Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Paree Is for You and Me--Day One

It's hard to go wrong in a city where you can't find bad bread, chocolate, or coffee, so we figure Paris is for us. Continental gets us there without event, which is all I really ask for from an airline, and by 9 am we're at the Hotel Muguet in the 7th, where the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides Dome (where Napoleon rests in six coffins like he's a Russian nesting doll, which he almost is the size of, of course) play peek-a-boo around every street corner. Our room won't be ready until 11, so we check our bags and hit the admittedly quite cold streets of Paris. It might be March 16, but this isn't Paris in the springtime. So we bundle and trundle up toward the Seine, which I'm surprised by--it's both less wide and more turbulent than I imagined it (growing up near NYC I assume every city's river is the lazy wide Hudson). But there are views like this, of bridges and buildings seemingly built for gawking and photography....

And we walk and walk, past the Musee D'Orsay, on to Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame. It's Palm Sunday, after all, and the ex-Catholic in me has that knows-too-much to love the church problem, but it's still my youth misting incense. Plus it's ginormously Gothic. I get miffed that they use some odd plant for the palms for Palm Sunday, but we do a quick peek in and around, checking out the chimere that suggest early Catholics knew they were building on non-Christian holy grounds.

There's also the Sunday bird market, which just seems odd--cages and cages of little winged things, a busy blur of colors. I guess I'd sing if I were a caged bird in Paris too. Of course it's a city that's about its quirks--the way it's managed to keep its old up, and even those preservation stories are storied--Victor Hugo saved Notre Dame! Let's drink wine, smoke Gaulois, kiss with our tongues, make great art, and have I got a pastry for you! (Sorry, ran out of cliches there, but that's another French word too, isn't it.) I mean, check out this Seine barge--flowers and an easel.

Next we walk all over Ile St. Louis, which is sedate and charming. We also nearly get knocked over by the smells, sticking our heads into a patisserie here, a chocolate store there. You almost gain calories through the nose here. So back hotel-wards we go along Boulevard St. Germain, seeing the two maggots (ok, Les Deux Magots, but not our little joke) and Cafe de Flore, and the ghosts of Sartre, de Beauvoir, Hemingway, and the thousands of faux philosophers and fucked-up fictionist posers who followed them. Getting the tireds with the time changes and long flight, we joke we've seen everything and can leave.

The hotel is perfectly suitable, our room all bed, a fine firm king, but there's free wifi, a flat screen tv to watch perplexing French programs and international CNN and see just how bad the dollar is doing to the Euro, and a bathroom with a real shower. Plus it's quiet, off on a side-street but Metro-stop close. A quick rest and it's lunchtime, so we hit Rue Cler, a couple of blocks away and pedestrian market street. We don't want to eat too much, saving ourselves for dinners ( a trip pre-occupation) so snack on a tart of chevre that most would call a quiche and a salad nicoise at the Central Cafe.

After that, since we've "done" Notre Dame, it's Eiffel Tower time, as we hope to get all the usual stuff out of the way quickly. The day is iffy so the line is shortish, a fair enoug trade off. Sure the Tower is so much a symbol you might think it might not really exist, but it does. Incredible balance, so much iron, so much lift. Plus you usually don't get to see through something so big, so it invites you in, even before you get into an elevator (actually two different elevators) and zoom up to the third level which turns the rest of the city into a map of famous sites like this one you might recognize...

Plus looking down can leave you like a cordless bungee jumper....

Sorry, should have warned those of you with acrophobia. So it might not be the best time to move on to dinner, but we did, after a quick hotel break. We walk to the nearby Le Petit Nicois, in a way carrying on our last French vacation to Provence. We are about nothing if not good segues (I was a DJ once, you know). I'm not going to on and on about the food as I'm planning a meal wrap-up at one of my paying gigs (watch this space!). Suffice to say, if you want bouillabaise and can't get to Marseille, this stop will more than do. Of course you have to get Paris then. How do they get all the fish to be cooked properly and in a broth? Amy had duck. We both deeply--like its color--enjoyed a bottle of 1999 Domaine Tempier Bandol la Tourtine, the age easing the edges of the Mourvedre. And I left out the sardine starter with a lemon confit I wanted to bottle. We finished with a shared raspberry souffle that was practically all egg white, like unset meringue, yet berry-very-wonderful.

Turns out the Eiffel Tower looks cool at night. That city of a 1000 lights thing, except imagine a 900 foot tower is a city. And at the hour, it does a special blinky light dance that causes oohs and ahhs like a fireworks display might. Somewhow what could be overdone ends up skirting the line and still magical, like much of Paris, it seems.



Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

Somewhow what could be overdone ends up skirting the line and still magical, like much of Paris, it seems.

Well said--that sums it up quite nicely in Rickey's opinion. Those are some seriously stunning photos George. Good stuff.

5:37 AM  
Blogger Smitty said...

I have never wanted to visit a place more after seeing a write-up. Well done. I feel compelled to go see Paris. Great camera-work as well. You really selected some shots that tell your story well and sum-up the city.


7:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Very nice. The 7th is a pleasant place to stay from what I recall. Except for the Tower, it's a pretty quiet, residential neighborhood, with plenty of good brasseries on the main avenues for those bread and coffee breakfasts and bread and wine/bier afternoon snacks I'm drooling over as I type this.

4:03 AM  

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