Day 2: Paris, Part 1 – Roaming


Best I could do without the selfie stick

It is 5am on Wednesday morning and I’m writing the blog entry for Tuesday. All is right with the world. It’s funny how out-of-sorts I was the start of the last couple of days over bad internet connections getting in the way of what has so become my travel routine. I kept having to remind myself that there are bigger problems to have for sure.

So let’s get to it. I slept decently Monday night, maybe 7 hours total, but again in 2 shifts. I was up a little before 6:30am and went down for breakfast then. This time I remembered photos.

The Hotel Arde restaurant
The Hotel Arde restaurant

I was the first one down 🙂

The breakfast array
The breakfast array

There wasn’t much to it: some deli meats and cheeses in this front display, with some fruit, vegetables and rolls to the right of that on the counter. And coffee to the far right in the corner. That was the most important part since there wasn’t any in the room.

Coffee!
Coffee!

And it was really good, probably the best brewed coffee I’ve had in a long time. And for some reason I really liked the china. I normally don’t even pay attention to that stuff but here it worked. There was something old-fashioned about this hotel.

Sign at the train platform
Sign at the train platform

I was excited to be moving on. I had an 8:44am train to Paris. “Nord” is North, which is the station I was getting off at. There was WiFi on the train which allowed me to make some progress on the blog on my 3 hour and 20 minute ride, but it was also painfully slow. I’m clearly spoiled.

I got to Paris a little after Noon. According to Google Maps, it would take me 21 minutes to get to my hotel using public transportation, or 32 minutes to walk it. For me that’s a no brainer: Walk it is! Paris is best seen on foot.

One of many sidewalk staircases in Montmartre
One of many sidewalk staircases in Montmartre

Paris is divided into arrondissements, which translates to boroughs, and Montmartre is how the 18th where I’m staying is referred to, because of the large hill that’s in it. It’s also got a reputation for being an artists community, and being quaint and funky. According to one article I read, it’s becoming too expensive for the original residents to stay here, a dynamic which happens to neighborhoods that start out quaint and end up trendy. (And that is happening to my Sacramento Midtown neighborhood right now.)

At any rate, because of the hill there are lots of interesting sidewalks like the one above.

My hotel room
My hotel room

Compared to the last two places I’ve stayed, this feels quite luxurious! A bathroom, fast internet AND air conditioning? Who knew? It’s amazing the stuff I take for granted.

The bathroom
The bathroom
The little place were I had lunch
The little place were I had lunch

I finished Monday’s blog in the room then went in search of food. At this point it’s about 2:30pm and I’m starving. I found this cute place, Mademoiselle Raymonde, just 2 blocks from my hotel. it’s funny how often you see restaurants and cafes in Paris with the tables full outside and empty inside. This wasn’t crowded, late in the lunch cycle, but the inside was empty. The first place I’d stopped had closed for lunch so I was happy to find something open and close. U sat at that 3rd table in the middle front.

The street view to the left of where I sat
The street view to the left of where I sat
I had duck confit and green beans. And bread of course!
I had duck confit and green beans. And bread of course!

I tried the duck confit which I’d never had before. Confit is a style of French cooking that consists of salt curing a piece of meat as a method of preservation then cooking it in its own fat. I’m generally not crazy about duck but figured when in Rome and all that, and it was amazing. The skin was very crisp, the meat very tender, and didn’t have that slightly gamey flavor duck can sometimes have. And the green beans were particularly good although I couldn’t tell you why; maybe just because I hadn’t had fresh vegetables that I could recall in several days!

That gray thing on the side, by the way, is my portable phone charger. Don’t leave home without it!

A screen shot of The Weather Channel
A screen shot of The Weather Channel

It was cloudy so I checked the weather to see if I should take my umbrella when I go out since I’d decided to go back to my room after. Nope. Looks like I’ll have great weather for the 4 days while I’m here, with no rain in the forecast and highs in the low-to-mid 80’s.

Creme brulee
Creme brulee

Creme brulee might be my most favorite dessert, so you may be seeing a lot of it 🙂 It was wonderful, very creamy with the scorched part not too hard. And an espresso, of course.

Selfie at the restaurant
Selfie at the restaurant

This is me looking very satisfied after that meal, which was perfect. Several times throughout the day I would find myself giggling thinking “OMG, you’re in Paris by yourself!” This was one of those times.

Back of the Sacre Coeur, with sidewalk steps to get there
Back of the Sacre Coeur, with sidewalk steps to get there

One of the things I was really looking forward to on this trip was the lack of structure I had planned on. On each travel day, the day used to get from one city to the next, I intentionally planned nothing else, wanting to just make it up as I went along for whatever time I had left in that day. I still had plenty of time and had thought a little bit about where I’d wander today while at lunch.

Montmartre is also the home of Sacre Couer, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. We were here in 2014 and I didn’t feel the need to go inside again, but since I was so close it seemed like a reasonable thing to do to start there since it was in the general direction towards central Paris in which I was headed. Google took me the back way, entering through the stairs in the photo above.

Sacre Couer from the back
Sacre Couer from the back
There were a few blocks of eateries and souvenir shops just off to the right as I worked my way around to the church. Lots of tourists and I got out of there quickly.
There were a few blocks of eateries and souvenir shops just off to the right as I worked my way around to the church. Lots of tourists and I got out of there quickly.
Clouds
Clouds

One of the reasons I went back to my room was I’d forgotten the selfie stick. The above is my first shot out in the field, fumble-fingered. Using it will take some practice.

Selfie at Sacre Couer
Selfie at Sacre Couer

This turned out much better!

The view I was seeing when I took the selfie
The view I was seeing when I took the selfie

The elevation where I’m standing is about 400 feet, so you get a nice view of the city from here. See the carousel down below and the crowded street up the middle? That looked inviting to me for some reason so that’s where I headed.

The view back up the hill
The view back up the hill
The carousel
The carousel
Entering that street you saw above
Entering that street you saw above

I had a loose plan of heading to the Pantheon, which is on the other side of the central district across the river, then over to the Eiffel Tower and then back to the hotel. That maps out a pretty large triangle over the center of Paris. And that’s what I ended up doing, walking 14.6 miles according to my phone. That’s a new record for me!

Random street intersection
Random street intersection

If you’ve traveled with me before, you know I like capturing shots of streets that have a particular look to them that’s hard to define, just something I like that seems particularly European or distinguished about that particular locale. This is one of those. In Paris its these angular buildings, and of course all of those metal balconies.

The front of Saint-Eustache
The front of Saint-Eustache

This is not the way I discovered this place, since the photo of the front was the last one I took. Had I approached it this way, I’m not sure I would have gone in. It doesn’t look all that impressive and I’m not sure I could have identified it as a church from this angle.

Row of restaurants
Row of restaurants

And it wouldn’t have helped that is was at the end of a block of typical restaurants. I had been walking along the street a full block over and no longer remember now what got my attention to turn the corner and see what this was, but at that point I was at the back of the church.

The side of the church
The side of the church

I had been walking along the other side but this may have what started to get my attention, in a “what’s this” sort of way. Saint-Eustache is in the 1st Arrondissement, which is the neighborhood in the center of Paris which contains, among other things, Notre Dame and the Louvre. This church was built between 1532 and 1632. It was next to Les Halles, the central fresh food market which dates back to the 1100’s. That was replaced with Forum des Halles, which you’ll see in a bit.

The center aisle from the main entrance
The center aisle from the main entrance

Back to the church. This is the center aisle from what would have been the main entrance had it been open. At least today you could only enter from the side. The church is considered to be a Gothic masterpiece, and is rich in history including the first communion of Louis XIV and the funeral of Mozart’s mother. Notice the side panel in wood on the left, you’ll see a closeup below.

Side panel in intricate wood
Side panel in intricate wood
Looking back up at the organ above the front entrance
Looking back up at the organ above the front entrance
A large crucifix in a side altar; for some reason I really liked those angels kneeling below
A large crucifix in a side altar; for some reason I really liked those angels kneeling below
A closeup of the main altar
A closeup of the main altar

I guess it’s not really all that different from any other random church I’ve walked into in Europe, but it was still a nice find.

Outside of it was this.

Large sculpture of disembodied head and hand
Large sculpture of disembodied head and hand

I have no idea. But the kid sitting up there seems to be enjoying it! That doesn’t look all that easy to climb.

The Forum that I mentioned earlier is a huge mall, with a park in front of it and this sculpture is a part of that. As well as the misty walkway in the photo below.

Cool mist being shot up from the sidewalk
Cool mist being shot up from the sidewalk

Yes, it felt very nice to walk through that!

Forum des Halles
Forum des Halles

This is the mall I mentioned earlier. It’s huge! See the opening on the other side that leads back to the street? That’s where I went.

 

Sidewalk cafe
Sidewalk cafe

I kept walking towards the center and decided to make my way to Notre Dame. I wasn’t planning on going there but it was sort of on the way to the Pantheon and thought, why not? At some point I decided it was time for a little stop, and did so at the little place pictured above.

Espresso and a small glass of water
Espresso and a small glass of water

The espresso came with a little chocolate stick that you stirred into the espresso to melt as little or as much of it into it as you’d like. So I had myself a mocha of sorts! It was perfect.

The view from where I sat
The view from where I sat
My first encounter with the Seine River, with Notre Dame across the way
My first encounter with the Seine River, with Notre Dame across the way

It’s still weird for me to realize that Notre Dame is on an island in the Seine, I was so surprised to learn that when I was here in 2014.

A cafe called Esmeralda, with Notre Dame in the background
A cafe called Esmeralda, with Notre Dame in the background

This might be the definition of kitsch. And perhaps why it’s nearly empty at 6pm? (A “Hunchback of Notre Dame” reference if you missed that…)

Front of Notre Dame
Front of Notre Dame
Selfie at Notre Dame
Selfie at Notre Dame

For some reason I couldn’t get my selfie stick to work so had to resort to this. Lots of people doing the same! The line to get in was long but it moved very fast and was free, so in I went.

Crucifix on the wall, with people lighting candles beneath it
Crucifix on the wall, with people lighting candles beneath it
Stained glass window, with one of the panels opened inward
Stained glass window, with one of the panels opened inward

I had no idea these could be opened!

There was a mass in progress.
There was a mass in progress.

They aren’t as protective of those there to pray as Cologne is. You couldn’t have cameras behind the ropes, but you could still get pretty close.

Closer to the altar
Closer to the altar

The mass was over at this point.

The organ above the entrance
The organ above the entrance

It’s impressive in that Notre Dame was one of the first, built a good 200 years before the Cologne Cathedral was started. But I still like Cologne better 🙂

Side view of Notre Dame from the other side of the Seine
Side view of Notre Dame from the other side of the Seine

On the other side of the river is the area known as the Latin Quarter.

A church behind the Pantheon to the left
A church behind the Pantheon to the left

Mostly I liked seeing the people just sitting about. An interesting little hangout with a cool view, seen below.

Closeup side view of the Pantheon
Closeup side view of the Pantheon

The Pantheon was built originally as a church in the mid 1700’s. It now serves as mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens.

Full front view of the Pantheon
Full front view of the Pantheon

We had been here in 2014 but the entire building was being renovated and was covered in canvas and scaffolding; you literally couldn’t see a thing. That’s why I decided to stop by today. Much better!

The opposite view from where I'm standing
The opposite view from where I’m standing

What’s the in the distance? The Eiffel Tower of course. My first sighting today and perfect timing since that’s where I was going next.

Random pretty fountain as I continued my walk
Random pretty fountain as I continued my walk
Random interesting sculpture
Random interesting sculpture

One of the things I really loved about Paris the last time is how often you encounter random art. This is very modern looking, appears to be a Minotaur that has seen better days – notice half of his left arm is missing.

The back of the Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb
The back of the Army Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb

I was so surprised to run into this! We spent several hours here in 2014 but had entered from the other side. Throughout the day I kept coming across things that I’d seen in 2014 but from completely different directions. I love the women doing yoga in the esplanade. Why not?

And finally, where I was headed.

The Eiffel Tower from Champ de Mars
The Eiffel Tower from Champ de Mars
Best I could do without the selfie stick
Best I could do without the selfie stick

The selfie stick seemed to be working fine when I got back to my room later, so not sure what the problem was. User error most likely.

Had the lines to go up the tower not been horrendous I would have done it. But it was about 7:30pm at this point and I knew I’d be getting hungry. Was also running low on phone battery. To walk back to the hotel would take a little over an hour. I decided to do that and find something to eat along the way. In the end I just went back and ate somewhere close to the hotel.

The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe

I took this as I was crossing the Champs Elysees, one of the most famous boulevards on the planet.

More random art in a very lively neighborhood.
More random art in a very lively neighborhood.

The restaurant in the right background was called Little Italy. I may have been back in Montmartre at this point, and was certainly very close if not.

The Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge

I knew I would be staying very close to this and looked into going a couple of weeks ago. But it’s a “jacket required” kinda place and didn’t want to have to alter my packing plans. Oh well. Maybe in the Spring when I’m more likely to pack one!

The restaurant where I had dinner
The restaurant where I had dinner

I went back to my room to freshen up a tad, then went out for dinner a little after 9pm. This was a french place practically across the street called Au Pied due Sacre Couer which translates to “at the foot of”.

The completely empty dining room
The completely empty dining room

All the tables outside were taken, which is fine since there’s almost always smokers out there, so I got to sit anywhere I wanted to!

French onion soup
French onion soup

French onion soup is my favorite (I was surprised they used the French qualifier, maybe because they guessed correctly and gave me the English menu) and I will order it anytime I see it on a menu, because you don’t see it that often. So I figured I had to. I wasn’t disappointed. Although I do have to say, Danielle’s in Sacramento definitely holds up!

Rabbit stuffed with mixed vegetables, and french fries
Rabbit stuffed with mixed vegetables, and french fries

I’d never had stuffing before made entirely of vegetables and it was pretty good. The rabbit was tender (yes, it tastes like chicken) but those french fries were Amazing. Super crispy on the outside, I’m guessing fried twice, and super hot and tender on the inside. I’ve never had french fries that were that hot on the side before. There was something remarkable about it.

Espresso and dessert
Espresso and dessert

So the espresso at 10pm was not my best move, but I figured I would need it to cut all that sugar. And I was right. And by the way, when they serve what should be cake in what’s really a bowl, with a spoon, you’re probably going to love it. This was called chocolate delight. It was a warm, rich chocolate cake with an icing on top I couldn’t quite place, almost like a pudding. The yellow sauce is like a vanilla sauce, although they had a better french name for it which I don’t recall. Let’s just say it was Very Good.

I had a pretty good first day in Paris. Who am I kidding? It was incredible. I didn’t do anything but walk around and that was enough, so much to see and take in. Even though I’d seen most of this stuff the last time, it was amazing to be here again, and I was surprised how easy it was to get around. We’d covered a lot of ground in our 5 days here in 2014 and today I would find myself knowing exactly where I was, although I was approaching most everything from different angles than we had then.

One thing I’d forgotten was how international it is. I lost count of how many languages I heard just walking the streets. Not surprising I guess for the most visited city on the planet. Looking forward to 3 more days here.

21 thoughts on “Day 2: Paris, Part 1 – Roaming”

  1. I love reading this from the unplanned perspective. It really makes it all more interesting, more approachable, more real….including the women doing yoga, the live mass, the sunlight through the stain glass open window and the kid sculpture climber. way to go on the 13 + miles for our viewing benefit!

  2. Lovely. Merci bien. I lived a 10 minute walk from Mademoiselle Raymonde, on Cite des Fleurs. Many memories. Next trip, Musee Marmottan, check it out. Amuse bien! Thank you for sharing,

  3. 14 point something miles of walking. What an amazing place to do that in. Such a beautiful city. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. I’m giggling with you – you are having a blast in Paris by yourself. You should smile and giggle and enjoy.

  5. We all love travelling with you. I like Creme Anglaise with dessert, too! Have a great time. Hope you went around the back of Sacre Coeur to see all the artists.

  6. So wonderful that you are taking this trip and sharing your special moments! C’est magnifique!

    1. Hi, Karlin – looking forward to meeting up when I get back and hearing all about yours! PS: You didn’t see this right away because I have to approve the first comment. Anymore should go straight through…

  7. Looks great!! Have some bread for me!! – I think France & Paris should B on my Bucket List because my “2 trips” to Paris really weren’t because they were both only plane-changes @ Charles De Gaulle!

    1. CDG definitely does NOT count! PS: I think this reason this didn’t go straight through is you left a letter out of your name so it didn’t recognize you maybe…

  8. What an amazing day of just wandering the streets of Paris. That is my very favorite way to experience Europe. Bravo.
    And your selfies San stick are just fine!

  9. What an amazing day of just wandering the streets of Paris. That is my very favorite way to experience Europe. Bravo.

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