Last week at this time Dave and I were strolling through museums and monuments. Today, we are attempting to work and study, but I’m taking a break to continue our trip to Paris because the trip to that city was wonderful.
I mentioned before that we’d made plans to have a fairly busy Saturday, so following our morning at Notre Dame and the Louvre, we walked towards the Champs-Élysées, which conveniently leads right to the Arc de Triomphe. We did a TON of walking while in Paris, which (I’d like to think) explains why I ate everything in sight at dinner.
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées was not what I thought it was going to be. I envisioned a nice stroll on something similar to a river walk. Turns out, Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a wide sidewalk with lots of shops and tall buildings on either side–no peaceful river to be found. Like a major metropolitan area, there is so much activity and traffic, that it was the antithesis of what I was expecting. I don’t know why I thought it would be a peaceful stroll alongside a river. I maybe made that up in my mind somewhere along the way. I blame music lyrics. But I digress. Most of our “stroll,” I was too busy fighting off tourists who acted as though this was the only time they’d ever be able to visit Sephora and the Gap ever again to really get what all the fuss was about when people talk about the Champs-Élysées.
Eventually, we made it to the Arc de Triomphe, which sits in the middle of a huge roundabout in the middle of a busy Parisian intersection. We fought through the crowds of the underground passage way that leads the masses underneath the busy streets to the historic arc and finally arrived to see it up close. I didn’t realize that the Arc de Triomphe was the home to France’s Tomb of the Unknown Solider and we saw the eternal flame burning in remembrance of Armistice Day. (Sidebar: living in and learning about European history makes me feel really uncultured sometimes. I feel like I should have known these historical nuggets. I suppose better late than never?) The Arc itself is of course huge and intricately decorated with the names of French victories and names of the generals who fought. It was also interesting to see such a historic monument sitting right in the middle of a busy modern street–a juxtaposition, to say the least. There also doesn’t seem to be very much “white space” on the Arc either. Most of the surface is covered in the names of those involved in the French Revolutionary or the Napoleonic Wars.
By the time we’d taken all the photos we could, our feet had started to ache a bit and we decided it was a good time to head home for a late afternoon nap before heading to the Eiffel Tower that night.
Fast-forward to 7:30pm, when we were refreshed and ready to see Paris at night from high above. When we got off the metro, we could easily see which direction to head, given the Eiffel Tower’s extensive lighting high above in the night sky. We did not, however, know why a throng of people had stopped on a corner. Assuming they just all stopped at a decent photo-op spot, we tried to meander past them, only to be stopped by a policewoman. Now, she’d probably just had a long day and that was the reason she was angry and rude when we walked by, and trust me, I don’t mean to disrespect law enforcement for doing their jobs, but there’s no excuse for rudeness right out the gate. It’s not like we look like thugs. We looked like lost tourists who didn’t know better. Anyway…
“Um, bonjour” the policewoman said to us very sternly. “Where do you think you’re going?” (Now might also be a good time to point out that I really hate when people ask rude rhetorical questions. A simple, “this road is closed” would have also sufficed. Startling us (me) with her tone, we pointed to the Eiffel Tower and she
yelled at asked us if we didn’t see the barricade?
We apologized, trying to process our next move, which I really wanted to be the following:
Actually ma’am, no. We did not see the barricade. Because you didn’t put it in middle of the street as would be a smart measure when barricading a street. You put it off to the side, behind a parked car, leaving a huge gaping hole that any car could go through, let alone a person on foot who didn’t see a barricade, because it wasn’t barricading a street!.
Instead, we mumbled apologies, turned around and took to our smart phones to find out what the deal was. Of course, some ya-hoo called in a threat which shut the Eiffel Tower down. Jerk.
We got back on the metro and headed back to our neighborhood and found a place for dinner. Le Petit Prince de Paris was a cute restaurant off the beaten path back in our neighborhood and was in line with what I expected quaint Parisian restaurants to be. Small and cozy, but comfortable, with snails on the menu (Dave wanted them, I exercised my veto power on that–I’m sure they are like oysters, in that all the butter and garlic makes them delicious, but I can’t get past the mental fact that I’m eating something that I used to avoid when digging out wiffle balls from the lily of the nile plants in our front yard.)
We enjoyed a bottle of wine and our meal was tasty. We shared a first course of zucchini custard tart with fresh goat cheese before our main course arrived. Naturally, I had a steak with a deliciously-rich Roquefort sauce. Dave had the duck confit. He eats duck like I eat red meat. It’s his favorite. Both were accompanied by a scalloped potato of sorts (which was delish with my Roquefort sauce!) We finished our meal with a crispy warm apple tart that came with caramel ice cream on top…that was also quite tasty!
And so ended our first full day in Paris. With full bellies, we returned to our rental, feeling pretty good about all that we’d seen that day. More to come from Day 2, including our trip to the Eiffel Tower (for reals this time)!