The first time I went to Paris I spent a week. It was hot, and we powered through like mad to see as much as possible, and when we left, I was done. I was pretty confident we wouldn’t return for a while. I had checked Paris off the list.
The second time I returned to Paris, it was with my students. I was happy to go and show them all the things they were excited to see. Two things happened on this trip. Firstly, I got to see the wonder of Paris through their eyes. Paris could do no wrong. It was just MAGIC. Secondly, I got to feel a little bit like a local. I was staying in the same neighbourhood, comfortable navigating streets and metro, I knew what to see and the shortcuts to get there. And by the time I left I wanted a little more time to wander and explore.
This was the third time in Paris, and it was unlike anything I’d experienced before. We had one day in Paris on the way through to Rome, in which we saw the Christmas markets, and now we were back for 4 more nights through New Years. Opposed to our previous two trips, filled with museum visits and elevators to the top of the Eiffel Tower, this trip had none of that. No museums. No traditional tourist sites. Mostly a lot of walking, and food. Ray had plans to take a cooking class, and I had plans to photograph pretty things. That was it. So after arriving in Paris late, and enjoying a solid 8 hours of sleep we awoke on the morning of December 31, ready to explore. We just made one decision at a time, and went to see the city.
We started with Galeries Lafayette. This expensive department store takes up three 7-story buildings, one for women’s fashion, one for men’s, and another for house and home. Inside the women’s fashion (the main building) is a floor dedicated to expensive perfumes and jewelry. Tiffany’s and Cartier each have their own counter, and each booth has a sales person tending it, waiting patiently for their customers to stop by and bring out their black cards. We entered through the basement level (by the metro) which is shoes – everything from reasonably priced Chucks to unreasonably priced Louboutin’s. We escalated up one level to the aforementioned perfume and jewelry – which was like a museum of fine artifacts. But the reason I had wanted to go here was not the shopping, but to take a photo of the ornate Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling underneath the glass dome. I had heard this was a site to see, and wanted desperately to photograph it. It was worth it. While the store was full of items I could never afford, the window shopping was free. I did get tempted for a moment by a necklace in the Tiffany’s display case, which my husband so generously offered to buy for me…..if I was willing to take the next year off of traveling to make up for it. I walked away confidently as I started muttering future travel destinations under my breath.
We traveled up, floors two, three, four…all the way up to the top level. I was just looking for a better view of the tree, as each level had openings with views of the concourse below, almost like we were at the opera (fitting, as the opera is across the street). I wasn’t aware, but there are stairs at the top leading to a roof top deck, with a stunning view of the city. Eiffel tower and all. I love these little surprises.
After the view from the top we headed next door to men’s. and then across to house and home. We were still on the hunt for a gnocchi paddle (no where to be found), when we found the FOOD level on the bottom floor of the building. FOODIE HEAVEN. Now Ray is by far the foodie of the two of us. I love an affinity for the colours of food more than some of the flavours. Ray is adventurous and has a more refined palate. Here we saw some pastries that were more art than food, boulangers baking fresh baguettes, crisp produce, a rainbow of salts, and aromatic spices to pleasure both foodie and photographer alike. While not the cheapest place to do your grocery shopping, it’s definitly the prettiest. I wasn’t the foodie of the pair, but I wanted to buy everything based on pure beauty.
When we finished at the Galeries Lafayette we decided to head towards the Maille store. Maille is a famous brand of French mustards. While you can buy a jar on the shelf in Canada, you can get it fresh and preservative free in ceramic jars in the store in Paris. The store is across from the Hermes flagship macaron shop (with line ups down the block and prices to match). We went in and ray was able to taste test a dozen or so speciality mustangs before picking his favourites to bring back to Canada. This trip has been one of collecting food items for home. Pasta, coffee, oil, vinegar, mustard, cheeses, liqueurs, chocolate – we had to buy an extra suitcase to bring home all the food and baking products we had acquired. So many of the flavours we had come to love came home with us. As we travel I am more likely to bring home my ornaments, magnets and sand, and Ray always goes for the food. And Paris is the perfect place for a lover of food.
After Maille we wanted lunch, but were surrounded by touristy bistros of overpriced cafes next to couture shops. So we spent an hour with trip advisor wandering the streets and trying to find a place that met all our needs. After an hour we realized it wasn’t going to happen – and starvation set in. Ray found a street gyro with french fries inside of it (heavenly if you ask him), and I found a cafe for croque madame and mousse au chocolat (heavenly if you ask me). Win win.
After lunch we meandered towards the Eiffel Tower. Ray wanted to run to the top (crazy person), and I wanted to see the market at the base. Turns out the market was the same stuff that’s there all year, plus a few touristy food stands and an overpriced “ice” rink with a 30 m long “loop” next to the Eiffel tower. And New Years was BUSY, with a line up that was probably 2-3 hours just for the right to talk up 700 steps. It wasn’t that important to Ray. So we pushed our way through the crowds until we broke free and could head back to the metro, and back to the hotel. This would give us time to figure out what our new years eve(ning) would hold. But that’s another story.