egg, mushrooms.
Le Vieux Bistro - Dominique
14, rue de Cloiture Notre Dame
Across the street from Notre Dame. Very pretty.
Le Cameleon (L)
6, rue de Chevreuse
La Ferme St Simon
6, rue de St Simon
Highest priced of all these restaurants but still not in the really high range. Very lovely.
Brasserie de l'Isle St Louis (L)
55, quai de Bourbon
At walking bridge on Ile St Louis. A real taste of Paris with the great taste of Choucroute.
11, rue de la Grande Chaumiere
Very mediocre food, or less. Would not recommend at all.