Paris. The Bebe

part deux

Everything, everywhere.
That’s how Paris felt to me. It may be easier to process as a tourist. I was almost jealous of the hotel-staying, English speaking, sightseeing crowd. Once the monuments are seen and the museums visited all that was left of the day was to enjoy a croissant or vin chaud. Not for them was the pleasure of buying groceries at night in the Monoprix, operating a French washing machine, tiptoeing up and down ancient stairs so as not to disturb neighbors, or navigating the city while scouring centuries of history stored in my mind behind a jumble of Frenglish.

No, for us it was an exhilarating, challenging and wonderful chance to be Parisian, not just see Paris. No lines, no English, no itineraries

So come with me, as we explore Paris.

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come with me……

Here we are: our apartment on Quai des grands Augustins. Standing at our front door, the Pont Neuf is to our left, Notre Dame to our right, the Seine directly in front of us and history all around us

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our beautiful apartment was in an old building in an ancient part of the city
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well-worn stairs-I refused to take the tiny elevator.
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..and we are on our way! Actually we didn’t take the T much. We walked so we wouldn’t miss anything

The People

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The beautiful Maeve, the waitress at our ‘local’: the Comptoir Dauphine. Her friendly welcome our very first day was a wonderful beginning to our trip and we visited several times

Parisians are quite friendly, thank you very much. When planning our trip I came across quite a few warnings about the rudeness of Parisians, especially the waiters. I didn’t remember this from my last visit so I was dubious and I was right to be so-Parisians are quite friendly and personable. More so than the people of Boston. Which is not to say that Bostonians are rude (ahem) they are just into themselves whereas Parisians are into life.

The Food

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a proper restaurant
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a brasserie lunch, how we had most of our meals
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This was a bittersweet moment for me. Most restaurants have English versions of their menus but we were usually handed the French ones because I would speak French to the staff. It was validating but then we wouldnt know what to order because we couldnt read the menu! This waitress wasn’t fooled by my attempt at French but it was nice to be able to read the menu for once

I wasn’t impressed with the food.

There. I said it.

I heard a few gasps just then.

Everything was delicious, but there wasn’t much that I couldn’t enjoy here in Boston as well. What I enjoyed was the way the French eat: they sit down properly, and take their time. They eat everything we are told to fear: white bread, cream, real butter, cheese, and wine in the middle of the day. And I shall bestow upon you, free of charge, the secret behind the ‘French paradox’….ready? …Sit down, it will be a lot to process…hold on to your hat……

They eat LESS

(you’re welcome)

Food is a serious business, it’s not to be rushed. No silly diets or fads. And unless otherwise advertised, the food is always French. No tex mex apps, oriental salads, or buffalo spices. We ate mostly in the brasserie, though.  Although I grew a bit weary of croque monsieur I love that the menus are, for the most part, unadulterated.

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One of our favorites restaurants: Relais de l’Entrecote in St Germain des Pres, on a little side street around the corner from Deux Magots

 

 

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that teaspoon now resides in my silverware drawer. I took it from Relais de L’Entrecote as a momento. Je ne regrete rien
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This was one of my favorite moments: Early Sat morn at Deux Magots
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Even the cafeteria in the Louvre gives a delicious petite dejeuner

The Sights

We took a peek at the major sights of course

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under the Eiffel Tour. (I thought this would be a clever shot but it came out like an upskirt)
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the family under the Eiffel Tower
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our view of La Joconde
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La Joconde’s view of us
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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triumph
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Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

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A French 75 and a hotdog at Harrys Bar-sank roo doe noo
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Brasserie Lipp “Eating is wonderful too and do you know where you are going to eat right now? Lipp’s is where you are going to eat, and drink too. It was a quick walk to Lipp’s and every place I passed that my stomach noticed as quickly as my eyes or my nose made the walk an added pleasure. There were few people in the brasserie and when I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror in back and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted beer I asked for a distingue, the big glass mug that held a litre, and for potato salad. ” E.H.,A Moveable Feast

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But the big sights needn’t be seen. Oh, to just wander in Paris! The city offers so much in her architecture and style that simply wandering through the streets is enough to get the experience of Paris. Every street was cobblestone, every building historic, every corner revealed an ancient church.

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The statues were sporting clown noses. No idea why, but It was amusing

The Unexpected (The little differences that captured my attention)

Ou et le…..?:

photo(32)I have an excellent sense of direction. And Mr Bebe is an actual expert in land navigation. So it came as quite a surprise to us when we found ourselves hopelessly lost on more than one occasion. At first it was a little concerning, standing stock-still on a Parisian street, map in hand, and absolutely no idea how to get where we were going.  But I highly recommend it. You never find as much as you do when you are lost..

Let’s Not Get Physical

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No one on the stairs! he French will actually line up to take the escalator. I am beginning to rethink all this exercise nonsense….

Since diet and exercise occupy much of my day, I found that spending time in a community that puts no thought into them at all was intriguing to say the least. So much extra time in the day! And they obviously know what they are doing: not everyone is thin, but no one is fat

l’eau

IMG_20141128_150206Forget about water. The French just don’t drink it like we do. If you ask for water they will bring you a little bottle to share. So if you are, like me, the type that is very conscious of ‘eight glasses a day’ then you will find yourself parched. Drink more vin rouge to take care of the dehydration headaches. That’s what I did.

Gypsies

The pickpockets must make a decent living because they are out in droves and they do not even try to be subtle. Anywhere more than ten people may gather there will be a group of 20-something girls with crumpled papers approaching people for signatures. They were everywhere. Armies of them across the city, men and women,and we were warned by our Parisian friends that they can get very aggressive. The police won’t arrest them so they are free to grab jewelry and phones and run off. Its an interesting situation. For the most part we could simply rebuff them and they would move on but one man actually grabbed the hand of my 14yo daughter and got very close as his partner moved in. Fortunately I was right there and can give a quick slap like my Irish grandmother. Over here, these sorts of shenanigans would get you a pop on the nose. Lucky for him my husband wasn’t the one standing next to her.

Gendarmarie

pictures-12People in this country would lose their minds if soldiers patrolled the streets. It would be viewed as a violation of civil rights, intimidation, and/or incitement. Personally, I like a man person in uniform. But then again I don’t do anything wrong. Not in public, anyway.

You’re on your own

Of course I never noticed it much before, but we are rather catered to in this country. Signs are translated, grapes are seeded, showers have doors, stores honor their posted hours. But in France I noticed a more laissez faire attitude toward providing conveniences.

Nowhere was this more evident than when we were abandoned at Petite Trianon. Shuttles bring visitors back and from from Versailles as they are quite a distance apart.  After a late day visit to the Queen’s humble abode, I stood in line for the return shuttle awaiting my children. I told Monsieur ticket taker that we would be four for the trip and he said nothing. It would have been a bit helpful if he mentioned that this was the last shuttle.He didn’t even glance back at me as he drove away

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Mr Bebe searches in vain for the offspring.

Children are nowhere to be found, the shuttle has gone and suddenly there is not a soul to be seen. And this is in the woods, there are no main streets where a cab might be hailed. So we walked, in the misty rain, no maps, darkness approaching, and only our wits to lead us in the right direction

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long walk home in the French countryside

It’s amusing, but I felt rather unimportant. Didn’t the staff wonder why we were still there, damp and confused? Not a single patrol car or security guard approached us to ask if we were lost. Apparently it mattered to no one but us that we were stuck in the middle of Versailles all alone. C’est le vie.

I enjoy a challenge anyway.

And I hope my readers do as well-coming up: what I wanted to see in Paris. But first: an important day trip.

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12hrs of travel each way. Phew-almost as long as this post..

 

For Hostess:

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Paris. The Grand

part une

She smiled pleasantly. “That’s 40 euros, please” Quickly and efficiently change was made and tickets were delivered. Another smile. “Thank you, Merci.”
And with that brief exchange we began the last leg of our 12-hour journey. My non-existent French had made something of itself and I was surprised at the ease of it all. But we were struggling under the slumping fatigue of a sleepless night and heavy luggage. Paris had not waited for us, she was well into her day, and, in an additional act of betrayal, she wouldn’t easily give up our apartment.  We searched, our minds on a job, our heads not yet in Paris.

Then, suddenly, we were standing on the Pont Neuf, the Eiffel Tower to our right, Notre Dame allowing herself to be observed to our left, and the Seine flowing under our feet.

Paris comes at you all at once.

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outside our apartment, Quai des Grands Augustins

 

 Heavy, ornately carved ancient stone soars into the sky.

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Notre Dame

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Notre Dame, during mass

 

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tower of St Jacques cathedral

 

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Arc de Triumph

 

 

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Sacre-Coeur

Paris delivers on all of its promises

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petite dejeuner in Montmartre

 

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the bedroom of Marie Antoinette at Versailles and the door through which she ran when the mob gathered outside

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Versailles

 

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evening in the 5th a beautiful brasserie/cabaret on the ancient rue Gallande off Rue St Jacques

 

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petite dejeuner at Deux Magot

 

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view of the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triumph. We walked all the way from the home, then climbed all the way to the top

 

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Laduree
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late night dessert on ‘the Buci’- Rue de Buci in St Germain

Soon after purchasing those train tickets into the city we were immersed in Parisian life. We walked everywhere, we looked at everything, we spoke to everyone. Every minute of our day was filled, quite often with nothing at all. We left behind almost all of our other life, after all, it was only for ten days and France has so much to offer that you don’t want old habits to get in the way of new experiences. In some ways, we had no choice: we spoke little French and had to practice as we went, our computers and iphones failed to work for a myriad of reasons, and even the phone in our apartment didn’t work. But I think it was mostly Paris itself, she brings your senses to the very edge of overwhelmed and while you are there, you are so consciously in Paris, you cannot be anywhere else. Paris takes up all of your attention.