Paris, cont.

Before going to Paris, I’d heard plenty about the legendary rudeness of the Parisians; that they can be unhelpful, snobby and stand-offish. Because of this, I was a little apprehensive about Paris. I prepared myself to be treated rudely. I figured I would enjoy the sites, but probably not enjoy the culture or the people. It turned out that no one was rude to us; in fact, we found people were quite nice and helpful. And we found that we enjoyed the culture. Honestly, I was surprised.

I’d also heard that Parisians don’t like to speak English; they want you to speak French. I can understand why. Imagine living in a city flooded with tourists and day after day, the first thing people say to you is “do you speak English”? I made an effort to always start by talking in French, and found it went a long way. I never studied French in school, so I usually only got a few words of my broken French in before they would start talking back in English – or if they didn’t speak English, then it resorted to the universal language of hand gesturing and head nodding.

The city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (districts). The first one is in the heart of the city and the following ones spiral outwards in a clock-wise direction. They gain in number in an orderly succession, going around and around – hence the word arrondissement. We stayed in the 111h arrondissement, on a quiet street near the 3rd arrondissement. It was a nice Parisian neighborhood with lots of locals and hardly a tourist in sight. It became our home for the week and being there, we felt like we got to experience a little bit of what daily life is like for Parisians.

Our Hotel

Our hotel

Our Coffee Shop

Our local coffee shop for the week

Local shoe shop where I bought some warm boots

Local shoe shop where I bought a warm pair of boots

Local Italian Restaurant we liked so much we went there twice

Local Italian restaurant which was so good, we dined there twice

The had delicious salad & pizza, and good table wine

They had delicious salad & pizza, and good table wine

Our local grocer had the best vanilla yogurt

Our local grocer had the best vanilla yogurt, which we ate on a daily basis

During our stay in the 11th arrondissement, we became regular customers at the corner bakery just down the street from our hotel. We knew it had to be good when we saw a line going out the door the first time we walked past it. They served up the best sandwiches we had in Europe as well as tasty pastries and desserts – all at affordable prices. Needless to say, Jay’s gluten-free diet went out the window.

Local bakery

The corner bakery

The best affordable lunch in paris

The best affordable lunch in paris

Sandwich on the go

Sandwich on the go

The pastries

The pastries

An enjoyable and budget friendly thing to do in Paris is to have a picnic lunch. Typically, we did picnic for lunch. But trust me, it’s definitely not as enjoyable in cold winter weather.

Picnic lunch in winter

A picnic lunch in winter

We got around Paris using the city’s extensive Metro system. From any given spot in the city, you’re typically never more than 500 yards from the nearest station. It’s quite convenient and makes it easy to get around. And it’s a much better alternative to renting a car and heaving to deal with traffic and parking.

Parking is tight in Paris

Parking is tight in Paris

Using the Metro in Paris requires playing snakes and ladders with the crazy lines on the transit map to figure out the best way to get from point A to point B. The city has the most complicated maze of metro lines I’ve ever seen. Our strategy was look at the map before boarding, figure out which line(s) we were taking, and then take a picture of that part of the map to make sure we didn’t get lost in the labyrinth.

First, find your route on the Metro map

Finding our route on the Metro map

Then, take a picture of it

A snapshot of the Metro map

Jay's artistic Metro shot

Jay’s artistic Metro shot, taken while waiting to board

The Abbesses station in the Montmartre neighborhood has to be the most beautiful station in the Paris Metro system. The art nouveau entrance has been nicely preserved and the stair cases within the station are lined with a series of murals. It’s also the deepest station in Paris, located 118 feet below ground. The 200 steps of stairs provided a nice leg burner.

Entrance to the Abbesses Station

Entrance to the Abbesses Station

Spiral staircase lined with murals

Spiral staircase lined with murals

Paris is known as a foodie mecca. Our favorite night in Paris was the night we enjoyed the perfect French dinner at a little restaurant called Le Petit Châtelet. My good friend Christie has been to Paris a number of times and it is her favorite restaurant in the city. For my 35th birthday, she gave me a card with money inside and specific instructions to use it for dinner at Le Petit Châtelet (she even included the address and metro stop). It ended up being the perfect gift, because at that point in our travels, we had already spent a lot of money and were a little hesitant to spend too much going out to dinner. And a trip to Paris would not be complete without at least one night of indulgence at a French restaurant.

Le Petit Châtelet is tucked away in a little old house across the river from Notre Dame. The restaurant has been run by the same family for over 50 years. It’s a cozy little place with a warm and romantic atmosphere. We were seated at a table close to the wood burning fireplace. We ordered a bottle of French wine and perused the menu which is hand written on a large chalkboard that the waiter brings to your table. We both decided to order steak; I chose the “filet de boeuf au poivre” (pepper steak) and Jay chose the “formidable d’entrecote au feu de lois” (rib eye steak cooked on the wood fire). Jay’s steak came with crispy frites and mine came with a side of gratin dauphinoise, the most delicious au gratin potatoes I’ve ever tasted. They were both accompanied by the perfect sauce and seasoning. For dessert, we shared the profiteroles, a delicious pastry filled with homemade ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. It was the perfect French dinner and a great night out!

Beautiful view of the Seine River as we make our way to the restaurant

Beautiful view of the Seine River at night as we make our way to the restaurant

Le Petit Châtelet

Le Petit Châtelet

20130324-174724.jpg

Jay’s steak was cooked on the wood burning fireplace you see behind us

20130324-174733.jpg

The menu

The entrees

The entrees

The dessert

The dessert

4 responses to “Paris, cont.

  1. So glad you had profiteroles! Should have thought to mention them to you. Food is definitely the star in France, and Paris in particular. We used to have a five-star restaurant in town that could make them in the authentic French style. Wonderful. I hope yours had a light liqueur sauce drizzled over them too. What a fantastic idea your friend had to give you the gift of her personal recommendation and the means to try it while there. I’m more than a little sad our grandson is not moving to Paris afterall… I was already planning a return visit! So glad to be able to tag along with you.

    • I didn’t realize how much of a fan I am of French food until going to Paris – delicious! I think you still need to plan a trip back there even if the grandson isn’t moving there! I can tell now much you liked it when you were there before!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s