Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Paris: Day 1 & 2, or "I'm hungry, and it's chicken!"

Paris Travel Journal

Day 1 & 2:

Day one doesn’t really count as a Paris day; we began traveling on 5 March, but didn’t arrive in Paris until 7am on 6 March. We got up early, did some last-minute packing, and drove with my dad and Jacob to the Trenton train station. After goodbye hugs and kisses, we took the train into NYC and the subway to JFK airport. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 5:55pm but didn’t get off the ground until about 7pm due to delays. The pilot said we would make up the time by following a slightly different flight plan (and we did arrive in Paris on time).

The food on the flight was laughable; it was almost like they wanted to give you one last reminder that American food is absolute swill compared with what we’d be eating in Paris. I choked down a few bites of rubbery chicken and decided to forgo the solid white lump that I can only guess was supposed to be mashed potatoes. I tried to sleep, but it just wasn’t happening, so I half-watched the in-flight movies (Bee Movie and Apollo 13) and tried to stay comfy. In the morning, the airline’s final send-off was what were supposed to be croissants (crescent shaped bread does not a croissant make!) for breakfast.

Landed in Paris and breezed through customs, where I had my first chance to practice my “Bonjour!” While waiting for our baggage, Matt befriended an American expat who offered to share a cab ride with us to the 18th arrondisement, where our hotel was. It was nice to not have to take yet another series of trains.

Arrived at the hotel at about 8:30am Paris time (2:30am Philly time). Checked in, but our room wouldn’t be ready until 2pm (8am Philly time), so we left our bags and walked outside with our map, exhausted with no idea what to do next!

I knew I would function better after some caffeine, so after wandering aimlessly for a few blocks, we stopped at a café. “Bonjour!” (I’m loving this!) We chose a table and I ordered a café crème (similar to a cappuccino), and Matt got a jus d'ananas (pineapple juice).

My très sexy husband!

Tired, but very happy to be in Paris!

We examined our map and listened to the patrons conversing in French (I could just sit for hours and listen to people speaking French! Je l’aime!) We decided to walk a bit farther south, up the hill of Montmartre to see the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and the windmills.

We walked up 200, oui, 200 steps to Montmartre.

As soon as we reached the top, the street “artists” began offering to draw our picture... we just shook our heads and said “non, merci” over and over again. There were several souvenir shops and cafes along the street we turned down, and Matt went in to find a hat and scarf (he’d forgotten his at home). After he was properly outfitted for the cold, we went a bit further down the street, and suddenly the Sacré Coeur popped into view!

We took in the view both of the church and of Paris beneath. Both were breathtaking.

Took lots of photos of the outside of the church, but once we got inside we were forbidden to take any more – a pity, because the inside of the domes is really cool. A mass was being held while we were inside, so we had to be quiet as we “ooohed” and “aaahed” at everything. After exploring the church, we went back outside and headed to the Place du Tertre, a square where lots of artists have paintings for sale.

We had lunch in a small sandwich shop on the square (jambon avec frommage on a baguette, and a Nutella crêpe) and then wandered down the other side of the hill in search of les moulins (windmills).

We took a look at our map, and while we were trying to figure out which way to go, a kind old French man asked us (in French, of course) what we were looking for. I told him “the Moulin Rouge” and tried my best to understand his directions. While it turns out that he did point us the right way, we got lost twice more before finally finding the Moulin Rouge! On the way, we also passed the Moulin de la Galette, the other famous windmill of Montmartre, and a couple of French-speaking tourists asked if I spoke French and if I knew were the Salvador Dali museum was… I hoped that meant that I didn't look like a tourist! LOL.

By the time we made it down the hill to the Moulin Rouge, we were both beyond tired (we’d been awake for about 25 hours). There was no way we were walking back up the hill and over to our hotel! So, we hailed a taxi and rode back to the hotel, where our nice cozy room was finally ready for us. I fell asleep as soon as my face hit the pillow.

Our hotel room, number 34. We also sat in row 34 of the airplane. I'm beginning to sense a theme about this trip...

We napped for about 3.5 hours and then showered, changed and headed out for dinner. After browsing through "our" neighborhood a bit, we found a place that looked good. I got to practice my French quite a bit, as the waitress spoke no English, but was very forgiving of my “Franglish”! I had a glass of Alsatian wine, Matt had a Coke, and we ordered the poulet roti and frites for dinner, with a crudité (grated raw veggies with vinaigrette) and charcuterie (assorted pork sausages) for starters. And of course, crème brûlée for dessert. Yum! I asked my husband the non-foodie if he liked his dinner. His response: "Hey, I'm hungry, and it's chicken."

Matt looks très French in his scarf!

Mmm... wine!

The crème brûlée didn't last long enough to have its photo taken!

We walked back to the hotel, silly from wine and punchy from too little sleep. On the way we took photos of a few things which amused us:

Matt thought the door handle on this phone booth had an intriguing shape ;)

So, in French the word "assiette" means an assortment, in culinary terms it means an assortment of food. However, when they abbreviate it, it takes on a whole new meaning to a couple of American tourists with a 4th grade sense of humor!

Yet another reason why Paris is the most romantic city on earth: this florist shop has a 24-hour vending machine, so you can drop your money in and pick up a bouquet for your amour, day or night!

Then it was back to the hotel, where we giggled over French-dubbed American TV, and called home to talk to Jacob before drifting back into dreamland until morning.

Coming soon: Day 3!


Misty said...

Envious... And the Moulin Rouge??? Wow, Maggie! This had to be the most amazing birthday EVER!!!

Lauren J said...

Glad you had a great time. Paris is a gorgeous city.

bloodthirsty~girl said...

...but of course! after grabbing that "handle" and partaking of some ass steak, he darn well better buy her flowers!

glad to see you're back, and that you had a good time.

Ty-Anna said...

What a wonderful, tiring, fun beginning! I'm reading it and it hardly seems REAL!! Someday my friend I will make it out of this country and I DON'T mean Canada again!! LOL...looking forward to day 3 :-)

The Revelator said...

You look so cute in your red scarf!

Lisa said...

I've been dying to hear about your trip and see the photos that I knew you'd share. If you didn't, I'd have to come spank you. I'm loving it! My hubby has absolutely no desire to travel abroad, and I'm gonna have to work on him...

You look so happy, and I'm sooo glad you got to go!

Thanks for sharing all this, Mags, it means alot to many of us, I'm sure.