Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25, 2009: Weekend in Paris - Part II

OK, so where was I? Oh yes, Paris! So Steff and I were GOING to head to Paris on Friday night. But we realized that by the time we arrived (which would have been 10pm or so) it really wouldn't be worth the cost of the hotel room. So we, decided to change plans and just get up early on Saturday morning.

After Andrew got home from work and we got everyone fed, Steff and I got to go out and walk around and grab some dinner. She wanted to see a few other churches and landmarks so we set out to see what was viewable after dark. The Abbaye aux Dames was closed so instead we walked up the street to see the leaning church. The interior was closed by the time we arrived, but the exterior was still pretty with the night lighting. The "lean" of the church (pictured to the right) is obvious at any time of the day! From there, we began to just walk around and figure out what we were hungry to eat. Ultimately, we decided to eat at a fondue restaurant. Andrew is not a big fan of fondue, so this was great as I probably would have never eaten at this place, Maitre Corbeau. We actually were not all that hungry after eating our huge seafood lunches, but for some reason we seemed to think that thick, rich steaming piles of cheese and bread would be somewhat light....Anyway, dinner was really tasty. But I have to say, very comical. First, the waiter brought us our fondue, which we gladly dove into and enjoyed. However, just 1 minute later another waitress came over to tell us we were consuming the wrong fondue and took it away tout de suite (at once)! Just after she gave the original waiter a look of distaste, he and she appeared right after with our correct fondue. Now, we were still missing a salad but at this point - who cares? The fondue was very tasty. We dipped bread cubes and tomato slices and enjoyed our Kir Royales (Creme de Cassis plus Champagne). Now unfortunately, when our waiter came to deliver my second Kir Royale, he made a second error and spilt the whole thing onto my lap. Now, we had an audience to begin with - first of all because they heard us talking english, but second because they saw our dinner arrive and then get taken away right as we were getting into the swing of dinner and third because the seating is very tight in the restaurant. So when the waiter managed to spill a whole drink all down the front of me and on my pants - our audience grew. Steffany and I were rolling around with laughter because we just couldn't believe this guy's luck. And ours. Tears were spilling down my face from laughing so hard - we could not keep our composure. We eventually managed to finish our dinners and our audience was lost when they were able to get their own food. But that was hilarious. Just the other day I was blogging about wanting to pee my pants from laughter - and I got it!

Saturday morning came fast. We caught the 8:10am train to Paris and during the ride we planned out our next two days' adventures. As habit goes - upon arrival we headed straight to Starbucks for our coffee fix. After that we dropped our stuff of at the hotel - The Novotel Tour Eiffel - which was perfectly fine and nicely located just about a 1o minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. Steff and I rifled through our purses and backpacks to get ready for the day and night of walking Paris. I have no idea why, but I recall that Steff managed to find about 4-5 pairs of extra socks in her purse in about 1 minutes time (see photo to your left). I usually have extra kleenex, women's products, coins, maybe even some contacts but not usually socks. Steff - what's up with the socks?

The rest of the day was spent seeing the sights. We first went to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre (to your right) - which just to throw in a weird fact, is the highest point in Paris. We expected to arrive and see a marvelous basilica at the top of a beautiful hill and though that does exist, we had to weave through a lot of other unexpected stuff to get there. We climbed the metro stairs and were greeted by tons and tons of people, hastily sorting through store after store of junk. Featured were 1 Euro and 2 Euro clothing, socks, toiletries, and rolls and rolls of fabric. Granted, I hadn't read tons about Sacre Coeur, but you'd think I would have come across the warning to avoid this lower area and head straight to the top. Consider this YOUR warning - head straight to the basilica, don't stop for food or drink or really anything. AFTER your walk through the basilica, walk around to the back - maybe see the crypt - and keep going back - that is where you will find lovely eats, drinks, boutiques and artsy fartsy stores. And to top it all off, there was a french guy singing solo with his guitar at the foot of the stairs singing, "California Dreamin" that Steff and I thought was quite appropriate given our upcoming move to...California.
(this store took up block and blocks - cheap stuff)

(the beloved Sacre Coeur - quite the site, worth the climb.)

(people crowding into these cheap stores at foot of Sacre Coeur)

(actually, among all the junk there was some beautiful fabric for sale in stores. Above - laces)

Some other beautiful shots from Sacre Coeur:
(beautiful doors)
(art show on the square)

(more beautiful fabric stores)
(loved this picturesque graffiti)

After Sacre Coeur, we went to Notre Dame Cathedral. We had both been here before, but I hadn't gone inside and Steff didn't remember much. We braved the windy, rainy line with a few other people and quickly got inside. What a beautiful place is all I could think. But then I got so sad. To see so many people swarming around, stuffed into this building, taking photo after photo around the perimeter of the sanctuary - and then to see the people in the middle praying and looking for solace, silence and assurance but having hundreds of flashes, and whispers and feet shuffling around them - it seemed wrong. I loved this place - it really was beautiful and peaceful and I wish I could have seen it hundreds of years ago when it probably was without the tourist crowds and only full of the sunlight shining through the stained glass windows.
(the beautiful lit candles in Notre Dame, prayers shining)

After Notre Dame, Steff and I decided to just amble for a while. The great thing about seeing Paris with a girlfriend instead of your husband is that you really can walk aimlessly, without a
plan. With Andrew, he would not have been happy to wander with no plan, pop into shops and just "look" around, or stop for a drink here and there (below) to people watch. But Steff, she and I were on the same page. Follow a loose plan, wander when we felt, just take it all in. And the beauty of that is we discovered so many cute little streets (below) that we would have never seen had we been following a strict plan or decided to finish exploring by a certain time. For instance - we came across the bar - shown to the right. We didn't stop in but with an advertisement like this, how did we resist?

We must have walked for miles, rode the Metro for miles and all through the rain, wind, sun and dark. So we were bound to get hungry. I had found the name of a few restaurants to try, but we discovered that one was WAY to fancy for the likes of us after walking around for hours and the other, when we arrived wouldn't take us! Our hotel concierge had called and they said to arrive between 7 - 8pm to ensure getting a table - which we did. And after what seemed like hours of trying to find
this place by foot, we got there only to be told we would not get a table. So, if you plan to try and eat at Cafe Constant in Paris - you should either be really cool and irresistible to turn away, or get yourself a reservation - even though they don't take them. Or hope that guy that welcome us so rudely that evening is not working. OK - grudge gone. Now, we stopped for a glass of wine to get our heads together on where we would try to eat next. I found something on my handy dandy iPhone and decided a taxi was the way to go at this point. We arrived at a restaurant called Market, which was delightful! We chose it because it had a connection with Vong's Tai Kitchen in Chicago (formerly Vong, I believe) which we recalled being tasty. Our waiter was polite, the meal was delicious, the drinks were yummy and the ambiance was relaxing. So
here was a good/bad situation. After dinner, we walked and walked trying to find a taxi. We followed the commotion, where we ended up on the Champs Elysee and saw the biggest traffic jam ever. Horns beeping, cars stopped, ruckus on the sidewalks - all because of a soccer game win. Egypt (w) vs. Algeria (l), I think? We stopped and tried to get the scoop (Steff pictured to the right), then walked for a really long time trying to find a taxi. We made it back to the hotel where we completely passed out from exhaustion, around 12:30am.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that Steff and I slept in until 11:30am the next day. Again, something that Andrew would have never allowed so that was quite a treat. But still, I should have been up and out exploring Paris and instead I slept (blissfully). So, I got over that quickly, so did Steff. We got ready pretty fast, checked out of the hotel, left our bags with the concierge and then started to walk toward the Jardin des Tuileries. We chose this Jardin knowing we would see lots of cool stuff along the way - so sights abounding. We walked along the river most of the way until we saw a coffee/pastry stand just below the Eiffel Tower. There we enjoyed some cafes and pastries and I, with quite some finesse, managed to knock over almost my entire cafe au lait, resulting in a nice, even splatter all over the suitcases of some young newlyweds and their clothes. We figured that was enough of that, so we climbed the stairs to get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower before we covered the rest of the way to the Jardin.

(the token Eiffel Tower picture - it really was pretty to see in the fall)

Now, you are not going to believe this, but it is true. As Steff and I got to the top of the stairs by the Eiffel Tower, we literally saw Andrew, Grace, Mia and Ella sitting there on a bench! Now, I
knew they were going to go on an adventure that weekend while Steff and I went on our own, but what are the chances of running into them in Paris? So bizarre...Andrew was consoling a very upset Ella because apparently a pigeon had stolen a crepe or something right out of Mia's hands and then basically attacked Ella for hers - with about 50 of it's friends. She was freaked out by this bird attack and has been trying to stomp on any pigeon that comes near her ever since. She won't be forgiving the pigeons for quite a while. So Steff and I gave her big hugs and talked for a while but then Ella proclaimed it was time to go home - she had had enough of Paris. So they left to go to their car and Steff and I kept walking.

Along the way to the Jardin des Tuileries we stopped to take tons of pictures of this and that (shown below). The first one below is one of my favorites. All I wanted to do was take a picture of this statue but I quickly noticed right behind it a couple in beautiful, traditional dress taking pictures for their wedding. I didn't want to be intrusive so didn't attempt to get any more pictures - but they were just beautiful!

(a pretty church in the distance)

(a fountain by the the Concorde Monument)

We finally arrived at the Jardin around 12:45pm with just enough time to grab lunch before we had to get back to the hotel, grab our bags and then hurry to the train station for our 4:10pm train back to Caen. Oh, and by the way, Steff had the "best ever" quiche lorraine at lunch that day! Actually, I think I did, too!

(empty chairs in the Jardin des Tuileries in November)

It was close, but we made it to the train station on time. The only huge bummer was that we were so late getting on the train that we literally could not find seats! We stood between cars for quite some time but I then remembered that this was a non-stop train to Caen. If we didn't find seats, we would be standing for 2 hours. It was complete chaos walking through the aisles, as many others were in the same boat as Steff and I. About 20 minutes into the trip, I could see that Steff was getting some motion sickness. That was when I said we should just go sit in first class (we had bought second class tickets - never again!) and when the ticket-takers came along just try to pay for the difference. We did it and it all worked out. We got comfy seats, took naps, paid for our upgrades, all was well.

(Steff and I at the Eiffel Tower - Light Show Magic!!)

Steff and I had a great weekend in Paris! So much fun. So, now we had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday left before she had to take an early train back to Paris on Thursday for her flight back to Chicago. My next blog will be about those last few days of her visit.


  1. I am so sorry you could not get into Cafe Constant. Dean and I have the best dinner of our lives at Le Violon d'Ingres which is one of Chef Contant's other resturants. It was superb and the service was amazing.

  2. What a super time you had - and to think you found your family!!!