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Published: August 10th 2017
Yes, we made it to our Paris house swap and without too many problems, although we did have to call our hosts because the lock-box wouldn't open. One of the numbers was wrong! The apartment was obviously an old shop in the 9th
arrondissment and the décor is eclectic, however we love the apartment and the area it is situated.
This blog is in no chronological order and is just a mind dump of things we done and seen and suggestions. Paris has definitely changed over the past 10 years - there are more homeless on the street. In fact, it isn't uncommon to see tents set up on the sidewalk or, as we did, along the banks of Canal St Martin. Caroline was just about to take a photograph when a homeless guy came out of his tent and abused her in French. On a positive note, it is not uncommon on the metro for someone to give up their seat to an older person.
The Paris Metro is the best way to get around the city and a NaviGo pass should be purchased if you are staying for several weeks. The card itself can be purchased
for about 10 Euro and by loading 22 Euro per week you have unlimited travel on the metro system and even out to Charles de Gaulle airport. The pass runs Monday to Sunday and is the best 22 Euro you can spend, otherwise each subway ticket will cost you 1.90E or 14.50E for a book of 10. The pass is also good on the public bus system.
Most Parisians speak English and as soon as Caroline's French vocabulary runs out they are more than happy to converse in English. Mine runs out much faster, but I always accompany it with a smile and hope they don't think I am too much of a fool.
Groupon.fr offers discounts at restaurants normally 33% off and also many tours around Paris. We normally buy a few of these and get to sample restaurants that we probably would never go to or tours we wouldn't normally take. On this trip we purchased:
• Vouchers for 3 restaurants and all were good value and decent quality.
• A Seine Cruise and dinner, this was great fun and included ½ bottle of sparkling wine.
• A three hour cruise up the
Canal St Martin
During our 15 days in Paris we are not just re-visiting the tourist hot-spots visited on previous trips. We plan to spend time walking around the city, shopping and going to places we haven't been before. Walk we do, and with some days having walked 10-12k, my feet are sore, my knees ache; it's all part of the aging process, I guess. However, I try very hard to put all of this behind me and push on through and along the way I believe I found out why all Parisians are thin - it's the number of steps they climb in the Paris Metro System and the amount of walking they do within the station itself, especially Les Halles.
Just up the street from our apartment is a champagne bar “L'Extra Brut” and the proprietor, Benoit, is a friend of our hosts. A complimentary glass of champagne is waiting us and an introduction to Benoit who it turns out spent many years in NYC. He explains the champagne region and the three types of grape that used in champagne. Anyway, over our two weeks I have several glasses while Caroline diligently drinks
her sparkling water and chats with Benoit.
The food as always can be amazing, and even the touristy restaurants serve up a very edible 3 course meal at lunchtime for less than 20 Euro per head. If you are lucky you can get a 25cl carafe of the house white or red for about 5 E. If fine dining is what you require, there are exceptional restaurants where you can pay in excess of one hundred Euro per head, without wine. Good restaurants will cost around 50-70 Euro per head with a decent bottle of wine. For most part, we fall into the good category and here's a few restaurants worth trying:
L'Ebouchoire -This has been our personal favorite over the years and never disappoints. Their signature rice pudding dish is a personal favorite. Two meals here, once in the evening with our friends, the Lauders, and again for lunch with the daughter of our good friend Jean-Clement.
Grand Colbert – We had lunch there several years ago and always planned to go back. A visit from my sister, Marian, gave us the impetus to try it for dinner. Service and
quality were exceptional.
Au Pied du Cochon – A 24hr restaurant that has not closed its doors since 1947. Caroline had eaten there in the 1970's and wanted a walk down memory lane. Very good and reasonably priced.
Le Bouillion – Suggested by Beniot and very good quality food.
Two markets of note are:
The fresh produce market immediately under the viaduct at the Barbes-Rouchechwart metro station. We have been there on a previous trip and the quality of peaches, nectarines, artichokes, grapes and cherries is exceptional an at prices that are about 50% lower than other markets and supermarkets. The market customers are mostly from the Paris African population and we find the vendors to be friendly and have great senses of humor. There are also butchers and fishmongers at the market; however we have never purchased meat or fish.
Marche au Puce at Porte Clignancourt - this is a market that seems to stretch block after block and includes, furniture, antiques, brick-a-brac, clothes and restaurants. The market is only held on Sundays and can be an interesting way to spend several hours on
a Sunday morning. You might even come home with a few purchases. My sister Marian joined us on this excursion, and even though there are some dodgy looking characters hanging around the market and a number of shell games underway, the market is well worth a visit.
Tours or Walks:
Versailles, during summer on a Saturday evening - the fountains of Versailles are turned on and lit up, however be prepared for large crowds and be sure to purchase a ticket online, otherwise you have little chance of enjoying this wonderful spectacle. The evening concludes with a firework display that lights up the sky at 10.45. Caroline had purchased tickets for we two, plus my sister Marian, and I think we were all suitably impressed.
The covered passages of Paris seem to push their way between buildings and have glass roofs. These malls from the nineteenth century are now littered with boutique shops and restaurants, and even a hotel. A good place to start a tour of the passageways is from Grand Boulevards Metro station. There are about 20 passageways within walking distance of the metro. Just be sure to have
your walking shoes on.
Gobelins Museum and Tapestry Factory - the factory is open for guided tours on Wednesdays, however we turn up on a Sunday. Fortunately, the museum is open and we are allowed a glimpse of how furniture was made from the 17th century. Fabulous carpets and tapestries adorn the floors and walls. An interesting way to spend 90 minutes.
An evening tour on the Paris Big-Bus - we had done one of these for my 50th
birthday with a bunch of old friends, so Caroline and I decided to do another, but this time during the evening. The bus departed from the Arc de Triumph at 9.20pm and showed us the sights of Paris, but at night. Obviously the highlight of the evening was the light - covered Eiffel Tower. A great evening out and lots of photo opportunities.
A food tour - Caroline took a pastry course and also purchased an Apero food tour (just a snack before dinner), this allowed us to walk around the Marais for 1 1/2 hours and visit various food shops. Our guide purchased cheeses, terrine, bread and charcuterie and explained the
food choices and what to look for. Then, o n returning to the cooking school we are allowed to eat our "Apero" accompanied by several glasses of wine. On our tour there were 3 couples all with good senses of humor, so it made for nice couple of hours.
It's Saturday, August 5 and time to leave Paris, we collected our Skoda Yoda from Europecar at Terminal 1, Charles de Gaulle Airport, then drove back into the city and loaded the luggage. We pointed the car North East and set off on our seven day road trip to Berlin.
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