As I mentioned on my Paris page of the blog, Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world. I love coming with different people and experiencing the cities in new ways. This trip did not disappoint!
It was just my friend and I, two women, exploring the city...focusing on the smaller pleasures. By this I mean, we didn't go into the Louvre, the D'Orsay or even inside Notre Dame. Instead on the first day we arrived via the EuroStar from London, we started with a quick walk through of the Marche Raspail, one of the many open air street markets that run on different days in various locations around the city. There are mainly vendors selling food for people to bring home and prepare: fresh seafood, briny olives, succulent fruits
and vegetables, meats of every cut and animal you can imagine the French savoring, and of course delectable cheeses. We were staying in a hotel, so we didn't buy any food but did stop at a few stands selling scarves and clothes.
Next we visited Ste. Chapelle on the Ile de Cite. I love going to this lovely church with new people...the reaction is always worth the repeat visit: interest in the first floor (maybe wondering what is so special) and then, once the newcomer emerges from the tiny stone stairway into the upper chapel, there are expressions ranging from awestruck to the wide smiles of surprise and appreciation for the incredible site of the gorgeous window lined room.
I'm not sure where I found the recommendation on the restaurant, L'Epi Dupin, but it was absolutely fantastic. Very tiny, and even at the relatively early hour of 7:30pm was full, mainly of locals with a smattering of tourists. The staff was charming and the menu, which changes daily, was superb.
The next morning we were off to a tiny museum that has been on my list to visit called the Nissim Camondo. It was a mansion near the Parc Monseau that had been owned by a Jewish banking family who had emigrated at the end of the 19th century from Turkey. The son of the emigre was an avid collector of 18th century art and decorative art (furniture, porcelain etc). He donated his entire house to France to be preserved as he left it. So you experience the house as he designed it and lived in it. It was a wonderful experience. The ending is sad as his son died in WWI and his daughter was convinced that since she was a French citizen would be safe from the Nazis. She died at Auschwitz.
We then went to one of the few Parisian covered markets, called Les Enfants Rouge. It was quite small and mainly filled with food stalls selling lunch. We had some excellent Morrocan food...but it wasn't really worth the stop.
Next we went to the Orangerie, home of the huge panels of Monet's Waterlillies. It is an enchanting small museum in the Tuilleries Garden, between the Louvre and the Place de Concorde (closer to the Place de Concord end). We beat the worst of the crowd, but I think the best time to go is probably near closing, when the crowds should really thin out. It is the kind of place that you want to experience when there are as few people as possible. The two rooms containing the panels form a figure 8 or infinite sign and there are benches in the center of each room. To sit and contemplate the paintings in silent reverie is an almost spiritual experience. However when the room is full of chattering tourists, they can be a bit annoying though still worth the trip.
After briefly relaxing in our room, we went out and sat at a cafe and people watched before heading to our dinner at Cafe Constant. This restaurant used to be one of my favorites, but sadly no more. They have been ruined by success. My friend's dinner was only okay, and though my quail was fairly good the service was very slapdash. My dessert of Ile Flotante was very disappointing and this is something I always look forward to having while in France. Plus the place was overflowing with American and Asian tourists. I don't think there was one French patron in the house. I'm quite sad to see the decline of the cafe.
Thursday was our last day as we were catching the EuroStar back to London in the evening. We went to Marche Saxe-Bretuil, another street market, this one in the 7th arrondissement. It was quite large, again filled will cheese, vegetable, fruit, meat, bread, spice and clothing and kitchen knick-knack stalls. After packing our bags, and leaving them at the hotel, we went off to Village St. Paul, an area in the Marais known for it's antique shops. We arrive a during their lunch break so we indulged ourselves at a lovely cafe, enjoying salads and sharing a half bottle of wine. We then perused the shops which were interesting but for the most part incredibly overpriced.
After that we made our way over to Ile St. Louis, stopped for a Bertillon ice cream, and worked our way to the back side of Notre Dame. The view from the back is stunning and we walked along the Seine and examined the cathedral from the side as well. Then we may our way back to the hotel to gather our bags and headed through the rush hour crush on the metro to Gare du Nord to catch the train home.
We packed a lot into 3 days! It was lovely weather and we did a lot of wandering, shopping and people watching while managing to hit a few precious sites.