It was less than a month ago that Gabe and I zipped over to France for a long weekend in Paris, but in this surreal, warp-speed travel bubble in which we’ve been living, our Parisian getaway seems like a distant memory. Distant, perhaps, but also special–in addition to seeing the City of Light for the first time, we were able to toast a couple of recently married friends passing through Paris on their honeymoon, and we enjoyed Sunday lunch with a childhood friend of mine who now lives with her family in the city’s suburbs.
Gabe and I traveled via early-morning Eurostar train from London to rainy Paris, and after using our
remedial elementary French to purchase Metro passes and additional regional train tickets for later that weekend, we navigated to our hotel to freshen up. Thankfully, Hotel Jardin de l’Odeon was able to accommodate our early check-in request, and we took advantage with a quick nap before heading out into the deluge to meet our friends.
For the rendezvous with my college buddies, we appropriately chose Notre Dame Cathedral as our meeting spot. It took 20 minutes of searching in the gusty downpour–and eventually an expensive international cell phone call–but we eventually found Kristen and Patrick waiting patiently inside the church foyer. After a quick catch-up session, the 4 of us meandered through the crowds of tourists also seeking an indoor activity that day and admired the splendor of one of the world’s most famous houses of worship.
By the time we finished viewing the church, we were hungry for lunch, so we ducked into a tiny–there were literally only 4 tables–cafe for a few bites. Since the cafe was closing up for the afternoon break, we took a crepe with Nutella to go as we walked toward the Metro station en route to Champs-Elysees. Kristen, Patrick, Gabe, and I browsed the Christmas stalls lining the renowned thoroughfare, eventually making our way to the Arc de Triomphe at one end. Since the miserable weather had thinned tourist traffic, we decided to climb the Arc for a bird’s-eye view of the city at night–and we were not disappointed.
Sufficiently wet, cold, tired, and hungry, we headed toward the newlyweds’ hotel for a pit stop and to rest a bit before dinner, but not without a small detour for pre-dinner treats from a neighborhood patisserie (because it wouldn’t be Paris without eating dessert first). Once we summoned our 2nd wind, we walked around the corner from Kristen and Patrick’s hotel to Les Cocottes. Over slow-cooked casseroles and wine, we celebrated friendship, marriage, and travel–all challenging endeavors, all worth the effort required to do them well.
After a quick stop for tiramisu at Le Bosquet, we took our party to the Eiffel Tower to admire its sparkly lights up close. Thirty minutes and several photos later, we parted ways, sated with sustenance and fortified by friendship.
Gabe and I were on our own the next day, continuing our French education with a comprehensive–not to mention entertaining and delicious–wine and cheese tasting at O Chateau. From there, we went to La Sainte-Chapelle Chapel to view the impressive stained-glass collection, but, ironically, we weren’t allowed inside with the glass wine bottle we had purchased after our tasting session. Undaunted, we used the time (and intermittent sunshine) to re-take a few photos at Notre Dame before pointing our compass toward Berthillon for what was supposed to be Paris’s best ice cream. I’m still not sure if we ever found the flagship ice cream shop or not since every 3rd storefront boasted the popular product as part of its in-house offerings, but we did sample the sweet stuff somewhere, and Gabe and I agreed that it was too rich, even for us. Instead of providing unexpected refreshment with cool meltiness, this ice cream was more like chilled pudding or fudge–it required far too much chewing.
We took our disappointment back to our hotel so we could clean up for dinner at Pomze. A play on the French word for “apple,” Pomze featured the versatile fruit in almost every menu item. We feasted on a cider sampler, the black pudding plate, beef and duck main dishes, and the apple tart dessert. Gabe and I enjoyed the cozy restaurant’s atmosphere, as well as the window-seat view of Christmas lights strung along nearby buildings. It was an excellent way to unwind after another busy day in the city.
Refreshed by a good night’s sleep, Gabe and I rose early on our last day in Paris, trekking first to the Rodin museum and gardens to see “The Thinker” among an impressive collection of Auguste Rodin‘s other works. We wandered leisurely through the outdoor sculpture exhibit before hailing a taxi to the Eiffel Tower for a daytime viewing. The blue sky and piercing morning sun made a nice backdrop for another glimpse of the iconic landmark. From there, we hurried to catch a regional train out to the suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, home of my friend Alison, her husband, and their 3 children.
We met Alison on her way to buy groceries, so we walked with her to the market while she gave us a tour of the charming town. We returned to her flat just in time for lunch with the whole family. Gabe and I were treated to roasted chicken, ratatouille, salad with avocado, bread, cheese, wine, and traditional Christmas pastries. Everything was delicious, and it was wonderful to spend the afternoon enjoying a homecooked meal. After we ate, Alison showed us the town’s fancy chateau and surrounding gardens as we walked off a few calories and admired the view of Paris proper. Too soon, our suburban afternoon ended, and we headed back into the city.
As dusk descended on Paris, Gabe and I took one more jaunt to Montmartre to visit the Dali exhibit, sample the Christmas market offerings, and see Sacre Coeur Basilica before collecting our belongings and catching the late Eurostar back to London. Overall, it was a very full–and fulfilling–weekend, made even better by the inclusion of good friends. We agreed that we’d love to see Paris again, perhaps during a drier season.
Up next: celebrating the holidays, Old World style.