Like, for instance, our first meal in Paris. Miss Chef and I went from Gare du Nord to our apartment by metro, hauling our carry-ons up and down the various stairs. There was construction on Line 1, so we ended up doing two transfers before arriving at our station, St. Paul. Then we had to hunt up an atm to make a big ol' withdrawal to pay the balance of the rent on the apartment, and figure out how to get into the building and buzz the owner. Plus we were about 20 minutes late...but it all turned out beautifully.
By the way, you can see the apartment we rented here. If anyone's traveling to Paris, I can highly recommend it. It was just what we wanted, in the perfect location, and the owner is wonderfully helpful, friendly and honest. And speaks excellent English.
So, as I said, we found the apartment, settled in a bit. and headed out for a walk. Ile St. Louis is one of two islands in the Seine river, at the heart of Paris. The other one has Notre Dame, the Conciergerie and Ste. Chapelle. Ile St. Louis is mostly residential, though with the usual collection of boutiques, cafés and restaurants on the ground floors. It's a bit touristy, but not as well-trammeled as the areas around Notre Dame, the Sacré Coeur, etc.
We stopped to look at a few menus before settling on a very traditional-looking place, Aux Anysetiers du Roy. Every effort had been made to give the impression of a medieval-aged building (which it may be, for all I know). I was concerned that the focus on all the standard, tourist-pleasing traditional French dishes would mean thoughtless cooking, but we were very pleased with our meal.
I ordered duck breast with a honey raisin sauce, which came with sautéed potatoes and--hooray!--haricots verts. It tasted about 200 times better than it looks in this picture.
Miss Chef ordered the chicken with a provençale sauce, which didn't contain a single olive, much to our surprise. It was a very tomatoey sauce, and it came with the same sides as my dish.
The picture quality's not great, because I wanted to avoid using the flash.
By coincidence, there was an American couple seated right next to us, and by the time we'd finished our first glass of wine, they broke the ice and we ended up chatting for some time. Turned out this was their last night in Paris, and our first. They too had rented an apartment, and had enjoyed their week. It was a nice little passing of the torch, and made me glad to be at the beginning of our stay, rather than the end!
On our way back to the apartment, we stopped into a grocery store to pick up some basics for breakfast and snacks. I couldn't help snapping this picture:
Ok, now on to Day 2! This time we were to meet at the Eiffel Tower at 10...only as Miss Chef and I started out, my brother called and said they were going to need more time. Which was fine with us, because we had just stumbled onto the neighborhood market!
It wasn't as local as we're used to at home, but we couldn't resist sharing a few euro with the vendors! I got some stinky cheese and Miss Chef picked up some fruits...don't worry, they'll show up later in the week, but I don't have pictures of them at this point.
Well, we eventually met up at 11:00, as planned, at the Trocadero Plaza. I'd recommended this rather than the tower itself, for the view, naturally.
|The Tower looked pretty nice, too.|
Yes, that's a Starbucks cup. It was the only place Miss Chef knew how to order brewed coffee--since I don't drink coffee, I wasn't much help.
Anyway, we strolled over to the tower itself, but decided not to go up, since we hadn't been able to book tickets ahead. If you buy tickets on site, you're given a time--often several hours later--to come back and wait in line. Since we'd all been up in it at one time or another, we decided to save our time for something different.
Still, that didn't keep us from taking a few pictures...
|Yeah, it's pretty dang big!|
My sister-in-law was busy taking pictures of everyone else, again, but we managed to force her into a few frames...
|Check out the little one's goofball expression!|
We were headed to the Rodin Museum, which was included in our Museum Passes. Did I mention those? We'd bought them at the Arc de Triomphe--50€ for four days' access to many of the biggies, including the Louvre and the palace of Versailles. Anyway, I thought the Rodin museum would be a good place for the kids to run around outside, as well as being less well-known and less crowded.
It was a bit of a walk, and the kids were tired from the previous day...but we did happen to pass by the Invalides on our way.
This is the site of Napoleon's tomb, as well as containing a weaponry museum. In fact, this too was included in our passes, but we passed on by...
Part of the benefit of the museum passes is that you get to pass right on by the ticket lines. When I flashed mine at the entrance to the Rodin museum, we were waved on to the head of the line. Doubly helpful when you've got three impatient kids in tow (ok, two impatient kids and one not-quite-sullen-teenager-yet).
The two youngest kids were immediately drawn into climbing all over these sculptures, part of a temporary exhibit of a more contemporary artist.
We took the eldest around with us while the parents took a breather on the front steps of the house to watch the other two.
|Cheesy, but why not?|
|The writer Balzac|
|"Don't push your sister off the sculpture, honey."|
|The Gates of Hell. We avoided sending anyone through...barely.|
|Taken from the bottom of the Gates...these figures are soaring out of the sculpture. |
Or perhaps "writhing" would be a better word.
|I made Miss Chef pose for this shot of the gardens. She's a pretty|
good sport sometimes.
We did a pretty thorough job of touring through the house. I love the sculptures by Camille Claudel, and Miss Chef had been told by some of the instructors at school to look for paintings by other famous artists that are not generally reproduced in art books. Our 12-year old nephew had to suffer through a lot of embarrassingly nude sculptures, I'm afraid.
Things got a little more mundane after this. We had a frustrating hunt for a café for lunch (there are actually two in the gardens, but it was decided they wouldn't do for some reason). And by the time we were done, my brother had to get back to the hotel to repack and leave for the train...he had to go to work the next day. (Oh, is it Sunday? I guess it is. Oh well.) Miss Chef and I escorted them back, said goodbye, and left the kids watching a movie while sis-in-law and we went down to the bar for a sidewalk drink and some people-watching.
|Doing what they do best...|
They were also leaving the next morning, so we said goodbye for a week, and headed on our way for the evening (we would travel back for a last day with them before flying back to the States).
The hotel was in the neighborhood where I had lived during my year as an assistante, so I took Miss Chef on a stroll to visit the sights. I only took a couple of pictures.
|Canal St. Martin, which has become much more popular in the past|
dozen years since I lived here.
|Part of the Hôpital St. Louis, which was at the end of my street|
and which I never visited!
We metro'ed back to St. Michel--I think--and Miss Chef just had to stop in at Shakespeare & Co., a renowned English-language bookstore. She loved it, as it's crammed so full of books as to be a fire hazard in the States. It was so hot in there I opted to wait outside. The walk home was rather rewarding, though...
How can you resist a city that does this to its famous monuments?
Dinner that night was ham and cheese sandwiches at the apartment, as we had eaten lunch pretty late that afternoon. This is my last picture of that day, so I'm guessing we did some laundry and headed to bed. We had a big day coming up: it was time to put those museum passes to work!