Wow – where to begin? Paris is an amazing city – beautiful, lively, spectacular. It was hard to climb on that plane to come back to the U.S. So much walking was done over the six days. By the time we returned to our hotel every night (usually around midnight), we were absolutely exhausted. A good sort of exhausted, though. Anyway, here goes!
Our 10pm flight from New York to Dublin took about six hours. J and I slept for most of the time, since we wanted to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our first day in Paris. The guy sitting behind me was very tall, though, so I wasn’t able to recline my seat. Coach class seats definitely were not designed with tall people in mind. Our exit row seating meant that we had plenty of leg room, at least. The Aer Lingus flight attendants were extremely nice, and spoke with lovely Irish accents. The Dublin airport is basically an amalgamation of mall + airport; unfortunately, with less than one hour to transfer, we did not have much time to explore. The flight from Dublin to Paris was short. I slept through this flight as well, waking up when the pilot announced that we had crossed the channel and were over “the continent.”
Our first hour in Paris was, at the time, frustrating; in retrospect, funny. The RER ticket machines only accept coins, but I only had bills (pulled from an HSBC ATM in the airport). I went into a cafe and asked the cashier if she would give me change for my 20, but was rejected. Same response from a lady in one of those stores selling candy, gum, and magazines. Then, I came up with the bright idea of buying a candy bar (Mars bar, about €1) and handing her the 20, thinking that she may be kind enough to give me the change in coins. Fail – she gave me about €10 worth of coins, and the remainder in bills. Not enough for the €16 or so needed to buy two tickets.
We decided to head to the RER station and see if we might have better luck out there. I bought another candy bar (Milky Way) from a different stand to try to build up my change collection. Fail again – the cashier gave me about only three €1 coins…leaving me short three euro still. Armed with only €13 in coins, two candy bars (which the ticket machines apparently don’t accept either), J and I decided to capitulate and get in the long line at the ticket counter.
Twenty minutes later, we had our tickets and were ready to hop onto the RER. The remainder of our trip into Paris went smoothly. We transferred from the RER to the metro at the Chatelet-Les Halles station, and took the 1 line two stops to the Louvre-Palais Royal station.
Upon returning to the world above ground, we came face to face with the Louvre on one side, the Comedie-Francaise on another. I absolutely could not wait to get our luggage to the hotel (about 2 blocks away) and come back out to explore. And so we did.
Around 5pm, we began our exploration of Paris, walking through the Palais Royal, the (outside) grounds of the Louvre, the Tuileries, eventually reaching the Place de la Concorde.
From there, we walked along the Champs Elysees, taking in the sights and sounds of Paris with glee. The city is simply gorgeous, perhaps largely attributable to the urban planning. Lots of green space and the architecture is amazing – everything seems to be in harmony, too, in contrast to New York, where a mega high-rise may be neighbor to a lowly two story brick building.
J caught sight of Laduree, so we crossed the Champs Elysees and entered the store (but not before snapping a few pictures of the storefront).
We waited in the long line, which gave me plenty of time to gawk at the beautiful pastries, cakes, and, most importantly, macarons.
At €1.5 each, Laduree’s macarons were a steal compared to those in New York (and I predicted they would be much tastier too). For our first pass through, we chose six macarons (oh how difficult the task of choosing is), as well as a croissant and a brioche au sucre (sugar brioche). Having not eaten since the plane food served early on the first leg of the flight, J needed some real food before digging into the sweets, so we recrossed the street and bought a speck (smoked prosciutto), cheese, and cornichon sandwich from Paul. Great sandwich, which in conjunction with our hunger, turned into an awesome sandwich. The bread was buttered, too. [I’m pretty sure my butter consumption over the six days in Paris trumped my normal annual butter consumption.]
And then…we broke into the Laduree.
Easily the best macarons that I have ever had in my life. I loved the denser texture, the flavors – everything. Especially the caramel with salted butter. Indescribable. Not too sweet, great smoky flavor; the sweetness of the caramel was countered by the saltiness of the er, salt. And the caramel itself! Man, the richness and depth of the flavor. In a word – wow. I smiled as soon as I bit into this, unable to contain myself.
Having read that the licorice macaron is incredible, we had to try for ourselves. Admittedly, we were a bit skeptical at first. J does not particularly like licorice, either. But the jet black macaron lived up to, perhaps exceeded, our expectations.
The croissant (buttery with a hint of sweetness) and sugar brioche (sweet and eggy, slightly spongy texture), consumed during our stroll along the Champs Elysees and side streets, were delicious, as well.
We made it to the Arc de Triomphe, then turned back. We turned at avenue Montaigne (Paris’ “fashion boulevard”), and walked towards the Seine.
The stores were closed, but the street was still beautiful. We came upon the Seine, with a great view of la Tour Eiffel on the opposite side of the river. Pictures were taken.
We crossed Pont de l’Alma and stepped foot on la Rive Gauche (Left Bank). Wandering up and down random streets, we found ourselves at Champs de Mars, the large park facing the Eiffel Tower.
A concert in commemoration of something Russian was occurring, and we listened for awhile then walked to the furthest end of the Champ de Mars towards l’Ecole Militaire (the Military Academy). Since it was reaching 10pm, we decided to wait to see the Eiffel light up, which it does for a whole…five…minutes at the top of every hour at night. Still, the five minutes were gorgeous – I loved the twinkling lights (in the shape of stars!). Breathtaking.
As the sun was setting, the temperature was growing chilly – it was time to find food to warm us back up. We walked down rue Cler, bustling with people sitting at outdoor tables, and then down rue Saint-Dominique to Cafe Constant. Time? About half past ten, yet the cozy restaurant was filled with diners.
Upon seeing the menu, J knew exactly what he wanted: a dish of veal head, brain, and tongue (which sounds much prettier in French), which he found fairly tasty.
I asked the waiter for a recommendation, and he suggested the deboned pigeon (not a pigeon off the streets of Paris, he assured me). A very traditional dish, he said. Excellent recommendation, turns out. The pigeon, cooked to a medium rare, was flavorful and tender. The bird lay on a bed of the most delicious peas that I have ever eaten. (I usually avoid peas.) Large, juicy, and fresh. Mmm.
With the meal, we enjoyed a glass of Sancerre.
Meal total? €53.50. A savory, hearty dish after our first explorations in Paris? Well, you know the saying…”priceless.”