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Bikerscott & Jamikins in Paris Christmas 2009

Bikerscott & Jamikins in Paris Christmas 2009

Dec 27th, 2009, 01:26 PM
  #1  
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Bikerscott & Jamikins in Paris Christmas 2009

Paris Christmas 2009
December 27th 2009 - January 3rd 2010

Day One - Arriving

After much concern about the Eurostar, we made it to Gare De Nord without any incident at all. Weeks of poor weather had actually shut down the service for a few days, stranding thousands of travellers just before Christmas - evidently it was the wrong kind of snow, after 15 years of service. Either way, both Jamie and I slept pretty much the entire way, both of us falling asleep as we pulled out of St Pancras in London and only really waking up for the annoying Australians in front of us getting very excited and loud while talking about cricket.

Well rested, we braved the hordes at Gare de Nord - neither of us have ever seen it so busy! We had to buy tickets for the metro, however the ticket machine didn`t seem to want to take credit/debit cards (we have British cards, so there shouldn't have been issue - seemed the whole system was down). Jamie cleverly discovered that the little shop next to the ticket machines sold carnets of 10 tickets for the same prices as the machine, with the bonus of not having a massive queue.

Two changes on the metro and more stairs than I care to think about, we made it to Parmentier metro station in the trendy (think up and coming trendy, rather than already there trendy) 11th arrondisment. Our garret flat was a short walk from the metro station, even with our giant suitcases - it seems that winter packing is much heavier than summer packing.

The flat turned out to be at the top of 6 floors - 101 stairs, if you're wondering. I think Jamie almost died. I, on the other hand, am extremely fit and sporty, and was fine. The flat is tiny - maybe 150 square metres in total, but only 200Euro/week, which is hard to argue with. It has everything you'd need - a bed, a small kitchen, a TINY bathroom, and a few windows (plus wifi, which is always a good thing). It seems to be in a good neighbourhood - loads of little bistros and cafes, a place that it seems that Parisians actually live in, rather than the tourist-infested Latin Quartier or St Germain.

We dropped off our bags, shared a glass of champagne with the wall (Jamie discovered that the table is a bit tippy - alcohol abuse if you ask me) (champagne thoughtfully provided by Dave and Aralynn who we rented the flat from). A brief peruse of the neighbourhood guide and the green guide and we felt ready to hit the streets. A few minutes walk brought us to the Republic, where we found both a bank machine and an Alsatian restaurant for some onion soup and a tarte flambe (we spent last Christmas in Strasbourg, so this seemed appropriate). Unfortunately both the soup and tarte flambe were average at best, although the alsatian wine was excellent (Tokay pinot gris) - sweet and flavourful for a pinot gris.

Full and happy, we walked down Rue St Martin towards the Seine, checking out the windows of mostly closed restaurants and shops on the way - it's amazing how much of non-touristy Paris shuts down on Sundays, especially at Christmas. We ended up at the sparkly Hotel de Ville, fully decorated with lights, a skating rink, and two carousels. Over the river and past Notre Dame, we ended up walking through a full-on protest, complete with flags, French riot police (I think the French do riot police the best - fully done up in shoulder pads, shin pads, helmets, batons, and shields...they could be playing ice hockey!). We were going to go to a cafe that we've been to the last three times we've been to Paris just behind the fountain at St Michel, however the music from the protest van (they really get organized here) was far too loud, so we went a few cafes back and found a convienient window seat and a glass of wine (okay, a pichet, but who's counting).

After a bit of wine, we wandered up the road to Chez Calde on Rue St-Andre des Arts. I'd like to say that we had a good meal, but we didn't. Apparently, it has been recommended on Trip Advisor, according to the sticker on the window. It had great potential - good decor, sort of attentive service, let down by pretty crap food. Jamie had the cassoulet, which was surprisingly bland and had the most hideous toulouse sausage I've ever seen. I ordered the steak with chips and peppercorn sauce - a Parisian classic that should be hard to screw up. They served me the wrong dish, with a far cheaper cut of beef than I'd ordered, soggy roasted potatoes, and onion gravy. I got the chips replaced first, then the sauce. Clearly a bag sauce special rather than real peppercorn sauce the way it should be done. Just after I'd had my meal fixed, a girl at the table behind us had exactly the same issue - clearly having steak on the specials and a slightly different steak on the a al carte menu was a bridge too far for the kitchen.

Before dinner, we'd noticed that the 96 bus went from St Michel to Republic/Parmentier, which was perfect for us - a direct bus rather than changing metro lines several times. We crammed into the crowded bus and enjoyed the slightly scenic route back to the Eleventh. We braved the 101 steps up to the flat to grab our books, then back down and across the street to L'Autre Cafe for a final glass of wine (okay, bottle, but who's counting?). We ended up not reading at all, spending our time engaging in our favourite passtimes - people watching and talking (and drinking). While we didn't eat there, the food looked and smelled AMAZING. Unlike the Latin Quartier and St Germain, I think we were probably the only tourists in the place, which was nice.

After our wine, we came back up to the garret, full, happy, and tired. Tomorrow I think we're going to try to find a market, which evidently may be a mission on a Monday, and hopefully take some photos of the Christmas lights on the Champs Elysees if the weather holds out.
BikerScott is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 03:06 PM
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OH Good, another ongoing trip report.

I'm very interested in the 11th and what you find there. We will be staying in the 3rd, but close to the 11th in Feb. I always hear of the great restaurants and good vibes of the area, can't wait to check it out more....love to hear your views on it too.
susanna is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 05:09 PM
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Great start, BikerScott and Jamiekins. I tried to rent the same apartment once and it was already booked. Love that location and the price cannot be beat.

Have fun and post when you can.
Leely2 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 09:12 PM
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"150 square metres" is not tiny at all. My own 3-room two level flat is 75m² and nobody has ever called it tiny!
kerouac is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 10:31 PM
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tod
 
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Great start you two! Looking forward to your daily wanderings around the city. Hopefully some photos too?
tod is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 12:47 AM
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Sorry - I'm used to square feet - just did the online conversion, the flat is probably closer to 14 square metres, or 150 square feet..maybe 10 feet wide, by 20 long, including the kitchen and bedroom...essentially the size of a biggish hotel room.
BikerScott is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 02:51 AM
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Glad you got there safely on the Eurostar and gosh, those annoying Australians! They're all like that

Have a great trip.
Kay
KayF is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 03:00 AM
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I'm really enjoying how you tell it like it is. Can the flat be viewed online? It sounds perfect, particularly the price!
tarquin is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 07:11 AM
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Rock on, Scott - your dispatches from the field are assuaging my grief over not being in Paris right now.
Seamus is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 09:09 AM
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Paris Christmas 2009
December 27th 2009 - January 3rd 2010

Day Two - Footsore

We managed to sleep in this morning to the blissful hour of 10:30! The bed in our little garret is fairly comfortable - a little soft for me but heaven for Jamie (my parents forced my brother and I to sleep on plywood for the early part of our lives, at least in my memory...thus my preference for a harder mattress). Dave (owner of the flat) called at 9am to arrange to meet tomorrow morning so that we could pay him (yes, the keys were left for us, we haven't paid anything other than a deposit).

As we have our priorities firmly in order, we first went on a mission looking for the Monoprix to stock up on wine, champagne, scotch, and some food if there was any room in our bags. It turned out not to be too far, maybe a 10 minute walk from the flat. There were a surprising number of gypsys and other assorted homeless people asking for money and selling magazines - the neighbourhood seems a bit down and out, I wouldn't have expected so many. We also dodged more little puppy landmines on the way there and back than I've seen in the entire rest of the time I've been in Paris - 5 previous trips combined! Don't know what it is about the 11th, but there is some poop out here.

The Monoprix was, as is expected, wonderful. Someone once mentioned that it's a budget french grocery store, but it certainly puts the British grocery stores I'm used to to shame (well...Tesco's and Sainsburys...it might rival Waitrose). We picked up supplies for the week and walked back to the flat, mentally preparing ourselves for the 101 stairs. Being on the sixth floor didn't seem like such a big deal when we booked the place, but after going up and down them a few times, it was becoming a bigger deal...I don't think my Dad could've handled it (he has a bad knee).

We unloaded groceries, had a quick bottle of water, and headed back out looking for a recommended restaurant for lunch. It was a bit of a farther walk than expected. We eventually found L'Estaminet up on Rue Oberkampf and sat down for our meal. The cafe is small and a little shabby looking - typical workingman's parisian cafe complete with jazz on the stereo and a zinc bar top. No printed menus, just blackboards around the place with today's selection. They had a reasonably priced set menu for €12.50 for an entree and a main. Jamie went for the lentil and escargot soup, I started with an assiette du cochonaille - both were MASSIVE. Jamie's soup was very tasty and my giant plate of mixed pork products was fantastic - two type of sausage, bacon, terrine and gerkins. We were both a little full by the time we'd finished all that, then they brought our mains. We both had the trio de grillades - three types of grilled meat and a giant serving of chips. After we'd gotten through the chicken breast, duck breast, and little steak, neither of us were sure we would be able to move.

Rather than walk back up the 101 stairs, we decided to see how far of a walk it would be to Opera. It's quite a ways as it turns out, although an interesting walk. The 11th is a vibrant little place - loads of kids and families, it seems like an area that people actually live in, rather than a tourist trap like the Latin Quarter, St Germain, or even the Marais. Maybe not as glossy and polished as those parts of town, but full of character, and a whole lot cheaper!

The area around Opera and the massive department stores Galleries Layfayette and Printemps were PACKED with people doing their post-Christmas shopping. After a brief stop in Printemps for me to use the bathroom (the flat has one of those electric bogs, I'm afraid to use it in case it explodes) - a bit expensive at €1 but worth it in the end.

We were feeling a bit parched at this point, so found a conveniently located cafe not too far from Printemps but far enough to be slightly away from the hellish crowds. We had an overpriced 50cl of not too bad wine and watched the shoppers do their thing. There are some very interestingly dressed people in Paris this time of year – it’s about 5 degrees Celcius, but you’d think we were above the Arctic Circle the way some people had kitted themselves up.

Post beverage, we walked to Madeleine to see the fancy-pants shops around it and possibly have a LaDuree macaroon – the queue was huge so we immediately gave up that plan. Instead, we kept walking down to Place de la Concorde and then through the Tuileries. By this time, our feet were starting to get a bit sore, so we braved the metro system and headed back in the direction of our flat.

We’d never actually been to Bastille, so we got off the metro and took a look around before walking back towards ours. I’m not sure what I was expecting of the Bastille area, but not what it turned out to be – seemed very quiet and sedate other than a fairly large group of kids on rollerblades and skateboards.

Even the walk back up to our neighbourhood was not what I was expecting – every other store seemed to be either a bathroom showroom or a store where one could buy a motorcycle helmet (if you’re in the market for either, Avenue Richard Lenoir at Bastille appears to have just about the best selection in the known universe). We stopped in a little U-Marche to pick up some nibbles for dinner and found our flat – the 101 stairs seemed a lot farther this evening after our epic walk than it did first thing this morning. I suspect we’ll both be a bit sore in the morning.

This evening’s plan includes some wine, maybe a beer, and our picnic dinner while we listen to our classic jazz on the computer. After dinner we may head back downstairs for a nightcap at one of the many cafes and bars, if we can handle the thought of having to come back up the stairs.
BikerScott is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 09:46 AM
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Hah -- Bastille is the motorcycle capital of France!

Great report.
kerouac is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 10:19 AM
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I am loving this! I can relate to 101 steps. There were even more where we stayed in Berlin. We made serious plans for the day. No frivolous trips back to the flat!
gomiki is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 10:46 AM
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What's the big deal? I have helped friends who lived on 6th floor walkups move. There was all of the furniture, the cartons of books, the clothes, the pots and pans and the dishes, and all of the boxes of mysterious items. Up and down all of the flights of stairs for 3 hours. Let me calculate how old I was at the time.... hmmm, about 45. Did it almost kill me? Yes.
kerouac is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 10:55 AM
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oh my kerouac...I cant imagine! We were just talking about that on the way up the stairs tonight!!!
jamikins is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 11:16 AM
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Great report. The benefit of 101 stairs is its offset of the croissants, wine, macaroons etc.
AGM_Cape_Cod is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 11:20 AM
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Biker and Jami...

I feel a bit sheepish in mentioning this...(something I'm almost sure you know about)...but just a short walk from Parmentier Metro lies the famous Pere LaChaise cemetery...a fascinating place to visit (even at 5 degrees C)

...your report is brimming with a goodly amount of sweet nostaligia..keep it rolling....and have a great New Year.

Stu T.
tower is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 11:22 AM
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You two know how to have a good time. Fun report.
stokebailey is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 12:54 PM
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Here is the link to the apartment: http://www.slowtrav.com/cl/detail.asp?l=1208

We love it...all 101 stairs and all! Its about the size of a hotel room, but has a basic kitchen. Its a great deal, and only about a block and a half from Metro Line 3. We would definately stay here again.

We will take some pics this week and post, but the pics online are veru accurate.

OK, now back to some wine!
jamikins is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 01:55 PM
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Wonderful, jamikins.

I've wandered around the 11th many times now and really like it.

Anselm
AnselmAdorne is offline  
Dec 28th, 2009, 02:08 PM
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Ah, 17 square metres -- it's marked right on the site.

Interesting factoid: one end of rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud is considered to be a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism. The other end is well inserted into the decadence of the Oberkampf bo-bo bar area.
kerouac is offline  

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