First and Foremost, thank you, every citizen of the interwebs who answered the question “What Should We Do In Paris?” We took many of you up on your suggestions, and the trip was incredible.
I have been writing away at this EPIC travelogue for three days now (though the quality of writing obviously does NOT reflect the inordinate amount of time spent); in order to prove that SOMETHING is happening, I have decided to publish bits and pieces episodically. Additionally, doing it this way will have the benefit of (undoubtedly) making everything that much harder to understand.
To begin: we traveled (as has been mentioned before) via Eurostar, through the Chunnel tube. And, as anticipated, the Chunnel turned out to be a tunnel through the earth under the English Channel, and NOT a tube of “plastic, like, laying on the ocean floor,” regardless of Elijah’s heartfelt wishes to the contrary.
Sidenote: though the Eurostar was SO MUCH EASIER (and convenient) than an international flight– I can’t even do it justice here, it was awesome– I was put off, just a bit, by the transit through the tunnel itself, and for a pretty lame reason. I feel like a wimp for saying it, but I found the pressure differential once we hit the tunnel entrance fairly uncomfortable for my sinuses and ears. (I took some pre-emptive decongestant before we left on the return trip, and it really seemed to help– Lana’s suggestions that I “man up” was undoubtedly part of the cure as well). People with complicated sinus passages who are about to try the Eurostar out, take note.
Regardless, we arrived on Saturday afternoon, checked in at our accommodations, The Hôtel Royal Magda Etoile, (in the 17th Arrondissement) and headed back out to buy sandwiches from a nearby Eric Kayser. I would highly recommend both of these institutions. The “junior suite” we occupied at the hotel was perfect for our family of five, with spacious rooms (spacious in the European sense– I do not mean to suggest “spacious” in the suburban midwestern sense), and a wonderful staff; the desk staff in particular were incredibly helpful, and volunteered to help with reservations/phone interactions in general, which was very re-assuring. Eric Kayser is a self-identified “craftsman baker” with several storefronts throughout Paris; AND, regardless of any artisanal claims, the bread was incredible (though slightly more expensive than other neighborhood boulangeries).
We returned to our rooms to eat (necessary, as this Kayser location had no tables), and struck out into the city. A gentle rain had started, but was pleasant enough for walking in– nicer, really, than the English rain we’ve recently had. We walked down the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe (just a street away from our hotel). Edit: A Picture!
…toward The Louvre (which, we were informed whilst we were there, is now to be referred to as the Grand Louvre. Ooooh Aaaah.). We planned to walk to a restaurant called Le Relais d’Entrecôte just off of Georges V for dinner, but ran into our first meal time hurdle; Le Relais, like many other restaurants in Paris, did not begin to serve until 7:00pm. This policy of late(r) opening for dinner factored into many mealtime equations in the following days; we are already anticipating creative solutions for our visit to Barcelona, where dinner openings begin at 9:30 (at the earliest!). To bide time, we walked back a little ways to another restaurant we had seen which was already open and serving called Hippopotamus; we were a little excited, as Lana thought initially that it was an establishment one of her past students had recommended. We were later to realize that it was “The Zebra” that had been recommended– Un Zèbre à Montmartre— and her confusion was forgivable, right? (She teaches English, not Zoology.) Anyway, we took seats at the bar, and (sadly) shortly decided that we didn’t need another Applebee’s in our lives. In the restaurant’s defense, it should be said that the server who helped us was very nice. (As a matter of fact, we did not meet a single example of the famous “French Waiter” stereotype during our entire stay, and frankly, I feel a bit cheated.)
After drinking some overpriced apéritifs, we headed back over to Le Relais, and joined the line which had appeared whilst we were gone. Our friend Charlie had recommended this place, noting that they “only serve one thing– steak frites– yum!” Which was exactly right, down to the “yum!” You sit, they ask you for your drink order, if you want “the salad,” and how you want your steak. Then, they bring you “the salad,” followed by your steak & frites (meat pre-cut!), followed by a 2nd round of steak & frites, and end with a dessert (if you want one). That is basically it. And it is GOOD. The steak is sauced with their special recipe, and that serves as all the decoration and embellishment you get. For those who know the beauty of a late-night Dick’s burger on Capitol Hill (where the choices are few, but the basic item is delicious), this dinner was much the same. A great way to start dining in Paris.
We finished dinner & dessert (Eli discovering the joys of crepes with caramel & beurre salé, Finley trying profiteroles with dark chocolate), and walked toward the (now beautifully lit) Eiffel Tower. The kids were gobsmacked, and I was as well; Lana was better prepared, having seen it before, but we were ALL well impressed. It looked wonderful against the overcast sky, and was probably worth the cost of the visit just for the kids reactions. Edit: Another Picture!
After staring at the Tower for a while, we queued up for a boat tour of the Seine. The night-tour was lovely, even though my expectations of someone jumping (or driving) off of one of the bridges onto the tour boat à la James Bond were unfulfilled. Once I have done some sorting and uploading of images (I took, like, 700+ frames), I can show you a bit of what we saw here. Suffice it to say, it was ALSO awesome. Edit: I am not going to show the images of what we saw from the boat. Instead, a picture of us ABOARD the boat!
After the tour, we walked back to the hotel via ALL THE STEPS of the Trocadéro. The kids were tired, but managed to avoid total meltdown– I’m still not sure why.
IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE MAGIC OF PARIS
In Part Two, we reveal… The Activities Of SUNDAY! (and maybe a bit more than that, if I can get my act together…)