Published: November 25th 2012November 24th 2012
"The worst thing about being a tourist is other tourists recognizing you as a tourist." R. Baker
We are staying in the ideal location; yesterday it was a quick walk over to the Tuileries Gardens, which at one time was one of the largest and most beautiful gardens in Paris. It's between the Louvre Museum & Musee D'Orsay which I caught a brief glimpse of. The gardens are sparse now in the fall, but they are more than just gardens, they are full of ornate statues and water basins, with lots of trees & a lake. Near the end of the park is the Place de Concorde that has a giagantic transportable ferris wheel known as the Grand Roue which is decorated with white twinkling lights and is set up for the Christmas holidays then taken back down. People were lined up at 10:30 am to take a ride. From the ferris wheel you can see the city in all its grandness.
We made our way onto the Champs-Elysees and saw the Grand Palais which was built in 1897 for the World's Fair in 1900. If they were out to impress the world, they sure did it! (see pic
at the bottom). The G. Palais is the world's largest ironworks & glass structure & its glass dome roof is absolutely eye catching.
We also strolled through the Christmas market which has over 100 vendors participating. There's so many amazing things to see; hand-made chocolates in huge slabs, gigantic cheese blocks & dried meats etc. Everyone working these stalls are dressed up in festive Christmas clothing & hats & they have rides for kids, and mechanical Christmas displays. (I was really missing my girls then, seeing all the little kids eating treats & going on the rides...sniff sniff!)
Also sold at the stalls: mulled hot wine, Noel beer, Christmas ornaments, clothes, decorations, candles, handmade soaps, jewellry, gingerbread everything, hot pretzels, candy in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, fruit skewers dipped in chocolate, big chocolates stuffed with mousse, roasted chestnuts, along with crepes and churros of every flavor. Crepes stands are to Paris what hot dog stands are to New York; one every few feet. And today I saw food being prepared that I have never heard of before called a "tartiflette" which they make in this HUGE cast iron pot that is set over a wood-burning fire.
(see pic att.) It's a traditional French dish made with potatoes, bacon, reblochen cheese (a soft cow's cheese from the Alps), and onions in a white wine cream sauce. They also make another version with salmon. It looks amazing, and it had my mouth watering! And if we'd had the good sense to stay there and eat instead of our quest to find a little cafe to people-watch from, we'd had been much better off, but no no no, that's not the way it went...with us par for the course.
After hours of strolling around, while carrying our heavy backpacks with our valuables (because we couldn't check-in yet), we were getting hungry. Marth kept reading the map over and over, then looking around, & then we'd head off again. After walking this way, and then turning around and walking that way, we were both getting to our limit. She kept saying she was "all turned around" (ie didn't have her bearings) and where she thought we were going, ended up being in the wrong direction. To make matters worse, while we waited for the light to change, a bus came by and splashed us and just seconds before that,
I stepped in dog "bleep". By that point, I was ready to run back & grab a mulled wine and some chestnuts & forgo having a nice lunch in a cafe. AND after all that walking around, do you think for the love of god we could find a restaurant in Paris? NO. I guess Sat. is a quiet day here and most cafes are closed.
So we kept walking, and walking, till I swear the rubber tips came off my boots. I was really trying to be a good sport about things (cause I am in Paris after all, thanks to Marth). Then we ended up in the "frou-frou, overpriced section of #8" & finally said to Marth, "let's call it a day". I wasn't going to spend my children's inheritance on a lunch in this high-falutin area. But then (tah dah) a small Italian bistro jumped out at us, and we clicked our heels with joy (what was left of my heels).
While having our lunch, a loud young couple came in, and pulled up a chair right next to us (they don't always separate the tables here). The place was empty; they could have sat
He was acting very strange and picked up a steak knife and started to rub his hand over the blade. Then he took the knife and cut the paper tablecloth up. I looked at Marth and she looked at me, and we started to eat very quickly. He was very anxious and jittery, and when an order of French fries arrived he devoured it like a wild animal. Some fries were to his liking, and some he threw off onto another plate. Then his pizza came & he again devoured it in seconds, while making animal noises. If I had to venture a guess, he was either just let out of prison, or he was mentally ill. It was all very odd, and we rushed to get out of there, but before we could leave, he stood up, threw money on the table and ran out. Even the staff were in disbelief. That was our first meal in Paris. (It made me wonder if we were being played a joke on?)
Upon leaving, Marth said, "I promise we are a short walk to our hotel" (not). We ended up walking for a long time again, but I
will say, despite my blisters it was a great chance to see the Opera area which by now was bustling. There are so many stores to see & we noted some cafes to eat at in the future. We stopped at these impressive wine stores where expensive Champagne was being sold with wine tastings. This is my kind of place; free & full of wine!!!
I think we were punch-drunk tired by then because everything Marth said, sent me into stitches & laughing jags & she thought that was the funniest thing ever, because well, I'm usually the one to crack her up. Oh Lord the long trip was catching up with me. We must have looked like a pair...a pair of what I don't know.
We finally got into our room & I'm typing this blog before going out to dinner on Sat. night at Petit Colbert's French brasserie.
Marth is checking her eyelids for pin holes (ie she is taking a nap).
Arrow down to see our pics of Paris on our first official day if you so choose!
There are more photos below