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Trip Report Beads and Circuses: Nikki's Paris trip report

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Last May, in a fit of giddiness upon hearing of a wonderful Air France airfare sale, I bought tickets for my husband, college student daughter and myself to go to Paris over February vacation week. My husband and I had just been in Paris for the same school vacation week last February, and we had managed to get bumped by Air France in both directions, with great financial success. Seemed like a good idea to have a repeat visit and try for the same deal, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

Four days before we were to leave, my husband learned of a family emergency which required his attention and he could not go to Paris. After some misgivings, I decided to go with my daughter anyway. Air France appears to have learned about the Boston vacation schedule since last year. The flights, while full, were apparently not overbooked, and no volunteers were being sought. So my daughter and I flew to Paris as scheduled.

The flight was uneventful and we took a cab to the apartment we had rented on rue de Lanneau in the fifth arrondissement, near the Pantheon. The apartment is listed through www.private-paris.com. There are two bedrooms, which I thought would be a good idea since there would be three of us, and the price was not much more than the one bedroom apartment my husband and I had rented on the next block last year. With just my daughter and myself, this was an absolute luxury of space, with a private bedroom and bath for each of us, a large living room, and a large, fully equipped kitchen. The entrance is a little funky. The building is very old, and the door from the street opens to a long stone corridor lit by a single bulb at one end, which, like many lights in French corridors, operates on a timer. I kept waiting to be caught in the dark, but the timer was on long enough to allow us plenty of time to get to and from the staircase. There is a narrow winding staircase up to the first floor, where the apartment is located.

Inside, the apartment is newly renovated. Two huge exposed beams show the age of the building, and there are few if any right angles. There is a small step to each room, since no two rooms are on the same exact level. The two bedrooms have windows on the street overlooking the restaurant across the way, Le Petit Prince de Paris. The living room and kitchen have windows on an airshaft facing other buildings in the back. When it was dark, I looked out the living room window and was surprised to look down and see candles. It turned out that our window overlooked the restaurant underneath us, Le Coupe Chou, and we could see the romantic dining area, which must have had a glass or plastic roof. We did not try this restaurant out, but it would have been funny to look up and see our window.

The apartment was provided with a wireless internet connection, which was extremely convenient. I had brought a laptop computer, which I have never done before, and it was a great help for communication. For telephone calls we had our T-Mobile phones, which have international roaming, and a prepaid phone card I bought in Paris to use from the phone in the apartment. This was by far the cheapest way of making phone calls I have found. The card cost 7.50 euros and was good for over forty hours of calls to the U.S. We didn’t come close to using it up, but with our family situation last week we did speak quite a bit.

We decided to get out before we both fell asleep in the apartment and walked down to the market at Place Monge to look for things to bring back for lunch. I went to one of the cheese vendors and just asked him to put together an assortment of whatever he recommended. He offered me tastes, I approved, and I walked away with three cheeses (and two containers of yogurt he threw in just for the heck of it). There were not as many vendors selling prepared foods as I remembered from my visit a year ago. The previous visit was on a Sunday and this one was a Friday, which might explain the difference. There was a Lebanese guy, though, selling good looking prepared things, and we walked away with stuffed eggplant, grape leaves, some filled pastries, and a bag of pita he threw in for good measure. He asked where we were from, and when we told him, he told us how he had visited Massachusetts and Rhode Island and loved it there, how he would like to live there.

I guess the grass is always greener and all that.

By this time I could barely stumble back to the apartment and into bed. Took a nap, ate the market supplies, and got ready for our first night out on the town in Paris.

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