I would forgive many of you for thinking that Stephen and I had been to Paris before - after all, we've been living a very short train ride across a very short channel for four and a half years now, and after all why wouldn't we go? But believe it or not, up until January of this year, we had never been. I was knee deep in papers this winter, but we still wanted to do something fun and easy for our 5th wedding anniversary, and so Paris it was!
Stephen really spoiled me by getting us Leisure Select tickets on the Eurostar, which meant a lovely meal on the way over plus as much champagne as you could drink. The seats were extra comfy and the service was impeccable. It will be difficult going back and travelling any other way, to be sure. He also managed to book us into a lovely hotel - the Waldorf Trocodero just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. Beautiful indeed.
Since it was a quick trip, all day Saturday and Sunday until early evening, we knew in advance that we wouldn't have time to see everything we wanted to see in Paris, so we decided to make this trip something of a "highlights" trip. It was also *very* cold - below freezing - which made too much time walking outside uncomfortable.
Saturday morning, we headed off to the Arc de Triomphe, and I was actually surprised at how big it was - and horribly badly situated. The Arch sits in the middle of a round-about on a very busy Parisian street. Fortunately, there were walkways underground to get all the tourists over to the other side safely. We could have paid to go up to the top of the arch, but given the temperatures, we decided to stay on the ground.
Around the corner, and there's the Arch
Some of the detail
More of the detail - I loved the way the morning light was caught by the marble
Turns out, this is where the French have their "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" with an eternal flame.
Some of the statues on the outside - love their faces!
Then we decided to walk down the Champs d'Elysees to the metro that would take us to the Louvre. This is the main shopping district in Paris, and we did a bit of window shopping, but ended up not buying anything. What we really enjoyed were the decorations still up since Christmas.
From there we took the Metro system over to the Louvre. But first, we stopped off at a little sandwich shop called Le Ferme (The Farm), which we found through one of our guidebooks written by one of my favourite bloggers: Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris. The food was very fresh and tasty with really reasonable prices. They even had plenty of seating, which is rare for central Parisian eateries. Would be a really great place to grab food for a picnic in more hospitable weather too.
From there, it was off the the Louvre! Unfortunately, they don't allow photography inside the museum, but the outside, like most buildings in Paris, were a fantastic blend of architecture. The other surprise were the fountains, which were still on even though they were half frozen.
Rows of prominant philosophers, scientists, artists and notable politicians.
One of the statues I liked - a peaceful contrast to The Arc
More statues plus the requisite pigeon
And one of the fountains with the very distinctive glass pyramid entrance
We made a stab at exploring the museum, which is enormous. You could easily spend a whole weekend wandering through the collections alone. We decided to focus on three sections: a history of the building itself, an excavation of some of the old Roman ruins in the basement, and then some of the marble sculptures. What really impressed me was the quality of light in many of the galleries. There were very few that didn't have some sort of natural light, either from external windows or skylights or windows to other galleries with windows on the outside. It really gave the whole museum a very airy quality. The sculpture galleries themselves were brilliantly laid out - almost like gardens, with plenty of space in between each piece.
After several hours, we were both rather tired and so headed back to the hotel for me to take a nap and Stephen to scout out an option for dinner. We eventually settled on a late seating (9pm) at a place called Le Timbre, which means postage stamp in French. This turned out to be very aptly named, as it was literally the size of a stamp. It was one long thin dining room with tables lining each wall; it was a good thing that all the locals were very friendly, because while the tables were technically separate, there was very little elbow room. This did create something of a very chummy atmosphere and we had some nice chats with our various neighbours, 2 of whom were also Americans! The menu was on a chalkboard that got passed around and there was exactly one price - 32 euros for 3 courses. The wine list was in the waiter's head. There was exactly one waiter and exactly one cook, both of whom obviously loved their jobs. The waiter was jovial and attentive and the chef was super efficient and obviously knew his craft - his kitchen was about 1/3 the size of the dining room, maybe 6 feet deep by about 10 feet across. How he managed to cook all the dishes I have no idea, but the food was incredible. Unfortunately, I forgot to note down what we ate, but it was all scrumptious and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Needless to say, we both slept well that night!