Upon your arrival to Paris, your friend picks you up. Yuri is an old friend from college and your sorority, so you know you’re bound to have a good time. You two head directly to Chez Gladine (Metro: Place d’Italie), a cute little restaurant in the 5th arrondissement. It’s got a familiar feeling to it, almost as if you’re chez your friends; the host doubles as the barman and triples as a server, and if you happen to not hear him call your name, he’ll scream “Mais je t’ai appellé!” when he spots you next. (for those of you who don’t know why that’s significant, it’s because he used the informal “tu” to address you instead of the more appropriate “vous” in a business setting). But no matter, you’ll feel like you’re at home. After waiting 2 hours to get a table in the bustling, hustling place, you finally get to sit down. You order what most people have in front of them, the “escalope de veau” – a huge slice of veal covered with ham, cheese, and gravy – a veritable heart attack on a plate. You save room for a little dessert, a riz au lait, or “riz ole!” as you see on the menu.
LATE FRIDAY NIGHT
Head over to the most famous monument of them all, the Tour Eiffel that towers over the city. It lights up the night sky as a beam of yellow. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch it right at the hour, where it sparkles at you and the rest of the city for a full 10 minutes.
For breakfast, head to the Maison Stohrer in the 1ere arrondissement, the famous bakery where the “rhum baba” was invented (Metro: Etienne Marcel). Legend (or perhaps history?) has it that some Kingo f Poland came back with a dry cake and Stohrer magically fixed it by dunking it in some Malaga wine, adding custard etc, and voila, you have today’s rhum baba! Today, you enjoy your rhum baba a la Chantilly while your friend savors the original rhum baba. Unfortunately you both underestimated the strength of the rum in the cake. But no matter, you were in Paris!
As you try to find a place to enjoy your breakfast, you stumble across a very interesting square in front of the St. Eustache Church. What was hilarious about this open space was that there was a sculpture called L’Ecoute right in front of the church. A little ways across the area, you could see a watering can sculpture. You decide you love Paris.
Meander down to the Musee de Louvre, home of the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa. Say hello to her, but don’t forget to make time to see the thousands of other paintings in this palace turned museum (see the first two rows of photos below). This was the HQ of the French government before a certain Louis XIV got sick of the city life and decided to uproot the seat of power to a location now known as Versailles. Thus, Napolean III’s apartments are displayed as part of the Louvre’s many exhibits (see the bottow row of photos). I think my purple dress fits in rather nicely, don’t you?
After a few hours of the Louvre, you’re probably a little overwhelmed, so you decide to head out for lunch. But before you do that, stop by the Maison du Chocolat, part of the Louvre’s shopping area. Yuri tells you that you absolutely must try one of the chocolate eclairs. They’ll run a bit on the pricey side of things (5€ a pop), but one bite of your cafe eclair and you’ll be in a chocolate induced state of nirvana.
You and Yuri end up going to “Au Pere Tranquille” which is close to Les Halles de Paris (big shopping area) and also the Maison Stohrer where you were earlier. You order a Croque Madame – the version of your quintessential Croque Monsieur- a ham and cheese, but this time with an egg – and a salade vert, while Yuri opts for the regular Croque Monsieur. Admire the decor and the bookcase next to your table, and pat yourselves on the back for finding a restaurant in Par-ee that isn’t completely overrun by tourists – you will distinctly hear French being spoken here!
Turn your day into an art filled day by going to the Musee d’Orsay, an old train station turned into one of Paris’ most famous museums! You’ll see an exhibit on Van Gogh among others. Unfortunately they don’t allow photos, but we “discreetly” snapped these images to show you what the old train station looked like!
Go up the Montmartre hill. Linger around the Metro station, see a carousel in full lights, and walk over to this mural that I previously blogged about- the I Love You mural. Here’s an excerpt from this site: “Having collected the phrase « I love you » in over three hundred languages, the artist Frédéric Baron, wanted to display these messages of love on a wall. The “I love you” wall stands at the centre of the Jehan Rictus garden, near to place des Abbesses at Montmartre, and covers a surface area of 40 m² with a total of 511 squares in enamelled lava… The phrase, “I love you”, the sweetest and most romantic of expressions, features 311 times.” It’s magnificent and makes you smile even more widely when you realize that you’re here with a sorority sister. See this for the full mural.
Then you and Yuri ride up the funiculaire to the Sacre Coeur, where if you’re lucky, it’ll snow for you too 🙂 Definitely check out the inside of the church, it’s quite a beautiful sight. You might see street performers on the steps- but beware all who try to sell you bracelets and mini Eiffel Towers! If you wander around the artist’s hill a bit you’ll see leftover Christmas lights.
It’s now dinnertime after a busy Saturday, so you and Yuri head out to the St. Michel area on the left bank of Paris, near the Notre Dame. You know that this is kind of a touristy area, but hey, if you want a cheap, decent bite, this is the place to be. You were personally sold on a restaurant that has cute red-and-white checkered tablecloths, as well as a 10€ 3-course meal. You and Yuri tuck yourselves into a window seat on the upper level of the restaurant. You both order a soupe a l’oignon for an appetizer, but then Yuri goes for a chicken main dish, while you go for a typical steak-frites. For dessert, ice cream for you and apple tart for Yuri. Definitely worth the 10€.
Paris is a another city that never sleeps, and as such you and Yuri meet up with two other MIT alums for a jazz evening at a place called Le Caveau des Oubliettes. This building’s claim to fame? It used to be an underground medieval dungeon – how awesome is that. It’s a place without a cover, as long as you drink something! Definitely a must if you’re into jazz and live music.
And finally, around 2 am, you hit the sack. Not bad for half of your trip to Paris.