(written by Dave)
After a weekend full of rain, we were beginning to think that we would not see the sun while we were in Paris. Well today, I am happy to report that the sun came out and we had a fantastic late autumn day wandering the French capitol.
We walked to the metro station but didn’t make it very far as we stumbled upon a café with tables on the sidewalk in full sun. We’d had coffee at our apartment but this was just too perfect a moment to pass up. We enjoyed nice espressos on Jules Joffrin Square watching the world go by – ah, that’s why we’ve taken this trip.
Next it was off on the metro to central Paris and some tourist sites. First stop was Madeleine Square and the famous French mustard shop – Maille. They have more mustard flavours that you can possibly imagine. Too bad we are already overweight on our bags or everyone we know would be getting a jar of mustard as a gift.
Next we walked to the Place de la Concorde. We were there on Saturday but let me tell you, it looked a lot better in blue skies without the rain bucketing down. We then had a nice stroll about the adjacent Tuileries Gardens. There were lots of folks out taking in the sun, plus a group of dog walkers that provided great “watching” opportunities. Nancy really liked the French bulldog, rumored to be the next dog choice of her sister Gretchen. I’m still not so sure about them but enjoyed the watching the dogs all the same.
We decided to walk to Saint Chapelle and Notre Dame. We had no success on either of them. Both charge admission and had massive queues snaking down and around several blocks. We’ve seen enough old churches on this trip without having to stand in line, only to be part of a mob scene once you get inside.
All the walking was not wasted, as you never know what you might discover walking in Paris. Our first hidden treasure was Pont des Arts, a small pedestrian bridge over the River Seine. The sides of the bridge are constructed of chain link fencing and this fencing has become one of those “lovers locks” areas. Lovers of all ages buy a lock, carve or write their names into it and lock it to the fence. This used to mean the odd lock being placed covertly at night by a couple edgy young urban lovers. It has gotten so popular that the mesh fence is now completely covered and people brazenly place locks in broad daylight, even taking photos as they do so. It is reported that the true Parisians are not happy with this new form of amorous expression but there doesn’t seem to be much that anyone can do about it, other than change the construction of the bridge so that is not mesh. As they say, c’est la vie. What can you do when you live in the city of love? We didn’t place a lock but entertained ourselves reading some of the locks. We spotted and photographed a couple real gems.
The next unexpected find of our wandering was the Paris-St Germain neighborhood. Here we found a Thai restaurant where we had the best pad thai since we left Bangkok. Pad thai is one of our favorite dishes but they just don’t make it right here in Europe. There is a tendency to replace the peanuts with sweet chili sauce. Anyway, here they stay all spoke Thai and the pad thai had peanuts. Nice.
The last hidden gem of our wanderings was the small island of Saint-Louis. This little island is just up river from the Notre Dame island. It is still fairly touristic but it seems less manic that the areas around the churches that we tried to visit. Along with a couple of fun shops, we found chocolate and ice cream shops that made the detour more than worth it.
Fortified with a nice lunch, ice cream and chocolate, and buoyed by finding hidden treasures walking to the churches, Nancy suggested that we walk all the way back to our apartment. This turned out to be a great idea, if not a little tiring. I popped our route into google maps when we got here and counted 12ks. I guess we needed to do something to earn all those sweets. And on the way back we happened upon a completely empty cathedral (Église Saint-Eustache), an exterminator with dead rats hanging in his window (see photo), a shop worried about Lance Armstrong’s recent travails (see “Free Lance, Paris” photo) and a bookstore selling the ever popular title “Tripe Preparation”.
So today we learned that yes, Paris looks much better in the sunshine. We also were reminded again of the lesson that we’ve learned so many times on this trip – being an un-tourist can be just as entertaining as being a tourist.
We are here in Paris for three more days and then we fly to Oregon. We’ll try to post again, should we find anymore treasures.