Having touched down on the tarmac at CDG, I was far too excited about finally being in Paris that I immediately forgot the sleeplessness and jet-lag. Little did I know that over the next three hours we were to discover a missing bag and the less-than-comforting promises of AirFrance employees that it would turn up in no time at all. But I won’t go into that now.
What could we do but try to push it to the depths of our minds and carry on. After all, we still had one bag…and we were in PARIS!
The Hotel Banke in the Opera District welcomed us warmly and we checked into our lovely little room. Though on the small side (we had heard this is the norm in the city anyway), Hotel Banke’s comfort and luxurious little touches shine through. From the lobby, with it’s gold lamé couches and cloches full of whimsical what-nots, to the exceptional staff, to the fresh roses in every room – let’s just say it was an amazing home base for our time in the city.
After a quick (ahem accidentally three hour) cat nap, we freshened up and hit the streets. It’s true what they say about Paris being quiet in August. But I have to say, I loved it. Finding our way among the scattered street patterns was at first tricky, but we soon got it down and ten minutes later we were in Jardin Du Tuileries. The gardens were everything I expected: prim paths lined with perfect flowers, dotted with towering feminine sculptures and the occasional fountain surrounded by picnicking Parisians. The sun was just beginning to fall towards the horizon, bathing the entire city in a prolonged sunset of pure gold. I’m telling you, it was magic.
After a long walk through the gardens and along a snippet of the Seine, we went in search of dinner. Having no plans, no reservations, we wandered until we stumbled upon a cute little square off the Rue St-Honoré. L’ Zinc d’ Honoré was perfect for our quintessentially French first-night’s dinner. A bubbling little pot of french onion soup for him, insanely good escargot for me, and steak frites for us both!
Already under the dreamy spell of Paris, we went to bed early in hopes of a full day to follow.
I woke up at 4am, and unable to go back to sleep, I periodically read and watched the sun rise, then took a long bubble bath, anxiously waiting for Mike to wake up so we could go in search of croissant! Finally my wish came true! We found a very cute little brasserie filled with very French people and ordered a “petit dejeuner” of croissant, OJ, coffee, and a slice of baguette with butter aplenty. C’est parfait!
Fueled by butter and gluten (oh the horror! not) we were ready to take on Paris.
Straight down the road to the Louvre we went, knowing we weren’t going to venture inside but still wanting to see it anyway. It’s so funny to see things in person that have always seemed so far away your whole life. What I imagined to be a towering, gleaming glass pyramid was in fact a bit smaller, a bit friendlier. Kind of like Paris itself.
Now we ventured across the Seine, and down to Pont Neuf towards Notre Dame. One of the few things I absolutely had my heart set on seeing was Notre Dame. And yes, the line to enter is intimidatingly long and you may not believe me but…it goes by in about ten minutes. Worth every second. The sheer magnitude of it’s history hits you as soon as you walk in and it’s a bit overwhelming. It first began being built in 1163 and construction lasted well over 70 years! It wasn’t even officially complete until about 1345! I could have spent hours just in front of a single arch, taking in the tiny carvings and interpreting their meaning.
We bowed our heads in reverence, lit several candles for our families, and took in a bit of the mass that was taking place at the time. I really can’t describe the experience, so I won’t try…but it was absolutely breathtaking.
Miles and hours later, my feet were bloody and his legs were aching and we needed to SIT DOWN. Where better to rest than on a lovely patio of a tiny restaurant with a big salad, prawns, and an entire bottle of wine? L’ Taverne De L’ Abre Sec was our oasis for the next hour or so.
After we were reasonably rested and a little bit afternoon-buzzed, we limped back to the hotel for a nap and a freshen-up before the evening.
Our last night in Paris had to be the night for the Tour Eiffel. It was clear and crisp, the sun had just set, and I wanted to be there for the moment it lit up. After being dropped off by a taxi (who warned us, “Watch your wallets!”), we made our way through the crowds to a spot mid-way down the Champ De Mars with a good view. We figured we had time to spare until the lighting, so we made a quick diversion for a beer and JUST as we were about to pay the waitress, there it went! Glittering and shimmering and bursting with light, it went up like a firework! It was so beautiful!
After taking about 1,000 pictures and taking it all in, we finally said “Au Revoir!” and wandered off towards the Champs Élysées, and eventually, dinner. By 10pm we were just beginning to get hungry and figured there was plenty of time left to find a place for our last meal in Paris. Not. The only bad thing about visiting in August is the limited selection of open restaurants, and even then they close quite early! I couldn’t tell you the name of the little late-night cafe we finally found, but I CAN tell you I will be trying to re-create the truffle mac’n’cheese we ate for ages! A delicious white cheese sauce, tiny slivers of jambon, and shaved black truffles. Decadence.
I remember we took our sweet time walking home that night in the beginning of a light drizzle. Disbelieving that it could already be the last of Paris for us, soaking it all it. I couldn’t imagine a more whirlwind experience, and I feel like we only skimmed the surface, but it was so beautiful and so romantic that I couldn’t imagine not visiting France without a trip to Paris. As we fell asleep that night, setting the alarm for our train to Bordeaux in the morning, I couldn’t help feeling like I was already falling in love with this country.