Ah, Paris. There really is nothing quite like Paris in the springtime. Our trip started well, with first class seats on the TGV. Johann has some mad skills when it comes to booking transportation and because he booked so far in advance, he managed to get round trip tickets in first class for only €80, which is about half of what we would have paid for coach if he had taken his time buying the tickets.
Our hotel was an old haunt, the place we stayed the first time we went to Paris together, eleven years ago. They’d renovated since then and it was more comfortable and attractive than last time, and not much more expensive. If you stay at the Hotel Devillas, make sure to ask for a room facing the courtyard, rather than one overlooking the noisy street, and as always, the quietest rooms are the ones far rom the elevator. We like this hotel because there are lots of restaurants nearby and the metro stop (St. Marcel) is just a half block from the front door of the hotel.
We went separate ways in the afternoon, as Johann insisted that the trip to the hall of records to search for old documents relating to his grandfather’s activities in the French Resistance was a one-man job. And since I hate to be the second man on a one-man job, I went shopping. I went to the Marais because I had been told about a shop called “Thanksgiving” that sells American products not found anywhere else in France. Sure enough, It was wall-to-wall with barbeque sauce, Pop Tarts, Campbell’s soup, Oreos, tabasco sauce, Kraft macaroni and chesse, and much, much more. I wished I had brought a larger suitcase.
Then I browsed the thrift stores on rue St. Paul, which were so unbelievably fabulous that I didn’t stop smiling the entire time. Every corner of these shops was packed with crazy bits of nostalgia and there was one store that I wished I could just buy outright and take the whole thing home with me. Johann and I met up for drinks at a Scottish pub in the area and then went to a gorgeous Thai restaurant for dinner.
The next day, we headed for Montmartre, where we visited Sacre Coeur and browsed the art in the square. I even got my portrait drawn, which is a tradition, and many Paris visitors cherish their drawings as a favorite memory of their visit to the city of light. It seems that it’s also a tradition for the artists to flatter the hell out of you with their drawings, since what I ended up with was not a portrait of me, but rather a very pretty woman with vaguely the same hairstyle as me. We had lunch at a tiny little family-run restaurant there and then went to the Dali museum and took a look at Montmartre’s vineyard. Following that, we went to the Museum of Montmartre, which was disappointingly filled with a Jean Marais exhibit, leaving only one room of the permanent collection on display. Oh, well. This just gives us a reason to go back.
Then we headed over to St. Germain and had a little treat at La Durée, the world-famous fancy-sweet shop. I ordered the Ispahron, which is a strawberry macaroon filled with lychee cherries and rose cream surrounded by a ring of raspberries and topped with a rose petal. Need I even say that it was divine? Then we had a drink at a restaurant with a view of the infamous Café de Flore, where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir used to write. Why not a drink at Café de Flore? Apparently, if famous people used to hang out at your café, you can charge whatever you want for a drink. And eighteen euros for two beers was just not going to happen. Please.
Then we took a tour of the Seine on the Bateaubus, which is one of Paris’s lesser known gems, in my opinion. It’s a combination of a tour and a water taxi, with stops at Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre… It’s everywhere you want to be. And for a flat rate, you can hop on and off again as many times as you want in a day and spend the same amount as you would have for metro tickets.
Saturday was slightly less magical, as we got rained on and schlepped all over town only to find that two of the museums we had planned to visit that day were unceremoniously closed due to changing collections. Seems that that’s information that might have been useful on their web sites. Anyway, the Picasso museum was open as planned and we used the bad weather as an excuse to duck into Galleries Lafayette and do a little shopping afterward. And as a gesture of kindness toward the man who had brought me to Paris, I didn’t even buy anything for myself.
The following morning we snuck in a visit to the free museum in the Petit Palais, an impressive collection including sculptures, paintings and objets d’art. We had a quick lunch at the museum’s café, then headed back to our hotel, where we wrote out postcards over coffee at the café next door before hopping a taxi back to the train station. On the way home, we started making our to-do list for next spring’s trip to Paris.