Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The longest day in Paris ever! Our arrival day of touring....part 1 6/19/15

We had just checked into our hotel, it was a little after 10 am. We did a quick scan of our room, checked out our view, freshened up after our overnight flight and after about 5 minutes in our room, our phone rang and our guide was in the lobby waiting.  Our day was running like clockwork! Just as planned! We met our guide, Justine, and made our introductions and immediately I knew - this was going to be a great start to our trip!  

Our plan was a walking tour of Le Marais.  Le Marais is an old area of Paris, maybe the oldest area! It's definitely one of the areas with preserved architecture from before the reconstruction of Paris, so there are many beautiful old streets and buildings.  Even some narrow and crooked streets! Something that is actually quite rare in Paris we learned!

But before we set out on this tour, we stopped at a little cafe with our guide, Justine, for some café and some thé for Carol.  During this time Justine showed us some maps of Paris, told us about the metro system, answered any questions we might have and even gave us a little guide book she had made up for us for when we returned after our river cruise.  She wanted us to feel like we had a friend in her while we were there, someone we could call upon should we need her, and if she wasn't there, she wanted to be sure we had the information necessary to be comfortable in this city she loved so much!  We spent about 45 minutes just chatting and getting to know one another. It was a nice way to relax and take it all in! When we were ready to set out on our day, we decided to take the bus rather than the metro so we could see the sites along the way!  Off we went!  The 91 bus towards Le Marais!

The ride was short, and when we stepped off the bus we immediately could tell this part of Paris was so different from where our hotel was. Justine told us about how in the 19th Century there was a reconstruction of the city. Chosen by Napoleon III, Haussmann redesigned Paris to be more uniform.  This meant wider streets, a sewer system, and modern water among other things.  This is why in Paris so many of the buildings all look the same!  However this wasn't done in Le Marais.  Here, where we were now, you still had the old, pre 19th century buildings.  The narrow, crooked streets.  It was quite charming!

One of the things I love about the cities in Europe are those giant doors that lead to amazing treasures!  On the outside, the building just looks like any other along the street.  But open some of those giant doors and it's as if you step into a hidden world!  The first door we stepped through didn't disappoint!  We walked into the courtyard of an old mansion.  What a surprise that was!

We walked through the courtyard and out the other side and here we were....Place des Vosges!  36 mansions all built in a courtyard all looking the same, built by Henry IV! There's a beautiful park in the center courtyard that's very popular for picnics, and when we were there that's exactly what was going on!  The grass was covered with picnickers! 

After spending a bit of time here, we walked on and came upon another mansion.

The amazing thing to me was that these courtyards and buildings are just tucked behind those giant doors along the streets!  If you didn't go searching them out, you'd miss these beautiful gardens and buildings!

One thing I noticed right away and loved about the buildings in Paris was that there were very few "hard" corners.  Most of the buildings were angled and decorative on the corner. 

We continued our walk through the often crooked and narrow streets, passing by many cafés and little shops.

Now, this was more like the Paris that came to mind when I'd envisioned it.  Not so much the area where our hotel was.  

We continued walking passing by even more mansions

until we came to a large food market!  This would be where we'd have lunch!  There was so much to choose from! Justine showed us all of the options - did we want Italian, Greek, Indian, or French food to name a few choices? Well, it seemed only fitting that our first meal in France be French food right?

It was great to have Justine there with us for our first meal. She went over the menu with us and explained everything. She made sure we ordered properly even!  The food was great! Lunches seem to be full meals though! I had an avocado and shrimp parfait with a parmesan mousse to start.  And then a salad with pear, walnuts and goat cheese. Carol had gazpacho soup and then a "bun" as they called it, with ricotta, serrano and tomato on it.  It was very good!

The market had a combination of prepared food stands, restaurants and grocery type items.

After lunch we continued our walk.  It was really a great time.  We talked about our lives and the different cultures in France and in the US.  All of the hot topics - the upcoming election, health care, education. What is different and what is the same. It was fascinating and really, just like being with a friend in Paris! Our time was coming to an end.  Justine had figured we might be tired from walking and want to do something a bit more relaxing in the afternoon, so she arranged a driving tour for later that day for us.

So, we walked to meet our driver....on the way - you guessed it...more mansions!

We had arranged for the perfect spot to meet our driver.  In front of Pierre Hermés' macaron store! It was time for our first official Parisian macaron!  It didn't disappoint!

Carol is waiting for our car to arrive....she's never had a macaron before and just imagine how many she'll have by the time we leave 10 days later!

We said our thank you's and goodbyes to Justine, and were ready for the next part of the longest day in Paris ever! It was only 3 pm!

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