Paris: The first few days
We arrived in Paris, at 1pm and navigated our way from the airport to arrive at our apartment in La Bastille area around 4pm. Technically, we are staying on the border of the Marais and Bastille districts (between 3eme and 11eme arrondisements) with a with a view of the Bastille monument out our window.
Famished after long overnight flight we searched out a recommended local and trendy cafe, L’Industrie, by the american woman who manages our apartment. We shared a salade niçoise , a chevre tart (goat’s cheese wrapped in a phyllo pastry covered in a creamy sauce), and the daily special – L’escalope de veau milanese. Funny on the first day we order an italian dish, but it was the daily special. After that we were wiped so headed home to unpack and catch up on much needed sleep.
The next day we woke up nice and early and enjoyed a coffee at our kitchen table overlooking the market vendors setting up for the Thursday market. We walked along La Seine river to Ile St. Louis to check out the little shops and cafes in one of the oldest areas of the city, one of the two small islands in the heart of Paris. It wasn’t quite opening time for most vendors (and many Parisians are enjoying their annual August vacations away from Paris, closing up shop for the entire month. This proved challenging later for us to find recommended hot spot restaurants to our disappointment!). We did manage to find a wonderful little shop that only sold fois gras, some pickled asparagus and a sweet wine. The proprieter and his wife have a farm about 200 km south of the city. He offered us a taste of fois gras and cracked a new jar out of the fridge and put it on some fresh bread for us, served with the sweet wine. We were done for, naturally leaving with a jar of foie gras to last us our week in Paris.
Right in front of our place there is a local farmers’ market on Thursdays and Sundays so we stopped to pick up a few things to make dinner and a few staples for our apartment. The market was busy of mostly locals coming to pick up a few days worth of food, mixed with some tourists trying to understand what was going on. Our bag got full fast of fresh brie manteaux (a pungeant, oozing brie cheese), baguettes et croissants, veggies, fruit and sole, filleted by the fishmonger for our dinner. It was the priciest fish for sale, but worth every penny.
We made Sole Meuniere for dinner, a simple recipe of sole dredged in flour, pan-fried and served with a sauce of butter, lemon and fresh parsley.
After dinner we enjoyed a walked along the canal St. Martin, and found a strip of cafes/restaurants with a more local vibe. It was a beautiful evening for a walk and we stopped by the restaurant we were hoping to go to the following night – it was the busiest restaurant we passed so that must be a good thing, as long as we can get in! We sipped a couple night caps at a great spot for a drink on the walk home, Hotel du Nord, which was bumping with a fun crowd.
On day three we slept in longer than we’d hoped, probably getting over the last bit of our jet lag, and went out for a leisurely run along La Seine past Notre Dame, the Louvre and through Les Jardins des Tuileries. The gardens are vibrant and beautiful, and as part of the largest tourist destination of the Louvre, were filled with all kinds of tourists and locals alike out for a stroll. It was a bit of a longer run than we’d planned so we walked most of the way home, taking the lower road right on the Seine home.
Paris hosts a summer festival called Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) for a month, trucking in tons of sand along the river, and erecting a bunch of beach related displays and activities i.e. sun lounges and hammocks to relax in, a temporary outdoor swimming pool about 50 feet long, beach volleyball, bocce (Les boules), foosball and sand castles.
In the afternoon we went to Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris’ famous cemetery, final resting place for Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, among many other famours writers, painters, composers, and honourable french figures and families. It was both eerie and beautiful with grandiose tombstones and old cobblestone walkways.
The weather in Paris this week has been a funny phenomenon. We exited the subway to find ourselves victims to an unheard of torrential downpour. In a 100 foot dash to our apartment we were drenched head-to-toe! The next day our server said in the 25 years he’s lived in Paris he’d never seen rain like that – here’s the video he showed us on youtube of the rain in Montmartre that day, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0E_S3zRoTM. In just enough time to pour a couple glasses of rosé the sun came out and fought off the rain.
It’s been a fun and memorable start to our trip. More to come soon!