Saturday, July 25, 2009
A Strange and Interesting Walk
For our last full day *sniff* in Paris we decided to take the “strange and interesting walk #1” described in Tom’s Guide to Paris. On the way there we made it a point to ride line 14 – a fully automated (no driver) metro train. It was way cool. We also stopped at a McDonalds – to use the bathroom, sheesh what do you think we are? Americans? – But the McCafe in the front was pretty cool so I took a picture. And I soon found out the big bouncer looking goon in the expensive suit was actually a bouncer. A bouncer at McDonalds at 9 am? Weird! He was keeping a close eye on everyone that walked in and out of the place and its not like it was a bad neighborhood. The other cool thing there was the touch screen self-order kiosks. But back to our walk - Sorry Rick Steves’ fans – Tom has a much better idea about what truly is Parisian than Rick does. I like Rick Steves and I’ve learned a lot from him – his radio show on KVPR on Saturday mornings whets my appetite for travel – but Rue Cler left me cold. In contrast Tom starts you out at St. Eustache in the Les Halles district and sends you up Rue Montorgueil which has a much more authentic feel. It is a fascinating collection of fromageries, chocolatiers, boulangeries and patisseries, butchers, fishmongers, florists, and cafes. I could spend a week there – I may actually do that next time (in fact, Juli and I are desperately trying to figure out a way to move here). St. Eustache itself is a beautiful gothic church with flying buttresses and an awesome pipe organ. We stopped at a chocolatier and had a piece of chocorange – melt in your mouth dark chocolate studded with bits of candied orange – Heavenly! and I don’t particularly like chocolate. The fruit markets smelled wonderful. If I had thought to pack a knife with me, we would have got one of those Tuscan melons, but we settled for bloedbessen – a tart berry from the Netherlands that we have seen all over the place since we got here. The smell of rotisserie chicken was killing me, but I settled for a small Quiche Loraine from a boulangerie filled with tasty treats. We then walked down the grand avenues to the Opera Garnier – famed for being the opera house on which Phantom of the Opera was based. Juli almost talked herself out of going inside, but I insisted and it was worth it. Absolutely gorgeous. We didn’t see the Phantom, but we saw the chandelier and got some great pictures. When I was researching for this trip (I know, type A), on a whim I decided to look up the cost of opera tickets – how cool would that be? I found out that nosebleed tickets could be had for only 6 euros! I was so there – then I found out that the opera season ended the week before we arrived here. C’est la vie. We walked further to the church of the Madeleine. If I remember right Eva Longoria got married here the week before I arrived in Paris two years ago. We didn’t go inside, but we did try a nutella and banana crepe from a stand nearby – oh, so good! Next came Galleries Lafayette a department store that is so full of so much stuff and people it is hard to comprehend. This is big game shopping. Wow, very overwhelming! We backtracked some and found that an impromptu concert was going on in front of the Opera house. A lively group of young people on wind and percussion were playing some really good music, so we sat on the steps of the Opera and ate some sausage, bread, and cheese we had packed with us. Then we headed back to our walk. More great shops and more discussion on how we could move here. After a short sidetrip to do some last minute shopping - Julie got a skirt and I was going to settle for a Nepalese shirt (all these native costumes must have rubbed off) but I saw a Nepalese jacket that was simply awesome and made the mistake of trying it on…well you don’t need Paul Harvey to tell you the rest of the story (I’ll post a pic later, its packed up now). We finally stopped at a café halfway up Montmartre and sat and people watched for a few delightful hours sipping espresso and tea and sharing a bowl of the best onion soup I have ever tasted. We must be fitting in, despite all the tourists, the waiter addressed me in French (they’re usually pretty good at spotting the tourists) and a passerby asked me in broken French which was the way to the basilica – I answered in French of course and left him none the wiser. Sitting there watching the world go by was so relaxing, no wonder it’s the national pastime. It was a perfect end to a perfect week.