Monday, July 9, 2018

We'll Always Have Paris

Chocolate almond and plain croissants
from Gontran Cherrier

We are in Paris again, after a few pleasant days in Lyon. We have been to Paris several times now and feel quite comfortable here. As Judy wrote, sometimes we like to travel to revisit places we love. San Francisco and Paris are at the top of that list. 

Here are some of the things that make travel in France special. 

  • The food, of course. It is the best anywhere. Italy comes close but can’t match French breads and pastries. The croissants in the photo are unbelievable!
  • The trains. They are fast, clean and comfortable. You can travel easily almost anywhere in the country. Lyon is about 300 miles from Paris. The trip took us 2 hours on the high speed TGV train. 
  • Paris is beautiful, filled with great sites and museums, and it is easy to get around. The Metro is crowded, but it is fast and efficient. There’s even an app to plan your route on the Metro. The crumbling systems in New York and Washington can’t compare. 
  • The French people. You’ve probably heard all the stores about rude or haughty French who refuse to speak English. (Of course Americans learn the languages of tourists in our country. Right?). But that’s the old France and it hasn’t been that way in a long time. The people we meet are friendly, helpful, and switch to English when our limited French proves insufficient. Paris is certainly a friendlier city for visitors than New York, Philadelphia or Boston. Or London, for that matter. There are unhelpful and rude people everywhere and it’s possible to have a bad experience anywhere but you can have an enjoyable time here. 
So here's what we did on this trip:  We had lunch at La Cambodge, an authentic Cambodian restaurant with very tasty food.  It was one of places targeted by terrorists on November 13, 2015. From there we went to the Galleries Lafayette, which was packed on a Sunday afternoon.  We did happen to hit one of the two periods of the year when there are sales.  We replenished our travel wardrobes (in lieu of sending laundry out).  Since we had a substantial lunch, we decided to just have something light from Pret a Manger, a chain that is ubiquitous in London, fairly easily found in Paris and other large French cities, and now shows up in DC, Boston, and NY.  What we like about it is that everything is organic and fresh, guaranteed because at the end of the day anything left is donated.  Judy's pretty addicted to both the hoisin duck wrap and the mango with lime.  Steve's a fan of the chicken and avocado sandwich.  

Later in the week we ate at La Fontaine de Mars, an old-fashioned bistro near the Eiffel Tower, famous for being a go-to place for the Obamas when they're in Paris.  Their duck confit and sole meunière are just amazing.  On our list for this trip was also a take-out window, the "boutique" part of Yam'tcha, where we got an assortment of bao (buns) of the day (duck, stilton cheese, onion confit, meat, and vegetarian) and steamed shrimp dumplings.  Judy was excited to see the chef and her husband and children, who she recognized from the "Chef's Table" series on Netflix.  We took the food to the Tuileries Garden next to the Louvre for a picnic. We also discovered that our hotel was literally around the corner from a lively neighborhood, Abbesses, and we enjoyed shopping and eating with the locals.  Sadly, our favorite eclair from our last trip is gone, but we did have some from Eclair du Genie, the runner-up in our search for the best eclair in Paris.

On our last day in Paris, we strolled through the Cimitiere de Montmartre (cemetery of Montmartre), which was the view we enjoyed from our hotel.  It's a wonderful, almost whimsical place, with little memorial houses and many statues.  Many famous artists, musicians, and writers are buried there, along with generations of families.  It's huge, and they have laminated maps you can use to locate the graves of famous people.  

In all, this was a very relaxed trip, with a lot of strolling through neighborhoods, traveling around Paris to find amazing food, and enjoying the gift of time that we now have.

So we hope to continue coming here from time to time, and perhaps even bringing grandkids when they are old enough. After all, our 3 year old granddaughter, Lucy,  can already say, “I want another croissant.”

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