Everything was a blur leading up to when we stepped off the plane. We were exhausted, but excited to go on this adventure together. And, of course, I had planned a full day of activities. It’s not like in the past 48 hours we hadn’t gotten married, moved the remainder of my belongings from San Antonio to DFW, packed in entirety for our trip, and taken a 10 hour plane ride. Psh, we had this; we definitely didn’t spend 6 months planning this trip for nothing. WE WERE FINALLY IN PARIS!
It was 9:30 AM on a chilly Tuesday in May when we landed at Charles de Gaulle. And because I had studied the airport and train schedules extensively, we made it through customs, bought our Navigo Decouverte (transit pass), found our train, were harassed by musicians during the 30-minute ride, and somehow managed to find our hotel in central Paris by 11 AM. We couldn’t check-in to our hotel that early, so we dropped off our luggage at the front desk and went to explore. Mainly, we went to find food.
The weather was a stark contrast to Texas in May: it was cloudy with highs in the low 60s. But because we were in Paris, we didn’t care, it was beautiful nonetheless. Our hotel was in the 6th arrondissement, Saint-Germain-des-Pres. It was only a couple minute walk to the Jardin du Luxembourg (Garden of Luxembourg), so we took a quick stroll while trying to decide where to eat. We were glad that we chose to carry our cell phones over from the states because we only paid a small fee per day and we didn’t have to have the hassle of going to buy a pre-paid phone once we arrived in France. The best part was that we also carried over our data plan, so we didn’t have to worry about conserving precious data while we were lost in the middle of nowhere. But I’ve come to realize that that would not have been such a bad thing at all!
We ended up eating lunch at Le Petit Medicis, a small cafe across from the gardens. There were only about 10 tables, and we were clearly the only people in there that didn’t know a lick of French. Well, I take that back, I did take French in high school. But that was over six years ago. I know basic words and phrases, but not enough to understand the fluent French spewing from the waiter’s mouth as we stared up at him with blank expressions. It was our first of many interactions with the locals, but we learned to use the phrase “Parlez-vous anglais” or “Do you speak English” very quickly. Luckily he did speak a little bit of English, and even though he did not seem very pleased to, he was able to help us navigate the menu. We both ended up ordering different variations of duck, which was pretty good. It was also my first experience with the traditional Burgundian dish, oeufs en meurette, or poached eggs in a mushroom wine sauce, which I did not find very appetizing at the time.
After lunch we went back to our hotel, Hotel le Clos Medicis, to find our room ready. We barely managed to fit our two bags into the tiny elevator with us, but we made it up to the fourth floor and into our room on the street side of the building. Because we knew that the hotel rooms in Paris were not large by any means, we opted for their “deluxe” layout because we were staying there for four nights. We didn’t want to be too cramped, but I honestly don’t know how much smaller the rooms could have gotten… our “deluxe” room only had enough extra space to allow us to walk around the bed. It took us a minute to figure out how to turn on the lights in the room, but then we found a key-card shaped slot by the door that did the trick. It was magic! When you come in, you put your key-card in the slot to turn the lights on, and you take it with you when you leave, and voila! All the lights are off! I loved it; hotels here should adopt that trick! And we never lost our key-card — but that would have been hard to do as it had a giant leather tassel attached to it.
We got settled and then went out again to find an ATM and a grocery store. Necessities! We found the BNP Paribas Bank ATM quite easily and got some Euros. We also found the neighborhood Monoprix and ended up spending more time in there than we should have. This particular store had 3 levels: one for clothing and cosmetics, one for wine (duh!), and one for food. There were even escalators in between — it was huge! We spent most of our time on the wine floor, obviously, ogling all the French yumminess and making mental notes of everything we wanted to try before we left the country. I’m pretty sure it was at this time that we realized 11 days wasn’t going to be enough time… We eventually tore away from the utterly cheap bottles of liquid gold and made it up to the floor with the actual food. We grabbed some nuts, granola bars, and bottled water, and then headed back to the hotel to take a much needed shower and nap before our first night in Paris!
We had a fun night planned — champagne river cruise, going up to the summit of the Eiffel Tower, and then dinner. We left the hotel a couple hours before we needed to meet for our champagne river cruise, just in case we ended up on the wrong train. We walked up the street about 5 minutes to the metro station and took the RER train over to the Eiffel Tower stop. Luckily we didn’t get lost, and the extra time gave us a chance to just take it all in. But it also made me realize how few public toilettes (restrooms) there are in the city, and even fewer that were free. Mental reminder for next time: don’t chug a bottle of water before leaving the hotel room, no matter how thirsty you are.
After awing at the sheer size of the Eiffel Tower and snapping a few photographs, we finally found our way to the dock on the Seine River where we were meeting for our O’Chateau champagne river cruise, and we picked the front seats of the boat looking out over the bow at the Seine River. We were surrounded by mostly couples, because what’s more romantic than sight seeing in Paris while drinking champagne? It was so fantastic to see Paris by boat before we explored on foot by ourselves. And even though our sommelier was American, he was extremely knowledgeable about Paris and champagne. We sampled 2 different bruts and 1 demi-sec during the tasting. He also gave very generous pours since there weren’t many of us on the tour! 😉
Since 3+ glasses of champagne wasn’t enough, we headed up to the summit of the Eiffel Tower after our cruise to get a different perspective on the City of Lights. This one was from far, far above everything else. It was so neat walking around the entire circumference seeing how far away we were from other major cities in the world. And we bought some bubbly at the champagne bar to toast to the beginning of a fabulous honeymoon!
After we had our fill of the beautiful birds-eye views of Paris, we were starved! It was late and we had just landed in Paris that very morning, but we decided to book dinner reservations for 10 PM. We thought about cancelling them due to lack of sleep, but we pressed on anyways. And before you ask why on earth we would book dinner reservations for so late, it is actually very common for Parisians to eat dinner this late. Most restaurants usually offer a first seating at 7:30 PM; this allows for a nice, relaxed dinner before the second wave of seating later in the evening. And it didn’t even feel odd dining so late because the days were so long — the sun rose before 6AM and set just before 10PM.
We arrived at Restaurant Mariette about 20 minutes before our reservation time to find that there were no tables available yet, so the owner asked us to come back at 10. We gladly obliged because this gave us some time to meander around the neighborhood and take a stroll down Rue Cler. We weren’t planning to be back in the area during our stay, and the architecture was simply beautiful.
We headed back to the restaurant to find that there were still no available tables. The accommodating owner offered us a seat at the bar to partake in an apéritif (pre-dinner cocktail) on the house. She placed a Kir Royale in front of each of us. We had no idea what it was, but it quickly became our favorite apéritif. It consisted of 1 part créme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) to 9 parts champagne, and you’d swear it was sent down straight from heaven. It was delectable! We were sipping our drink while waiting for one of the only eight tables to open up when a young couple from New York arrived. They joined us at the bar for their apéritif and we chit chatted while waiting. In France you are never rushed while dining, and you will never be brought a check until you ask for it. It is a very relaxed dining culture and dinners in restaurants usually last a minimum of two hours. We didn’t have to wait too much longer before a table opened up, and by this time all of the smells from the restaurant were starting to make us to drool. We were promptly seated and given menus, but everything sounded so amazing and it was difficult to make a selection. I finally decided on asparagus wrapped in ham for the entrée (starter), loin of lamb stuffed with chorizo Bellota for the plat (main course), and a golden apple crumble with saffron for dessert. Colton decided on homemade foie gras raviolis with sweet potato for the entrée, a black angus rumsteak for the plat, and the golden apple crumble with saffron for dessert. The owner recommended a bottle of red Bordeaux wine based on what we ordered, which ended up being fabulous. In fact, all of the food was fabulous and there was not one thing we didn’t like – even our first taste of foie gras! We put an end to our dinner and evening with a cognac digestif (nightcap) and headed back to our hotel.
This was only our first night in France, but we were liking the dining culture already. The progression from apéritif to entée, plat, dessert and finally digestif was so natural and we have even started to incorporate this relaxed dining style into our dinners at home. We already didn’t want to leave, and it was only day one.
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