Sunday, December 4, 2011

my first day in Paris... and what a day it was!

When my flight landed I kept reminding myself it was 11:15 am, despite the few hours of sleep I got on the plane. Luggage took a while to come out – I forgot about that little nugget when flying internationally. And then the train was out of service because there was an accident. I was directed to the “350” metrobus and an hour and a half later I was actually in metropolitan Paris. A short taxi ride from the bus stop to my hotel taught me that the Roissybus will be my method of transportation for my return flight.

I checked into my hotel and freshened up… after all, I did sleep in a cabin with approximately 200 other people breathing the same air for 8 hours, eww! Unfortunately, since it’s Sunday, a lot of restaurants and sites are closed. So I stopped into the closest bistro for a chicken sandwich. Since I’ve heard rave reviews about the French mustard I added a bit. Let me tell you, it cleared my sinuses like wasabi!

A quick hop across the street and I was in the Tuileries Gardens. The afternoon was dark and grey so I decided not to take my big camera with me. (In fact, I wasn’t even inspired to take a picture until the sun went down! That’s when Paris really lights up!!) As I was leaving the Tuileries Gardens I happened to turn around and say something reminiscent of the “London Eye” (unexpected and ugly) and behind that the Arc de Triomphe (unexpected and beautiful). My line of sight quickly focused on the Arc and I was momentarily mesmerized.

My afternoon walk around the Left Bank left me quite happy with Paris. I arrived at the Luxembourg Gardens, my planned destination, to find out they were closing. That was a shame but it’s hardly “garden weather” so I adjusted rather quickly. Down the street is the Pantheon and I continued around and up to Notre Dame. The façade and exterior of Notre Dame is quite breathtaking – especially at sunset when all of the buttresses are lit up. The inside is remarkable as well. There was a service going on, which added to the effect, but this cathedral was breathtaking. The small chapels on each side were quite a site. It brought me back to my days in Italy…
Which reminds me… all day I have been thinking of vocabulary and phrases in Italian. That long lost language I haven’t spoken in three and a half years! I have said “Si” and “Grazie” more times that I wish to admit today. No matter how hard I try, those key French phrases are not sticking in my head.  Although, apparently a number of Europeans think that I do speak French. I was approached by two different people today asking me questions, about 10-15 seconds long, in French. One woman didn’t speak English but the second did so I was able to direct her. However, I was shocked she didn’t try English first. The woman in the Tabac shop thought I was going to send my postcard within the EU when I politely corrected her and said, “U.S., please” (Ellen, you’re welcome in advance!) After these experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am geographically generic. When I’m in the U.S. people can’t place me or my accent. When I’m in Europe people think I am European. Not that I’m complaining because I have encountered numerous friendly, nice Frenchmen/people today and have yet to (despite the woman on the bus that was made my suitcase was taking up a seat) interact with the rude, anti-American French that everybody makes such a fuss about.
But I digress… I continued westward on the island towards Saint Chapelle (a site to visit later this week) and crossed Pont Neuf -  but not before photographing the heads and ornate details on the side. By the time I got to the Louvre courtyard (where the famed pyramid resides) I was losing steam.

Most restaurants are closed on Sunday so finding a place to dine tonight proved to be rather difficult despite how prepared I am for this trip. Finally I hoped on the metro and made my way to dinner. They were booked solid for the night at their tables, though I got a one of the two seats at the bar facing the kitchen which happens to be right inside the front door! I was mesmerized by what I saw… it was more action than a hockey game :)

The wait staff offered me a wine that I had not tried before; Cote de Rhone. My initial reaction was “undetermined” – it had less body than a Cabernet though it wasn’t lacking flavor. It had a lot of tannins and the best way I can describe it was that it was almost sour, but not in a bad way.

My appetizer involved snails in French mushrooms with a butter herb sauce and cooked in a bubbling garlic butter sauce. And yes, I sopped up the extra sauce with my freshly baked baguette after I ate all my mushrooms/snails. Note: that was my first snail experience but I promised myself that I would try to be open to new foods while on this trip!

The kitchen put out dish after dish of a [what looked like] a lamb shank. It must be the most popular dish at the restaurant, and after I saw the umpteenth plate being prepared I became remiss that I did not order that. OH, but then my dinner arrived – a succulent, soft, flavorful filet of white fish; served on top of vegetables with a mesculin green salad. I ate every last morsel. Fish has never tasted so good; this entrée was fan-freaking-tastic.

I trusted my waiter enough at that point to leave the dessert choice to him. Then he lays down a fork, a spoon, and a knife. For dessert?! Whaaat? He said, “it’s a pie served warm, with English cream and caramel sauce!” Okay, I was sold and when it came I sure was glad that I let him choose it. The pie was a Bosc pear and it was fantastically delicious!

It’s been a long day and I’m ready to get some shut eye in a bed. So, au revoir my blog readers!! Stay tuned for another day in Paris…

PS - folks, I have a really slow internet connection for now so I will upload pictures later this week! Thanks for your patience.

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