Americans in Paris

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Friday, January 23, 2004

Beginning on January 23 we took a 4-day weekend in Paris. It was the first time either of us had been to Paris, so we were really excited. Also, our niece, Jessica, had spent most of January in southern France and was due to be back in Paris for the flight home that weekend, so we expected to meet up with her.

On Friday, we drove to Watou, Belgium (see previous t-pods) where we had dinner at our one of our favorite beer cuisine restaurants - 't Hommelhof. We spent the night at a B&B which is run by the granddaughter (now in her 60s or 70s) of the original owners of the St. Bernardus brewery. The brewery is still in the family. We learned that it originally had two product lines - beer and cheese. However,in 1959 the cheese was dropped and now only the beer continues.

The B&B is a great "shabby chic" sort of place. When we arrived, we were first offered the house beer and some nice snacks in the sitting room with a huge fireplace - before we were shown to our room. After relaxing for a bit, we were shown to our room and were told that reservations at the restaurant had already been made for us! The proprietor - who spoke French and Flemish - was apologetic about what she called her poor English. At some point we decided it might be a relief to her if we tried our poor Dutch (very similar to Flemish) and Chris started to interpret some French, so between three languages we were able to communicate even better!

After a beautiful breakfast in an enclosed garden terrace, we headed to Paris. We were supposed to meet Jessica at 3:00 at Notre Dame Cathedral. While we had been told it was about two hours, it was more than 2 hours to Paris and it took some time to find our hotel, so we didn't get to Notre Dame until 3:20. And, Jessica wasn't there. We waited another hour, til 4:20, but still no Jessica. We later found out that the train from southern France was delayed because of a transit strike and she didn't get there until the next day.

We spent much of the weekend going to Cathedrals and museums and just walking around. Paris reminded us of a mix between New York and New Orleans. Notre Dame was amazing, as was the Louvre (where we spent 5 hours!), and the Musee d' Orsay (our favorite).

The Eiffel Tower was lit in red (instead of the usual gold) because it was Chinese New Year and the President of China was visiting town.

One of our favorite places was the small Sainte-Chapelle which started out disappointing on the first floor until we found out there was a second floor which was completely surrounded in stained glass with each panel telling a story from the Bible.

We were completely soaked while in the Sainte-Chapelle thanks to the rotten weather that we experienced - cold, rainy and snowy. Yuck!

While at the Louve, we spotted the famous Venus de Milo.

For anyone who knows us, this statue should not be confused with our cats: Venus and Milo.

We didn't eat in any of the well-known restaurants, but we did have dinner one night at a great little local place and also found a gourmet food store where we bought wonderful cheese, bread and wine for a picnic in our room. Melanie had a cold and neither of us had super high energy that weekend, so staying in and having a picnic was just fine. So was sleeping late - which we did! We had read that the Jewish Quarter was really interesting and that there was a deli there that had great matzoh ball soup. Due to Melanie's cold and the nasty weather we decided that chicken soup with matzohs would be a really good thing. We are probably the only non-Jewish Americans who go to Paris and search out the Jewish deli instead of fine French cuisine!

We did not encounter any of the infamous French attitude and, in fact, when Melanie finally decided that she needed some cold medicine the people at the pharmacy were very nice.

We did a lot of walking all over -- in the neighborhoods, down the Champs-Elysees, and other random places. We decided that Paris really is a lot like New York in that you can walk just about everywhere, and it's incredibly interesting to do so, but it's much faster to take the metro. We feel like we saw a lot in 4 days, but we didn't do any shopping, spend much time on the left bank, eat in any really knock-out restaurants, or see all of the museums, so we definitely want to go back. It's about a 5 hour drive from Amsterdam to Paris, so a long weekend works well. Now just to schedule it!

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