On The Way There and Day One
Bonaparte and I have returned from a three-day in Paris. Why only three days? Well, I’m working now and getting time off from work isn’t easy. In addition, due to the change of flight plans last summer because of one of many Air France strikes, we had a credit that had to be used by December 28th. It all worked out because we were able to see the premiere of “Demain tout Commence”, a film that Bonaparte’s cousin directed. Bonaparte was also able to take care of some family business and I was able to hone in on my skills as a flaneuse.
Our personal invite to the Avant Premiere at the Rex theatre. It was fun! But this film was so damned great! You’ll read more about it on “Day Two”! I will say that I am in love with Omar Sy!
So grab a café crème. Or a cuppa tea. Or a nice stiff drink and come along with me on my latest visit to my favorite city—Paris! (I’ll be adding some tips for you too!)
The weather was nice and sunny as we made our way from Philadelphia to JFK airport in New York. We gave ourselves a ton of time because it was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And while children may have visions of sugarplums this time of year, I had visions of backed-up traffic on the PA Turnpike, the NJ Turnpike and the Belt Parkway.
Oh yay. We were quite lucky as we exited the Verrazano Bridge to the Belt. No traffic. At all!
TIP: If you live in the tri-state area and are traveling to France or any other country in Europe, think about flying from JFK. The flights are cheaper and the long-term parking is a steal at less than twenty bucks a day!
Luckily, we hit no traffic whatsoever and made it to JFK in record time. This gave us plenty of time to find a great parking spot just feet from the Howard Beach Station for the AirTrain.
Travel tip! Wanna remember where you parked? Take pictures!!! I took a photo of the station where we parked our car for long-term parking. I also took a photo of the row we were in. Makes life just a little bit easier!
The airport was empty. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any airport this desolate during the daytime! Checking in was a cinch and stress-free.
I honestly do not know where all the passengers on our booked flight came from because this is basically what JFK’s terminal looked like. Nobody there!
And then there was the plane. We were on an Airbus……. And the plane was packed. I know why. This was the smoothest and quietest plane ride I’ve ever been on. And the service was incredible. But more about that on my return home.
We were on the top section of the plane and it was, hands down, the smoothest flight I’ve ever been on!
We arrived at CDG after a restful and comfortable flight. We both slept. And that meant a full day of walking around the City. Sunday morning at the airport was quiet and reality slapped us in the face as we approached the customs line. It was long and still not as bad as the lines in the summer. Besides, after exiting and heading to the baggage claim area, Bonaparte’s massive suitcase was waiting for us!
The cab ride into City Centre was great. No traffic. I swear we need to land in Paris on Sunday morning from now on.
It’s so weird. I’m not jaded when I write this but that “butterflies-in-your-stomach” feeling of excitement no longer hits me when I arrive in Paris. Instead, I get that slightly “anxious” feeling. More akin to the feeling you get when going home after a long stretch of time—you just want to get there.
Paris is so sleepy on Sunday morning! Those who celebrated and enjoyed life the night before are now indoors taking it slow and easy.
We got to the Hotel Prince de Conti, which is now our go-to for small visits. Any visit a week or longer and it’s time to rent an apartment. Anyway, the room wasn’t ready –obviously since it was early in the morning. But we dropped our stuff off and headed out for breakfast.
You can’t get a better deal on a hotel than at the Prince de Conti. The location is fabulous..and…
the lobby is incredibly comfy and charming. The staff is great!!!
Our room, although small was comfortable, immaculate and perfect for our needs!
We decided our first morning adventure would be to check out the courtyard at Danièle’s old apartment building for old time’s sake. Bonaparte entered the code and much to our dismay, the code had been changed. It was more like an omen of sorts. It was like Danièle’s spirit was telling us that we needed to move on.
And so we did. My blogger friend Elizabeth, of The Vintage Contessa, asked if I would snap a photo of the Wallace Fountain on the corner of Pont Neuf. And so I did!!
Photobombed by a thirsty Frenchman enjoying his water from this Wallace Fountain on Pont Neuf and Rue Des Grands-Augustins. I’m looking a bit tired here. Perhaps it is due to lack of sleep and just getting off a plane!
A better view of the fountain!
And at that moment, things began to brighten up! We walked up Rue Dauphine to head over to Rue de Buci to fuel our bodies. The streets were becoming lively and we were entertained by an older man who was zooming down the street on his motor bike singing an aria, allegro, at the top of his lungs. I couldn’t get my camera out quick enough and he was gone in a second—his booming voice and flash of long white hair behind him.
We had another surprise as we entered Café Buci; the florist that was across the street was no longer there. Replacing it was a modern, slick, trendy restaurant. We always stopped at that florist to get flowers for Danièle—it was another sign telling us a part of our lives was over.
Le Yum. Le Yum! Breakfast at Cafe Buci! Cafe Creme and croissant! What could be better?
We walked and walked and walked some more!
We passed our old neighborhood hangout, Bistrot Saint Andre. The place where everyone knows your name–kind of like a French Cheers!
We walked along the Seine near Daniele’s old apartment and took photos of Pont Neuf..
Enjoying the quiet Sunday morning…
My skills as a flaneuse were improving by the minute. So was my skill to be able to walk in the bitter cold without a winter coat and be able to enjoy myself!
Look how beautiful the color of the building just plays so well against the daylight!
It was cold! Now mind you, I’ve been to Paris in the middle of winter and it wasn’t as cold as this late November day was. Luckily I had gloves and a hat in my bag!
We headed over to Place Dauphine, which, during the summer months is always lively and full of activity….
On this Sunday morning–and late morning, Place Dauphine was quiet!
Since it was Sunday. And cold, we headed over to Notre Dame. I had visions of entering into the Cathedral for some warmth. Just like Mary in the stable on Christmas Eve! Any thought of entering was erased when we spotted the line to get into the church.
The sun was shining, but didn’t warm things up. We walked over to Notre Dame..
..wait. Why do people tell me they are afraid to visit Paris because it is dangerous? Excuse me–these guys, aka, military eye candy are at all heavily-populated areas. You do not want to mess with these guys. Paris is safer than the gun-crazed USA!
I was thinking about going to Mass but when I saw THIS line, I figured it was easier to be a sinner!
And on the way, food was calling me. I wanted to stop and grab a little snack..
The signs were making me hungry…
This guy tried to make my thighs wider by inviting me in for pizza–as a paying customer!
As an aside–Paris has some great cheap eats. Little side streets and passages are chock-full of inexpensive–and good places to fill your tummy!
We arrived at the beautiful and centuries-old Saint-Severin
The ancient church is beautiful and Bonaparte was happy snapping pictures. The scent of the church alone sent me into a swoon. Incense—actually Frankincense wafted through and brought me back to my school days of having to sit through Benediction on Friday afternoons during lent. It’s one of the smells that I truly love and adore—and I wish a perfume maker would create a scent that smelled like it. It could simply be called “Church”. I’d make it my signature scent! I’m rambling.
Before Mass. The church filled up quickly…
The lighting and stained glass really added to the beauty of this Church. The detail was so beautiful…
A nice place to just sit and reflect..
Perhaps light a candle at one of the many altars…
..or collect thoughts or pray….
..or just admire the stained glass. And ignore the “date” stamp that I couldn’t seem to get rid of on my camera!
Anyway, Mass was about to start and no way was I leaving! I think the weather got colder because with Bonaparte at Mass, Hell must’ve frozen over! The Mass in French was beautiful. The cantor, who was blind, was following in Braille and he had a voice that could make angels faint from being overcome with emotion. The acoustics of the centuries-old house of worship were fantastic. His voice was beautiful—and with the accompanying organ, I felt as though I was at a very classy concert.
It wasn’t hard to follow the Mass either. Many familiar words and phrases appeared and disappeared. And receiving Communion was very old-school with the priest resting the host on my tongue. It really was a fulfilling experience.
We made our way back to the hotel…
..while snapping photos on the desolate streets!
We slowly made our way back to the hotel and by the time we arrived there, the room was ready. So we quickly dropped our stuff off in the room, changed and headed out walking along the seine to…
Boats along the Seine. Hey. I hope they are heated!
We spotted a dog on a skateboard. Surprisingly, skateboarding was pretty popular with the mid-twenty crowd!
We walked over to the Louvre..and this is where Bonaparte had enough of the cold so we snagged a cab over to …
Yeah. The cab ride took about a minute. We could have hoofed it!
The Christmas Markets! Quite possibly, the most incredible Parisian experience of all time!
I simply cannot contain my joyful glee when writing about this long stretch of kiosks and makeshift chalets along the Champs-Élysées. Forget about anything chic or elegant. Oh no. This is Paris at its most tacky. This is Paris without the smoke and mirrors. This is normal people Paris. And it was epic, epic greatness. It was total. Just. Total!!
I saw Uncle Sam. He told me he would return to the USA after Trump is no longer President. I’m with Sam!
In the City of Lights–and elegance and style, THIS sight made me realize that even chic gets thrown out the window..
Check out the kid in the bungee thingy over the trampoline! I laughed for ten minutes at this sight!
They aren’t real Bison. This was part of a very unusual Christmas zoo with pretend animals…
..such as this fabric Moose and stuffed tiger..
..and what child wouldn’t be filled with Christmas magic at the sight of these happy-go-lucky dinosaurs!
Those bloggers and writers who insist upon Parisian chic as a constant? Non! This is the real Paris. These are the real Parisians. They are freezing their derrieres off. They are not thinking of elegance nor are they thinking of French chic. They are thinking of hot wine and heavy socks!
One of the more classier Christmas chalets..
I have absolutely no idea why this bear was randomly displayed nor do I understand why grown men had their photo with this display.
At least the snow people were dressed for the occasion!
My favorite chalet had all sorts of stack dolls!
This–and nothing but cheese–is heaven on earth!
I was in my glories. Bonaparte was not. It wasn’t until we entered into a little chalet where the cute young Frenchmen were adorned with medieval style aprons that Bonaparte brightened up. He was given a sample of foie gras and truffled fromage. Bonaparte also lit up because he was, once again, in the comfort of animated conversation in his native language. Things became more entertaining as I sampled the foie gras because I excitedly said a bit loud, and in my New Yawk accent, “Oh my gawd, this is so friggin’ great!!” Some more French was exchanged between Bonaparte and the musketeers and Bonaparte laughed as he later told me that the young men were surprised to find out I was American because I was so well-dressed! I’m gonna take that as a compliment. Especially since I was freezing my ass off in a blazer, jeans, boots, a turtleneck and a scarf while the rest of Paris was warm and toasty in their puffy coats and jackets!
The foie gras guy! Bonaparte had a good time in this place. I’m loving the deer head and the apron. This was fun!!!!
I found another Wallace Fountain in the bowels of the market. And I decided that I would try to find as many of these watering holes as I could during our short stay.
I felt bad that this Wallace Fountain was relegated to the bowels of the Christmas Market! But I felt good that I discovered another Wallace Fountain!
We also took this opportunity to scout out the Fnac location on this broad Avenue. Just as Bonaparte was about to give up the search, I spotted a man with a Fnac bag. I gently tapped him on the shoulder and in my best French asked him where the store was.
I have no idea how, but one of the passages literally had a window to the Louvre. There’s so much more to “Louvre” when you wander around aimlessly!
Two minutes later Bonaparte and I were in the warmth of the store. We picked up a couple of things and were off again!
Two CD’s I picked up. Jane Birkin has the greatest whisper-singing voice of all time. And the soundtrack of Notre-Dame de Paris is incredible. Garou is Quasimodo. If you get the chance to see this, by all means do–the music is moving.
Bonaparte picked up two movies. Les Tricheurs–one of his favorites from his teen years and Rabbi Jacob–his cousin Zazi played the doomed groom. Rabbi Jacob is one of the funniest movies thanks to Louis de Funes
We walked back to the hotel and I thanked God that I had warm socks on my feet to keep my little toes warm.
We made our exit and walked back to the hotel.
The Eiffel Tower was in the distance and looked gray against the darkening sky. It was too early for the lights and too late for the sun to shine on the symbol of Paris. And no. I did not bother to snap a photo. I have hundreds. I just wanted to get back to the heated hotel room!
The sun was starting to set. And let me tell you–the days in Paris are a lot shorter than here. But the good thing is that you get to take cool photos like this!
Back at the hotel we rested a bit before heading out to dinner at Vincent’s cousin, Jean Denis and his wife Marie’s apartment.
The courtyard at Jean Denis and Marie’s apartment. That’s one of the crazy-great things about Paris apartments–they all have these magnificent courtyards!
Jean Denis and Marie are the two people we always have a great time with. Dinner was fun and animated as we all had lively conversation of our times with Daniele and books and just about every topic under the sun!
My diet was thrown aside as we enjoyed saucisson wrapped in brioche, wine, poulet, wine, salade, and more wine.
A late night cab ride back to the hotel and it was lights out for the two of us! We had an ambitious day of doing nothing!
When we arrived back at the hotel, slumber came easy. Our first day in Paris was spent doing nothing—and everything!!
To be continued tomorrow….Demain tout commence!
Here’s a sampling of my Jane Birkin CD. “Ex Fan des Sixties”–this song is greatness. I’ve been listening to it for years on French radio. I love this because it is slightly campy and at the same time great! And she mentions Jimi Hendrix–what’s not to love??