Feb 17 2008

Getting to Know Paris

Published by at 12:31 pm under France,Paris

Monday was the first full day in Paris for Brittany’s family, and we got things started off on the right foot by sleeping until noon. You could blame this on jet/train lag for all of us, but the truth is that noon was simply the first moment that the girls remembered France has chocolate croissants. If one of the girls had dreamed of chocolate croissants at 5am, she would have instantly sprang from bed to rouse the others, and force us on a pre-dawn death march to find an open bakery. This I can assure you.

Pain au chocolate for the ladiesLuckily for them this week, there’s a bakery on every corner in France, and every bakery sells chocolate croissants. The treat is so ubiquitous that the French simply call it chocolate bread (pain au chocolate). I’m sorry to disclose that I have officially overdosed on chocolate after five months in Europe, but happy to report that that French bakeries have plenty of sweet alternatives, including my favorites, apple-filled anything. Apple pastries in France are actually filled with cold applesauce, which comes as a mouth-flooding surprise the first time you take an American-sized bite.

We dedicated the afternoon to exploring the city on foot, and locating a flea market that we’d read boasts 2500 stalls! Paris turns out to be a larger city than we bargained for, and although the flea market looked tantalizingly close to our apartment on our city map, the journey spanned several hours. Which is maybe not such a bad thing, because when we finally reached the famed flea market, we were frustrated to find that Parisian shop owners are far less willing to haggle than any European merchants we’ve encountered so far. Also, while Jamie and I were admiring some outrageously fabulous running shoes at one stall, a nearby shop owner called out something to us in French. We apologized as Jamie told him, “Je ne comprends pas” (“I don’t understand”), which earned us the admonition, “You come to France, you speak French!” Uh, sorry to break it to you big guy, but was anyone even talking to you? How about… no! Which I agree is surprising, considering you seem to deal exclusively in worthless ugly trinkets, you verbally accost passers-by who wanted nothing to do with you in the first place, and you smell like the men’s locker room floor. What’s that? Now YOU don’t understand? Wish I could help, but you come to my blog, you speak English. Au revoir!

Brenda makes friends with a Paris bar ownerAs I was saying, the long walk to the flea market was maybe not such a bad thing after all. Exploring on foot gave us a chance to see some worthwhile (albeit expensive) shops, and we inaugurated a daily tradition for the week by dropping into a cafe for an afternoon cafe au lait. Despite the fact that the cafe owner spoke not a word of English, and Brenda (Brittany’s mother) spoke not a word of French, they bonded instantly through the universal language of hand gestures. On second thought, the cafe owner did speak two words of English: “assassinate Bush.” This accompanied by the internationally recognized gesture of pulling his index finger across his throat. But before I go and paint the guy as a psycho vigilante, let me add that he was laughing as he said it, and it was clearly all in good fun. And now that the keywords “assassinate Bush” have appeared in my blog, skyrocketing me to the top of the Department of Homeland Security’s suspected terrorist database, let me also add that I would never wish harm upon Beloved Leader. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party, and my favorite bedtime story is the Patriot Act. Four more years!

Sunset from the Sacre CoeurLater on in the evening, we hiked uphill from our apartment to the nearby Basilique du Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart Cathedral. We happened to arrive just in time for a little choir practice, so we sat in a rear pew to listen. The massive cathedral’s acoustics made the singing seem like it was coming from above and around me, which was an amazingly haunting effect. We sat there for a while enjoying the music, and then silently slipped back out the door. It had gotten dark while we sat inside the Sacre Coeur, and back outside we found a view that allowed us to see both the lit-up Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. After feeling like I was SO high up while atop the Arc the previous night, I now couldn’t believe how small it looked compared to the Eiffel Tower. We had plans to scale the Eiffel Tower in a couple of days, and although I dislike heights, I had never really considered just how high the monument actually is. I will always remember this moment, standing outside the Sacre Coeur at night, as the first time I thought the Eiffel Tower might be something to fear.

NEXT: Paris: Celebrating a birthday »



One response so far

One Response to “Getting to Know Paris”

  1. Mrs. Brownon 18 Feb 2008 at 9:44 am

    Aww…mon petit chou-chou. Tu parles le francais comme une vache espagnole.

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