Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pinch Me......I'm In Paris!

As the subway door closed I looked down at my arm stuck between the doors, still clinging onto my red suitcase on the other side.  Instantly, five or six people pushed on the doors forcing them to reopen, just as a tiny French women grabbed my luggage and pulled it to the inside of the train.  It happened so fast like a blur in time that doesn't seem real, yet it remains my very first memory of Paris and the warmth that the Parisians showed us.  During the months leading up to this trip we heard many comments like, "Paris is beautiful but the French people are unfriendly."  "No one will try to help you since they don't like foreigners." Yet nothing seemed further from the truth as we continually met Parisians who went out of their way to help these two lost gringos visiting Paris for the first time.

The Paris Metro

Since we thought it would be fun to live like a local we passed on the high-priced hotels and opted for an apartment in a historic part of the city called Le Marais. Composed of both the 3rd and 4th arrondissements (or districts) Le Maris is an older, historic part of the city close to many of the popular tourist attractions. Located on the right bank of the famous River Seine, our lovely apartment was decorated with Parisian flair which included all the comforts of home.  The compact kitchen had everything we needed for a quick meal but was stocked with all the necessities to cook a full dinner, if we ever the energy to do so.

Our Apartment in Paris.....Small Kitchen With Bar

Better View Of Kitchen.....Water Closet To Right......
Full Bathroom is Off Of Bedroom

The owner Jean-Jacques explained that although the apartment had been totally refurbished the building itself was over 105 years old. As soon as he left us alone we each headed into the shower to freshen up after our 12 hours of flying time with a plane change in New Jersey. Having been awake for 24-hours with no measurable sleep on the plane, we were both running on adrenaline excited to explore this beautiful city.

Living Room
We left the flat and made our way over to Les Delices, a tiny store that sells candy and yogurt. Our mission was not for sweets this time but instead to retrieve our Paris Passes that were lost in the mail, since the store also serves as the office.  The young lady behind the counter asked Clyde for an ID and when he presented her with his Panama drivers license she began speaking to him in fluent Spanish.  A bit surprised Clyde asked her, "do you speak English?"  She looked at him confused as she began explaining how to use the pass in English and we explained that although we live in Panama we're not Panamanians but transplants.

We found the nearest Metro station and soon found ourselves standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe.  This well-known monument stands in the middle of Place Charles de Gaulle at the west end of the Champs Elysses (the famous shopping area for the rich and famous).  Next we headed over to the most famous sight of the city, The Eiffel Tower to see how long the lines might be.  I had thought it might be fun to take the stairs up to the second level and then the lift up to the top.  But we both gazed in awe at the massive tower that reached high into the clouds and both said out loud, "oh hell no......we're not climbing up there." Since there were no lines we quickly bought tickets to the top and made our way through a few other tourists also taking the journey up.    The breathtaking views from the top brought smiles to our faces and we just had to stop for a few romantic photos at the designated "kissing spots" along the way. Perhaps we both shed a few tears as we realized that here we stood, atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris.....one of the most romantic cities in the world!

Arc de Triomph

Another View
Nearby Gardner Is Taking This Photo

It's Big!

View From The Top

The Sign Says We Have To Kiss....

Awwwww......How Romantic!

As our tummies began to growl begging for some Parisian food I spotted one of the many "Creperie's" where we could pick up lunch. I inquired if the vendor spoke English which he did, and asked what he had to offer. His suggestion was a crepe filled with chicken and vegetables at the price of 5.50 euros (about the same in dollars these days).  Clyde pulled out his wallet and suggested that I go sit inside, asking IF the prices were the same.  The man behind the counter said, "no," and pointed to a sign for the seated dining options.  So instead we asked for "take away" and ordered one crepe to share.  We watched as the crepe was made right in front of us.  The finished product was huge and plenty for both of us to eat.  Since in Europe the patron pays for the right to use the table take away proved to be cheaper.  Our first crepe of Paris was rather tasty and we stood and ate it in front of the restaurant enjoying it with a coke.

Cook Making Our Sandwich Crepe
Me And My First Crepe in Paris.....There Will Be More!

Later that day around dusk we decided to take a cruise along the Seine River. With temperatures in the 60's as the sun went down it felt even cooler with the breezes coming off of the water. Dinner that night was at a local pub.  Clyde had salmon with mashed potatoes and I had a veggie lasagna with drinks for a total of around 30 euros, a splurge by our standards.

View From The Seine

Veggie Lasagna

 Salmon & Green Mashed Potatoes

Before heading back to the apartment we stopped for a few groceries at a local store called Monoprix.  A department store with groceries, Monoprix is a smaller version of a high end retail store in the states. We picked up a two-pack of brand name Greek yogurt for only 1 euro, along with some coffee for breakfast.  When in France eating bread and wine is a necessity so we found some fresh baked bread, cheese and cheap wines for a snack. We soon found out that only certain registers at this store are allowed to check out cheese, for reasons unknown to us.  And that in Europe stores charge customers for plastic bags really encouraging patrons to bring their own reusable ones. The cashier asked if we wanted a bag and charged us an extra three cents for each one.

Lots Of Pretty Produce Everywhere.....Truly The Mediterranean Diet!

Tired from a long day of travel we headed back to our home away from home ready to call it a night. As we made our way up three flights of stairs carrying groceries we realized just how different things are in Europe.  People walk everywhere, oftentimes eating a baguette sandwich along the way.  Although the Paris Metro is wonderful and very efficient going up and down hundreds of stairs for each trip is tiring for us not used to public transportation. Here's to our wonderful first day in Paris and now time to rest up for more adventures tomorrow as these two crazy gringo's explore Europe.......along the gringo trail.


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