Debbie in Paris: Part Two

My observations, not necessarily a truth.

A boat trip down the Seine

In no particular order, Paris surprised me with how “slanted” it is. Sidewalks and even flooring were often uneven. And to access many points, steps are needed, so lots of walking up and down.

Chocolate in Paris is premium. I had the best hot chocolate and chocolate milkshake I have ever drunk. The hot chocolate was made from chocolate not a cocoa mix, with fresh whipped cream. The milkshake was extremely chocolate with a dark chocolate syrup draped around it.

The Louvre is overwhelming. We spent three hours seeing five different pieces of art and were exhausted. The place is enormous, and we learned later that only a fraction of its artwork is displayed. It took many steps, up, down, and across, as well as detours and figuring out maps to find those pieces, but it was worth seeing up close iconic works, like the “Code of Hammurabi,” “Winged Victory,” “Venus De Milo,” and of course “Mona Lisa.” I couldn’t see “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix as it was not being shown then.

A very small section of the Louvre

I found Musee d’Orsay more manageable. Realizing that I was only interested in the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works located on the fifth floor, we stayed there. I strolled through rooms sharing the works of Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Degas, eventually reaching Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Gauguin. One of the more exciting exhibits was one dedicated to early cinema, showing movies from the late 19th century.

Ground floor at the Musee d’Orsay, a former train station.

Our first meal in Paris was late at night, and without reservations, most places were full. We sat down in the first restaurant that offered a seat. The food was quite good: steak, potatoes, and squash. I had the best glass of red wine I have tasted, but the place was also a cigar bar filled with men indulging in this pastime.

Picky eaters may not fare well at a Paris Bistrot. Despite visiting several, the menus tended to be the same. On my first visit, I tried the Bavette and Frites (Flank steak and fries) and found it tasteless and tough. Trying to avoid this option, as well as Duck (We have an agreement not to eat each other.) and Steak Tartare (Yuck, raw meat), few choices were left. I felt I did not select restaurants well and cannot comment on great French food. My favorite place to find food was the boulangerie especially if it had a pâtisserie. French bread, French pastries oh my!

A special part of the trip was wandering the streets of less touristy Paris. One of my favorite books is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. At the beginning of the novel, Marie-Laure becomes blind, and her father teaches her to walk from his place of work at the Museum of Natural History to home. It takes a while, but she does it. We traced her steps and saw many quaint streets, shops, and buildings.

The coffee…. I am unable to tolerate caffeine and don’t drink much of the beverage but I do enjoy the taste. The French offer wonderfully tasting cafes “deca.” They also don’t care what time of the day you drink coffee with milk (unlike Italians) so I drank several cafe au lait, cafe creme, and cappuccino. Most of the drinks were served in a large coffee cup – think Friends, again a difference from Italy.

I really worried about how receptive Parisians would be to American tourists and I can say in my experience, all I met were very patient and friendly folk. I attempted to speak French when I could but my knowledge of the language comes from two years of high school instruction. I found though that everyone seemed to appreciate the effort and gently corrected my mistakes. In other words, people are people everywhere. If you demonstrate respect and kindness it is often reciprocated.

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