Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Paris - Day 4

Last day in Paris.  4 days was definitely not enough for us!  We started at the Eiffel Tower where we waited a ridiculously long time.  We didn't get to go all the way to the top because it was closed until just before we went up due to the wind.  Then by the time it opened the line for the top was extremely long since no one had been allowed up all day.

We ate lunch along Rue Cler which is known for being a great market street where you can pick up your fish, your cheese, your bread, and everything else you could need from the little shops.  Unfortunately it was Monday and a lot of things were closed.

Then we headed over to the Champs Elysees.  We had two very important stops to make.  Stop 1 was at Lauduree to try some of their famous macarons.  We got yelled at for taking pictures.

Stop 2 was at the Louis Vuitton flagship store.  I've never seen such craziness.  I saw people buying multiple very expensive bags at a time.  I also saw people at the airport with whole trolleys full of their purchases that they were waiting in the VAT line for.  If you're in the market for an expensive purse I recommend making your purchase in Paris.  Due to the exchange rate, the purse was slightly cheaper.  Add in the fact that I got my VAT refunded and didn't have to pay 10% sales tax if I'd bought in Chicago and it was about $200 cheaper.

We had to hurry because were meeting up with Liz and Ellen again to do a bike tour around town.  You know it was an American company running this tour because they made us wear these hideous safety vests.  The French would never left safety get in the way of something as important as fashion.

Not long after we started, we got rained and hailed on (for the second time of the trip!) which is why we are also wearing these sexy ponchos in addition to the vests.

You can see the ominous clouds coming.

After the rain finally stopped it was quite beautiful at night, although also quite miserable being as we were soaking wet and freezing.

The best part was biking around the Louvre at night.  So quiet and beautiful all lit up.

Liz and I looking slightly bedraggled.

After the bike ride, a river cruise along the Seine was included.  Our guides brought wine which our group managed to polish off.  The river cruise is a don't miss event in my book.  It's nice to see the city from a different vantage point.

I can't say that I'd recommend a bike tour.  First, there were lots of older people who kept randomly falling off their bikes or being very slow.  One group made it about a half of a mile before someone fell and the whole group gave up which we then had to wait for our guide to take them back to the shop.  It was also hard to bike as we kept having to stop and start because of Paris traffic.  Finally the tour was supposed to run 6 pm - 10 pm, then we were going to grab a late dinner.  The tour went until midnight and the Metro was nearly closed at that point.  And I was starving!  The company was excellent though and our guides were very entertaining and knowledgeable about the city so there were some high points.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Paris - Day 3

Day 3.  Sunday in Paris.  Not much is open including many neighborhood restaurants, the patisserie, and the fromagerie.  This makes me sad as I want some pastries for breakfast.  What do the French do on Sundays if nothing is open?

We had more friends from the US that were going to be in Paris while we were there!  We met my friend Liz and her sister Ellen at Sacre Coeur.  Sacre Coeur is located in the neighborhood of Montmatre.  Montmatre was traditionally the bohemian neighborhood of Paris.  Now it's pretty full of tourists.

Sacre Coeur is located on the highest hill in Paris.  Unfortunately it was grey and rainy when we were there.

We wandered around the 18th arrondissement after Sacre Coeur but it was difficult to find a restaurant for lunch since everything was closed on Sunday.  It was interesting to see an area that fewer tourists visit.

Centre Georges Pompidou is the modern art museum in Paris.  It was designed by architect Renzo Piano (who also did the new modern art museum in Chicago) and built in the 1970s.  The structure and systems are all visible and on the outside of the building giving it a unique look.  We didn't actually have time to tour the museum but we got some pictures when we were in the area for dinner.

We had the most amazing and cheesy dinner.  Pain Vin Fromage (bread, wine, cheese) is a not to be missed restaurant if you're a cheese lover like myself.  They have several dinner fondues to choose from.  We also each had a cheese plate of 6 to 8 of the most amazing French cheeses after dinner.  I picked a plate based on a geographic area of France while Nick picked a plate of all goat cheese.  You will never find better cheese anywhere else.

And finally, a picture of some delicious pastries.  I wish they had shops like this by my house.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paris - Day 2

Day 2 in Paris was spent in Versailles.  Versailles is an easy day trip from Paris.  Take the metro to one of  the RER C line stations then take the RER C line to the end station Versailles - Rive Gauche.

Versailles was majestic and covered in gold.  There were a lot of pretty rooms and there was also a lot of gaudiness.  The size of the palace is overwhelming.  Buy your tickets in advance or take advantage of the Paris museum pass.  It cuts down on a lot of waiting in line.

We had planned a picnic in the gardens of Versailles.  Unfortunately while we were inside the sky darkened, it looked like rain, and it got much colder.  We ate wine and cheese picked up a neighborhood fromagerie and baguette, cheese, fruits, and meats my friend's brother had picked up at his neighborhood farmer's market that morning.  What I love about France the most is that fancy cheese is so much less expensive than in the US.  And oh so good.  I could eat this picnic every day.

We never made it over to Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette's cottage/chateau that is located on the grounds as the rain was getting closer.  The town of Versailles is actually a cute town to walk around if you have some extra time and get a little off the direct tourist road between the train station and the chateau. 

After a lengthy nap for those of us who were jet-lagged and also stayed out until 2 am the night before, we headed for dinner.  We ate at a cute little restaurant tucked in a back alley near St-Germain that my friend's little brother, our resident Paris expert, knew about then headed to a bar/club for another late night.  Apparently I party much harder in Paris than I do in the back in the States.