7 Days in Paris
Arrived. Living it up and staying at a relatively inexpensive hotel, hotel St. Jacques in the St. Germain area of Paris near the Latin Quarter. Walked around and acquainted ourselves with the neighborhood. Had a cheese platter at one of the many generic Brassieres which I won’t talk too much about since they are all pretty much the same unless they are exceptional or utterly awful, neither of which are encountered too often.
Work up early, as a traveler from North America with jetlag often does.
We took a walk to Notre Dame in the early hours and were fortunate enough to be alone with the mammoth Gothic structure. We gazed admiringly at the ornate chalky gray façade while listening to the chest rattling tones of the Lady’s bells. Inside the church the countless stained glass windows punctuated the dark emptiness with cool blue hues. While Notre Dame is certainly large, it is not large in the same way St. Peter’s in Rome is. We did not admire it’s width, but rather it’s height. Out eyes were drawn upward, not outward.
Across the river, back to the left bank, we stepped into Shakespeare & Co. A bookstore with a hodgepodge of books shoved into shelves in a entirely unorganized manner. Opened by Sylvia Beech in 1919, Shakespeare & Co. was the first English language bookstore in Paris and its apartments above were a haven for bohemian expats. The bookstore’s reputation still holds true as it still offers rooms for writers from abroad in return for helping out. You can contact them for more info (telephone: 01 43 25 40 93).
Went to another generic brassiere for a second croissant and cup of coffee. Expect to pay a little over a euro for a croissant and a few euro for a cup of Café Au Lait. Worth it on a nice day for a seat on the sidewalk or square.
Took the metro to the department store Printemps for a stunning (and free) view of Paris from its 9th floor. Couldn’t afford anything and left. Had a glass of wine at yet another brassiere and headed to the hotel to rest.
That night, ate a great meal at the Lebanese joint, Savannah Café; €20 buys you an entrée (appetizer), plat (entrée), and dessert. After that, we bar hopped on the cusp of the Latin Quarter and Montparnasse. Visited a few bars including Bodega Bar and Mayflower. Expect to pay a whopping €6 – €7 for a pint of beer, but only €3 for a “vodka shooter” – a pre-mixed shot available at most Parisian college-type bars that comes in many flavors and is surprisingly strong. Talked to the friendly bartenders in broken French and headed back.
After waking up later than expected (bar hopping in the Latin Quarter can do that to you), we rolled out of bed, stepped outside, and let the crisp air of April in Paris cure our hangovers. Had coffee and a croissant and took the metro to Monmartre, the formerly bohemian neighborhood with two famous but very different residents: the church of Sacre Coeur and the Moulin Rouge. After walking up winding, steep streets, we reached the imposing, white-washed, domed, and oh-so-not gothic church relishing the views of the city below. Inside it was large and impressive, but certainly not as unique as Notre Dame.
The Moulin Rouge was a thorough waste of time — boring, generic, and a tourist trap/ We skipped the show (who would waste over €100 on a mediocre show and less than mediocre meal? (..in full disclosure, I have never seen a show at the Moulin Rouge, but can be comfortably confident on this baseless review…)
It was after lunch and we bought some cheese, bread, and mouse at a local supermarket and had a picnic of sorts at Luxembourg Gardens.
That night, we had a mediocre dinner at an easily forgotten Brassiere in the Bastille area and, as an appropriate follow up, had some mediocre drinks at an easily forgotten bar. Still recovering from the night before, we took a stroll down the main strip in the party-centric Bastille neighborhood and saw a few bars that would probably be worth going into, but we were tired and wanted to make the last 1am subway.
The Louvre: giant, crowded, and extraordinary. We spent 90 minutes exploring the classics and made a day of it.
Got a bottle of wine and cheese plate at yet another generic Brassiere, and enjoyed a long lunch. Headed to the Catacombs but didn’t have the patience to wait in the seemingly endless line. Headed back to the apartment and rested.
That night we had our best meal in Paris at a Moroccan restaurant out of the way in the 19th. The restaurant, Le Bled, had relatively inexpensive, but utterly amazing food. My wife ordered the vegetable couscous dish, and myself the mixed grill. Both were deliciously cooked with simple flavors and huge portions.
Headed back to the Latin Quarter and bar hopped along Rue Descartes, a road laden with bars, kebab and crepe joints, and café’s. We began at Bar River with a beer and a few €2 shooters. Met a few locals and worked our way to another bar for a few more shots and beer, and ended our evening at Hurling Bar where another few shots did us in.
Versailles. Took the RER C train to the last stop and headed to the Palace of Versailles. After walking past numerous agents trying to sell guided walking tours of the palace (avoid at all costs) stood in the 45 minute line to get tickets. The palace itself is enormous and is a landmark to pre-revolution Paris. Built by Louis XIV, it is estimated to have cost half of France’s GDP to build. Fortunately for us it was only a small fortune for a ticket in: €16. Inside the palace is incredible. All of Louis XIV’s state and private rooms are open to the public. The grounds around the palace are huge and elaborately landscaped. While this is definitely worth a visit, be aware that it will probably be a day excursion. If your time is limited, you may want to skip it.
That night we made our way to the club, Fleche D’or. The place lacks any sort of pretension that one might find at some of the trendier clubs in Paris. The night was split between Indie rock bands and DJ’s. Cover was free (though most nights there is a nominal charge) and beers and shots were €5. The atmosphere was incredibly cool and purely local, and the venue was mid-sized and comfortable. Partied, danced, and hailed a cab back to our hotel (€20).
This was out final day and we took it easy. Headed to the Museum D’Orsay (€6) and gazed at the most impressive collection of Monet’s anywhere. Shopped for a few souvenirs, had a long lunch, and rested. That night we turned in early to catch an early flight the next morning.
A smooth flight home.