Our first day in Paris was a Sunday -- Owen arrived around 9:40 and my flight got in at 11:30. We were scheduled to check out the keys to our rented apartment at 1, and so I was freaking out by the time we made it through customs and the millions of lines and passport checks at the Paris airport because we really only had a half hour to make it to the apartment, which was 45 minutes away from the airport. I originally was planning on taking the Roissybus into Paris, which drops you off by the Opera House, but THANK GOODNESS we didn't do that, since the Opera House was in reality about a 25 minute walk from our place and we would have been ridiculous carrying the suitcases along all those cobblestone streets, not to mention incredibly late. So I gave in and we got a taxi -- when we were walking to where the "official" taxis line up at the airport, some guy tried to get us to take his taxi instead, and quoted us 100€! I might have been obviously a tourist, but I'm not THAT stupid! The taxi ride was still insanely expensive (55€, and we were in a Prius, so I know the gas isn't that much) but our driver got us there in 35ish minutes, so I was glad. We found the apartment, dragged our suitcases over there, and then proceeded to wait. We were only five minutes late, so I thought we surely wouldn't have a problem. And then we waited. And then I started to realize that we didn't really establish a clear check-in procedure with the people we were renting from. Were we supposed to wait outside the apartment? Was there an office for apartment rentals we were supposed to go to? We didn't have the code for the building, we didn't even know which room inside the building was the right one, and we couldn't figure out how to buzz any of the apartments. Not to mention the fact that we didn't have Internet connection, or a phone that worked, or any idea how to use a pay phone or anything.
I started having a minor panic attack, and went to the restaurant across the street and bought a crepe with lemon and sugar to distract myself. The crepe was good, but I was so distraught that I could hardly enjoy it (plus my stomach thought it was 4:00 in Armenia time, so I was pretty ravenous). Eventually, Owen decided that we should try to call the apartment owners, so he left me with the suitcases to find some sort of phone. Of course, two minutes after he left to who-knows-where, some French man comes leisurely strolling out of the front door (which was squeezed between two restaurants) and asked me lazily, "Are you here for ze apartment?" Um yes, do you think I just stand outside random places with suitcases?? It was 2:00 by then (an hour late) and Owen was off somewhere, so I told him I'd like to wait until Owen got back and then convinced the apartment owner to carry our biggest and heaviest suitcase up the six flights of swirling stairs (honestly, it was the least he could do).
Owen returned and my blood pressure returned to almost normal and then we went to check out the apartment. I'm so mad I forgot to take any pictures -- we were just always so exhausted that it slipped the mind, but the place was absolutely tiny. So small. Especially the bathroom. But the smallness was not really an issue -- the lack of air-conditioning was much more problematic. There was even a little fan-looking thing installed on the wall, but we could not figure out for the life of us how to turn it on, which made things even more frustrating. And the bed didn't have a top sheet, which I thought was weird. But over 150 TV channels in French! So there you go.
After finally checking in and paying off an insane number of euros, I wanted to see PARIS! And food was the first thing on my mind!!! I wanted to head to Gerard Mulot, which was a pretty highly rated bakery, and get some amazing French pastries! We walked down our street, went to cross, and were stopped by police officers for this:
It was like a 5k of rollerbladers!! It was hilarious! Apparently rollerblading is very popular in Paris (who knew?!), and we seriously saw people rollerblading the whole trip. I really have no idea how they do it with all the cobblestone streets, but it was pretty awesome. Serious 3rd grade flashbacks. We even saw a couple of police officers on rollerblades on a different day. Let's bring back the blades!
Here is me so proud of myself for ordering something in French and paying for it in stupid euros. One of the greatest things about coming home from my trips is not having to deal with cash/change anymore!!
Even though our apartment was on a total party street, it was SO convenient to all the major sites. We decided to walk by Notre Dame because, well, it was only 5 minutes from where we were staying! It was pretty awesome waking up to the bells of Notre Dame in the morning.
Notre Dame is great because just walking into the church is totally free, but there is a HUGE line in the front plaza of the church (obviously not shown). There are also some bleacher-like stands in front of the church, and all sorts of street performers/beggars/people trying to get your money come and do their thing in front of the church, which was really interesting. We decided that next time, Owen should bring his yo-yo and try to pick up a few euros while I wait in the lines.
I knew we'd be pretty tired, so I planned a nice relaxing afternoon at the Luxembourg Gardens. "Gardens" is a pretty loose term in France we decided -- it mostly just means a park, which was still nice, but not really the floral heaven I imagined. It was also pretty awesome because the gardens include the Palais de Luxembourg, which is where the French Senate hangs out. Not bad. This park also appeared to be the favorite place of joggers in Paris, so that was interesting. Plus there is a large pond in front of the garden where kids play with model sailboats, which was absolutely adorable to watch.
Then, since it was on our way, we stopped by a church that was built in 1250 because that's pretty old. The craziest part was that this super old church was just nestled in between a bunch of other tall, normal buildings in the city - if you were walking fast, you wouldn't have even noticed it! That was probably one of our favorite things about Paris - no matter where you were headed, you would pass at least two or three incredibly old and awesome buildings that really made you wish you paid better attention in history class.
Next we went to Shakespeare & Company, an English bookstore that first opened in 1919, and is known as a gathering place for some pretty famous writers, including Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. Yay! Books in English! They had some pretty awesome editions of things, including the British version of Harry Potter, which we got book #4 in.
If I actually lived in Paris (and was broke, obviously), this is totally a place I would visit. They had a piano upstairs that anyone could practice on, and a whole room of books not for sale that you can just sit in and read and read and read. Very awesome.
Owen channeling his inner Hemingway. Also we watched Midnight in Paris again after coming home, and 1) Owen Wilson goes to this bookshop, and 2) Hemingway is so hilarious in that movie. I don't know how you thought it was boring, Mom :)
I just really liked that quote above the door, even though its kind of a crappy picture of it. We actually went to another bookstore that day as well (La Hune), but obviously all the books were in French (though very pretty to look at) and there wasn't much to take a photo of.
Lastly, a dinner of some real French food! It turns out that all of the foods that we thought were typical French food are super heavy! More on that later. Anyway, the restaurant I picked was insanely far away, and we hadn't learned to use the metro yet, so it was quite a walk and we were so pooped by the time we finally got food. The restaurant was all the way in the 11th arrondissement (neighborhood), and looking at a map, it doesn't seem that far, but it really felt like we were walking for FOREEEVVVERRR. But it was cool to see a different part of Paris and I got a real chance to figure out how to use the map in my little Moleskine notebook. We ordered some Comte cheese because it's France, and you gotta eat the cheese. And it was freaking good. I love Comte with all my heart. Luckily, they have some at Trader Joe's now.
Owen ordered duck confit, which really is not a very pretty looking dish. This particular duck was actually pretty good - very juicy and flavorful but so heavy and intense. And paired with fried potatoes -- do we really need more fried-ness here people? And I didn't want to look like a stupid tourist and ask for ketchup for my potatoes, though a little part of me wishes that I had....
I thought I was being so cool ordering this Andouille sausage, not using a French dictionary or anything - I mean, I recognized the words "andouille," "moutarde ancienne" and somehow knew it would be served on a form of cheesy potatoes, but I should not have been so adventurous. Stick with the chicken people. I guess I always sort of knew what sausages were made of, but they did not choose to grind up these things, and it was absolutely repulsive to me. The smell and sight made me want to die and vomit all at the same time, and I was so mad at myself for coming all the way to France and not enjoying my first real meal. Luckily Owen was a real amazing husband and traded me dishes, pretending that he didn't mind eating this terrifying dish, but I know he was really pretending. And I am grateful.
Dessert redeemed things for us -- basically a molten lava chocolate cake (this was pretty common in lots of restaurants we went to) that was super intense and warm and tasty and served in a creme anglais. Now Owen really wants me to learn how to make molten lava cakes. Anyone with a fail-proof recipe?
I don't really remember when this was during the day, but at some point we bought a baguette from Eric Kayser and walked across the original "love lock" bridge, Pont des Arts. Little did you or I know - people are basically making every pedestrian bridge in Paris into a love lock bridge, and there are people selling locks all over the place, so don't bother bringing your own. Owen and I did not lock away our love...I know, I know...but just looking into that pretty green and polluted water of the Seine, we decided that it did not need one more key at the bottom of its banks. Plus I heard they cut off locks routinely, which just kind of defeats the purpose for me - I don't want our love to be in the hands of some random lock cutter!!!
In summary, Day 1: exhausting, a little nerve-wracking, lots of walking, some good bread, old stuff, and an English bookstore.