We flew into Paris on an overnight flight, leaving Chicago after work and arriving around lunch in Paris. The first day there was mostly forceful jet lag recovery (we both took a short nap) and then just walking around the fourth arrondissement (where we were staying). We walked along the Seine, it was lined with all sorts of things, small street vendors selling French books, little cafés with people sitting side by side facing out to the street (versus sitting across from each other), flower shops, pet shops, etc., all very nice and quaint (versus mega stores like in the US, like Petsmart or Barnes & Nobles). We saw the Hôtel de Ville, which we didn’t even realize until we were upon it (much of Paris is like this, where you just stumble upon another landmark without knowing it). It was impressive, with a very vibrant look when the sun was on it. Further down, we ended up walking around the Louvre. The old exterior is very dramatic. When we got to the glass Pyramid, it gave an interesting contrast with the old French architecture around it. A lot of people were doing dumb poses with the pyramid (lining up their hand with the top to make it look like they were holding it or something). Kim and I decided to make a series of pictures of these people doing the dumb poses and began taking pictures of ourselves doing similar, but badly, like not lined up or just a meaningless pose. We strolled down through the Tuileries Garden, which were nice with a lot of people just sitting out and enjoying the sun. We opted to turn back before we got to the Champs-Élysées and look for dinner. We found this nice little bistro for drinks and dinner. I had a tartare and Kim had a duck magret, both of which were excellent. French beer leaves a lot to be desired (luckily we are going to two of the better beer countries later). We then ventured back, randomly, to our apartment. We stopped along the way to get a small bottle of cheap champagne, which we then finished back at the apartment before going to bed.

The Louvre

The apartment is this awesome, quaint little Parisian apartment. It is on the 7th floor (or 6th in France, they count the ground floor and first floor separately). There is no elevator, so we got to climb 6 flights of stairs (104 steps) up to the top floor where our apartment was. It was small, but utilitarian in its layout. It had an awesome view out over the Parisian rooftops. The building let out onto the street between two shops, right in the middle of the area. This area of Paris does not have specific residential and business areas, it just seems like they both blend together, with everyone living in apartments above shops.

view from the apartment

On Sunday, we woke up and made our way north to the Gare du Nord, the train station we would be using to go to Brussels. We opted to make it a walk and grab breakfast along the way. I had been really pumped about the pâtisseries, so we stopped by one and each got a croissant. It did not disappoint, I could go to these everyday and not get tired of them. After figuring out the train stations, we took the subway towards the Eiffel Tower. When we got out of the station, a half marathon was just finishing next to the tower and there were loads of runners around. This was quite hectic when you add them to the always thick crowd of tourists. We walked around the tower taking pictures and decided to go find lunch. We ended up having a sea bass fillet with leeks and veal medallions with a mushroom sauce (and some amazing potatoes au gratiné). Kim decided to get a crème brûlée for desert, which was excellent. We then headed to the Notre-Dame via train. The line there was almost as bad as the Eiffel Tower, so we opted to walk around some. We ended up having some drinks and a crepe a la Grand Marnier at a sidewalk café and then took a scenic walk along the Seine back to the apartment. After a short rest, we went for dinner, finding this small bistro where we got a charcuterie and cheese board, duck confit and potatoes (the duck was so awesome, and so bad for me, and the potatoes were seasoned, thick cut slices, deep fried, so great), and pasta carbonara.

le Tour Eiffel

The Parisian attitude is very interesting. People are usually very laid back and try to enjoy life more than getting something done. They enjoy sitting around and talking more than eating and leaving as fast as possible. They give the right of way to walkers rather than laying on their horns to save a minute of driving time. If they mess up, they laugh it off and expect you to as well, because ”C’est la vie”. They don’t worry if you butcher some French, as long as you try. Our time in Paris was relaxing and a nice start to the trip. It was not stressful (except for when we ventured into tourist country) and set a nice tone to the rest of the trip.

On Monday, we wanted to use the tripod to take some pictures of us in front of the Eiffel Tower. It ended up being fairly overcast, so the picture was not as good. We hunted down some lunch, a nice salmon tartare a few blocks away. And then ventured north towards the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. It cost a bit to climb (no elevator service) to the top of the arc, but there was little crowd (tourists are very lazy) so we got to get up and enjoy the view. The arc is at an intersection of 12 roads and offers a great view of a lot of Paris. I spent some time taking pictures, Kim wanted to head down for our next destination, the Louvre. We had advice to access the museum from the underground, when we arrived, we followed signs, but they took us to the pyramid. We figured the entrance was part of a closed station and ended up standing in line (this was not the case, we later found out). In the museum, we went and saw the Mona Lisa, it was very underwhelming, mostly due to a giant crowd around it and a very odd setting. We then explored some more of the Italian paintings, the Greek antiquities (and the Venus de Milo), the Egyptian department, then over to the Italian sculptures to see the Dying Slave. At this point, we were getting a bit tired so we headed home for a rest. For dinner, we ended up having small plates, one of charcuterie and cheese and another of foie gras. Kim is not a fan of the liver flavor in the foie gras, so I got to eat all of it (no complaints). We then ventured home and packed up for our train ride to Brussels.

love locks on the Pont de l'Archevêchè bridge