I have to state for the record that I’m quite impressed with the amount of stuff that Barb packed into her suitcase. We had decided to take our small carry-on luggage on this tip as it was only going to be just over a week and I was quite expecting one of us going to have to sit on Barb’s suitcase in order to get it closed.
Our flight into Paris (by was of Toronto) was uneventful and us not checking any luggage made the exit out of the Charles de Gaulle airport faster than usual.
We had been expecting it but it was really quite surprising nonetheless to see that the temperatures were hovering in the 25-26 area. It was as warm now as we would expect it to be in July in Vancouver but everyone whom we have spoken to her about this have been saying that it only started to get this warm in the past 2-3 days. By the looks of it, we won’t be needing those pocket umbrellas and jackets that we brought with us.
Because we are travelling light, we decided to take the RER regional train all the way from CDG airport which we knew would take us all the way to our Metro station of St. Michel – Notre Dame. I should point out that we would never do this if we were carrying our regular (larger) luggage as there are lots of steps getting out of most Metro stations. As we found on our first trip to Paris in 2002 when we attempted this, it ended up being an embarrassing escapade of hauling one suitcase up (then down) a flight of stairs then going back for the next. All the while about 10,000 commuters were bumping into us on their way home from work.
Take it from me, if you have any amount of heavy luggage with you, take a shuttle from the airport while in Paris.
I vividly remember our first ride into Paris on the RER 5 years ago. For the uninitiated, what you end up seeing for the first 20 or so minutes is what I call the underbelly of Paris. By that I mean that you see this industrial, graffiti-covered area of the city that had us wondering if we had made a huge mistake by coming here. However, the real Paris soon emerges by the time that you get closer to your final destination and what you have heard and seen in movies and other sources about Paris is all true. Paris delivers on all counts.
Paris, Day 1
For almost every other trip to Europe that we can remember, we almost always end up arriving in the late afternoon. When the arrival time implies is that we would get settled in or hotel, go out for a nice dinner, then get back to the hotel and fall asleep.
No so this time.
Because we had a much earlier departure time out of Vancouver, we ended up arriving in Paris around 11AM. The caused us to not only have to wait for our room to be prepared (we dropped our luggage at the hotel) but we had tons of time available to us on the first day.
When I said that we had nothing booked or planned on this trip, I was not completely accurate. As it turned out, Barb had made an appointment (on the first day of our arrival) to get her hair done at a local salon. Apparently, she had done all kinds of research and found this salon that other people had raved about so most of our day was scheduled around her 5PM appointment.
We were both pretty hungry after we had dropped out bags at the hotel and as it was now around noon, we walked to the other side of the Seine and found a nice cafe to have our first Paris meal. As we were sitting at the small table looking out to the street, we both looked at each other and had that “Yes, we’re back in Paris” kind of look.
The view from out table across the street was the gates of the Palais de Justice (aka the law courts).
We walked along the river for a while really just enjoying the great weather and came across a nice park called the Place des Vosges. The park was one of those places where local people went at lunch (which by all appearances seemed to last at least 2 hours) and hang out. This alone would be a fairly accurate description under most circumstances but what first drew out attention was the immaculately manicured trees that went around the perimeter of the small park. There were literally “notches” cut out of the trees underneath that allowed you to walk under them or sit on the benches. It was quite elegant, very Parisian.
By the time Barb’s 3 hour hair appointment was over (by the way, she looked great), it was after 7:00 and we were both famished. We decided to go back to the area around our hotel where there were at least 50 restaurants within 3 blocks. The one that we decided to go to was called La Tourelle (5 Rue Hautefeuille).
As most of you who have been regular readers know, Barb and I like to find the restaurants that are small, out of the way and filled with patrons. La Tourelle was all of those. I won’t get into a whole bunch of details but we had an excellent duck dinner (I had a nice cold gazpacho soup starter) that night. The best part of the dinner was probably that it was a prix fixed meal (meaning one price for everything) which ran us 19 Euros each.
All in all, a perfect first day in Paris.