I arrived in Paris a week ago today. Seems like I've been here a long time, and I still have a week to go. My only frustrations have been the weather (it's rained or threatened to most everyday) and my darn knee that's kept me from doing as much walking as I had hoped.
This weekend is Journees du Patrimoine, which I believe is taking place throughout Europe, including France. This year they are celebrating 100 years of protecting their French and European monuments. Part of the event is that the National monuments, museums, etc. are open for free. Some governmental buildings are also open to the public. I decided this would be a good day to visit the Chateau de Vincennes, which is located on the outskirts of Paris in the town of Vincennes.
I walked all the way down my street, Rue Quincampoix, for the first time today. It is only three blocks long, but it is lined with galleries, wine shops, and cafes. One restaurant is unique in that when you dine there you do so completely in the dark. I believe it is total darkness. I don't think I'm game for that. As I neared Rue de Rivoli I had a wonderful view of the Tower of St. Jacques. It is all that remains of a 16th century church and is one of the starting points for pilgrims journeying up Rue St. Jacques and on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. This is an ancient pilgrimage, still being taken and featured in the film "The Way."
I rode the Metro for the first time today, using Line 1 from Hotel de Ville to the end of the line at Chateau de Vincennes. The chateau is part of 14th century fortifications of Paris. The Chapelle Royale on the grounds was built in the 14th century, and is very similar to Sainte-Chapelle on the Ile de la Cite in Paris. The color of the stained glass windows is rather unusual in that they are mostly lighter colors rather than the darker reds and blues in many church windows. I lost count on how many spiral staircases I went up and down today, but there were quite a few, including those used to access restrooms in cafes.
I had lunch at the Cafe Le Drapeau across from the chateau. I had the Salade Drapeau, which consisted of confit of gizzards (probably duck) and warm potatoes on a bed of lettuce, and garnished with hard-boiled eggs and tomato. It was really good, but then I like gizzards. For dessert I had the Cafe Gourmand which was a small coffee with three small desserts: a pear tart, tiny little creme brulee, and a chocolate mousse.
Back on the Metro I decided to ride on up to the Arc de Triomphe as it is on the same line, with the idea of strolling down the Champs Elysee, which I'd never done before. I didn't go to the Arc, as I had been to the top before and I didn't think today's weather would offer much of a view. There really didn't seem to be much traffic in the Etoile (the traffic circle around the Arc), but it is Saturday. I walked down the west side of the street, and every time I looked across it, I thought I should be on the other side, so I crossed over when I saw a Monoprix. The Monoprix are all over France and there are dozens of them in Paris. They are like a cross between JC Penney and Target, and many of them have fresh food as well. They are where the average French person buys their cosmetics, children's clothing, underwear, and towels, etc.
The Champs Elysees is where you want to go when you want to feel like a tourist. The sidewalk is jammed with people. The shops and cafes are all over-priced. I had to shoo away a couple of petition girls. I got tired of dodging people, so went to find the Metro station at Franklin D. Roosevelt, which is two stops from the Arc de Triompe. I saw a woman sitting on a bench, so approached her with my best "Bonjour, Madame, pardon me for disturbing you, but do you know where the Metro is?" All in French, of course, and all for naught - she was a tourist, too! After walking around some more, I finally saw it hiding behind some plantings, but then had to walk quite a distance under ground to the platform. So now I can cross strolling the Champs Elysees off my list.
It rained most of the day, but not really hard, just enough to be uncomfortable. Since it is fairly warm, I feel like I'm wrapped in saran, damp from both the inside out, and the outside in.
After returning to the apartment I did two loads of laundry at my local "laverie." Fortunately, there was someone there to help me figure out how to use the machines. Payment is made at a central station and the machines are operated from there. I had been holding back coins for a couple of days to make sure I had enough. It cost 10 euros (about $13.50) to wash and dry the two loads. Even with the dryer set on low, I thought my clothes might combust when I took them out of the dryer.
I returned to Le Quimcampe for dinner tonight. It is just a few steps from the apartment, so very convenient. The staff is pleasant and the food is good. I had something called a "pistalle au confit du canard." Wasn't really sure what a "pistalle" was (thought it might be the drumstick), but I know I like confit du canard (duck preserved in its own fat). Turns out the pistalle was a packet made from phyllo dough, filled with shredded seasoned duck, and baked. It was sort of sweet and savory, different than anything I've ever had before, and pretty tasty.
I'm hoping for a nice day tomorrow, but I'll take whatever I get. I embrace the "smile at the rain" concept, just like at home.