Paris Revisited (11/14/03)

Last updated 12/19/03                                                                                                                                

The last time we visited Paris together was during our honeymoon in July 2001. I remember it being much hotter, quite a bit larger and full of wonderous monuments that I'd heard about all my life - the awe-inspiring metal structure of the Eiffel Tower, the gothic beauty of Notre Dame, the wry smile of Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and even the over-priced, tourist-trap cafés on the Champs-Élysées. Last time we visited Paris, I felt very much the tourist visiting the famous landmarks, trying to capture the grandeur of this city with a little camera. This trip promised no such pressures, so we told ourselves that during this visit we wouldn't make all sorts of BIG PLANS, and instead would try to really SEE Paris. In the end, this visit to the city provided a very different view of Paris from our last trip -- it's the wonder of Paris that you could visit it a thousand times and still get the feeling that you've seen just a small part of it, that there's so much more to see and do in the City of Lights. I think that Paris has to be the most enjoyable "large city" in the world. Words cannot truly do it justice, but to make sure that we have a blog, I'm going to try anyhow...

Imagine a scene in which you arrive at your dinner restaurant at the appointed hour (you have made reservations of course) of 8:30PM. Upon arrival you notice that the place is absolutely jam-packed with people laughing, eating little pieces of cheese-dipped bread or cooked tender meats, jostling with their neighbors for enough room to get their next piece of food placed in a little metal pot (which sits atop a little stove) all the while getting the ocassional sip of wine from a baby-bottle (yes, it's got the traditional large-sized nipple like all baby bottles!). You wait for your table (actually a spot on some table, since there are only large tables which are shared by people), and are told by your waiter that they are currently all booked and you'll have to come back in another 45 minutes. As you're about to leave, the owner of the place says "Attendez Attendez (wait wait)", and all of a sudden, you see room made for you on one of the tables. Your wife is asked to jump over the table. "How" she asks, and soon she is shown: you just place a foot on one chair, and then just jump over (while trying not to step in someone's food). And before you know it, you're seated next to an Italian couple you've never met before (but will soon talk to as if you're all old friends), and you've got a tasty cocktail sitting before you, with your delicious fondue dinner just a few moments away. This crazy scene describes our experience at Chez les Fondues - a wonderful fondue place in the Montmatre district, where the service and atmosphere is just a bit crazy (according to regulars, our experience was quite common) and the food is a delight. If you're ever in Paris, give it a try -- oh and be sure to book in advance because they're packed every night till late!

During our visit we still ended up viewing many of the famous landmarks, but this time we walked throughout the city to get to them, instead of just taking the Metro, as we did during our last visit. A little aside: Paris has the absolute best Metro system anywhere in the world -- and during this trip I've gotten to see plenty of subway systems, and Paris rocks them all. But I think that walking the rues, and little alleys of Paris give you a much better feel for the city. You can have a marvelous time soaking up Parisien culture just strolling down the embankment along the Seine, looking at people passing by, stalls selling crepes and waffles, artists selling paintings and the merchants with books for sale.

What trip to Paris could be complete without a visit to the Effiel Tower? Daria, the diligent, hardworking planner and navigator for our trip, ensured that we got to see the famous monument not only during the day, but also at night, when the tower really sparkles (literally, look at the pictures below). It was a special feeling to see the glorious Tower in all its splendor at night, when countless thousands of lights twinkled at the beginning of each hour, in a ten-minute spectacle that is truly remarkable. I will be forever grateful to Daria for planning our excursions to include this treasure. Now here's a bit of info for those of you who aren't aware of the history of the tower (I knew none of this before and found it kinda interesting). Eiffel Tower, monument of kitsch and saviour of souvenir shops throughout France, was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World's fair) and was initially reviled by many in Paris. It's practical importance as a TV tower actually saved its destruction in 1909! Nowadays I'm sure that no one would dare mention removing what has come to be the very symbol of Paris.

I could rave on and on about our Paris experiences, from strolling through the Latin Quarter (so named because until the French Revolution, all communication between students and professors took place in Latin) for a cafe and for English-language books to read (quite pricey in Paris -- imagine buying an old paperback that sold for 3 bucks brand new for about 10 bucks after the Euro conversion!), or having a tasty baguette at a sandwich shop on the
Champs-Élysées (a 2km-long avenue linking place de la Concorde with the Arc de Triomphe), or even stopping by Le Petit Grec, a popular spot for students from Sarbonne, for a dessert crepe: Paris offers so much that I can only give you a small taste, to get the full flavor, you've gotta try it for yourself.


                                      Some views of famous Parisian buildings, from place d'Opera to Sacre Coeur.

The most famous Paris landmark is amazing during the day and absolutely breathtaking at night

                                     The most famous street in Paris, perhaps in the world... Avenue de Champs-Elysees runs from Arc de Triumph (pictures below) to the Tuileries gardens which end in the Louvre.


More views from our extended walk around Paris city centre, across the Seine and back, until we crashed dead tired at the B&B on Place de Clichy.

                        Chez Les Fondus -- the best fondue restaurant ever!!!

                Local curiosity: rollerskating race on the streets of Paris, Friday nights, everyone welcome.