I'll have to cut to the chase on this one since I have now been up for 36 hours straight and am eagerly awaiting sleep.
We made it here fine. Brilliantly in fact. Both flights were completely uneventful, except for us thinking Kevin Garnet of the Celtics was sitting in front of us. I'm not sure why he'd be flying in the cheap seats on IcelandAir during basketball season, but it gave us something to talk about and someone to stalk to the restrooms. In the end, we don't think it was him. He didn't answer to Kevin or flinch when I yelled "rebound" and I tend to doubt he'd carry a pink floral laptop cover like this guy had. Anyway...
I had wanted to try to take the RER train from Charles de Gaulle into Paris. It is only 8 euro (compared to 50 or so for a taxi) and twice as fast. However the line to buy tickets was about 20 people long and not moving, so this led us to find a taxi and meet our new friend Alain. I had my doubts about Alain when I first saw him chain smoking in his taxi outside Terminal 1. But he jumped out, wrestled my sister's suitcase from her, and loaded our luggage in eagerly and as we climbed in back, the smooth melodies of Frank Sinatra were oozing out of his CD player. He shut the CD off as he started the car, and we both objected. I said to him in French "no, no, no, we love Frank!" And he growled back "French car, eet eez sheet...cannot start with CD on, not nice American car like you have." And so our love affair with Alain began. This nice middle aged guy sang Frank with us all the way into the city center. He complained about the traffic, saying "eet eez sheet"...so Alain apparently only knows one obscenity in English, and we got it twice. When we finally got to our hotel, he asked when we were leaving the city for the airport again, offered us his card, asked us to pre-book him the night before, and that he'd take us back to the airport "wizout zee supplement sheeet". So we're hooking up with Alain again on Monday and getting a cheaper fare without the airport supplemental fees. Yee ha.
We quickly changed and headed right back out. Our first unplanned stop was a macaron shop nearby. My sister hadn't tried any the last time we were here and we were feeling a bit peckish. We bought 6 and kept them for our walk. She was duly impressed with the caramel and chocolate ones, a fact we'd keep in mind later on.
Our first, and hopefully only, tragedy of the trip was our much anticipated return to rue de Buci for the eclairs at Bonbonniere de Buci. Alas, we made it to the street and walked up and down a few times, and have finally conceded that the cute little neighborhood market street has been overrun with more upscale shops and boutiques and our beloved Bonbonniere was run out of town. We tried an eclair on Buci just in case, but neither of us had a strong feeling either way whether it was as good or just a suitable replacement.
We made our way to Notre Dame and took in the Christmas tree that is prominently decorated right out front. We made a pass through the inside as well to see the nativity that is there, but we both were underwhelmed with what looked like something from the Hallmark Paper Store rather than something suitable for the church.
Everything here seems to be decorated for the season: cafes, restaurants, museums, shops, car dealerships. And it's all done with the same swagger with which the French are able to wrap scarves, that is, very classy, with taste, and not like you'll ever be able to pull off yourself at home! It is just gorgeous.
After Notre Dame, we walked toward the Marais neighborhood, stopping at a crepe stand where we both had a crepe. (Remember, we last ate in Boston at 6 pm Thursday, it was now about 8 am Boston time!) I had a caramel crepe that was literally a plain crepe baked and folder and then filled with ladels of caramel sauce. Abby had butter and sugar, which she said was rather light on both butter and sugar.
We made it to the Carnavalet Museum for the Louis Vuitton exhibition. This is not something I would have gone to on my own, but Abby loves Louis, so there we were. I actually learned quite a lot about the Vuittons (there was not just one running the show over the years) and that they started out primarily as luggage and trunks producers. The trunks they had were really impressively handcrafted and well-preserved over the last 150 years or so.
After Louis, we returned to Au Pied du Couchon, which translates to "Pig's Feet" or, as we effectionately call it, the Pig Place. We ate here last time, and recall the onion soup to be beyond parallel. And it still is. It was tastier this time due to how cold it was out (warmer than home, but still cold to be outside, about 34 degrees). I had the mashed potato and black pudding main dish and creme brulee dessert. My sister had duck which I tried and was very tasty. As it is beaujolais season here, I did have two glasses to go with my meal. Well, I'm not sure if beaujolias is meant to go with black pudding, but that's what I had. And enjoyed.
Now refortified and ready to go, we took the Metro to the base of the Champs Elysees and walked the Christmas markets in this neighborhood. The markets are hard to explain, but in essence, many neighborhoods have them. They allow vendors, crafty people and food people to set up booths with things to sell. The wares run from chocolates, candles, woolens, jewelry, wooden toys, fleece items...you name it. The food is everything from cotton candy to sausages to foie gras on toast to mulled wine. We got hooked early on one particular booth that had mulled wine with "supplements", meaning rum, calvados or vodka shots. Good glory...the hot wine, the heat from the alcohol, it was a dangerous combination, but one that fueled us all the way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, a walk about 2 miles, and on no sleep and very little food. Abby asked at one point why she was disturbed that we were walking with open Solo cups of alcohol, happily imbibing. I said I was more disturbed by the 14 year old kid who served it, but hey, vive la France. Who am I to complain? If this is wrong, I don't want to be right!
This market also had a santa in a sleigh who they'd strung between two towers and on the half hour, they'd send him across and back again, as he (a real man) would wave to the kids and talk to them over the microphone. Abby and I both immediately commented that we didn't know Santa spoke French, but DUH apparently he does, in FRANCE!
We made a couple pit stops on the way up the Champs Elysees to admire the window displays in Louis Vuitton (of course) and buy more macarons in Laduree, which is known for this brilliant confection (and in our opinion, wins hands down, especially with the salted caramel one!)
So once we made it up to the Arc we hopped the Metro and headed back to our hotel. Abby is already sound asleep, and I'm not far behind. We have two museums and a whole lot of Christmas markets to see tomorrow. A bientot!