Yeah, so I’m pretty much in love with Paris. Most of my friends have told me they prefer London to Paris, and as I’ve mentioned, I like London for the resemblance it shares with NYC. I think most of my friends know how much I love the Big Apple. Paris is different, though. Still a typical big city in many ways; still overwhelming at times, but has a different ambiance about it.
Difficulties I’ve noted are the language barrier, and safety. While neither have been an issue, I’m still nervous about each of them. Dad, you’d be proud… I’m Plain Jane and alert to my surroundings. I’ve also noticed European women look pissed off all the time, so Terrill will be delighted to know I’m instituting “the disgusted look” on a regular basis.
Our day began in our quiet little B&B on Rue Blanche. We woke up around 8:00 to see the daylight shining in through the terrace doors. Having just rolled out of bed, we tried to make ourselves presentable for our 8:30 breakfast. We entered the breakfast room to find a beautiful little table with two place settings.
At each setting was a gift with a card. They were aware this trip was related to our birthdays and went to the trouble of providing a birthday gift to us each. How nice!
To decorate the table were three white apples, which complimented the pretty white dishes. A traditional French breakfast of croissants and baguettes was provided with butter and jam. There was also a small bowl of almonds, and small dishes of flan and apple sauce for us each. Having previously asked our preferences for coffee and tea, they’d brought a white glass pitcher of hot water out for my tea, and had a pitcher of coffee for Ashley. There was also a very nice glass pitcher of orange juice set out. Just as we were about to dig in, Helene came out of the kitchen with two small pieces of chocolate mousse cake with a lit candle in each, exclaiming “Happy Birthday”!
We made our wishes and blew out the candles… which then relit. They had trick candles for their grandson and put them to good use to trick us. They found it to be quite funny! They then left to room to let us eat in peace, coming in periodically to check on us. When we were done we chatted with them briefly and took their recommendations for places to see and the best means of getting there. We learned they had written a book about Paris together, so I perused through it. It was a very interesting book – mostly pictures of Paris landmarks and historical pieces with French text. Jacques said he took all the pictures himself and photoshopped them for the book. He said it took months to do, but his work was well worth it. The images are vibrant and clear and make the book enjoyable to look at despite not understanding what’s being said about Paris.
We returned to our side of the apartment, and while Ashley took a much needed nap, I did some research on the destinations we wished to visit, and studied maps of Montmartre and subway transit for successful travel without conflict. We sorted out which items we needed to take with us, and which could stay in the apartment. Then, of those coming with us, where to store them so they would be less likely to be stolen. I used the belt my father and step-mother loaned me to hold both mine and Ashley’s cards and money. (I found over the course of the day that it’s a bit difficult to discreetly get into the belt to take anything out).
We started our exploration of Paris walking north on Rue Blanche to go to Sacre Couer. We made a quick stop at the Moulin Rouge, (just a few blocks away from our B&B), to get tickets for tomorrow night’s show. It was my first opportunity since the train station to utilize my newly learned French… and I totally sucked at it. Noting how inept I was at communicating in French, the woman immediately spoke to us in English. Nonetheless, we have a reservation, so it wasn’t a total failure!
We continued onward to Sacre Couer, which sits on a hill over looking Paris. We found the walk north to be quite a workout, but of course we didn’t want to look like tourists, so we kept on truckin’! There was a more commercialized area we approached as we got closer to the top. There were several boutiques and restaurants, and a grassy area with numerous artists sketching and painting portraits and famous Paris monuments for people. We admired the work, but quickly moved through to evade any pushy artists trying to make a Euro or more.
We arrived at Sacre Couer and I was astounded by its beauty. The building itself is ornate and massive. I could just imagine the Pope walking up the steps. We spent some time to take in the exterior beauty and then entered to find the interior is equally as majestic. As soon as you walk in, there is a gigantic mural above with Jesus in the middle reaching his hands out. I was speechless. I just stood against the wall, mesmerized by the presence of God in that building. (My legs also appreciated the rest).
We walked around the perimeter of the basilica, noting areas for confession, prayer, and baptism. I moved through a row of chairs to discreetly view the organ above, and accidentally scooted one of the chairs a small bit across the floor. The basilica was completely quiet, and the scoot of the chair echoed throughout the entire building. Fortunately, I didn’t appear to have drawn that much attention to myself. After thoroughly exploring every nook and cranny, we exited only to be serenaded by a man of Middle Eastern decent singing a horrible rendition of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “The Other Side”. We avoided his direction and turned west, briefly admiring some attractive French soldiers walking about.
We passed by and walked to Rue Foyatier – a famous stairway leading down the hill from Sacre Couer. It is characterized by symmetrical placement of trees on either side and light posts down the middle. I attempted to take a ton of photos, as I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for weeks, but there were too many people around and then my battery died. It wasn’t meant to be…. But I did get these:
We headed back downhill and found a nice little bakery at which to have lunch. It was called Brioche Doree, and we were delighted to find they offer a sandwich, beverage, dessert and coffee for only 8.20 Euro. What a steal! I had a Napoli sandwich with prosciutto, ricotta cheese and tomatoes, which was absolutely delicious. Baguettes are SO hard, though. I wonder if the insides of the mouths of French people are hard now as an evolutionary adaptation to the hard bread. I now have several cuts in my mouth, but was well worth it to enjoy the flavor. The highlight of my meal was the raspberry tart I chose for dessert. My mouth is salivating now just thinking about it. Every part of that tart was amazing. I think I’ll need to have another before leaving Paris… if not a few more.
Once we were finished with our meal, we took our receipts back down to the counter to get our coffees. It is important to note here that I was successfully able to order my meal in French. I paid the man, and as he handed me my receipt he began to explain something to me. I couldn’t understand a word this man said. I furrowed my brow and gave him a confused look, and he smiled, repeating it in English. This was the instruction to bring the receipt back for coffee. I’m making progress here!
Once we left the restaurant, we bought our subway tickets, (again in French… go me), and hopped Line 2 to go to Pere Lachaise – the largest and most famous cemetery in Paris. When we got there we walked up the steps to enter the cemetery and noted some people had a map of the cemetery – important as many famous people are buried here. I recalled passing a man standing at the base of the stairs with brochures in his hands. I went back down and politely asked in French if I could have a brochure. He advised me the price was 2.50 Euro. I shook my head and waved my hand to say ‘no thanks’. He then proceeded to lecture me in perfect English on how that was not polite. I listened to him rant and then said thank you and walked away. He is clearly not French, so who is he to lecture me on what is or is not acceptable when declining paying 2.50 Euro for a brochure? I was tempted to walk back and give him a piece of MY mind, but decided it wasn’t worth it… I have better things to do while in Paris.
We strolled through the cobble stone alleyways between the gravesites. Some were large and elaborate with thoughtful inscription, while others merely moss covered stone with no inscription visible. The oldest we saw dated back to deaths in the early-mid 1800s. No site or sepulcher was the same. Each unique from the rest. This cemetery, full of rich history, was very interesting to me, and I couldn’t get enough of it.
I thoroughly enjoyed walking through, and was excited to find Frederic Chopin’s gravesite, as well as Jim Morrison’s. Jim Morrison’s grave was gated off as a result of repeated defacement and vandalism to it. It’s unfortunate that people can’t be more respectful.
After a few hours, we left the cemetery to go back to the B&B. We freshened up and Google Mapped the location of the restaurant Evatt had suggested to us while we were in London. When Evatt gave the recommendation, he told us to “go when it’s quiet and keep an open mind”. We weren’t really sure what that meant, and to be honest, I was a little hesitant to go. I figured we had a good experience at Les Petitlyon, maybe we should go there again. This time Ashley was a little more adventurous than me, and persuaded me to try it.
We walked down the Boulevard de Clichy, which was much busier at night. We were a little nervous, passing several groups of men, but we carried on with our disgusted look and heads held high. We noted multiple sex shops and shows on the way, which exacerbated our anxiety. After walking a bit too far, we realized our mistake and quickly corrected it to get to the restaurant.
When we walked in the small, cramped building, we were directed to hang our coats in the back on the coatrack. The waiter then held my hand to assist me in walking over the table to the bench against the wall. They immediately brought out a plate with several appetizers on it: pepperoni, pickles, olives, cheese, etc.
Once we polished that off, they brought a pan of cheese and lighted the flame below. (We could choose cheese or meat, but opted for the cheese). We had a basket full of pieces of baguette and we dipped them in the delicious cheese, which sank to the bottom of the pan… melted butter pooled over the top of it. After only one basket, Ashley and I were full, yet they brought out a second basket. We tried to eat it, but it wasn’t happening. Fortunately, the English couple next to us were still hungry and asked if they could have the rest. We told them they were welcome to the entire basket, but they couldn’t have our wine. The wine, (choice of blanch or rouge), was served to us in baby bottles. At first I thought it was just a quirky restaurant tradition, which it is. However, by the time I got halfway through the bottle, I realized it accelerated the intoxication process. I was quite tipsy upon leaving, but made it a point to keep my disgusted look on all the way back home. I’m not sure how successful I was at it, but we made it home safely without event.
I was interested to see how many sex stores there were, so I advised Ashley to count those on the south side of the boulevard, and I would count those on the north side. I think I was spot on with my counting, but Ashley seemed to be a bit more aloof every time I looked over. She tells me there were 7, but I’m skeptical. Nonetheless, in the 5-10 minute walk, we passed at least 17 sex shops/shows. Yikes! Dirty Parisians! Upon arriving back at the B&B we went straight to bed. Long day tomorrow!