Bonjour de Paris! I’m writing from the City of Light, which actually gets dark pretty early thanks to its northern position. We arrived Saturday morning and took the RER into the city. We’re staying in the Nord Marais district on the right bank, near the République station. Our AirBnb is very small, but our host is so considerate–he left us two bottles of wine to enjoy during our stay. (Ha…)
After arriving, we walked around waiting for our AirBnb and found some lunch. After a long trans-Atlantic flight, I was not, shall we say, on my A-game with the French language, and I ended up ordering some mystery soup…as in, I have no idea what was in it. I’m guessing leeks and artichokes. Anyway, it was delicious, especially when paired with crusty hunks of baguette. Oh man, Paris and your baguettes…just the best.
We also got a prepaid nano-SIM card for my iPhone so we can have data for Google maps and whatnot. In case anyone is curious, we ended up getting a Lebara mobile nano-SIM card for 1€ at the Tabac around the corner. Once activated (you can do it online), you get a a mobile number and if you do a 20€ top-up, you get 1 GB of data. It’s really great to have my phone in France! I can make calls for restaurant reservations, and if we get lost, I can pull out my phone instead of a huge, conspicuous map. Plus, it’s nice to be able to post photos as I snap them. The convenience is well worth the price, in my opinion!
In the evening, we wandered around to some famous sites, namely l’Hôtel de Ville:
…and this “classy lady” with her flying buttresses.
I feel like writing about the beauty of Paris is sa-hooo overdone, and I don’t want to be one of those French majors who just is like “OMG j’aDORE la France! C’est très, trèeeeees belle!” But, really, Paris is painfully beautiful. Everywhere you’re turn, you’re just like, “Oh hey, amazing building.” If just one of these buildings with curling ironwork and elaborate carvings in the doorway were in San Francisco, it would be a real landmark. Here’s just, like, where normal Parisians live.
That being said, it’s not all shimmering lights and architectural grandesse here. There are normal things: dog poop, dirty public trasit, homeless people, buying groceries (Parisians! They’re just like us!). We went to Monoprix to get some breakfast staples and managed to break not one, but two of the self-checkout registers.
We apologetically asked for help, and the employee exasperatedly kept punching the touchscreen (as if we hadn’t tried that), and saying, “C’EST BLOQUEE!” Apparently, Chase Sapphire cards, despite having Euro-style chips, do not work at self-checkout registers. Whoops. Sorry, Monoprix. I’m trying my best with French and trying to take exasperated Parisians in stride. As Bastien, my French conversation partner says, “ils sont tous stressés” (‘They’re all stressed.’).
Today (Sunday), we woke up later than intended (Oh, jet lag!) and immediately left for a day of walking around the city. We lunched in the Jardin de Luxembourg with baguette sandwiches we picked up along the way while watching little Parisians floating their sailboats in the fountain.
For anyone who watched French in Action, I insisted on this photo sur un banc dans le jardin de Luxembourg. It has changed really very little since the ’80’s, haha.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is really neat to walk around. We found the “Insect House,” which was a little underwhelming.
What was interesting was watching all the Sunday afternoon pétanque games going on in the park. Some of the players were pretty serious.
I’ve never been to Paris in the fall, so it was neat to see all of the department stores decorated for the holidays. Le Bon Marché had window dressings with reindeer working out and sorting mail.
There were boxes where you could drop in letters to Santa on the street, but as you would guess, some contained things other than requests to Father Christmas. This one, for example, held the wrapper of a panty liner. Gross.
The rest of our walk took us down some famous sites: by the Place de la Concorde and down the Champs Elysées, where there was a horrible holiday market:
The rest of Les Champs wasn’t much better: crowded, full of chain stores, and packed to the gills with tourists. We hiked up it as quickly as possible to get a view of l’Arc de Triomphe as the sun was setting.
Not to be outdone by its Left Bank competitor, Printemps was also decked out for the holidays:
And here are some pretzel (“bretzel”) men and their fallen compatriots in a window….
I’m pleased that my French hasn’t completely deteriorated and that I’m able to complete business transactions in French. However, we ran into an awkward situation this afternoon. We stopped for a chocolat chaud and a crêpe on the way back to the AirBnb. I had always heard (from French people!) to order eau de robinet for tap water (as opposed to fancy bottled water). The waiter at the Café Cordial, however, was having none of that. He rolled his eyes so hard when Hus-friend asked politely for eau de robinet, and then upon his return with said water, he brusquely said in French, “Hey, we say un verre d’eau, okay?!?” We apologized and thanked him profusely, but the damage was done. When he took our check, he yelled, “THANKS!” sarcastically. We left quickly. Who even knows. I guess un verre/une carafe d’eau is safer. Ugh, even after so many years of French, I still make embarrassing tourist mistakes!
We walked a lot today (34,500 steps!), and I ended the day with a bloody sock from sharp toenails. Whoops. Now, we’re drinking rosé (timidly, on my part) and watching French TV before climbing to the small sleeping loft and hitting the sack. More Paris adventures to come!