Sunday, October 18, 2009

Paris, October 2009, We Have Arrived!

We've arrived!

What a wonderful flight. I'm sure you're wondering how I can say such a thing? Who in their right mind would wish to fly from Hawaii to Los Angeles (5 hours) then from Los Angeles to Paris (12 hours)? For us it was easy. The first leg was quick and we were well-rested, so it was no sweat. It was really the second leg we were worried about, since we had a two-hour lay-over in L.A. We were then seven hours into our trip when our boarding zone was called. When the attendant scanned our ticket, she shook her head and sent us to another station to have our tickets "reissued." Oh no, we thought, immediately assuming the worst--an Orbitz screw-up. No seats? Not so! To our wonderment and pleasure, we'd somehow scored a seat reassignment into business class. Now that was a treat. Reclining seats that made into a bed, free flowing excellent food and drink and a most pleasant French crew. What a fabulous trip. Between the flight accommodations and our newly discovered "No Jet-Lag" homeopathic compound, we arrived rested the next afternoon at two p.m.

It took us a good hour and a half to get through customs, gather our luggage and then wait for the Air France Bus--that arrives some 30 minutes later (we'd just missed one). The bus was slow, but traffic on the Autoroute was heavy. About an hour later we found ourselves at Gare Montparnasse. From there we located the queque for taxis (sanctioned by law) and a driver to whom we handed a google map. He drove us straight to our apartment (no extra miles), helped us unload the luggage and received a generous tip for his honesty. I can say with certainty, it was so nice to be "home" again--a nice home exchange apartment where we'll be hanging out now for a month.

We unpacked and felt good enough for a walk into the 15e for dinner and also a stop at the Monoprix on rue de la Convention (not our favorite, but it was open and all we wanted was coffee and demi-écreme for breakfast along with some yogurt and breakfast bars--just enough to "get by" until the next day). With groceries in hand, we stopped at Café de la Rotunde on the corner of rue de la Convention, not far from Monoprix. It was such fun to sit in the window of the brasserie and watch the crowds meeting up for drinks and dinner or just walking the streets on a Friday night. I tell you, the feeling was electric and we both couldn't imagine such activity on a Friday night in Honolulu. Cars, motor scooters, and people everywhere and it was quite late already.

We enjoyed a bowl of soupe de jour--a rich beefy broth with tons of tender sweet onions, croutons and buttery melted cheese. Yum! We shared an antipasti salad that was dressed with a tasty nutty olive oil and tender butter lettuce topped with sweet grilled red and yellow bell peppers, egg plant and squash on top. Everything was then topped with some freshly shaved parmesean cheese. We also enjoyed a glass of Bordeaux that had been stored at the perfect temperature and was very soft on the palate. The meal was enough to put us into a, exhausted--state, so we lumbered back to our apartment to put the few supplies into the cupboard and fall into bed! We slept until 7 a.m.

Saturday we walked out into our local neighborhood for a bit, just to acclimate, but mostly got groceries, organized ourselves in the apartment and finally met up with some new friends from Phoenix who are exchanging their Phoenix home with our French friends who live on rue du Bocage. We were surprised to see that nearly restaurant (it was 8:30 p.m.) was filled to capacity and velib racks were empty--we surmised that many people left the 15e and utilized bikes just in case they wound up drinking too much (we hear that the police are cracking down on drinking).

What a wonderful meal we enjoyed and it was a 40th birthday celebration for our new friends. She was thrilled to be enjoying a meal with English speaking people and in Paris. Can you blame her? What a memorable birthday, eh? Although we'd suggested our favorite Clos de Morillon for dinner, we learned a quick lesson: Saturday night in Paris means mandatory dinner reservations. The nice patrons of the Clos de Morillon could not accommodate us. However, they did take us outside of the restaurant and give us directions to a nice restaurant where they suggested we eat. We found "L'oie Cendrée and our Chef, Patron, Waiter welcomed us and served us the most delicious margret de canard with cherries and potato that I've ever tasted. We ordered a couple bottles of a lovely Bordeaux and ordered a beautifully prepared first course which was escarcot encrusted in riced potatoes with herbs and then sauteed to created a crispy outer crust. It was amazing. The small restaurant (only 6 tables or so) was filled with locals, but when they all left and we Americans stayed to finish our wine, the patron came out of the kitchen and we chat with him for a while before leaving. It was a fun evening, but so much rich food has left me seeking out only the simplist of meals for a few days.

Sunday was sunny, warm and inviting as far as outdoor activity. We had breakfast, straightened up the apartment and lit out to explore the area.

For over 3-1/2 hours we walked, stopping to dine at Café de Commerce for a croque-monsieur (served open-faced with delicious french fries and a nice green salad) and some mineral water.

Then it was a slow stroll through the 15e into the 7e where the big Sunday outdoor market on Grenelle was packing up for the day.

We walked around the Eiffel and cut through the Champ de Mars coming upon an oval rink cobbled together by an older gentleman who also provided small tricycles resembling race cars and children rented them for two euros, which allowed them seven turns around the course. It was a kick to watch the children, some of whom could barely reach the pedals but who had already learned the spirit of competition and tried desperately to outrun other children on the track. We also captured a picture of a very chicly attired girl, barely able to walk. The park was filled with families enjoying the outdoors on a warm sunny Fall day.

From Champ de Mars, we wound our way back up to the 15e, taking side streets in residential areas that we'd not yet explored, stopping at a patisserie for some bread, a tartlette au citron and some water. It was nice to get back to the apartment and relax the rest of the evening, enjoying a light dinner, some good wine and a little reading.

Enjoy some of the sites we captured, below.

A Pick-Up Game Of Au Foot (Soccer) At Champ de Mars

Our Efficient, English Speaking, Waiter, Café de Commerce 15e

Saturday Night In The 15e Means No Velib To Rent!

Groups Of Friends Meet Up To Have Lunch On Sunday At Café de Commerce

A 6-Table Wonder, L'Oie Cendrée 15e , 51 rue Labrouste

A Fruit Stand (One of Many) Near Our Apartment, 15e

Our Apartment, 4th Floor 5 Windows Over From Right

An Apartment In The 7e (My Dream!)

Families Enjoy Conversations Will Children Skate, Bike and Play

A Lazy, Sunny, Fall Day In The Park At The Eiffel

A Chic Enfant With Her Family Stroll Along Champ de Mars

Les Enfants Learn How To Compete At A Young Age

The Ornate Clock Tower At École Militaire Across From Champ de Mars

A Sunday Stroll (Champ de Mars, Left, Eiffel, Center)

Commander-In-Chief, WW1, Joseph Joffre

A Croque Monsieur, Frites et Salade At Café de Commerce

Our French Breakfast: Yogurt, Granola & Coffee

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