P IS FOR PARIS; THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME
Paris, November 7-14, 2001
This trip resulted from the confluence of several factors--shockingly low airfares and hotel rates, total blahs about the state of the world, and a lull in work for both of us (at least interesting work). So after little consideration, we booked plane tickets and a hotel for a week in Paris of sun (a bit), fun (most everything) and gluttony (wall-to-wall). Here beginneth the story of our first-ever week in Paris.
November 6, Day Zero: Setting Sleep Cycles
Neither of us had been successful in avoiding "hitting the wall" on our last trip to Europe (Spain in September 2000), so we tried two vastly different strategies for setting our sleep times the day before the trip. I woke up at 3AM Tuesday morning and went to work for five hours, tying up loose ends. I put my wife to bed at 3AM when I woke up, and she slept from 3 to about 8. We finished the last bit of packing and drove to my parents' house to leave our car and get a ride to the airport. We planned on arriving about five hours early--we were flying out of Dulles, and we didn't want any surprises. The only surprise was the total lack of any lines. We were checked and through security to the lame duty-frees in about twenty minutes. With time to kill, we cruised the airport a couple of times, watched CNN for awhile while they waited, panting, for another rate cut, and begin a gentle marinating process (me with beer, Christina with amaretto) to help ease us to sleep after the "dinner" on the plane. After a final round of hydration, we boarded the plane, which left about ten minutes late (around 6).
We choked down dinner, I had some scotch and we were...OUT. Five semi-blissful, almost-uninterrupted hours of sleep (with some moderate turbulence in the middle for good measure) and we were on the ground in Roissy, rested and ready to conquer Paris. We got our bags and cleared "customs" and we were off.
November 7, Day One: Avoiding the Wall
We decided to take the RER train to Paris. Note to anyone taking a week's worth of clothes to Paris--unless your hotel is very near Gare du Nord or Chatelet, do not do this during rush hour. It was a struggle getting off the train, and changing Metro lines (escalators nowhere to be found) was even more difficult. A cab really isn't that much more. Anyway.
We dropped our bags at our hotel and strolled downhill (we were staying at the foot of Montmartre in the St-Georges neighborhood), down Rue de Martyrs and into downtown. We stopped for ham paninis and water/coke (not bad at all) and strolled to Place de L'Opera, admiring the shiny metalwork even on this dreary, drizzly day. We spent the rest of the day walking, down toward the Tuileries (where we noticed the line for the Louvre and passed), then up the length of the Champs-Elysees to the tourist office to buy museum passes. Along the way, we did a little shopping (including Vins Rares Peter Thustrup--no buys, though the prices on late-80s Bordeaux were pretty good). We were beat and returned to our hotel to check in.
Our hotel was the Residence Hotel Les Trois Poussins, on Rue Clauzel in the north of the 9th. A traditional European hotel (small rooms, leave-the-key-when-you-go-out), but newly renovated with clean, comfortable and large (for Europe) rooms. A very good value at $91/nt through Expedia and about 250m from the St. Georges metro. We took a short nap, watched some CNN and Eurosport and headed back out for some shopping. We stopped at La Samaritaine, the department store near the Seine, and Christina bought some casual shirts ($10 in Paris, $25 in USA), then it was off to the Left Bank. We window-shopped along Boulevard Saint-Germain and had kirs at a cafe near the Odeon. After finding L'Epi Dupin fully booked, we found a table at Salon d'Helene, the first-floor bistro of the one-star Helene Darroze. They serve only tapas, but we constructed a small tasting from the menu anyway.
First up was "Trois Foies Gras Confits," three chunks of foie gras--raw goose foie gras, terrine of duck foie gras naturel and duck foie gras mi-cuit with sweet spices. All were fabulous, reminiding us why French foie gras is superior to American--depth of flavor and smoothness, not to mention the more experienced French hand with the stuff.
We continued on with four tapas presented together--garbure bearnaise (a large white bean similar to the tarbais) presented cold with a mussel and snail and warm with duck and sausage, a duck pate en croute and a parsnip soup with chanterelles. All were very tasty.
With the above we drank a bottle of Charles Hours, Jurancon Sec "Cuvee Marie" 2000, which was rich and tart with pineapples, apples and minerals. Very yummy and a good restaurant value at $19 or so.
We finished off with some Ossau-Iraty and and four desserts, presented simultaneously, a beignet, a custard with rosewated cake, bombe au praline and the everpresent (even in Paris) fondant au chocolat. All were simple, not too rich and complemented each other well (despite the lack of a light fruit dessert in the assortment). With that, we were home and to bed.