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Report 1418: A Visit to Paris

By Monica Pileggi from Frederick, MD, Spring 2007

Trip Description: Nine nights in Paris (May 9-18, 2007) along with day trips to Dijon, St. Germain-en-laye, and Amiens.

Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Paris

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Attended GTG; Day Tours; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Independent Travel; 2 People; Single Traveler

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Page 1 of 5: Back in Paris!

photo by Monica J. Pileggi

Place Maubert, one of the roving markets in Paris

Ah, Paris! Venice Italy is my first love, but Paris runs close behind. I wanted to take a trip in the spring (as usual) but didn’t want to spend two weeks (half way through this trip I regretted not spending two full weeks in Paris!) because I have a big trip coming up in the fall. Since I enjoyed my solo trip to Italy last year, and since Paris is a place I know reasonably well, I decided to return to one of my favorite places.

I ended up inviting my friend Louisa, who was very happy that I asked her to join me. I had asked Louisa if she was willing to spend some time apart. She said yes. I feel that having time on my own allows me to slow down and really get to know a place. I also love to take pictures and take my time composing them. Meeting up for dinner is always fun because we can talk about our own day and experiences. So we both came up with our own itineraries and worked on them so that we both had our time apart, as well as our day trips and evenings together. It worked out very well and I really enjoyed Louisa’s company on this trip.

A few of my goals on this trip were to hit a lot of the Paris markets, enjoy some outdoor time at cafes, museums I hadn't visited yet, and a couple of walking tours.

May 9th, Tuesday: I arrived on Wednesday after a good flight from Philadelphia on US Airways. Talk about a cheap company. Drinks and headphones now cost $5 each. Fortunately I brought my own headphones and watched a movie. I guess I got spoiled flying on Air France. I didn't sleep on the plane, as usual, but managed well on Wednesday. I flew on USAir because I get a family discount. It would have been better to fly from Dulles on Air France and pay the extra bucks.

I took the Air France shuttle bus, line 4, to Gare de Lyon after purchasing my round trip tickets (located just outside of gate 34 at terminal 1, €22 round-trip) and then a taxi to my studio apartment on #32 rue Vieille du Temple, a fabulous street in the Marais. It was a short taxi ride and under $10. I met Louisa, who was sitting at the café (Au Petit fer à Cheval) next to our apartment entrance where she was drinking an espresso. She had arrived two days before me and had stayed near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th Arr. It was great to see her and I was beginning to get excited by the fact I was in Paris again – I was in Paris five years ago.

Jean-Pierre, one of the apartment owners, showed up about 30 minutes late and carried our suitcases up the three flights of stairs to our studio (€75/night). He showed us how to use the washer/dryer, TV, answering machine, etc. The place is quite small but we managed. The 20 square meter room has a pull down Murphy queen bed, which we kept down the whole time, a small table with the TV and VCR, phone, answering machine, a small kitchen, a tiled bathroom with a partial glass “door” and combination washer/dryer next to the sink. All of the usual amenities were included (hair dryer, utensils, dishes, coffee maker, etc). The rental advertisement stated a fresh bouquet of flowers would be in the room upon our arrival; however, there were none to be found in the apartment.

The building is located right off rue des Rosiers, the Jewish quarter of the Marais. Rue de Rivoli is just two blocks south of the building with the Seine a little further south. The Pompidou center is a 10-minute walk to the west and Place des Vosges is 15 minutes to the east. Two metros (Hotel de Ville and St. Paul) were just about a 10-minute walk from the apartment. Another plus for the area were the large number of cafés, bistros and restaurants, as well as many bars. The whole area is busy day and night and our street, rue Vieille du Temple, is one of the main streets for Paris’ large gay population. It’s a safe area and we were comfortable the whole time we were there.

On the ground floor of our building is a Boulangerie (bakery); every morning we would open our two windows, which faced the interior court of the building, and smell the aroma of the fresh baked breads and pastries from below. The smells were unbelievably delicious! We later met Nadia at the bakery, who treated us to extra goodies every morning. She would even give me a croissant from the tray that just came out of the oven rather than one from the display case (although those were quite fresh too).

Our first afternoon together was spent wandering the Marais area, including quaint Village St. Paul. There are some wonderful ancient streets, including rue des Barres, with half-timbered buildings from the middle ages. There is also the remains of an ancient Roman wall on rue Charlemagne, built by Philippe-Augustus in the 12th-century.

Lunch at chez Julien was wonderful, although expensive. We were the only tourists having lunch with about 10 others. The restaurant is small, with dining rooms on the first and second level. Great atmosphere. So very French with the decor and foods we had. Well, every place was so French!

After lunch we visited the Baudoyer market at Place Baudoyer, which was fairly small, but with fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood. The display of radishes was beautiful! The roving market is located on rue Rivoli a couple blocks east of Hotel de Ville. (Wednesday 3pm to 8:30pm, Saturday 7am to 3pm. Metro: Hôtel-de-Ville). At one point we stopped in La Vaissellerie, a wonderful kitchen gadget shop. We both purchased small ceramic wine pitchers. There were so many great things to purchase, I decided to come back another day (but I never made it back!). We walked along the Seine up the place de la Bastille and back to our neighborhood.

In the apartment we unpacked the rest of our things, and then headed out to explore the nearby streets of our neighborhood. We found a small café and sat outside enjoying a glass of wine while writing in our journals.

We decided to have an inexpensive dinner at L'as du Falafel on rue des Rosiers, to make up for our expensive lunch, as we didn’t want two expensive meals each day. We shared a small bottle of red wine and both of us ordered the falafel special: pita pocket stuffed with falafel, eggplant, hummus, cabbage, and radish. It was absolutely delicious and quite filling! This is the most famous falafel place on rue de Rosiers, as well as all of Paris. There is usually a long line at the take out counter and the tables are always filled inside. The restaurant inside is tiny but the tables turn over pretty quickly. There are other falafel places on the same street, but apparently this one is the best and I just loved the flavors of the ingredients of their falafel special. I could easily have gone there for another dinner or lunch, but I had too many places on my restaurant list to visit. This just gives me the opportunity to go back to Paris again!

After dinner, we walked around our neighborhood – we walked around after dinner most nights. All the restaurants, cafes, and bars were packed and people were enjoying the evening with their friends and significant others.

May 10th, 2007 Thursday: Thursday is a great day to visit some of Paris’ outdoor markets. Louisa and I, after our croissant and espresso and tea for breakfast at Au Petit fer à Cheval, headed to the left bank. Along the way we stopped to take some pictures of Notre Dame, which looked like it had a makeover from my last visit. The façade was free of pollution. The area was packed with visitors and vendors selling their cheap souvenirs. In addition, we saw a large group of men, all in blue uniform, who were on strike and were marching over to the left bank. We talked to one of them, who stated they were hospital workers and were protesting over their pay.

We continued our walk to Place Maubert, the location of one of the roving markets in Paris. This is located on Blvd. Saint Germain right at the metro Maubert. On display were wonderful vegetables, fruits, and seafood. Also for sale were clothing, jewelry, scarfs, pâtés, foie gras, olives, and other food products. Both Louisa and I purchased pashminas at €5 a pop. What a bargain! I had hoped to pick up some Herbs de Provence and soaps like I did several years ago, but didn’t see any for sale.

We continued south through the university quarter to rue Mouffetard, another wonderful pedestrian food street. We enjoyed a nice lunch at Restaurant Pot du Terre, which someone had recommended on a foodie web site. I had a delicious salad with a terrine foie gras and grilled lamb topped with a tarragon sauce and whole roasted garlic cloves; fried potatoes and a puree of peas. For dessert, I enjoyed my crème brulee. Their web site has a coupon for a complimentary Kir (white wine with a dash of Cassis – black currant liquor) that we enjoyed with our meal. We both enjoyed sitting outside eating our meal and writing in our journals. It was a lovely day and we were both glad to be in Paris. The street that this restaurant is located on is full of restaurants. Some seemed pretty touristy with their English menus posted along the sidewalk but I’m sure the area is quite lively at night.

After lunch Louisa and I walked to the Pantheon where we were allowed in at no charge. At the opposite side of the Pantheon I had my first view of the Eiffel Tower! What a sight! Yes, I’m in Paris!! We wandered through the Luxembourg gardens and sat for a while enjoying the views of the ponds, gardens, and flowers. Many people were out enjoying the gardens. It was nice to just sit and people watch.

Along the way back towards the Seine, we stopped by a hotel to say hello to the owner, who showed us one of the double rooms and his apartment that he'll soon rent out. It was a place I had booked before considering renting an apartment. When I did cancel my hotel reservations, the owner told me to come by to say hello and check the hotel out. I would definitely like to stay in either the hotel or apartment the next time I'm in Paris, although I do love the area of the Marais!

We wound our way to rue de la Huchette, a very touristy place filled with Greek restaurants and gyro stands. In the area is apparently the smallest street (really an alleyway) in Paris: rue du chat qui peche, street of the fishing cat. A couple walked up to us asking what we were photographing, so I told them about the street. They were fresh off the plane and had never been to Paris. They didn’t even have a guidebook, so we gave them several suggestions on what to see/do. They asked how to get to Notre Dame, which was over the Seine.

Back on the right bank we came across six young handsome Gendarmerie, who were stationed near the Hotel de Ville. We noticed the Gendarmerie throughout Paris, as the presidential elections had recently taken place. We quickly snapped their pictures, who smiled at our attention. Continuing on, we walked up one street to the George Pompidou for a quick peek. People were sitting next to the fountains enjoying the afternoon. We went to the apartment to rest for a while before dinner. Louisa had a list of restaurants, as I did, so we picked La Guirlande de Julie at the place des Vosges. Dinner was very good but very expensive. We sat outside facing the place des Vosges while a group of business men sat inside filling the tables.

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