Return to Home         Twenty-One Days in Paris   April 22 to May 13 2002

 

We arrived in Paris on Monday morning, the 22nd of April and found the shuttle limousine waiting for us.  After a fast ride into town, we arrived at apartment on Rue de Rochechouart at around 10:00 AM.  Then we phoned Ms. Estevez who arrived immediately and told us that the apartment was still occupied.  However, the alternate luxury apartment was. So we moved in there.  Talked to Peter and discovered the prior tenants had overstayed a day and we could move in the following day.  The weather was overcast.  We went to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps and did lots of walking the first day.

 

For the rest of the 21 days we visited many things and ate at several new restaurants.  Here, in no particular order, is where we went and what we did.

The Musee D’Orsay was a real treat.  After waiting an hour to get in we were amazed at the variety of impressionist paintings and also at the magnificence of the Museum itself.  Spent four hours and could have spent eight.  A true “must-see.”

 

We tried the BateauBus and found it an ideal way to move up and down the river and get from one site to another without listening to annoying commentary.  Our suggestion is to take a photo along and buy a one-week pass that only costs 50% more than a one-day pass. 

 

We had heard so much about cemetery Pere Lachaise that we had to go this time.  We were not disappointed.  The cemetery is enormous and many famous people are buried there with a huge assortment of massive mausoleums on the grounds.  We saw the graves of Bizet, Balzac, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, Maria Callas, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, to name a few.

 

We visited a cinema to see “Gosford Park” at a theater called Pagode.  This cinema is an historic landmark and is a converted pagoda.  This pagoda was built by a rich man for the love of his life.  She left him for the architect before she even occupied it!  The building is very ornate and inside are the plushest red velvet seats.  Outside is a huge oriental tea garden.                           go back to top

 

We had a very enjoyable meal at a bistro called Grizzli in the Les Halles area.  It is called Grizzli because it is decorated with bears and therein lies a tale.  I’d heard that the restaurant was decorated with bears of all kinds and since we were eating in the sidewalk area, after we finished I went inside to look for the bears.  (Speaking no French)  I asked the hostess:  “Where is the grizzli?”  She then handed me a business card with the restaurant’s address on it.  Then I asked a man in the back the same question and he pointed upstairs to the left.  Up the stairs I found the toilette.  So, I assume “grizzli” is toilette?  No.  There was, however, a wall of teddy bears on the second floor, but no giant grizzly bear.

 

The weather was overcast and cloudy most days but on one nice day we went to Epernay, a 90-minute train ride from Gare d’Est and visited the Mumms (pronounced Mooms) and Piper Heidsieck champagne caves.  Both tours were very interesting and we bought 2 vintage bottles of Champagne at each place.

 

On one of the rainy days we went to Foire de Paris.  We had gone there the previous year and wanted to spend more time at this huge exposition.  It is not a fair in the American sense, but an exposition with 7 massive buildings of exhibits.  Our big discovery here was the wonders of the Swiss raclette sandwich.  We watched as the Swiss cook carefully heated the bread and cheese and scooped the surface of the cheese each time it melted and placed it on the sandwich.  The cook included thinly sliced ham and pickles and we ended up with a sandwich that is superb and can’t be found in the states.

 

We were lucky in picking the sunniest day of our stay to take a coach tour to the gardens of Giverny.  The magnificent gardens look exactly like the paintings of Monet.  The grounds cover several acres and include the house and studios of the artist, Monet.  Giverny is 60 miles from Paris by road, but one million miles away measured by serenity. 

                                                        go back to top

 

The only other tour we took was a combo boat trip at night followed by a visit to Moulin Rouge.  We used Cityrama and were pleased with the service and the price.  The tour on the river was very inspiring as we saw the City of Lights in her full glory.  Later that night we saw many Parisian dancers (also in their full glory) at the Moulin Rouge while we sipped our glasses of champagne.

 

On one of our long walking days we changed our French francs into Euros at the Bank of France (francs are no longer valid currency).  We found an Elvis memorabilia shop called “My Happiness”.  We visited “the best ice cream shop in Paris” according to our guidebook (Berthillion on I’sle St. Louis) where the ice cream was like gelato and very tiny portions.  We finally found a pastry shop called Pierre Herme. This shop that we had read about in a number of articles had a 30-minute line down the street to get served. 

 

We heard about the skaters of Paris, who every Friday night go on a four-hour roller blading tour around the city.  So we went to Montparnasse to see the start.  While the articles talk of ten thousand bladers we only saw a couple thousand.  Leading the pack were two policemen on motorcycles and  six Gendarmes going flat out on their roller blades.  We jumped on the Metro, went three miles to the next place on the route and got out just in time to see them flashing by again.  Only the fastest skaters could keep up and at the end of this fast group were several flashing police vans.  Trying to follow these vans were hundreds of stragglers asking “which direction next?”

 

For the first time in all our visits to Paris Naoma went to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  It was not as scary as she thought and the views were magnificent.   We did not go to the top of Notre Dame as we had hoped. So we will leave that to the future. 

 

During our stay there was a lot of political turmoil over the upcoming presidential election.  CNN reported “millions in the street demonstrating.”  We were in the streets and saw minor demonstrations and certainly no one million people.

                                                                go back to top

For several years the Opera has been under reconstruction.  This year there is no scaffolding and the beautiful gold-embossed building stands majestically dominating the top of Rue D’Opera.  We visited the inside of the Opera (it is claimed this is the home of the “Phantom”) and were blown away by the opulence inside.  The chandelier in the foyer was bigger and better than anything in “The Phantom of the Opera” but it was the same design.

 

We visited a candle store called Diptyque that Naoma read about in a lot of magazines, but was disappointed in that they had no scents she liked.  L’Occitane has better, and less expensive, candles.

 

A new taste treat for us was crepes.  Not the ones you buy on the street, but actual restaurants that specialize in crepe meals.  We went to two and were very satisfied with the quality and selection of the main crepes.  At one, a quaint place called Le Sarrasin et le Froment on I’sle St. Louis, we enjoyed a complete crepe meal.  The waitress told us Jodie Foster has a home nearby.   In St. Germain on another day we also had a meal at La Crepe Rit Du Clown. We recommend both restaurants.

 We paid two visits to the Pompidou.  On one day we spent four hours going through the regular exhibits, and on the other we spent another four hours at the Surrealists special exhibit.  If you love modern art the Pompidou is not to be missed. The short film “Andalusian Dog” (Un Chien Andalou) by Dali was shown.  We had seen it many, many years ago and assure you that once you’ve see it, this short film clip will live in your memory forever.

                                                go back to top

 

On the outskirts of Paris at Bois de Vincennes is the     Paris Zoo.  Animals are in their natural habitat and there is much to see.  We spent a very pleasant day there.  A huge mountain structure highlights the property.  All the exhibits were wonderful. Our favorite was the giraffe area with several baby giraffes.  We also spent a lot of time watching a pair of geese at their nest.  The female sat on the two-egg nest until she decided to take a stretch. Then the two of them then went into the pond.  After a time they returned to the nest and the male paraded around it, grooming his feathers.  The female took much longer to groom and fluff her feathers and we decided to wait until she sat back on the nest.  It was 30 minutes before she sat down and relieved our worries that the eggs would get too cold.

 

Back to eating:  We discovered Poulaine bread which is a very dense, four-pound loaf of heavy bread.  Tastes great toasted.  We remain loyal to Paul’s and its wonderful croissants, baguettes and banettes.  The Mayan chocolate store that we had always looked at turned out to have chocolate every bit as good as it looked from the windows.  We recommend everything in there.  We were disappointed at the Les Flores Cafe which did not provide any real non-smoking area and whose prices were through the roof.  It had been written up as the “best café in Paris.”  In fact, Paris remains very much a smokers’ heaven which we, as non-smokers, do not like . Some restaurants refuse to provide a non-smoker area even though it is required by law – others simply designate a table in the middle of the smoking area as the non-smoke area!  Only a few restaurants have real non-smoking areas.                           go back to top

 

Roger loves mussels and raved about Leon de Bruxelles mussels.  He had an outrageously huge portion of mussels that were served in many different styles (he had curry) with unlimited French fries.  We had a wonderful breakfast of superb croissant and café au lait at Ladurre on Champs Elysee that was simple, but elegant.  We also had several meals at Bofinger, which is now our favorite Parisian restaurant.  It has a huge no-smoking dining room also!

 

As always, the Metro was interesting.  We tipped many musicians on the trains and in the stations.  We visited the most famous stations such as Louvre, Sorbonne and Palais Royale.  The entrance to Palais Royale is ornately beaded and looks like something from the Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  A guidebook raved about an art deco station which we tracked down, only to find it was the same as our local station and not worth the visit.

.

Another day was spent in the Marais area.  Here, La Place De Vosges is certainly a “don’t miss” with a huge garden and many, many galleries and restaurants.  On one street corner was a 10-piece string orchestra playing Mozart and Chopin pieces.  The Hotel Scully, which is part of La Place is a huge building and hard to believe was once a private home.  A sad note, given the suicide bombings, was the visit to the heart of Marais where the Jewish people gather and happily enjoy falafel sandwiches from the many little falafel shops crowded together.  That street was totally teeming with people and Roger told me it reminded him of the main area in Jerusalem that is often the target of suicide bombers.  This was the one time in Paris we did not feel safe.  A little treasure in Marais is the Ecology Musem tucked away on a side street. The side street opens up into a charming garden and a very interesting museum with info about ecology.  go back to top

 

Other things we saw this time were:   the Afghanistan outdoor photograph display;  The Clignancourt market; Luxembourg Gardens; the roof restaurants of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps; Notre Dame; The George V to see the famous flower displays; the Chernoble photos in the basement of the Pompidou; and  Point Neuf with all the pets for sale.  What we didn’t see were the “ladies of St. Denis”, who seems to have disappeared. 

 

As usual, the gypsies are out in force near the train stations begging, carrying their children, and sometimes getting rather aggressive. This is a real negative and it’s important to be extra careful to avoid pickpockets and purse snatchers in all the train stations. However, in another area we noticed a huge improvement  -- the French are now picking up after their dogs because the dog owners can be fined $180 if they disobey this new law.  The streets were definitely cleaner.

 

We were disappointed that the Internet prices at Easy Everything had risen considerably and now cost about one Euro for 15 minutes.  It was a shame that we had not brought our laptop as our apartment had a DSL line and free ISP access provided by Peter, the landlord.

 

Finally, a few more words about our favorite apartment:  Peter had the sofa redone in gray suede with charcoal cushions.  Of course I want one just like it.  And  while I’m wishing, I’d like to be 22 years old, live in Paris, speak fluent French and have a motorcycle. 

 

 

Until next time,    Roger and Naoma Foreman

 

 

  Naoma can be reached at naoma@cheerful.com 

 

 

 Return to Home or go back to top of this page