Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paris: Day 5

There was nothing on the agenda today except exploring the city of Paris. Andi and I started the day by sleeping in late. There's something fantastic about the morning you finally relax and adjust to vacation's slower pace of life. We got moving around 10am and stopped for coffee before heading out into the city. Everything I've read says you should make a conscious effort to speak the language, so we did the best we could and ordered an espresso and cappuccino.

With coffee in hand, we walked to the Metro station and hopped onto the train to Notre Dame Cathedral. Getting around on the Metro seemed fairly easy and we arrived at our stop a few minutes later. As we walked out of the station, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of Paris. The city felt exactly as it should, with cafes on every street corner and Parisian-style buildings. In my head, I literally heard the familiar sound of an accordion playing in the background (Lady and the Tramp style).

Notre Dame is tall and majestic. We snapped a few photos of the cathedral and rented an audio book inside the church to listen about the history and importance.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Most of you know, I have a pure hatred for birds and whenever we travel Andi loves to reveal in my anxiety. Birds don't bother me on a general basis, but whenever we travel dirty pigeons and seagulls always seem to dive-bomb my head. It just freaks me out. So I was mortified today when I witnessed this man become engulfed in birds outside the Notre Dame. I'm not sure what his story was, but it was enough to make me literally gag.

We hopped back onto the Metro and headed for Le Montmartre. This is one of the French Quarters in the Northern part of the city and famous for its cute shops and cobblestone streets. The way Paris used to be, they say. The Sacre Coeur Basilica is also there. We exited the train station and walked above ground. Again, we had the "where in the heck are we?" moment as we tried to acclimate ourselves to the area. We referred back to the map and upon second look, it looked like Sacre Coeur was closer to another stop. Andi wanted to walk around Montmartre first, but I suggested we hop back onto the Metro and see Sacre Coeur first, then come back to Montmartre for lunch. So we did. It wasn't the smartest move of the day. We arrived at the next station which we thought was closer to the Basilica, walked around for a bit and realized we were in the wrong spot. We got back on the Metro and exited at a third stop that looked right. We walked a few blocks and found ourselves in an African neighborhood (somewhere we clearly didn't belong). I was getting nervous by this point. I felt like we could be pick-pocketed at any moment and we were so turned around. I started hyperventilating. I hate being lost! Andi, on the other hand, seems completely unaffected and said to me "hey, can you slow down a bit. You're walking too fast." Are you freaking joking me? I thought. Holy freaking crap! We eventually found another Metro station after walking through that neighborhood for about 20 minutes. Back on the train to the original station. The lesson learned? Stay in the cutesy neighborhood where your first instinct told you to be. The Sacre Coeur is probably 2 blocks down the road - which it was.

A Metro Station

Back in Montmartre, we walked a few blocks down toward Sacre Coeur. We were starving by this point and we chose to have lunch at Restaurante Le Saint Regis. I said "Bonjour" to the waiter and he seated us. The menu was in all French and we were digging it. We chose a 4 Frommange (cheese) Pizza to share, Coca Zero (Coke Zero) and Eaux Minerale (bottled water). Ok, so I mostly choose those items because I had some inkling of what they were. I ordered in my best French voice. The waiter sort of smiled and took our order. He brought us our food and it was amazing. My heart finally started to slow down after all of our Metro-capades. We topped off lunch with 2 cups of espresso and paid our bill (30 Euro / $40). As we left, the waiter said "See ya later." Damn, we weren't being authentic at all. He knew we were Americans.

After lunch, we walked a few blocks to Sacre Coeur. With all the trouble, this place better be magic I told Andi. It was pretty and had a spectacular view of Paris as its perched on a tall hill. We, somehow, didn't get a picture of the church however. All that and no photo! We did capture a shot of the view.

View of Paris from Sacre Coeur

Next, we strolled the Montmartre area. We browsed in a few shops and stopped for pistachio gelato at a cafe called Animore.


We left Montmartre and headed toward the Louvre. We had reservations for wine tasting at a place called O Chateau, just down the street from the famous museum. We found it fairly easily and were ushered in by the Sommeller (wine connoisseur). He warmly said "Hey there guys, are you here for the wine tasting?" and we were so relieved. He spoke English! Now I know we're in France and we should entertain the idea of speaking the language, but it was a nice feeling to have a conversation with someone. We walked down a few flights of stairs into a really cool wine cellar, with a wooden table and lots of wine. As we waited for the tasting to start, the girl across the table asked us, with a Texan accent, where we were from. She was from Houston. Another couple chimed in and said they were from Sonoma, CA. Then another man said he was from New York. I smiled; this tasting was going to be a lot of fun. Over the next 2 hours, we learned all about the various wine regions in France and drank Champagne, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Andi and I also chatted with the other couples and shared suggestions on what to do in the city. We absolutely loved O Chateau, and our Sommeller was fantastic. He was smart and funny and spoke English to the predominately American group while interjecting just enough French to make it interesting.

O Chateau

Afterwards, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant down the street called Coup de Eate. As soon as we walked in the waiter pegged us for Americans. We swiftly plopped down "English Version" laminated menu cards without even giving us the chance to try to order in French. Awe man, we felt kind of dumb! Even though our menu was in English, we still ordered a so-so dinner of Scallops, Beef Tartar and Creme Brulee for 28 Euros/$35. The Creme Brulee was definitely the highlight.

It was starting to rain so we hurried to the Metro station and came back to the hotel. We had a fun day in Paris! We saw many parts of the city and several historical landmarks. Tomorrow we're either going to visit Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre and Versace. Or, we might leave Paris and take a day trip to the beaches of Normandy. We'll see where the wind takes us tomorrow morning ...

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