2021 Europe: Departure to Paris

We left Ash’s place around 9:30am Friday and had a friend drop us at SFO. We had a thankfully uneventful experience in the airport getting to our gate: COVID tests accepted – Ash used his Kaiser, I used Abbott – and vaccine records, too. No problems in security and there didn’t seem to be a ton of people traveling.

photo of breakfast

Ash is a Priority Pass member through his Chase credit card which provides lots of benefits, including free meals at airport restaurants and free access to lounges. All of the lounges – of any airline, any kind of membership – at SFO were closed. But there was a San Francisco 49ers Clubhouse on the list and that would do since we hadn’t eaten anything yet. Ash had eggs and sausage, I had avocado toast and some fruit.

Selfie in front of the window at the gate with our plane behind us.

Ash was excited that we are in a brand new plane, an A350-900 for those of you who care about that stuff.

We had snagged some business class seats at the last minute and were glad we did. Made for a much more comfortable 10 hours flight to Copenhagen.

plane beginning to taxi on the runway

My favorite feature of this plane was the “Landscape camera.” It was on the whole time, of course for most of it not worth looking at.

But it made the takeoff look pretty cool. This was just as the plane was beginning to takeoff.

Lift-off, and the wheels are going up.

Some San Francisco freeway below us.

The beginning of the Pacific Ocean on your left.

They brought lunch about an hour after takeoff. We’d just eaten breakfast like 3 hours before at this point but since this was the only meal we’d get for another 8 hours we figured we might as well.

It was pretty good, too. That’s a salad far left corner, some seared tuna beneath that, and short-rib to the right of that. Short rib is my favorite cut of beef and it was excellent. Ash’s was the same except he had chicken instead of beef.

With chocolates and coffee for dessert. No complaints there.

The flight went by pretty quickly despite the length. We were in seats that could lie back flat so both of us took advantage of that to try to get a little sleep. And a little sleep is probably all we got. I don’t sleep well in planes.

Typical European fare for breakfast: deli meats and cheeses with yogurt and bread.

We are flying SAS, by the way – Scandinavian Airlines System – which is why we landed in Copenhagen. Shortly after I took my phone out of airplane mode I got the text above welcoming me to Denmark. It’s one of my favorite little things about traveling. I signed up for that option with Verizon back in 2014 and it works great – just connects you to their foreign partner wherever you go, and you only pay for it while you’re there.

Photo of the center of the lounge - couches inside a large wooden fence in a circle, with smaller tables and chairs all around. It's big.

Priority Pass has 3 lounges in this airport, one in the terminal we landed in and will depart from, and two in the terminal next door. From the descriptions this is the best so we’re just staying put. We have a 7 hour layover. We’d loosely discussed the possibility of leaving the airport and going into the city a bit, but it’s actually raining fairly hard and that just doesn’t seem worth the hassle of going through customs in and out and dealing with security again on the way back etc. As soon as we landed and looked out the window of the plane we were like “nope, that decides that.”

I’m writing this first part of the Departure entry from here, at the moment sitting just right of center in that 2nd chair with that pillar on the far right directly behind me. There’s hardly anyone here as you can see. We’ve been here almost 2 hours already and it’s Super Quiet. Thankfully. I don’t anticipate that changing much. A few people have come and gone but at this moment we are the only ones here. Except for the woman at the front desk!

Photo of the windows looking out at the planes on the tarmac.

More later when we arrive in Paris.

It’s now Sunday morning. The rest of the trip was just as uneventful. We took an Uber to our Airbnb from the airport and that ride was almost an hour. We’re staying in Le Marais which is very central and full of night life, so Saturday evening traffic was gross. We got to our place around 6:30pm.

Our host met us and showed us around, not just the place but the neighborhood. He’s very nice and he lives where we’re staying – we have his whole apartment – and he’s staying with his girlfriend a few blocks away.

This is the living area with a loft above that’s like an office. I’d originally planned to use the desk up there to write and did so when I uploaded the photos last night. I’m writing the rest of this Sunday morning and when I first went up again and realized I’d forgotten something, coming down I decided that those steps are just too treacherous. Going up is not a problem but coming down feels almost dangerous and that’s no way to feel every morning on vacation! So now I sit on that couch which is pretty comfortable with the laptop on a pillow on my lap. Much Better.

A decent kitchen. That machine you see the edge of in the left bottom corner is the washer. When we asked if it’s a dryer too – we’ve seen some in Europe that are both – he said “no it doesn’t dry” like “why in the world would you think that?” Having both is rare here. But it has coffee – see the Krups right center! – and that’s the most important thing.

The bedroom obviously. And, just like the apartment I stayed in when I was here in 2014, the toilet is in a separate room by itself – hence “water closet” – away from the tub and sink. Although it was a small sink in it, too. This is a very nice sized apartment for Paris, bigger than most probably.

We’d asked him for a suggestion of a local French restaurant and he brought us here. At first they weren’t going to seat us because we didn’t have a reservation. It was 7pm by now and they were just opening, all tables but one were empty. He talked to them in French then said to us “they can seat you but you’ll have to be done by 9pm” and we were like “we’ll be in bed by 9pm so not a problem!” At that point we’d been traveling for over 24 hours with precious little sleep.

And then they said “and you’ll have to take that table for 2 on the sidewalk across the street.” Which was perfect! The table next to use was the only other one seated at the time – a family from San Francisco!

A perfect Parisian setting for our first meal together abroad. At this moment we realized: we’re on vacation and have Nothing Planned. The only thing scheduled for the next 5 days is the train ride to Switzerland at the end. I’ve never vacationed like this before and am feeling quite giddy about it. Unstructured time is the best gift there is for me. This is my 3rd time to Paris so there’s nothing on my list I feel like I have to do; Ash has been here more than a handful of times and feels the same. But we’ve already identified a few things that one or the other has done that we might do together so we’ll see how it all turns out.

For starters I had veal carpaccio. If you haven’t had it, carpaccio is a style of serving raw meat very thinly sliced. This was classically done with olive oil, red onion, mustard and capers. Lovely.

Ash had deep fried herbed cod. Both the cod and the tartar sauce were incredible.

For my main I had beef cheeks. Texture and taste very similar to short ribs, that outside was very crispy but the whole thing was super tender, no knife needed. Underneath is a bed of mashed potatoes and Spanish beans (from Italy made in France – we had this whole discussion about them with the very knowledgeable waitress!).

Ash had seared white tuna which he loved. That was going to be my choice until she described the beef cheeks.

We shared a slice a lemon pie for dessert. Rich, creamy and tart, with a whipped crème fraiche and some lemon zest. A perfect end.

After dinner we stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few things to have for breakfasts. We dropped that off at the apartment then went back at for a little while. I wanted to see a little bit of the city before bedtime just to feel like we were really here. There were a lot of people out – it’s Saturday night after all. Few were wearing masks outside but everyone wore them inside. The vaccination rate here is in the mid 60’s. One thing we found impressive: when the plane was landing, they announced that we would be exiting row by row to allow for distancing and an orderly disembarking, so please just remain seated until the row before you has left. And everyone did! The plane was at a complete stop for several minutes while they pulled the stairs up to it (small plane, we were on the tarmac), and every single person just sat there in almost silence until they gave the word. For some reason we imagined that it wouldn’t be that calm and orderly back home, although I hope I’m wrong.

We took a right out of our apartment to the end of the street and then left on a major one that’s a straight line to Notre Dame, which is where I wanted to head. We came to this just before the Seine and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t come across this before. This is Hotel de Ville which is the Paris city hall. I loved that there’s a vaccination clinic in front of it!

Luckily the clinic doesn’t block the entire front so we still got a nice view of the beautiful building. Originally built in the mid 1500’s, it burned in 1871 and was rebuilt on the outside in the same fashion while the inside was modernized at the time. This site has been the head of the municipality of Paris since 1357.

In front of it was a street performer, a dancer who was teaching volunteers from the crowd the dance moves from the video “Beat It” by Michael Jackson. It was fun to watch this for a little while, and I loved the nonchalant view of Notre Dame in the background.

A lovely fountain at the end of the square makes for another beautiful view.

We crossed the Seine onto the island the church is on. It’s of course completely blocked off due to the 2019 fire. The wooden wall around it also serves as an exhibition, with photos and narratives of the fire and the work that’s been done since. I wanted to start the trip here because I always get such an amazing send of wonder around these European cathedrals. And while not the grandest, this is the oldest that still exists in the gothic style, with some of it being over 1000 years old. If not the first it’s likely the most famous. There were a lot of people in the square just sitting and looking. It’s an awe-inspiring scene.

For some reason Ash can’t ever stand still for a photo. He says he’s not photogenic (although the one of him above on the street disproves that); mostly it’s that he’s impatient or something in that neighborhood. Or just his ADD!

Caught a nice shot of the Seine as we were walking back.

What’s next? No idea. Ash is still asleep. I’m going to have some more coffee and just relax until we decide what we’re doing. Which may not be much at all. Tune in again tomorrow to find out….

4 thoughts on “2021 Europe: Departure to Paris”

  1. The food looks amazing. I’d have to have more info before I would try the veal carpuccio (sp) I love those buildings so majestic. Ash is very photogenic! And you are so wrong, Americans would still be charging up the aisle as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac. You guys have a blast, be safe and keep posting that food!

  2. Nice, Yes I am amazed at the size of the apartment. I remember how small the one I stayed in the only time I have been was. I look forward to doing nothing with you lol

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