Timeline: July 24th – 30th
Bev was due into Charles de Gaulle around 9:30 in the morning on Saturday the 26th so I left the Cosmos a good 90 minutes before hand to allow myself time to navigate the metro to Gare du Nord where I would pick up the RER A line for the airport. At 9 Euros one way, Joanna and I agreed that it made sense for just one of us to make the pick-up.
All went smoothly and I arrived with enough time to have a coffee and check emails on the free wi-fi available there and then before I knew it Bev came walking from the arrivals exit with a big smile on her face. I’d purchased her fare back to Paris on the way out so our return went smoothly as well, except for the burden of using public transportation in Paris while hauling around luggage.
Click here for a map of the system: Paris Metro
While incredibly efficient and fairly easy to navigate route wise, switching from one line to another often involves long underground walks and climbing up and down stairs, a breeze with a daypack but another story with two good sized suitcases. We’d pay dearly for this the following week on our trip out to Versailles, but that is a tale best left for that posting.
Not long after our arrival at the Cosmos we set out on foot to explore our neighborhood and the surrounding area. Our first stop though was the patisserie around the corner where the very large selection of delicious things to eat momentarily paralyzed Bev. I recognized her state and stepped in, selecting mocha éclair and strawberry tart. Returning to the room, the three of us fell on those pastries with gusto and thus fortified we worked our way quite a few blocks west towards the Pompidou Center, which would land us within hailing distance of the Seine and the Left Bank.
I’ve not been inside the Pompidou in many years and we wouldn’t visit it this time around. It still has much impact though, this very modern structure, itself a work of art plopped down in the middle of a neighborhood that has been around for hundreds of years. As we walked down to the Seine and past Notre Dame, we took note of the very long line waiting to get inside the cathedral. Beverly had arrived at the heart of the tourist season and the result would be many lines and large crowds everywhere we went.
By this time Bev’s energy was flagging and we returned by the Metro to the Cosmos so she could nap a bit. Our strategy for traveling about Paris would utilize walking and the metro, which we would pay for by buying 10 ride booklets (carnet) for 13.7 Euros, saving us not quite a Euro per ride. Each ticket is good for about an hour of travel on the Mero and the RER, so when used wisely you can move around the city quite effectively.
The afternoon passed quietly and with Bev awake we made plans for dinner. I rely on Trip Advisor for most of my recommendations (restaurants, hotels, and sometimes campgrounds) and a nice place, just a block away, received very positive reviews. This being Saturday, yet still early (not quite 7:30) we were a little concerned about not having a reservation, but that did not present a problem when we arrived and were led upstairs to a second (the first in Europe as ground floor is zero) floor dining room.
I’d hoped that Bev’s first meal in Europe would be a good one and we were not disappointed. Our waiter was young and enthusiastic, speaking passable English and not making us feel bad about not being able to speak French. We ordered a bottle of wine to split (my one quibble with Astier is there was no house wine, so we enjoyed wine at stateside prices, over $30 a bottle) and our starters included a bowl of green soup (like a cucumber based gazpacho) and a Camembert baked in a phylo dough shell. For main course Joanna had a delicately seasoned filet of sole, Bev a chicken dish in hearty broth and I the saddle of rabbit stuffed with vegetable based tapenade.
All of the good was spot on, simply prepared and yet with a depth of flavor you savored throughout the meal. Winner of the best broth or sauce to sop your bread in for the evening was Bev’s chicken stew with a rich buttery chicken flavor.
Finishing dinner we returned to the room, then Joanna and Bev took off to see Paris by night.
They made it back down to Notre Dame with the goal of seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up, but couldn’t find the way and so returned to the Cosmos, tired yet satisfied with a good first day in Paris.
Paris Metro and RER: http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21879/visiting-paris/
Centre Pompidou: http://www.centrepompidou.fr/
Restaurant Astier: http://www.restaurant-astier.com/en/