After our fill of skiing in Haute-Savoie, of eating tartiflette et reblochon and of drinking génépi et bière sérieuse, three of us hopped on the TGV to Paris. The train is by far the best way to travel. For a song, we booked our seats in roomy and luxurious first class with front row seats to the French countryside.
Through France Homestyle, we booked a two bedroom apartment in the Quartier Latin in the 5th arrondissement. This neighbourhood is home to La Sorbonne, le collège de France, the panthéon and the famous boulevard St-Michel. From the gare de Lyon, it was a quick taxi ride. Marie-Noël greeted us and gave us a quick tour of our new abode at 42, rue Descartes, Paris, 5ième arrondissement, France! Charming! We were charmed! Being Sunday, it was doubtful that we could easily get a few groceries. Marie-Noël was helpful to point out that we would find whatever we needed "chez les arabes" since they would be open on a Sunday. Bien sûr.
For our first night in Paris, we decided to have dinner at our neighbourhood bistro, La maison de Verlaine. That night we discovered how small town our Latin Quarter was. It appeared that our new neighbours had not missed a thing about our arrival. Bienvenue! Interesting facts about this establishment: not only did Verlaine die in the house in 1896, between 1921-1925 Hemingway rented a room where he did his writing. He lived just around the corner with his wife Hadley. Makes me want to read his Moveable Feast!
For four consecutive days, we set out late morning to tour as true tourists. Our first stop was the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. And then the Hop On Hop Off bus took us around the major arrondissements: l'Opéra, l'Arc de triomphe, les tuileries, Chaillot, les Invalides, la tour de Gustave Eiffel, St-Germain-des-Près and back full circle to our Latin Quarter. Day two took us to visit Garnier's Paris National Opera and lunch at the famous Café de la paix, a true Parisian landmark since 1862. Wednesday we took the train to Versailles. How power corrupts. Such extravagance while people starved. And finally, on Thursday we hopped on the metro and headed to Gustave's tower. Failing to quickly figure the queue system, we took the stairs to the top: 1,665 steps to the third level! Bravo Pat! You're amazing!
If I were asked what I liked best about Paris, I would say the following... I love how "Parisien" the Parisians are! It is a way of life that is bred deeply in the bones of its people. The school kids walking two by two holding hands with their class mate all the while shouting and laughing. The men playing boules in the park on a Sunday afternoon. The sound of church bells ringing the Angelus. The Parisian walking home snacking on pieces of bread from the baguette that he casually holds in his hand.