Travel Diary: Paris Part I

4 Nov

I’m beginning to suspect that one of the best parts of London might be Paris.

By that I don’t mean to compare Paris to London as a place to be, because I don’t even think doing so would really be useful. But what I mean is … well, let me just tell you how we got to Paris.

We woke up in London on a very normal Wednesday — supremely, normal, in fact, in every way other than that Mike rolled his carry-on bag with him to work in the morning. I woke up, did some homework, went to class, logged a few hours of studying in the NAB, met my academic advisor at 3:30, took the bus home, made some stir-fry for dinner, cleaned the kitchen, put the last few items in my own carry-on, and took the tube 2 stops to St. Pancras International Station. Mike met me at the station at 7:15, and around 7:45 we filed through a quick security check, had our passports stamped by the French, and boarded the Eurostar.

We both had full days in London with very little travel stress, enjoyed a relaxing trip across the Channel (I even had 2-plus hours on the train to work on another article), and said Bonjour to Paris at 11pm! The ease of traveling from London has thus far been amazing — between us, we have visited Barcelona, Sheffield, Brighton, Reykjavic, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Washington DC so far — but taking high-speed rail to Paris simply takes the cake.

Google map of the journey from London to Paris

But now that we’re here, you might still ask, why Paris on a Wednesday in November?

We made the trip this week to meet our very dear friends Alex and Rachel, who are nearing the end of a 4-month journey around the world (click here to see some of their beautiful photos and travel notes) in anticipation of starting new jobs as family physicians back in the States. We haven’t been in the same city with them for more than a year, so we were beyond thrilled to see their smiling faces as we stepped off our train at the Gare du Nord. A quick ride on the Metro got us to the Île Saint-Louis, where we’re all staying together in a quirky– but very charming — guest house.

After a lazy Thursday morning breakfast of coffee with fresh croissants, baguettes and jam, we walked to the Louvre:

Mike, Alex and Rachel in the famous Pyramide de Louvre, designed by I.M. Pei

Although it seemed silly to take snapshots of the artwork inside the Louvre, I couldn’t resist a few photos of the crowd gathered around the Mona Lisa:

(Rachel inspired me to take this photo)

Mike, acting as tour guide with the help of the Louvre App, attracted another listener (man in blue t-shirt).

Alex intercepting my candid group portrait

We left the Louvre and stopped for falafel and espressos at a Lebanese cafe. Then I insisted we find La Pistacherie, a sweet shop I have been dreaming about visiting ever since I read about it on our friend’s very entertaining blog about life as an American in Paris.

My number one ambition for our entire Paris trip was eating one of La Pistacherie’s unbelievably cute ice creams:

Chocolate-vanilla for Rachel; chocolate-peanut for Alex; chocolate-coconut for Mike and pistachio for me. Once you select your flavor, they chop it into four perfect little pieces and serve it in a tiny bamboo dish, with a toothpick. So civilized!

Who would not want one?

Success! I can now leave Paris a happy woman.

We debated our likes/dislikes of the Centre Pompidou (designed by architect Richard Rogers, who is also responsible for Lloyd’s of London). For the record, I like it … I decided that watching the movement of people filing horizontally through externally visible escalators and walkways, while watching the motion of the elevators moving up and down, reminded me of a pleasantly busy anthill.

Pompidou ... though not the anthill side.

The gray skies and drizzle persisted, so we snuggled up to a patio table at Cafe Hugo and had some insanely delicious French cheese, washed down with a carafe of rosé. I could have stayed there all night.

Later that afternoon, inspired by some of the elegantly simple jewelry I had seen, I stopped at a bead store to pick up some materials for making my own …

Back at the guest house, we downed another bottle of red wine before leaving for dinner, because we are in Paris.

Dinner was a very French three-course prix fixe menu (that sounds very fancy — and would be in America — but seems like a restaurant standard in Paris) at a cute neighborhood place decorated mostly in pink. There were only six or eight tables inside, and the very charming middle-aged owner (sporting a leopard print silk blouse and spiky bleached hair) waited on all of them herself.

For my prix fixe (accompanied, of course, by yet another carafe of wine), I selected an appetizer of rillettes de thon, which I did not realize would look very much like tuna fish salad. But to my great happiness, it tasted much, much better than any tuna fish salad I’ve ever encountered. (I suspect it is because of the absolutely unmentionable quantities of heavy cream and/or mayonnaise whipped into it.) Second course: tagliatelle au saumon, again with boatloads of butter/cream, so rich I couldn’t finish even the civilized French portion. I was so overwhelmed by dairy products at this point that I opted for a milk-free dessert: coupe de sorbets (shared with Mike).

As we wobbled home, we decided to begin Friday by going for a run.

2 Responses to “Travel Diary: Paris Part I”

  1. Steve, Alex's dad. November 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experiences in Paris with Alex and Rachel. Seems you all had lots of very good and memorable food. Please give Mike our very best, and also a big affectionate hug.

    Steve and Shyla


  1. Paris « WorldHopping - November 6, 2011

    […] Part One […]

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