Monday, June 14, 2010


We finally made it to Paris Saturday-or should I say Sunday morning-about 2:30am local time. We were delayed leaving Casablanca, held up on the gangway w/locked doors to the terminal at Charles de Gaulle, got our bags no problem, only to find that the airport shuttle that I’d booked and paid for in advance was no longer running at that hour. Nice that there’s no mention of limited hours on their website or my confirmation. So we found our way to the night bus (train stopped running at midnight) to head into the city. Got someone to let us use their cell phone to call the woman who had the keys to the apartment we were renting-needed to let her know we arrived and needed to get in. Got a cab for the final leg of the journey, keys under the mat and sleep.

We made up for it yesterday with a full day-after getting up around 8am. Showered and dressed, we headed up the street to a patisserie for breakfast. Wonderful bread and café au lait later, we’re already in love w/Paris. We’ve decided that it’s a day for the Notre Dame and St Chapelle, so head to the Metro station. We’re staying less than a block from the Bastille, so we’ve got great access to transportation. We buy a 5 day Metro pass so we can go wherever we need for the week and make our way over to Iles de Cite. First stop-St Chapelle. I remembered it as one of my favorite places the first time I went to Paris w/Joanne about 23 years ago. Just as beautiful as I remembered it. Much more popular. The biggest difference between that first visit and this one is the crowds-the guidebooks draw everyone to the same sights.

Afterward we wandered over to the Left Bank and walk around, window shopping mostly, as almost all stores are closed on Sundays. We go looking for a restaurant that Lisa remembered, but when we failed to locate it, went into a charming French bistro for a light lunch. Sea bass carpaccio with herb toast. It was as delicious as it sounds, and the service, table settings, etc. were lovely. Dorothy, we’re not in Morocco any more!

We decide we need to walk off our lunch before heading over to the Notre Dame and make our way to the Luxemburg Gardens. What a fabulous place, in it’s Sunday best. It’s a beautiful afternoon and the park is filled with families, friends, couples enjoying the day. Swing band playing beneath the cupola. Boys sailing their small craft on the pond. Some playing chess. Some picnicking. Some taking a snooze. Beautiful flowers and manicured lawn surround the Palace. Lovely.

We headed back to Ile de Cite and the Notre Dame, arriving in time for the 4:30pm organ concert. I’m in my happy place and the day’s not done. I’ve never been a religious person, but this wonderous cathedral is so spiritual-it touches your heart and soul. The organ music fills this enormous space and it’s time for reflection-giving thanks for loved ones, to be able to experience this.

We were hoping to get up into the Notre Dame towers, but gave up after about ½ hour of waiting in line and not moving. We’ve bought 5 day museum passes that get us into most everything we want to see, and don’t have to wait in long lines. However, it doesn’t help us here and we decide to bag the idea. Walking toward Ile de St Louis, there’s another bandstand in a park behind the Notre Dame with a live jazz group playing. Two parks, two live groups playing-is this heaven or what?

What a little gold mine Ile de St Louis is. We’ll be going back. The shops are open and it’s a gastronome's heaven. Berthillon ice cream, olive shop, cheese shop, pastries, restaurants, smart clothing, unique accessories-and we manage to leave a few Euros behind. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) by the time we wind our way to the end of this little island and turn around, the shops are starting to close down and we realize we better decide on dinner plans before they’re decided for us. We pick up some cheeses, lovely fresh breads, wine and head back to the apartment to get off our feet. By the time we’re there, it’s 9pm already-and hard to imagine, since there’s so much light in the sky (forget how far north we are). Sit for a bite to eat and map out our game plan for the week.

Bonsoir and welcome to day 2 of Paris.
We were up early to get to the Louvre ahead of the crowd, but forgot that those same Parisians who are partying at the cafes downstairs from our apartment aren’t opening the patisserie at 8am when we’re ready for café au lait and artisanal bread. Bugger. No breakfast for us, but the Louvre calls.

We head off on the Metro and are among the first to enter the museum for the day. Split up to give ourselves 2 ½ hours to explore before meeting back. I made my way through the French, Spanish and Italian painters. Watched several painters working on their easels painting copies of masterpieces. Lots of schoolgroups-can you imagine having the Louvre available to you as a grade school field trip? So much to see in so little time, we each barely scratched the surface, but by the time 11:30 rolled around, we were all full to the brim-you can only take so much in at a time. We walked through the Tuilleries Garden to the Orangerie to see the Monet lilies and Impressionist art. As Lisa and Kristen said, I was in my happy place. It fills you up. Serene. Colors so beautiful. A respectful quiet in the galleries. Loving it.

I had downloaded info off the internet on places to see/shop/eat/etc. in Paris and we headed off to explore some of the gastronomic selections. Passed by a shop on the way to the Metro that at first appeared to be a soap shop. Nope. On further inspection, it was macaroons. Of all flavors and colors. A rainbow. Crunchy, chewy, sweet macaroons filled with delicious flavors. We each had to buy a sample. Or two. Yum. Turns out that a friend of Kristen’s had told her to be certain to go to this place, and we just happened by it.

Off we went to hunt down some food and cooking supply shops a bit further away. By the time we get to the area we wanted to explore, the heavens opened up and it just poured down. We were starving for lunch anyway, but it was almost 3pm and most places had stopped serving. We duck into a Chinese fast food equivalent restaurant to wait out the rain and fill our bellies. Not the culinary adventure we were hoping for, but it works. We’re on what looks like a pretty shady street-presence of several sex shops on the street trigger a review of the map-only to discover we missed a turn. As we make our way back to the place we were headed, we’re delighted with a number of other great little shops-including ones we wished we had seen before lunch. I buy 2 different pates for us to eat later-and mourn the missed opportunity to have duck pate w/onion confit on baguette for lunch.

The culinary exploration continues toward Les Halles-which by the way we never make it to. Too many other great little shops to explore and we’re getting tired and short on money. We stop in an amazing tea shop and restaurant-Mariage Freres. You would not believe the aroma of this place-absolutely intoxicating. More teas than you’ve ever imagined. We all buy some chai tea, and consider sitting for some iced tea, but the bar across the way, serving happy hour beckons us and we succumb to the call.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to spend the 500DH that Colleen gave me for the women on REK. I’ve bought a cooking thermometer and small digital scale for the women of the Jam3ia Watanaq Mawahib to use with their hlwa (cookies) and cheese (if they decide to go ahead with making and selling this). Neither of these items are available to purchase in Morocco, so I feel good about being able to bring them back with me and put Colleen’s donation to good use.

One more venture closer to our apartment in search of what is written as an amazing cheese shop (only to discover that it’s closed) takes us by a wonderful fruit and vegetable market, more yummy patisseries, wine shops, you name it.

Finally back to the apartment, we decide to eat in w/food we’ve purchase along the way today. We’re supposed to meet up w/some other Volunteers who are also in Paris, but we’re ready for bed and they don’t call-no problem. I get a chance to call sister Debbie and chat for an hour-the apartment phone is free for calls to the US-ok, not so free, it’s in the rental, but it’s still a great chance to talk “live”. Especially since I cannot get my computer to work with the wireless internet that is available here. Now I need to get sleep-and let my body repair the walking damage from 2 long days on my feet.

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