Friday, September 14, 2012

Paris je t'aime. (part one)

There are so many ways you can do Paris: do the really touristy stuff (yes, going to the Sex and the City or other movie points of interest are quite touristy as well) and stick to only this to guarantee English speakers (beware of pickpockets); or walk all over the city occasionally hopping on public transport; or take public transport or cabs everywhere; hit only local joints loved by Parisians by neighborhood...

We chose to do a mix: visit major tourist attractions, walk everywhere, and eat  at non-tourist traps with an occasional visit to Philippe Starck restaurant or Anthony Bourdain NO RES spot. If this is what sounds good to you, feel free to read through and do the same (obvi, for first-timers only)...

Day 1: Geneva to Paris via TGV. Arrived in Gare du Lyon at 1 pm. Met my friends at the station who helped us to find our flat that we rented through (CHEAPER than hotel and you can use the entire flat to yourselves with a kitchen in which you can prepare your own breakfasts and save some $$) in Le Marais in the 4th arrondissement. We stayed on Rue vielle du temple (there are SO many cute local shops around our street, such a great place to stay).  Dropped our bags off and walked down the street to find a place to eat.

our apartment hallway, 4 flights of winding stairs, and courtyard
for more pics of interior click here 
As most shops in Paris are closed on Sundays, we were lucky that our street is one of the busiest in town this day as it's one of the few that are open for business. Not too far down the street, "Des Gars dans la cuisine" had brunch specials only on Sundays. These brunches were HUGE, high end in preparation and quality, with bio (which means organic in Europe) ingredients and local veg. Then, we walked to Montmartre. Visited Sacré Coeur. 

This beautiful cathedral which was built as a penance and monument for the Franco-Prussian war (but wasn't finished until after WWI; architect Abadie) is set atop the butte Montmartre and has a breathtaking view of the city. There are many steps to get to the church, but part of the way up, there is a fountain in which you can dunk your feet in. That day, it was particularly warm so our feet felt so good in the cold water. After the dunk, we were recharged and light on our feet. James and I went into the church, deposited a few coins for donation, and took a few pictures. 


and then we weaved through the cobbled streets of Montmartre and its old artists' neighborhood where many famous artists like picasso and van gogh would stay. 

 At the bottom of the hill walked past Pigalle street and to my friend's apartment next to Gare du nord and winded down with some salad and wine. First day and I'm already exhausted....

Day 2. We got up and took the metro to champ de mars-tour eiffel and then as soon as we got out of the station and turned around, through the trees we could see the Eiffel Tower. I couldn't believe my eyes. in fact, they almost watered. It was always a dream since I was 14 to someday sit at the foot of Eiffel tower with a coffee and to enjoy the view. I felt just as I thought I would feel. The romantic feeling overwhelmed me...ah, so this is what people meant when they come to Paris and fall in love. I had to pinch myself. 

 Walked to Arc de Triomphe from there. Once the Arc was in plain view, I was again mesmerized not only at its architecture but because I'd only seen it in text books, the same feeling I got when I visited the Parthenon in Athens and the Colosseum in Rome. We were told that you could go to the top of the Arc and have an aerial view of the city. Paris is so symmetrical and it looked as though everything branched out from the point on which I was standing.

Continued to walk down a block on Rue Hoche to check out Hotel palais royale, a philippe starck design--so posh! Then skipped over to Champs Élysées all the way to Place de la Concorde. Along the way, I had to stop by the flagship store of Louis Vuitton as I used to work for the company. I often hear people say, "Oh everyone has a Louis bag. It's so common I don't want to carry around the most copied bag in the world." The opulence and decadence of the decor and the largest collection of their products on display alone probably is the reason for THE most counterfeited bag in the world. 

Further down the road was Ladurée famous for their macarons. But their store was under construction and they set up a temporary shop buzzing with tourists. I think this is a tourist must :) yummy. (Although, I also tried Pierre Hermé and his macarons were just as good if not better!) 

As you keep walking down the road, you see various shops not all high end (i intend to do that on the next visit...louboutin, chanel, here I come! i just have to make or save up enough for that and showrooms for Mercedes and Toyota, etc. But the most ridiculous thing I saw was a long line in front of a large ornate gate with three preppy not more than 20 year-old boys at the entrance. Then i caught the sign next to the gate--Abercrombie & Fitch--and simultaneously the familiar aroma in the air registered in my brain. This is Abercrombie?! The gate opened up to a path that was lined with 15-ft manicured hedges leading to what I'm guessing is their only store here in France. My husband said, "Do they know what this brand is in the states?" Wow. such a fuss over college kids' clothes.

Anyway, Place de la concorde and the tuileries gardens was just as I'd seen in pictures. At this point, we had been on foot since the morning and it was nearing 6pm. My feet were killing me, but the weather was so nice I told my husband we need to keep going to the Louvre at least to take photos of the outside. Subsequently, it rained in Paris so it was a good idea. 

We hit everything we'd planned to that day...but my sore calf muscles were screaming at me. Did I mention my flat was on the 5th floor? No lift. Something to look forward to at the end of a long day. Haha. So, when my husband mentioned that we were going out to dinner not in our neighborhood, I almost wanted to punch something. But the meal and ambiance at Kong, a 2003 Philippe Starck design visited by Carrie on "Sex and the City," which I later read about when I yelp reviewed it,  was great fun. 

Needless to say, as soon as we got home, I was SOUND asleep as soon as I hit the bed. 

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