Paris. Cheryl’s favorite city. I’d been there once before but that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It was a very interesting trip in that my perception of Paris was based on 20 year old memories. How much would it have changed? How different would my experience be this time as opposed to going over on a school trip where, let’s just say, my attentions were focused on other things. And we’d get to see my Navy brother and his family who were coming to Paris from Spain for the kids’ spring break. Bonus!
Both of us had been to all the museums before so we decided this would be a walking around (roaming if you will) weekend, which turned out to be a great idea. Despite it being Easter weekend the city was packed with tourists. Seems like all the kids were on holiday break so there were long lines (no, not Maginot) at every tourist attraction. On Easter Sunday there was at least a two-hour wait to get up the Eiffel Tower. No thanks! Same thing at the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame.
We stayed near Montmartre at a Mercure hotel. Mercure’s are business hotels and you normally get free internet in your room which you never seem to get much here in the States. At least for free! Ours was just off to the side of the big hill right by two Metro stops which ran to Gare du Nord. Easy in and easy out. The area was also pretty much just one transfer away from most of the other attractions. Good job on the hotel Cheryl!
The two areas we really wanted to spend some time in were Montmartre and the Latin Quarter. Of course we’d walk along the Seine and drop in on the other areas too but mostly we wanted to go find some off the beaten path places away from the barbarian hordes. It worked out great and we found some delicious food along the way.
One street in the Latin Quarter we found was Rue Mouffetard. This was a really cool food street! There were a lot of restaurants and food shops for fish, meat, bakeries, and chocolate. The end closer to the Sorbonne seemed more studenty but the further down you walked the more local it became. We had a very nice lunch there, I even had some steak tartare. When I was a few mouthfuls into lunch I thought to myself “eating raw meat in a foreign land huh? We’ll know tomorrow if this was a good idea.” It was. After lunch we stopped at a café along the way and had an espresso to fortify ourselves for some more walking.
Let me just say this. No matter how fancy a French restaurant you dine at here, there’s no substitute for the food in Paris. They use so much butter and cream in their dishes the decadence just cannot be replicated. Mashed potatoes never tasted so good! Also, you really should order some cheese at every meal. Or something with cheese. You’re not getting anything like it here. Oh and the bread. Oh and the…I could go on and on. The French really do have something when it comes to food and wine. You read about how food is so much a part of French culture and when you eat there you realize it’s true. They really do care about their food. We had some awesome dinners over the weekend. Two places we loved were near our hotel. One is La Part des Anges and the other is Relais de la Butte.
La Part des Anges was just amazing. We were lucky enough to walk up at just the right time and get a table before it filled up. Make a reservation if you go and don’t chance it. It is a very small place and seems to be popular with the locals so you know it’s got to be good. I had some snails and quite possibly the most tender suckling pig I’ve ever had. Cheryl had a pork terrine and duck breast. Both our dinners were so delicious. We also had a great wine recommended by our waiter who was very knowledgeable and friendly.
Our last night there we ate at Relais de Butte and were once again given a great meal. Our Easter Sunday dinner consisted of a large charcuterie and cheese plate (oh man the cheese was really, really good here) with veal cutlet entrees washed down with a Cote du Rhone. The best part of the veal dish was the side gratin of zucchini in a cheese cream sauce. And yes, I did scoop up every last drop with bread. Afterwards we went up to Sacre Coeur (I had never been there) and got to the top just in time to see the Eiffel Tower lights flashing. Supposedly they do that on the hour so we were lucky to have stumbled on it. Pretty cool view of the city at night.
So, was it different for me this time around? Of course it was. Younger eyes just don’t see the world the same way more experienced eyes do (and vice versa). The romantic memories of my youth weren’t really shattered by this but it was kind of like finding out there’s no Easter Bunny. You’re disappointed but then you’re like “um I can still have candy, right?” In this case the candy was spending a great romantic weekend in Paris with Cheryl, seeing some family, and discovering some delicious food.