Paris [2016]

Last Visted in Oct 2016

We planned for two nights in Paris on our return to the UK. Clearly not enough time to see such a beautiful city - but it was all the time we had. Even the small area we managed to see was amazing. We will be back.

Not as much time as we planned

We left Barcelona on the TGV ( high speed train ) at 1:00pm set to arrive in Paris at 8:00pm.

Well that was the plan anyway .

About an hour out of Paris the train went from about to 200km/hour to dead stop. There was an announcement - but my high school French completely failed me. Our coach was almost empty and no one spoke English - so we waited. From the reaction of the few other people in the coach this was not unusual. 

NOTE: If you take this train, get a seat on the upper deck. There are high berms and trees lining most of the track - which is all you see from seats on the lower deck.

We arrived at our hotel about 10:00 pm - more than a little stressed and quite hungry. After checking into our room we headed out to find a restaurant for a quiet meal before we called it a day. Hard to do - but not for the reason you might think.

Hotel Odeon - Paris
Odéon Hôtel 

Every place was PACKED. Le Hibou and Les Editeurs, across from the hotel were full and very noisy. After a stroll around the block we settled for Danton’s, at the corner of Carrefour de l'Odéon and Boulevard Saint-Germain, a table for two had become available, it was the only empty table in the place.

Since we didn’t want a big meal that late at night, we decide on ham and cheese baguettes. The ham and cheese baguettes had become our ‘go to’ light meal while we were in France. In case you think that is a fancy name for a ‘ham & cheese sandwich’ -- it is much more. Real ham, great bread and each place seemed to have its own take on the cheese. Delicious!

I had picked the Odéon Hôtel as it was reasonably priced and central to many of the things we wanted to see. Although it was across the street from a very noisy restaurant, the eight inch thick stone wall made it very quiet. The size of the room on website was a bit deceptive as the layout made some of the room unusable and a king size bed dominated the rest of the room. We had been in smaller and considering the location - it was perfect.

We didn’t get to bed until after midnight, so the we slept in the next morning not getting up around 7:30 am. After a very nice continental breakfast we went for a walk down towards the Seine.

It was 9:00 am and we were almost the only people on the street. The only people we saw were joggers and a two man crew cleaning up bottles and broken glass. 

Cleaning Up After a Saturday Night Along the Seine

We walked down as far as the Pont Saint-Michel bridge, taking the bridge to Île de la Cité. Rather than go all the way across the Seine we decided to head back toward the hotel. I needed to pick up some razors and Cathy wanted some cough drops. ( Her cough was getting worse. ) Stopping at a pharmacy to get our supplies, we made our way back to the hotel via a number of side streets. ( The streets in Paris don’t seem to follow any pattern. We had a good map. )

After dropping off our supplies at the hotel, we headed the opposite direction to the Le Jardin du Luxembourg. 

Being late October, I didn’t expect much in the way of flowers on display. While not in its full glory, the garden was quite pleasant. Some flowers still in bloom and the trees still had some of their leaves. At the fountain, in the middle of the garden, a cadre of would be naval officers were sailing their small sail boats. Most people were like us, enjoying a fall day strolling through the garden.

Sailing Toy boats at Luxemburg Garden
Le Jardin du Luxembourg — Sailing Boats on the Fountain

We stopped at “le Cercel” restaurant for a rather forgettable lunch. Around the corner is a “Brioche Dorée”, where you can either eat in or buy a lunch to eat in the park. On reflection, that would have been a better choice.

After lunch we headed back to our hotel for a rest.

For our final ‘walk about’ we decide to cross the Seine at the ‘Ponte Neuf’  bridge. We looked around some of the stores along Rue de Rivoli. The streets were packed. Saturday is ‘THE’ big shopping day in France as many stores are closed on Sunday. Since we didn’t want to fight the crowds in the stores, we started working our way back to the hotel.

Walking down past the Louvre we stopped for a pleasant, if some what overpriced, tea and pastries at Cafe le Corona. ( Mixed reviews on TripAdvisor - but we liked it. )

Down from the cafe, along Quai François Mitterrand, there is a foot bridge across the Seine. It connects the Louvre and the Institut de France on Quai de Conti. From the bridge we got a view of the Eiffel Tower. ( Unfortunately, that was as close as we would get the the landmark )

Eiffel Tower image widget

We headed up Rue Bonaparte toward Boulevard Saint-Germain. I wanted to get a picture of the ‘Église de Saint Germain des Prés’. The church dates to the 13th century and was built on the site of a 6th century monastery.  When we got there, a wedding just finishing. Cars were double parked along Rue Bonaparte - people and photographers were everywhere. It was a struggle to get through the crowd - no stopping for pictures.

When we reach the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain, I glanced to the right. There was ‘Les Deux Magots’. (So much history in such a small area.) It is one of the oldest cafés in Paris. Popular with both artists and writers, its clientele included Picasso, Hemingway and Sartre.

The name originally belonged to a fabric and novelty shop at nearby 23 Rue de Buci. The shop sold silk lingerie and took its name from a popular play of the moment (1800s) entitled Les Deux Magots de la Chine. Its two statues [inside the café] represent Chinese "mandarins," . . . ”. Wikipedia

Les Deux Magots
Les Deux Magots — one of Paris’ Oldest Café

At about 6:30 pm we set out for dinner. The desk person had recommended the Cafe Neo. It was about  block away on Boulevard Saint-Germain. When we got there the place was almost empty. Not a good sign - until you remember Parisian usually eat much later. By the time we left the place was full.

We decided on the day’s special - a veal stew in a white wine sauce. It was delicious. But the best was still to come. 

For dessert we picked a Rum Baba. I had read about a Rum Baba - but had never tasted one. The classic recipe is a small yeast cake, much like a sponge cake, soaked in a rum syrup. Their’s was a little different.

The waiter arrived with the two Babas and a bottle of 25 year old Dominican rum. After soaking the Babas with rum which were, by then, floating in a rum, put down the bottle and said “Help yourself if you want more rum.” and left. Amazing! By the time we have finished eating Cathy’s cough, thanks to the Rum Baba, was under control.

Epilogue : The next morning we took a taxi to Gare du Nord train station catching the Eurostar back to London. By the time we got to London, what had been a bad cough was rapidly becoming the flue. We spent our last day in London in our hotel room.