Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mes copines and an exhausting weekend in Paris

Ok, I admit it.  I have been sorely neglecting this blog.  I can't believe it has been a month since my last post!  My only excuse is I have been busy.  I haven't even seen the time go by.  I'm still struggling with the idea that we are in November and the month is nearly over!  Thanksgiving is nearly upon me and I haven't finalized my plans.  Then, before I know it, it will be Christmas and I have yet to give any thought to gifts and decorations.  Where has the time gone!?!

Anyway, enough of that tired old story of being too busy and not having enough time.  One of the many reasons for my extended blogging absence was the visit of 2 of my closest friends from high school.  They have never made it out to France to visit me before and this was pretty much their first trip to Europe, so I wanted everything to be perfect (you know, to entice them to want to come back and visit again soon!).  After much discussion and debate we finally decided on the itinerary - Paris with a day trip to Reims, Bordeaux, Lisbon - and then I dove into planning and organizing like a mad woman.  I was meeting them at CDG and then we were spending 4 days in Paris, one of which was filled with a day trip to Reims to visit Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot.  So, in the end, only 3 full days to visit Paris.  I had so much I wanted them to see and experience and it was not easy to plan it all into such a short time.  In the end some hard decisions had to be made in order to make the most of their time but I think it went quite well.  Since the weather was mostly going to be nice I opted to keep us outdoors as much as possible and mostly avoid museums which, with their lines and maze-like interiors can often be huge time killers. 

They arrived at 6am and I met them at the airport.  We headed straight to the apartment we had gotten from Airbnb (great deal and right in between Montparnasse and Denfert Rochereau) to drop off their stuff, take a short nap, have breakfast and coffee and then we were off for a whirlwind day of the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysee, Place de la Concorde, Tuileries complete with picnic lunch, the Louvre (after so many visitors over the years I have perfected my "highlights of the Louvre" 1-hour circuit for those with little time or little interest in seeing tons of paintings), the Eiffel Tower, Trocadero for a view of the tower lit up and sparkling at night, a nighttime trip on the Bateaux Mouches and then a late dinner in St. Michel at which I even got them to try escargot.  The girls were exhausted at the end of the day, but it was worth it.

Susan, Morgan and I at the Arc de Triomphe

enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero

Saturday we grabbed an early train to Reims and visited the city and cathedral as well as doing tours of the Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot champagne houses.  It was my third trip out to Reims and I've done 4 or 5 champagne houses now, and I must say that at this point I firmly believe that Taittinger has the best cellars in Reims and is my number one recommendation of a champagne house to visit.  Plus, it's the only one that doesn't require reservations.

the Taittinger cellars

Morgan and Susan champagne tasting at Taittinger

Susan and Morgan ready to visit Veuve Clicquot

champagne tasting at Veuve

 the Veuve Clicquot cellars

After enjoying some champagne and an exhausting day in Reims we headed back to Paris and I took them for drinks at my favorite wine bar in Bercy Village.  Then we grabbed dinner and crashed back at the apartment.

Sunday was another busy day.  I had given them the choice of either doing the Catacombes or the Musee d'Orsay in the morning, then planned to spend the rest of the day doing Notre Dame and wandering the 5th and 6th.  However, when we walked to the Catacombes the line to get in went all the way around Place Denfert Rochereau so we opted to just hop the metro to Notre Dame and try again later.  We spent an obscene amount of time at Notre Dame because of the line to go into the cathedral (seriously...I have NEVER waited in line to get into Notre Dame and late October...not exactly tourist season...what's up with that!?!  Perhaps it was because of les vacances scolaires?) and then the line to go up the towers.  But the girls really liked it.  After that we wandered around the 5th and 6th, winding our way through St. Michel then up to the Pantheon, down to the Luxembourg Gardens and then over to St. Sulpice before deciding to hop the metro back to give the Catacombes one last try. 

walking around Notre Dame

 from the top of Notre Dame

We got to Denfert Rochereau and our hearts sank as we saw that there was still an impossibly long line to get in, but the girls had their hearts set on seeing the Catacombes so we made our way to the end of the line and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We had no idea how long the wait would be and at one point an employee came by and told us we were taking a risk - we may not make it in before they closed the doors.  But at that point we had waited for so long that we decided to just see what happened.  And good thing we did because after an hour and minute wait we were the LAST people allowed in.  As the door closed behind us we saw the disappointed faces of the two guys standing in line behind us who arrived just 20 seconds after us and couldn't help but be thankful for our luck.  And this is where I need to go off on a little rant...since when have the Catacombes become so popular!?!  For some reason, with my friends and family, they have always been a popular site, and so I had literally been to the Catacombes 10 times prior to this (I know, I should get an award for patronage or something) in all seasons including high tourist season and have NEVER waited more than 10 minutes to get in.  But for months now their website has been announcing waits of up to two hours (I just didn't believe it).  What's up with that!?!

visiting the Catacombes

 Susan and Morgan freaked out by all the bones!

Anyway, the girls loved the Catacombes and were so happy to have gotten to see it, so in the end it was worth it.  After our visit we dragged our aching and sore bodies (because standing in line is a killer for the feet) back to the apartment because we had plans for Sunday night.  We needed to get changed, shove our miserable feet into heels and head to the north of Paris...we were going to see a show at the Moulin Rouge!  So off we went with our feet screaming in protest.  First we went to see the Sacre Coeur at night (and for the first time ever I took the funicular to the top...we were in too much pain to do the stairs).  We enjoyed the view with a little picnic for dinner then visited the inside of the church before heading back down to make our way to the Moulin Rouge for the 11pm show.  You see, I have a good friend who is the second meneuse de revue at the Moulin Rouge and she was able to get us a huge discount on tickets (otherwise I would never have gone and I had actually never been before).  So when I saw her in June she offered to get us tickets if my friends wanted to go and I thought it would be a pretty cool addition to their trip.  I had always heard good things and I'm happy we went.  The show was impressive (even if my friend wasn't dancing that night because she had family visiting for the weekend) and we really enjoyed it, even if it wasn't at all what my friends were expecting.  There were a few acts that were just jaw dropping and the champagne was flowing so no complaints other than the poor choice to wear heels.  After the show we very slowly made our way back to crash after another long day.

ready to head in for the show

 getting seated in the Moulin Rouge and waiting for the show to start

Finally, on Monday we started the day at the Chateau de Vincennes and then went back into the center to wander from Bastille to Chatelet.  On the way we stopped along the Seine to drink a bottle of wine (because who doesn't like day drinking), grabbed falafel at L'As du Falafel in the Marais and ate it picnic style in the Place des Vosges (and it was so, so good), then made our way past the Centre Pompidou, through Chatelet and Les Halles (ummm...Les Halles has changed quite a bit...I was shocked and disappointed when I saw the huge, ugly monstrosity that is taking the place of the remaining architecture of the old market), to St. Eustache then back down the Rue de Rivoli over to the Tour St. Jacques, L'Hotel de Ville, across the river and back to Ile de la Cite where we stopped again along the quais for another bottle of wine near Notre Dame.  Then we headed back to the apartment to pick up our stuff and catch our train to Bordeaux.  We arrived in Bordeaux late and Lionel picked us up at the train station and took us home.  We gave the girls a tour of the house, chatted a bit and then headed to bed, completely worn out after a busy and exhausting weekend in Paris.

Ok, let me get my rant over with first.  I turn the corner into Les Halles and this is the sight I see.  Definitely not what I was expecting!  I must admit, I liked the little architectural reminder of the old market much more than this horrific monstrosity. How did I not know about this...

And this is what it is supposed to look like when completed...a modern disaster in my opinion.  Such a shame!

Morgan and Susan enjoying some wine along the Seine

At L'Hotel de Ville

along the Seine

We had forgotten to take a pic in front of Notre Dame on Sunday so we stopped in for a quick shot

 One last view of Notre Dame before hopping on the metro to catch our train

Luckily the entire weekend in Paris went smoothly.  But it was a whirlwind, especially for my friends who were jet-lagged, had never visited Paris before, and were just utterly worn out from the lack of sleep, the time difference and the sheer amount of walking we did, which definitely is not part of their habitudes.

I must admit, sometimes I get tired of doing the tourist thing in Paris, having lived there and all.  Plus it kills me to spend so much money seeing the same sites over and over and over again.  But, it was a lot of fun to do it with these two girls and to be their guide for their first ever visit to Paris.  There was so much more I would have liked to have shown them but unfortunately there just wasn't enough time.  Hopefully they'll be back again soon cause despite the exhaustion and the time crunch we had a blast and it sure was a pleasure being in Paris with these girls!

Coming up next...Bordeaux.