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Bikerscott & Jamikins in Paris Christmas 2009

Bikerscott & Jamikins in Paris Christmas 2009

Old Dec 31st, 2009, 06:54 AM
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You make even the periods of not having fun sound fun.
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Old Dec 31st, 2009, 04:17 PM
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Paris Christmas 2009
December 27th 2009 - January 3rd 2010

Day Five – New Years in Paris

(photos from Day 5 - http://picasaweb.google.com/jamie.a....eat=directlink)

We only managed to sleep in until 9:30 this morning before Jamie was up and ready to go. I wasn’t, after a long night listening to someone in our flat snore (here’s a hint, it wasn’t me), the girl in the flat next door talking on what I assume was a webcam, and the noise from outside. I was especially unenthusiastic as I’d accidently broken the coffee pot the evening before while washing the dishes, and would therefore have to McGuyver some sort of method of pouring hot water through coffee grounds and into a mug.

We packed up after an unsatisfying and slightly gritty cup of coffee and walked down to Republic, looking in all the bric a brak stores we could see looking for a replacement coffee machine – unsuccessfully.

We ended up taking the bus, rather than the metro as planned – it’s so much more interesting than the metro and generally as convenient, if not as fast. It dropped us off at Hotel de Ville, where we made one last attempt at coffee machine replacement at Darty (we saw a few on the way, but they were all too big – the one in the flat is a little 4-cup jobbie rather than a full 10 cup system – down to counter space).

We were both quite hungry and thirsty, and it was starting to drizzle, so we decided to find a cafe to sit and have some lunch and watch people walk past. What better place to watch people than in the Latin Quarter, so we had a really atrocious pichet of white wine and some quite good onion soup at one of the cafes in Place St Michel, being entertained by the Americans at one table and the Venezuelans at another attempt French.

By the time we’d finished the wine and soup, the drizzle had cleared, so we walked up to Luxembourg Gardens looking for interesting photo opportunities. Somehow the temperature had dropped from 14 degrees the prior day to just above freezing, and neither of us had really dressed for it – I froze in my t-shirt and jacket, and wished I’d worn the sweater I’d considered that morning. Jamie was much more stoic, as is often the case.

There weren’t many people in the gardens, not surprising I guess given the time of year and the weather. Plan B was the Musee D’Orsay, which we’ve never managed to get around to visiting on our previous five trips to Paris. When we got to the entrance we found all the people that should have been in the gardens – they had all chosen to stand in the largest queue I’ve ever seen in Paris (with the possible exception of the Eiffel Tower in summer). We quickly decided that just about the last thing we wanted to do was stand in a queue in the freezing cold when there were any number of conveniently located cafes which in addition to having wine, also had heat.

We found one on Blvd St Germain and enjoyed another pichet of wine. This time we found entertainment watching the endless stream of people walk past our little spot (Jamie taking endless random photos). While sitting the cafe, we couldn’t help but notice a busy patisserie right across the road, and the thought of a tasty éclair was enough to get us moving when the last of the wine disappeared. The éclair was bloody tasty.

The temperature had dropped even further, so we abandoned our plan of walking across Pont Alexandre III and went straight for the metro at Place de la Concorde instead. A brief stop at an Italian food store, and another at a wine shop, and our New Year’s day food prep was done (as well as my winter supply of quality Calvados). We dropped off the bags in the garret, I had a quick nap while Jamie cleaned up her photos.

Dinner plans for New Year’s Eve were based on recommendations from Fodors – a meal at Le Tastevin on Isle St Louis. We arrived for 8:30 and were greeted by an enthusiastic Annick and a slightly off-pitch singer warbling French classics with gusto, even if not generally in the same neighbourhood as the key (it all went pear-shaped when she tried to hit the high notes in My Heart Will Go On from Titanic – I think even Celine Dion has trouble with some of those). We sat down and checked out the menu, although both of us knew what we were going to have before we’d even arrived.

The Chateau Neuf de Pape was an excellent compliment to the meal – Coquilles St Jaques followed by Fillet de Beouf with foie gras and a truffle sauce for Jamie, and foie gras with truffle sauce followed by roasted venison with mashed chestnuts for me. We both then had a very tasty pear gratinee by Berthillion, then a very odd apple and camembert gratin – both ingredients individually are quite tasty, but don’t really go well together as it turns out.

The New Year’s countdown was extraordinarily odd – the music stopped a few minutes before midnight, someone counted down from five, a waiter popped one of the two giant balloons suspended from the ceiling filled with confetti, then the lights went out the other balloon was popped, then the lights came back on. Small glasses of champagne were handed out, then midnight passed. Overall, dinner was very good –the food was very well done and the atmosphere was really nice for a festive evening.

We headed out into the Parisian night, full to bursting with mostly wine and foie gras, extremely pleased with the year past (for the most part) and looking forward to a happy and prosperous 2010. Most of Paris seemed to be out and about having a good time. We made our way up our 101 steps (as tiring on day 5 as they were on day 1, although the volume we ate and drank may have had something to do with that) and had a final toast.

Bonne Annee de Paris tout le monde!
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Old Dec 31st, 2009, 04:39 PM
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Bonne Annee a vous !!!
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Old Dec 31st, 2009, 06:23 PM
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What an entertaining trip report! One day I will go to Paris at Christmas time! I really enjoyed your pictures!
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Old Dec 31st, 2009, 10:25 PM
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Enjoying the report and the wonderful pictures - thanks for sharing them!
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Old Jan 1st, 2010, 05:53 AM
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Lovely. Happy new year to you.
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Old Jan 1st, 2010, 11:41 AM
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Paris Christmas 2009
December 27th 2009 - January 3rd 2010

Day Six – Freezing on New Year’s Day

(photos from day six: http://picasaweb.google.com/jamie.a....eat=directlink)

For some reason, we slept in until 11am this morning – it seems that the “City of Lights” becomes the “City that Never Bloody Sleeps, Yells A Lot, And Breaks Bottles All Bloody Night” on New Year’s Eve. We turned in at about 2:30, but I was hearing the festivities outside until at least 6am in the morning. Twits are twits the world over.

My MacGyver Solution #2 for coffee worked a bit better than the first try, but still wasn’t ideal. Plus, we’d forgotten to pick up breakfast supplies when we did our grocery shopping the other day, so we didn’t spend too much time in the garret before heading out.

First mission was supposed to be a snack and a coffee for me; however we instead had onion soup and wine at a cafe on Place de la Republic. Unfortunately the soup was actually a bit tasteless until we’d poured an unreasonable amount of salt into it – disappointing. The croque madame that the people beside us had looked lovely - wish we’d had that. We finished lunch (it was after noon, so the wine was permitted, although as Jimmy Buffet so rightly pointed out, it’s five o’clock somewhere...). The Metro took us quickly to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The decision to tackle the Champs Elysees from the downhill side had been a strategic one – there would be loads of posh people out shopping we thought, and we’d end the walk up the hill with the Arc de Triomphe. We hadn’t, however, counted on the blistering cold or the fact that all the really posh people had done their shopping before Christmas – it was just us and the tourists freezing our butts off (we are clearly not tourists, we’re travellers, but not in the living in a caravan in a school field kind of way). Okay, it wasn’t actually that cold from a Canadian perspective, but we’ve been in London for a few years and have become soft and complacent, and unwilling to deal with sub-zero temperatures.

There wasn’t actually much to see on the street as it turned out. There wasn’t even much traffic on the Etoile so no near-misses or accidents to enjoy (watching heavy traffic at the Etoile is one of the greatest joys of Paris – quantum physicists could watch it to learn about complex relationships and it must send car insurance underwriters into convulsions just to think of it). We decided to find the most heavily touristed area of Paris – the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower, being amazed on the walk down Rue Kleber by the detritus of the previous night’s festivities. Even the Russians got into the act, leaving an empty bottle of Russian champagne on the pavement.

The Trocadero didn’t disappoint, being fully congested with both bundled up tourists and the jingle-jangle men who follow them like flies do big piles of...well...you get the idea... (so named jingle-jangle men because of the sound their giant hoops of Eiffel Tower key chains make when they shake them). We spent some time taking photos of the Eiffel Tower and of people taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower (I like to think of them as meta photos) before walking down the stairs and across the bridge to the tower itself.

If you wonder what everyone in Paris does on a cold New Year’s day, evidently it’s go to the Eiffel Tower and stand in queues. We’ve never seen it so busy there – it was difficult to walk across from one side to the other – absolutely mental. We eventually made it across and tried to find a cafe for a warming cup of coffee – everything close to the tower was packed so we walked further and further away before walking past one with a spare table.

We sat down, unbundled, perused the menu and decided on a hot chocolate for me, a glass of wine for Jamie, and a slice of chocolate cake to share. The waiter was horrified – we were in the restaurant section and wanted just dessert? Madness, evidently. We were hustled off to a tiny table crammed into a corner, which we decided wasn’t quite what we were looking for.

We eventually found a cafe farther from the Eiffel Tower that was willing to let us have just a drink and dessert – it was actually just around the corner from Les Invalides. Great little place choc-a-bloc full of rugby memorabilia, including a huge supply of signed rugby balls and jerseys. We enjoyed a very tasty hot chocolate, wine, and cherry tarts (the French do tarts better than any nation in the world as far as I’m concerned, and I’m willing to forgive them just about anything based on this. That and the wine. And the food. And the architecture, and the people, and it goes on and on and on...).

Somewhat warmer we braved the frigid streets of Paris, heading towards the Metro and our return to the 11th for dinner and possibly wine (alright, almost definitely wine). A quick stop at one of the few open boulangerie for a baguette and some chouettes (little puffs of choux pastry dusted with a sugary crust – so tasty) and we were home. Dinner this evening included the aforementioned baguette and beef tortellini with ragu sauce we’d picked up the other day at the Italian market store. Very tasty. A quiet night in, but well-deserved after last night’s extravagance.
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Old Jan 1st, 2010, 11:56 AM
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ttt to read later
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Old Jan 1st, 2010, 01:05 PM
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Its more easy a life if the mind is full up with wine...thanks for sharing your beautiful trip report and the wonderful pictures...it brings back lots of memory...enjoy yourself and your stay...
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Old Jan 1st, 2010, 03:14 PM
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BikerScott, are you a writer in real life? This is such a good read! Happy New Year to you and Jamikins and thanks for taking me to Paris for New Year's Eve with you and Jamikins.
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Old Jan 1st, 2010, 04:09 PM
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You were in the Garret? Why was it only 200 euros?
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Old Jan 1st, 2010, 04:21 PM
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I am really enjoying your report and pictures. Laughing at lots of the tale and "illustrations"! I had to laugh and roll my eyes at the photo of the spoon stuck to the nose trick! My four nephews always had to do that around family get togethers (Occasionally even though two of them have passed the thiry mark, they still do it.) and pretty soon their sons will be doing it, I am sure! also saw a fair bit of it in the cafeteria during teaching days!

thanks for sharing your wonderful holiday with us!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2010, 12:16 AM
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MademoiselleFifi - yes we are in the Garret...it was 300 euros, but we paid a 90 euro deposit when we booked, and then paid the remaining 210 euros when we arrived. Hope this helps!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2010, 12:17 AM
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Glad everyone is enjoying the report! Makes it more fun to write when you know people are reading and enjoying it!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2010, 07:21 AM
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I'm loving your reports. You have made me laugh out loud a few times and your pictures are fantastic (I love pictures of people just going about their business, so much more interesting than just the same monuments over and over again!)

Thanks for taking the time to do this during your trip!

JO
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Old Jan 2nd, 2010, 07:28 AM
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I'm enjoying your report and photos. I have friends in Paris during this same time, I've been checking to see if they are in any of your photos! I love Paris also and like to read about other's adventures there while I wait for my next visit. thanks!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2010, 07:32 AM
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Great, great report, Scott. Love your writing style.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2010, 09:11 AM
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hi Scott,

love the report, and the price!

how did you find it?
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Old Jan 2nd, 2010, 11:47 AM
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Annhig - Jamikins found it on Fodors of course (linked through from Slowtrav)
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Old Jan 2nd, 2010, 12:33 PM
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Paris Christmas 2009
December 27th 2009 - January 3rd 2010

Day Seven – Last Tango in Paris

(photos from day seven: http://picasaweb.google.com/jamie.a....eat=directlink)

I spent the night last night with a raging migraine – I’ve never had one before and didn’t enjoy the experience. Sufficed to say that I didn’t get much sleep and woke up a bit grumpy and out of sorts (after the two or three hours of sleep I did manage to get). Note for next trip – pack extra strength ibuprofen (and probably a full first aid kit, because let’s be honest, I can hardly go two days without doing myself an injury – this trip alone I’ve managed to pour boiled water over my hand, stub my toe at least three times on the fridge, knock various bits of myself in the shower, trip, hurt big toe walking too much, strain my back turning over in bed, and twist my neck).

Our first stop of the morning was the pharmacy just across the street for my super-french strength nurofen – the French don’t do drugs by half measures and I got the full 400mg dose box, which calmed down what was left of my headache in no time.

We took the bus from Jean-Pierre Timbaud all the way to Gare Montparnasse for a wander through the really nice market there. It constantly amazes me how the French manage to find enough fresh produce to do a quality market in the middle of winter (it was even snowing, as they sold leeks, beets and potatoes). We spent a few minutes trying to find the excellent restaurant we ate in the last time we were in Paris but were obviously on the wrong street – it was one of those excellent Parisian 7-table tiny restaurants that the chef obviously opened because he loves serving quality food, rather than trying to make a fortune (unlike some of our celebrity chefs).

We enjoyed the sights and smells as we walked through the market – we hadn’t had breakfast and the cooking chickens and sausages made our mouths water. At the end of the market street was the main entrance for the Montparnasse cemetery (we’d done the Père Lachaise cemetery on a previous trip). We spent a little while wandering around looking at the ornate French sepulchres, coming across Serge Gainsbourg’s grave along the way (sort of a French version of late, great Jim Morrison, grave complete with flowers, poems, photos, drawing etc, much as Jims is in Père Lachaise).

Having had enough of gravestones and freaking COLD winds, we left the cemetery through the opposite entrance, looking for a restaurant Jamie had found in one of her guide books. Unfortunately, it had both changed names AND was closed, however up the road was an interesting market street with just about the largest supply of butchers I’ve ever seen in one place (Rue Daguerre in the 14th).

We spent probably a bit longer than is reasonable looking at the chopped up bits of former animals, then had lunch at La Chope Daguerre. The chef, or owner (its sometimes hard to tell) welcomed us in, gave us a seat, and suggested the poulet with the tone of a man who has purchased more of the special than he now expects to actually sell. In fact, the poulet was also recommended by the waitress, and with two suggestions, how could we refuse? €14 got us a ¼ chicken with girolles mushrooms, roasted potatoes sautéed in some sort of delicious fat, and a bit of salad. More than either of us could eat. And wine, of course.

We almost literally rolled out of the restaurant and across the street to a little shop selling various types of fresh pastas and sauces – we’d enjoyed the pasta so much the previous night that we decided to do it again. We bought another €12 of tortellini this time with a basil and tomato sauce. I was complimented on my French by the guy at the store (I have an odd Outaouais Quebec/Western Canadian accent that Parisians seem to find mostly incomprehensible – the Outaouais region is the bit of Quebec just northeast of Ottawa – a sort of Canadian farmer French, but it’s what I learned as a kid). I felt very proud that I was understood – usually I get a blank stare and confusion...

From the 14th, we took the metro to the Latin quarter for the trying on of hats and photography of tourists and shop owners (I was thinking of getting one of those giant fur hats with the ear-flaps as it was so bloody cold, but after trying a few on I realised that 1. I looked like a monumental twit and that 2. see point 1). Photos taken, streets wandered, massive hordes of people bumped into, restaurant touts trying to get us to eat their particular skewers of meat ignored, and we decided that we were thirsty (by day 7, I’m sure you’re detecting a theme to our travels).

We found a sympathetic cafe just outside the heaving masses and sat for a bit enjoying a cafe crème and a bit of wine, watching the scenery walk past. There are very few things in this world as relaxing as sitting in a French cafe in Paris watching the world walk past.

Post beverage, we decided that what we really needed was a bottle of wine, so we walked up the hill to our old stomping grounds just below the Pantheon on Rue Des Ecoles and specifically La Petite Périgourdine, where we’d spent far too many happy hours (and euros) over the past few years. Not much has changed at La Petite – a bit of a renovation from the first few times, but some of the waiters are the same, even after 6 years...

We took the bus back to our little garret, stopping at the Marche Franprix on the way to pick up a bottle of wine and 6 boxes of gavottes (only three for me, the others for co-workers back in London – seriously, they are spectacular and you must have them if you see them). Dinner was excellent as expected, followed by an evening of photo editing, writing, and packing.

After a week in Paris with nothing in particular to do and nothing in particular to see, at probably not the best time of year to be here, we’ve both decided (or re-affirmed more accurately) that we both love it here – Canada will always be where we’re from, and London is where we live, but I think France is where our hearts are and where our livers will probably eventually give out.
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