The room — Our trip, what I’m calling our European Adventure, began on the 30th of May with our flight to Paris. This segment of the trip is from Paris to Boppard. That morning we drove to the airport arriving in plenty of time; we made our way through security, though not without Van getting quite the pat down! Then we enjoyed a pleasant wait in the United Club lounge, using our free passes for access. Getting into the French mode, we shared a bottle of Laurent-Perrier cuvee rose while we waited. The flight was not eventful, thankfully, and I was able to sleep a decent amount.
We arrived at Charles de Gaulle a little after 11am, bought our train tickets into Paris and rode into the city. Our hotel was a short walk from the station and we passed lots of cafes and restaurants along the way. Our room wasn’t quite ready; fortunately, the Hotel Georgette staff was happy to watch our bags so we could go out and get some lunch. We looked at our Hungry for Paris book and found a restaurant described as more traditional – Le Tour de Montlhery. I had downloaded a street map of Paris onto my phone and that helped enormously in finding this and other places during our three days in Paris.
Our lunch was delicious and too big, which seems the norm in Paris. We started with a frisee salad with garlic croutons and what I can best describe as a gelled beef stew, that was delicious, but seemed odd to eat cold. A platter of bread and a slab of butter arrived as well. Our main courses were, for me, salmon in a mustard sauce and tripes au Calvados for Van. The meal was accompanied by a lovely inexpensive Bordeaux. We overate and still had leftovers.
We went back to the hotel, checked in, and then headed out for a walk to the Luxembourg Gardens. The walk there was fun, with lots to see, including a little street food market; we took a couple of wrong turns, but finally found the gardens. What beautiful gardens and so lovely to see all the Parisiennes out enjoying the wonderful weather. We stopped on our way to the hotel and enjoyed a bottle of wine and some people watching; we had a nice corner table out front of a place called The Blue Horse (in French of course).
Back at the hotel we lay down for a short nap then got up, showered and headed out to dinner; we chose a place, again from the book, called Pramil. It was a little walk away, which was perfect. The restaurant was not large, but very nicely done and very intimate in feeling. We started with an “ice plant” salad, which was not ice plant like we have at home, so I think something was lost in translation there, with shrimp and tomatoes. Our main courses were rabbit (for him) and sweetbreads (for me), accompanied by a lovely premier cru Meursault. For dessert, Van had strawberries and cream and I had a chocolate cake. Our walk home was an excellent way to help our digestion, made longer by a couple of wrong turns.
Our first full day in Paris started around 9:30am. We both did not sleep well that first night, being awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. We groggily made our way to a nearby cafe and had a nice breakfast while watching people go by. After breakfast we walked to a busy salon and Van had his hair cut by a very nice South African man; I found out where he was from by commenting on his excellent English. Ha – of course, he’s a native speaker. We went back to the hotel briefly, then rented two bicycles through the Velib system; throughout Paris there are racks of these bicycles that you can rent very reasonably. You ride to where you want, find an empty slot, park the bike and go about your business, then, when you’re ready, grab another bike and go.
We decided to ride to the Tuilleries and our rambling course took us through St. Germain and the Latin Quarter. Many times the streets were quiet and lovely, but sometimes we were riding against traffic on tiny streets with too many cars for my comfort. We found a little wine shop and bought a bottle of chilled white wine; the proprietor opened the bottle and gave us two plastic cups and we made our way to the Tuilleries where we sat on a bench and enjoyed the wine, the sunshine and the people watching.
The ride back to the hotel was just as nice, though I missed the curb once when stopping and fell, scratching my hands and elbows (I felt like a kid again, not in a good way). We stopped for lunch, letting go of the bicycles for the time being. I had a delicious omelette and salad and Van a large bowl of mussels. Another bottle of Chablis accompanied the meal.
Once back at the hotel, I decided to catch a nap and Van decided he liked the bikes too much, so he kept riding. We were meeting friends for drinks at 6pm, so I set the alarm for 30 minutes – or so I thought; suddenly the phone was ringing and Marcy was saying hello. I jumped up, showered quickly and Van strode in about that time as well. In 20 minutes we were downstairs hugging and kissing our friends, whom Van had not met before and whom I had not seen in well over ten years.
We walked to a little bar/cafe and sat and enjoyed a couple of bottles of white wine, a Sancerre and a Chablis, while getting caught up on each others’ lives. Marcy speaks fluent French, so we were in very capable hands for the evening. From the bar we caught a train to their favorite restaurant, A Pied de Fouet. It turns out to be the same restaurant that we had enjoyed on our last visit, except there are two locations. We had a lovely meal and another bottle of lovely white wine. I should mention that the weather was perfect for whites – warm, a bit humid, but not hot or uncomfortable. It was a late evening, with our leaving the restaurant around 11:15pm.
Friday we met up with my friend Erin and her two girls, Laura and Elise, my pen pal from Brittany whom we had stayed with on our last trip. We spent a long, lovely day with them, starting first with breakfast up the street (excellent omelettes and the girls had croques messieur). We then took the train to Les Invalides and the Musee de Armee, or the military museum. Van chose this museum; he worried that we wouldn’t enjoy it, but he needn’t have. It was great. The room filled with musical instruments was everyone’s favorite; I had never seen most of these. You could use the interactive bit and listen to each of the instruments being played. There were rooms full of artillery models, guns, uniforms and so forth. We even saw the actual horse of Napoleon, taxidermied in the 1800’s. Not a very big horse at all. We had planned to go to the Tomb of Napoleon next, but a huge downpour turned us around and we explored two floors of Parisian history, from 1914 through 1945 or so. It was interesting to see how the guns had improved – smaller, lighter, but less beautiful (the older weapons had carving and lots of interlay). It is an impressive display of history and one could easily spend hours looking at everything, but we had two young girls, so as soon as the rain stopped, we headed to the tomb.
The tomb is a beautiful rotunda with a painted ceiling; there are other historical figures buried here, but Napoleon steals the show, with an enormous casket set atop an enormous base. After visiting that we walked to a metro and rode to an ice cream shop where they make your ice cream cone look like a rose, beautiful and tasty. After that we walked to Erin’s Airbnb apartment where we shared a bottle of Chablis, then headed up the street for some dinner. We ate at a busy sushi restaurant and enjoyed a very good meal, though we found the choices more limited than we are used to at home.
Saturday Van got up early and took the bicycle out again, then came back and we went for a quick breakfast at another cafe. I went back to the hotel to shower and pack our bags and he went out to find a wine shop and stock up for the rest of the trip. He got back just in time for a quick shower before we had to check out and catch the metro to Gare de l’est for our train to Koblentz, Germany.
(Next: To Boppard)