“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” - Oscar Wilde
We’ve been planning for a while, but now we’re here! Newark Airport – gate C83 – waiting to board flight 0054 to Paris/Charles de Gaulle airport. Dragging my Japanese suitcase that looks like an orange jellybean. Having to climb over the lady in the seat next to us, because she’s already asleep.
On the plane, seat 24C, preparing for takeoff. The flight was going to be about 7 hours. Thankfully, the entertainment system was HUGE. Loads of films, shows, games, and music. I couldn’t decide between starting off with Glee 3D, or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. When we were up in the air, I started watching Harry Potter. About 30 minutes into the flight, the entertainment system shut off. They tried re-booting it three times, but it was broken. Now I just had 6 and a half hours to sit around and do nothing. About 15 minutes later, dinner came. It was beef that tasted like dog food, and gross green beans. Disappointing. I had no choice but to sleep through the rest of the flight. So I woke up 4 hours later to someone offering me a damp croissant. Soon after, we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport, and the Captain said, ‘Welcome to Paris’ in french, or rather ‘Bienvenue vers Paris’.
So, Charles de Gaulle Airport looks like some kind of Star Wars headquarters. We got off the plane and straight on the RER Metro train that took us into the center of Paris. It was freezing outside, and we wandered around for a while before we figured out that we had got off a stop too early. We soon, with help of Google Maps, found our hotel, on Ile Saint-Louis, a little island in the middle of the Seine right next to Notre Dame Cathedral. Parisian hotel rooms are known for being small, but this one was insanely small. But whatever, we weren’t going to spend much time in the hotel anyway.
The center of Paris is divided up into 20 different areas known as arrondissements. The 1st. is in the very center of Paris and the rest spiral off from that. Our hotel, Hotel Saint-Louis en l’Ile, was in the 4th. On our journey through Paris, we visited places in:
- Ier Arr. (Louvre, Jardins des Tuileries)
- IIe Arr. (Colette)
- IIIe Arr. (Le Marais)
- IVe Arr. (Hôtel de Ville, Centre Pompidou, our hotel)
- Ve Arr. (Panthéon)
- VIe Arr. (Saint-Germain-des-Prés)
- VIIe Arr. (Eiffel Tower, Serge Gainsbourg’s house)
- VIIIe Arr. (Arc de Triomphe)
- XIe Arr. (Chez Paul)
- XIIe Arr. (Gare de Lyon)
- XIVe Arr. (Montparnasse)
Paris is obsessed with chocolate. There is something chocolate around every turn. They have chocolate fountains, different variations of chocolate, and many stores devoted just to chocolate. They love to eat little chocolate macaroons too. I had many different types of chocolate while I was there, including: Nutella and banana crepes, Berthillon ice cream (which was made just along the street from our hotel) and chocolate macaroons. The most famous place to eat all things chocolate, especially Chocolat L’Africain, is Angelina, in the 1st arrondissement near the Jardin des Tuileries. We were taken there by our friend, Taylor. Chocolat L’Africain is a sort of very thick, dark, hot chocolate. It is served with a pot of whipped cream, and is traditionally eaten with a cake called a Mont Blanc. A Mont Blanc is a combination of meringue, light whipped cream and chestnut cream vermicelli. Angelina sells about 600 of these cakes every day.
Many restaurants and shops in Paris have become touristy, but you can still find some that are old and traditional. On our second night, we wanted to have a traditional French dinner. We walked across the river to Bastille and found a classic French restaurant called Chez Paul. It was very small and dusty. It seemed like it hadn’t changed in about 50 years. All the paintings on the walls were old and crooked. The waiters and waitresses only spoke French and were old and grumpy. The menu also looked like it was the same one they had used 50 years before: hand-written with a fountain pen, in somebody’s cursive handwriting. The paper was old and yellow, and the entire thing was in French. No English translations. But it was a nice place to eat. They had very traditional French dishes. We ordered the Confit de Canard Gras des Landes, which is a leg of duck, preserved with salt, garlic and herbs, slowly cooked in its own fat. We also ordered the Steak au poivre flambé cognac. This is filet mignon steak, cooked in cracked pepper corns, covered in cognac and set on fire! These were both served with pommes Dauphinoise (potatoes cooked in butter and cream). After the meal we had a tiny dish of chocolate sorbet for dessert.
On our last day in Paris, we visited The Bridge of Locks. This is just a little bridge – Pont de l’Archevêché - connecting the island that Notre Dame is on to the Left Bank of the Seine. The bridge is covered entirely in locks. Lovers come here to place a lock on the bridge which supposedly locks their love in place. They then throw the key into the Seine. These bridge locks started appearing in the early 2000′s, not only in Paris but all over Europe, and have taken over many bridges since. We have some friends from Brooklyn – Lila and Katherine Chew – who are coming to Paris in May. They asked us to get a lock for them and attach it to the Lock Bridge. We went and bought a tiny little one covered with bright colored flowers, so they could find it easily. If anyone’s curious, the lock is nine rails in from the side nearest Notre Dame, at the very bottom. The combination to open it is 5-2-5 – their birthday.
After the Lock Bridge, we had just enough time to grab our luggage from the hotel, have a quick snack at the train station, Gare de Lyon, and dash off to catch the sleeper train to Venice.