Travelling Back in Time #2: First Full Day in Paris

It’s 5:30am on Sunday and guess who’s been awake for the past hour? Guess that means it’s time to get you caught up on yesterday’s adventures.
We left our apartment around 10:30, and immediately headed for a neighborhood patisserie where M had a pain au chocolat and I had something that I can’t remember the name of, but it was almond pastry filled with chocolate, and equally delicious. We took our pastry to go and strolled up to an area very close to our apartment called Les Halles of which the most prominent fixture is the Eglise Saint-Eustache – an enormous gothic church built in the 16th century. We wandered around the church for awhile and through the surrounding gardens, and then stopped for a beer nearby.
All the walking made Michael hungry so he bought his first crepe – a savory version loaded with ham and cheese. We then headed south towards Notre Dame on the Boulevard de Palais. By this time, I was getting pretty hungry as well so we went to a small cafe called La Rosace (I think) and I enjoyed a delicious Salad Nicoise and some baguette. We had planned to climb Notre Dame so we could hang out with the gargoyles, but the line to get to the top was long and we didn’t feel like we had the legs for the climb, both of us still being very short on sleep.

After we left Notre Dame, we hopped on the Metro at the Cite’ station and headed back to the Les Halles area, where we stopped at the Franprix market and bought a few more groceries. Stopped at a boulangerie a few doors down for a fresh-baked baguette, then headed home for what we thought was to be a short nap. However, as we approached our apartment, we saw a crowd of people all dressed to the nines, and it hit me that there was about to be a wedding at the church that our little balcony overlooks. Tres bien!

The bride arrives in style.

We whipped out the digital camera and the video camera and immediately starting documenting the occasion – which did not go unnoticed by some of the attendees, who smiled and waved to us. From the looks of the attendees, it appeared that the bride and/or groom were from a prominent, very well-to-do family – the bride arrived in a Bentley and many of the women were sporting outrageous-looking hats that looked straight out of Gone With The Wind!

Some of the many elaborate hats.

I was hoping that the church doors would remain open so we could observe the proceedings, however, they soon closed the church doors and street life on the Rue St. Honore returned to normal.

After 45 minutes or so, the videographer saw Michael and I on our balcony and asked us if he could come up to our balcony so he’d have a better vantage point for filming the newly married couple as they came out of the church! We were both in our “jammies” by then but still decent, so we figured what the heck – it’s not every day that you get to witness a wedding of the French “aristocracy”! I ran down to the front door and let the videographer in.

Congrats! Whoever you are ... LOL

We all chatted for about 10-15 minutes as we waited for the church doors to open, us speaking just enough French and Jean-Marie speaking just enough English to carry on a conversation. I found myself pulling words out of my brain that I hadn’t used since college French, and Jean-Marie seemed tickled that we had made the effort to try and speak to him in his native tongue.

After he was finished filming, he gave us his business card and offered to have us over for dinner, next time we were in Paris. I cannot express in words how much this experience meant to me – as Americans in Paris we naturally experience everything through the filter of being a tourist – an “etranger” – and feel a bit like we’re on the outside looking in. But yesterday, we were honorary Parisians – if only for an hour – and Jean-Marie was our newest friend.

Our much-needed nap having been sidetracked for over an hour, we then took a nap – a THREE HOUR nap! Oops. I guess we needed it though, because I felt much better than I had earlier in the day. After cleaning up we hopped on the Metro at one of our two nearby stations, and headed for the Arc de Triomphe ). We emerged from the Charles de Gaulle and there it was – even more massive than I imagined.

We made our way through the pedestrian tunnel to the other side of the Champs-Elysees and climbed the 200+ stairs to the top. The views from the top were amazing, like a dream – Paris was showing herself off yet again like some tempting banquet.

One of many stunning views from the top.

Back down on the Champs-Elysees, we entertained the idea of grabbing a bite to eat but soon realized that everything was either going to be too expensive, too touristy, or both. 

It was also starting to sprinkle, so after I snapped a couple of photos of some brilliant window displays we hopped back on the Metro back to our little neighborhood in search of a more reasonable restaurant.

We came across a Lebanese restaurant called Venus on the alley that runs diagonally behind our street, and were welcomed heartily by the proprietor, “Simple Simon” – his name for himself. Simple Simon and his American lady-friend, Annette, were the only ones in the restaurant at the time and he seemed excited to have his first customers of the evening.

Annette was a true pretty Southern Belle of indeterminate age, but I would guess she was between 45-50 years old. She had been in Paris for a month to celebrate her birthday. We chatted periodically throughout the evening, but towards the end of our meal the conversation turned to college sports. She made it very clear that she was an enthusiastic “Tarheels” fan (note, I’m not sure how to spell it, that’s how interested *I* am in college sports) and Michael piped up about his beloved Jayhawks. Some good-natured ribbing ensued but we were exhausted and so we soon asked for our check. As we were getting ready to leave, however, Simon insisted that we have another 1/4 liter of rose’ “on the house” – so, not wanting to be rude we stayed for another glass of wine and wound up leaving there around 10:30pm or so.

We walked around the corner to our place, did a little planning, and crashed. Wow – our first full day in Paris is one we will never forget.


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