Paris 10/2008 Day 7



Dordogne to Paris Day 7

October 10, 2008

We're up at 5:30 in the morning so we can make it to the train in Angouleme. Both of us are a little nervous because of how much we got lost on the way here that we want to allow plenty of time. The night before, as we were leaving for dinner, we'd asked Caroline for the bill so we could settle up. She didn't have it because "that's Dominique's responsibility". She told us they would leave the bill in our room and we could leave payment. So this morning we leave our euros for them and I am honored by their trust in us to do the right thing. Caroline has left us a thermal carafe of hot water for tea and cake for breakfast. I take a slice with me because it's just too early to eat. We haul our bags out to the car in the dark and we're on our way by 6 am.

On the way into Angouleme, we stop at a coin operated car wash and scrounge enough change to rinse off the car but not to vacuum it. Then we stop for gas to fill the tank and Mom gets more coins so we can go back and vacuum. Needless to say, the scary woman at the EuropCar rental counter made an impact. We have to drop the car in the parking lot and the keys in the mail slot because the office is not open before our train leaves the station across the street. Before we leave the car, I take about a dozen pictures of the inside, outside, and odometer as "proof" if there is later any problem.
A couple of things to note; we drove over 700k on less than one tank of diesel gas. That was the only time we had to fill the car and the tank was still 1/4 full. A month after being home, we've heard nothing from the car rental so I assume the car was cleaned to their satisfaction.

The train ride back to Paris is uneventful and we arrive back at the Gare Montparnasse around 10:30 am. Our hotel is near the Center Georges-Pompidou so we need to take just one metro to the Les Halles stop. Little did we know that it would feel like a 5 mile trek just to get to the metro station. Up and down escalators and stairs, through long hallways and connector tunnels, we walked and walked with my Mom whining after every turn of a corner where we discovered there was still further to go. We should have just taken a cab.

When we finally get to the Les Halles stop it's another 6 block walk to our hotel, the Hotel Beaubourg. This hotel is a little more expensive (by only 12 euro )than the Grandes Ecoles, but I think I like the room a little better. The bathroom is nicer and more modern. The room has a TV with CNN and a small mini-bar 'fridge. Our room is on the first floor and has two large windows over-looking the street yet noise does not seem to be a problem. Yes, there is bright blue and yellow toile wallpaper, but it's not so bad; at least the drapes are a solid color and the closet is mirrored instead of papered. There are centuries-old wood beams crossing the ceiling. Finally, there is free wifi in the lobby and because our room is right above it we have an excellent signal in our room.

The Best Falafel in the World

So here we are, back in Paris! The world is our oyster and what to do? Go get lunch of course! One of the places I'd read about repeatedly in my research is a place in the 4th called L As Du Fallafel (32, Rue Rosiers 75004, closed Saturdays). People gush on and on about this place so even though I am not particularly a huge falafel fan, I want to try it. It is in the heart of the old Jewish quarter and we are surrounded by lots of other falafel stands, signs in Hebrew and people with tables on the sidewalk selling supplies for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

When we arrive at L As Du Fallafel there is a line of about 20 people stretching down the sidewalk from the counter window. Fortunately, I'd read about the process in advance. In order to move people along as fast as possible, there is an order taker standing on the street. "What do you want?" he demands. I order one special falafel with "everything" (yes, I'll take the spicy sauce please) and a drink for 7 euros. I pay him and he gives me a slip of paper with the order on it. I know there are other things on the menu there and with more time, I probably could have figured out how and what else to order but this was going to be fine for the first time.

When we get to the window, I can see the guys moving a million miles an hour; frying eggplant, rolling falafel, assembling the sandwiches in the pitas. They are all in a hurry and woe be the indecisive diner. The head guy barks at me and I repeat my request for "everything" and a soda and soon I have a giant pita stuffed with fried falafel balls, eggplant, cabbage, spicy harissa sauce, and tangy yogurt. It is heaven in my hands and I don't want to share (though I do). Everywhere we look, there are people standing in doorways, leaning up against the walls, eating a messy, drippy falafel. I wish I had ordered another. I wish I had one right now.

After our falafel we head over the Musee Carnavalet which is nearby and the museum which covers the history of Paris. The entrance is free and the museum is housed in two old mansions. I know this museum is a favorite of many and because I've never been before, I want to see it for myself. I may be alone here, but I'm not impressed. It seems poorly organized and because the descriptions are only in French, it's very difficult to understand what everything is. I think if I were to go again, I'd make sure I had a good guidebook which explained everything in English.

From there, we walk to the Place des Vosges where I try on hats for about 20 minutes in a tiny shop. Unfortunately, I don't find anything which suits me. We contemplate having a coffee in one of the numerous places which line the square, but once again, the prospect of a 5+ euro cup of coffee dissuades us. Next time, I promise to suck it up, and spend the money to "enjoy the ambiance".

Place des Vosges

Mom wants to find a food market she's read about called Marche Enfant Rouges (39 Rue de Bretagne 75003) so we walk in that direction. We are now in the wholesale fashion district. There are tons of stores with fabulous things in the windows but none of them are available to us; they all have signs posted they sell to the trade only. We find the market and it's underwhelming because by the time we get there most of the stalls are closed. However, there are some restaurant type stalls still open. One selling Moroccan cous cous looks particularly good, but instead, we finally get our coffee at a stall selling Italian foodstuffs. The guy behind the counter is Italian and get get to order my "due" cappuccino in Italiano. Grazie! Prego! The coffee is wonderful and probably the best of the trip.

Next stop is back to Notre Dame Cathedral where it is still crowded but not like last time. This time there is space to sit in the pews and enjoy the stained glass for a moment. From there, we walk over to Sainte-Chapelle, but the line is all the way down the block and we don't want to wait. So there is still one thing (actually there are many) for me to do the next time I come back to Paris.

Notre Dame

At this point, it's late in the afternoon, so we head back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before dinner, stopping at the Place Igor Stravinsky next to the Pompidou to take in the funky modern art fountain. The fountain is in full swing with the components spinning and spitting water. We won't be going into the Musee Pompidou this trip because I've been a couple of times and Mom does not like "modern" art, but I highly recommend it both for the art and the excellent view from the top. Click here for some photos inside the museum from our 2005 trip.

Place Igor Stravinsky

For dinner, we walk back across to the river to Le Petit Pontoise (9, Rue Pontoise 75005) where we had tried to eat earlier in the week. Again, they were full, but we ask if we can eat outside. They look at us like we're mad, but agree. This turns out to be a good choice because the inside of the restaurant is ungodly hot and I doubt we would have been able to sit through a meal in there. I still can't understand why the minute it gets a little chilly outside the restaurants are all super heated. We also start a trend; two other tables of Americans ask to be seated outside after we were. In my mind I could hear the staff whispering to each other, "those crazy Americans, they all want to sit outside in the cold!" The staff are all young, college age kids though, so I don't think much phased them. In addition, they spoke great English including one without any trace of an accent (he said he'd gone to college in South Carolina).

We share an appetizer of beet and goat cheese salad which are little discs stacked atop one another with sun dried tomatoes and basil. It's a nicely presented dish and tastes wonderful. From what I can see of the appetizers on other tables the first courses are all "prettier" than the main courses, but everything tastes good. I'm not feeling great and need something a little plain for my main course so I order comfort food; roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. Mom has a wonderful rack of lamb after being brought the wrong dish first. Dinner for 2 is about 65 euro with a glass of wine and a bottle of Pellegrino.

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Hotel Beaubourg on the left.
Centre Georges Pompidou at the
end of the street.







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