It’s 4AM here in the Paris apartment we’re staying at where I’m writing this next installment of our Return to France Adventure. A bit more on that in a minute.
Wednesday was our travel day getting to Paris from Vancouver and had its unexpected highlights and challenges.
I mentioned in Part 1 that we had booked a direct flight here with Air France. I’m pretty sure that we’ve never had a direct flight to France in any of our previous trips here, almost always connecting either through Montreal or London. As we all know, travelling non-stop to any destination is always the best possible option not only to minimize the time spent in airplanes but also to lessen the chance of mishaps such as missed connecting flights or lost luggage.
We were both very impressed with Air France. We got to practice our French in preparation of our 11 days in Paris and as much as can even be said about airline food, it was not bad. What was included with the meal was of particular interest. After dinner, when we were served coffee we were asked if we wanted cognac with the coffee. Barb and I looked at each other, pleasantly surprised and of course, said yes. We actually said oui, merci but you know what I mean. This small thing included in our economy ticket made the overall long flight that much nicer. Well done, Air France.
We took a taxi from the airport and it ended up being a gruelling slog through Paris city traffic, taking almost 90 minutes and most of the time hardly moving. Jet-lagged and falling asleep in the back of the taxi, we vowed to take the train from the airport on any future trip to Paris to avoid the city traffic. We’ve taken the train into Paris before and should have gone with our first instinct.
While it was raining and about 17 degrees getting from the airport, the skies cleared and our first walk around the neighbourhood looked promising as the sun came out.
One of the most significant changes to this Return to France trip compared to our other trips here is that we’ve rented an apartment and aren’t in a hotel. We’ve rented properties before, twice in Spain, and we really like the freedom to go to restaurants or just buy groceries and eat at home. The biggest benefit is those mornings when we can just have coffee by ourselves without needing to get dressed and always go out for breakfast.
When we finally arrived, we met our host at the apartment and he showed us around, highlighting in excruciating detail every single feature of the apartment. Yes, we know how to use light switches and faucets. This whole process went on far too long and I just wanted to take a nap to recharge, which we both ended up doing for a few hours to catch up on some well-needed sleep.
After waking up, we went out to explore the neighbourhood around the apartment. This was an important process as we know we would be spending a lot of time around here, in particular, our needing to get some groceries.
What we discovered was beyond every expectation.
Within 2 minutes out the door of our apartment, we not only found two small grocery stores but several fresh produce stands, cafes, cheese shops, bakeries, pastry shops, wine stores and restaurants. We could not have been in any better location!
We were both up very early on Friday morning, around 4 AM, not having slept well and still a bit jet-lagged. I was looking at the clock for 7 AM as I quickly got dressed and head out to the boulangerie (bakery) about two blocks away to pick up some croissants and a still-warm baguette. We were in heaven, having breakfast on our first morning in Paris. 🙂
While it’s Saturday as I write this section, we’ve spent the past few days going further and further away from our neighbourhood. We both picked up a pass for the metro from a local Tabac store which will now allow us to easily get around the city on the incredibly extensive Paris subway which can take you to just about any part of the city.
I had the name “Le Weekend” stuck in my mind. The photo at the very top of this page with the both of us having coffee at a cafe was called Le Weekend.
By now, we’ve had two dinners in Paris, both close to our apartment and great dining experiences. We’ve lucked out that we’ve (randomly) chosen small, family-run restaurants that have had both excellent service and food to match. While we’ve found that most people working in restaurants will speak English, we try as much as we can to practice our French. I have few regrets in life but not being more proficient in speaking French is one of those. Born in Montreal, I feel it was a missed opportunity.
On every one of our previous visits to Paris, Barb and I have made at least one trip to the largest department store in Paris, Galeries Lafayette. I won’t go into great detail about the store, let’s just say that it’s amazing if for nothing else but the interior architecture. What stood out for me was standing in front of the store checking a message on my phone and a couple walked up to me asking for directions. I, of course, gave them directions but it occurred to me that at that moment I had achieved something I had never hoped for. For that one moment, I looked like a local.
I’ll provide more details of our Return to France adventure in the next instalment.
As always, I’ve started to post my photos from this trip to my photo website here.