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A Paris Traveling Veteran's Report of Recent Visit


Aug 4th, 2012, 01:17 PM
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A Paris Traveling Veteran's Report of Recent Visit

I just returned from a week in Paris. It is my 12th or 13th trip there, i'm not exactly sure. My visit was part of a longer trip with family, I had a week on my own and decided to once again return to my favorite city.

Choosing what to do this time became somewhat challenging. And in that challenge I discovered that travel can sometimes be more about moments rather than grand experiences. Example: The Museam of the Shoah in the Marais. This is a relatively new museum and it is free. The exhibits are thought provoking and educational. Much of the permanent exhibit is in both English and French but not all of it. It was worth every minute I spent inside. And later I would encounter a stranger who would bring me back to my visit in a poignant albeit bittersweet way.

That evening I decided to eat in the 7th at La Fountaine. As I ate at a table on the sidewalk, an elderly gentleman left the restaurant with his family. As he walked by me his forearm was at my eye level and I couldn't help but notice the series of numbers tattooed on his forearm. My mind went back to all the photographs of children and teen agers I had seen earlier at the museum and I couldn't help but wonder if that man's younger self was in any of those images.

Another moment or two: I didn't realize it at the time, but La Fountaine is somewhat well known. All i knew was that I was hungry and I was fortunate that they had an outside table available. The hostess defied all stereotypes of Parisian snobbery (something I've rarely encountered by the way). She could not have been lovlier and to a solo diner like me it made all the difference. I don't mind eating alone, it's what you do when you travel solo. But at La Fountaine, I felt so welcomed by this lady and her wait staff. The food was excellent and as I left she stopped me to say good bye and we shook hands. It may not seem like a lot, but it is another travel moment that I will not soon forget.

When I stay in Paris I stay in the Montparnasse area near the Luxembourg Gardens. I have not stayed in Paris in summer for many years. It was very hot during my visit and I took to the habit of getting some ice cream in the afternoon and heading over to the very shady Luxembourg Gardens to read. It turns out that this what Parisians do as well. Scattered throughout the gardens are chairs. I noticed that many people took two chairs, one to sit and one to put up feet. I also noticed that almost all turned their chairs toward the grass with the chair just at the iron rim of the lawn. (sitting on the grass is not allowed.) I just followed along and this became one of my favorite parts of the day during my visit; an ice cream, and a couple of quiet hours reading in one of the oldest and most beautiful gardens in the world.

I shopped. I walked. I had Falalfel in the Marais and Macarons from Laudree and dinner a La Coupole. I walked iconic streets and loved every minute of it. One night as I walked through the Champs de Mars waiting for the Eiffel Tower to light up I decided I had to use the restroom. I got in line and waited with everone else. As I waited on the stairs I looked up and there it is, filling up my entire field of vision, the Eiffel Tower. I decided right there that I was fortunate enough to be standing in a bathroom line with...The. Best. View. Ever!

Moments. Its all about moments.
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Aug 4th, 2012, 01:24 PM
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Bookmarking in case there is more of this excellent thread.
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Aug 4th, 2012, 01:27 PM
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Lovely writing, not the usual trip report, although I enjoy those too.
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Aug 4th, 2012, 01:35 PM
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Aug 4th, 2012, 01:46 PM
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When it comes to Paris, you said it all---Moments. It's all about the moments.
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Aug 4th, 2012, 01:56 PM
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Exactly!! I never do trip reports because after 20+ visits, I feel like I can't possibly have anything new to say. But chevre now has me thinking of "moments" from our last trip. Thank you, chevre.
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Aug 4th, 2012, 02:00 PM
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Judy, I'm thinking like you...
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Aug 4th, 2012, 02:57 PM
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Well. MelJ, at least you came up with something new and different this trip.....hope I don't have to experience ATM fraud to keep up with you!
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Aug 4th, 2012, 03:36 PM
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Love it! Yes, it's those 'moments' which become stories to be shared with others that captures Paris & other special places. Thank you for sharing some of yours, chevre!
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Aug 4th, 2012, 04:33 PM
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Aug 4th, 2012, 04:46 PM
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I had a friend who named their sailboat " Moments"....think I know why! There are always great moments in Paris.
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Aug 5th, 2012, 04:50 AM
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Chevre, loved your "moments." Can you share more? Merci...
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Aug 5th, 2012, 05:01 AM
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Very nice, hoping for more.
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Aug 5th, 2012, 06:27 AM
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Well said. We should point newbies who want to 'see all of Paris in 2 days' to this post.
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Aug 5th, 2012, 07:59 AM
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Very nice. That is kind of how we've been approaching all our travel in recent years, since we've retired and have the time to just soak up the moments. But it is so much better when you return to someplace you know, as you can apppreciate the little moments, and you feel no pressure to check off the must-sees on a detailed itinerary.
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Aug 5th, 2012, 08:02 AM
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We should point newbies who want to 'see all of Paris in 2 days' to this post.>>

but they wouldn't believe that it applied to them.
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Aug 5th, 2012, 10:25 AM
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Thank you so much for the positive replies. I get asked by many people, both friends and family, "Why Paris?", why do I continue to return to it? Honestly to me its obvious. but the question does make me consider the "why?"

I feel at home in Paris. Ever since I was a little girl and saw the Madeline film at school I wanted to go there. I took French in high school, (sadly much of it long forgotten), and I was intrigued by the pastel illustrations in my book. I knew one day I wanted to visit Paris. I really didn't get to Paris until I was in my 30's and now I return, almost annually, sometimes with others usually alone.

Why Paris? Because it looks just like those pictures I saw when I was a little girl. It's Mansard roofs and glass Art Nouveau patesserie windows and sculpture and of course the Eiffel Tower. There are cities that remind me of Paris, but there is no city that IS Paris. It is the one place in the world that has always lived up to my fantastical expectations and that is "Why Paris?"

I know, Mr. Steves just loves Rue Cler. And guidebooks will rightly send tourists to Rue Moufftard, but Rue Montorgueil? This one pedestrian street is as close to late 1890's Parisian retail as you're going to find in current times. This is a street for pictures. It's a street for trying out your French and shopping for uniquely French items. My favorite of all is the restaurant L'Escargot. A restuarant devoted to the snail! I don't like snails but I love the front of this store and the hanging sign of a Snail above the entrance. A moment? Not really but certainly a few bemused seconds. Strolling Rue Montrogueil provides me with the moment of feeling like a true insider. Laudree is the renowned macaron purveyor yes, but Storher's,(despuis 1890 something), is the place for those in the know. Try not to drop them on the ground as I did after purchase.

During this time of year Paris is packed with tourists from all over the world. I have no problem with this, but having seen the Notre Dame and the Louvre and the Champs Elysee, I avoided these areas this time. There is one museum however that I love and that is very popular but I have to go every time. I must see, really visit, my favorite painting ever. This painting is in the L'Orangerie. If you don't already know, you need to have reservations for this museum in advance and they are easy to purchase online. It's worth it. And the reservation system provides an opportunity to really see the art without having to push through crowds. I suffered during the long renovation of this museum because it meant my favorite painting was not available for viewing. It is a Renoir. It is the painting of his Nanny whom he painted often. She is dressed in red and on her lap is the baby Jean I think? And they are playing with clay. There is something about this painting that draws me in and is worth every penny spent to get there and every minute in line. I know where it is, I go directly to it and I just look and every time I see some new nuance that I haven't seen before. I'm not a big patron of the arts but I do like the Impressionists, Renoir particularly and this painting most of all.

I don't really know French. I could have a profound conversation with a 3 year old but after that I'm maxed out. I've learned to order with some competence, and on this trip I tried it out. It's funny but the sense of accomplishment I feel after ordering an entire meal in French is akin to receiving my Master's. It is exhilirating! Now I should mention that this ordering involves one of two items that are usually on every french cafe menu: Salade Chevre Chaud and Une Petit Pichet Vin Blanc, (preferrably Sancerre if avaialble). I made this trip the pursuit of the perfect "Salade Chevre Chaud" I love this salad. I know it's not complicated but every time I see it on a menu at home it gets all complicated and "chefified". I just want those lovely pillows of warm chvevre atop tomoatoes with some bread. It's the perfect meal really. And when I have my first chevre chaud salad upon arrival in Paris I actually get a little dizzy. Paired with cold Sancerre and I achieve nirvana.

Finally, there is a silly thing I do every time I'm about to go shopping at the big stores. It involves the Metro and I highly recommend it. For a WOW! moment take the Metro to Opera and take the actual Opera exit, rather than the various street options. As you summit the stairs filling your view will be what I think is the most beautiful building in Paris, the Opera Garnier. It will be the center of your view and it is breathtaking. Turn around and look behind you, there is the obilisk of the Place de la Concorde, look right a little and the famous Cafe de la Paix. It is a crazy busy street,people everywhere but just take a minute to consider, you are in Paris... PARIS!
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Aug 5th, 2012, 12:37 PM
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Wow! It only gets better!
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Aug 5th, 2012, 12:52 PM
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Aug 5th, 2012, 01:03 PM
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Oh my, I think perhaps we were separated at birth.....except you got the eloquent genes. You could be describing one of my trips, right down to the salad and sancerre!

My family says I have an abnormal attachment to Palais Garnier and the Medici Fountain.
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