I’ve decided just to blog my vacation retroactively rather than try to tell you about it all at once. My hotel didn’t have the enviable internet access that Trena’s apartment did, so I couldn’t blog as I went, and by the time I got back that night I only had the energy to go to bed anyway.
So here goes: first of all, Air France ROCKS. Having taken USAir last year, and been 5 hours late arriving because of them, any airline that gets me off the ground on time, feeds me well, gives me champagne and then lands me at CDG early, is tops with me. We walked to our hotel from the train, and I realized that already the bag weighed too much and I hadn’t done any shopping. It was too early for the room to be ready, so we left our bags at the hotel and walked up to the Place des Vosges, which is a beautiful symmetrical square almost directly behind the hotel. Sat in the shade for a few minutes – did I mention it was hot? And got hotter every day? – and then went to a café for some Berthillon sorbet. I had a double cone of cassis and raspberry.
Then we wandered through the neighborhood, stopped in at the BHV department store where I cruised the wonderful handbag section and picked out one to buy before I went home (I never got it, but for a good reason - I spent money on fabric instead).
There was a fruit and vegetable store across the street from our hotel that had the most amazing produce I've ever seen - or eaten. Their strawberries were heaven, and their tomatos were just scary/beautiful.
When the room was ready, we had our first surprise. When a hotel is this inexpensive, you know that they haven’t wasted money on the decorations. Everything was clean, though a bit worn, there were plenty of towels and hot water, and we had a little balcony that overlooked Rue Saint-Antoine, so I in turn overlooked the screaming pink 1970s wallpaper that coordinated so nicely with the turquoise and gold bedspread.
After a shower and a change of clothes, we headed out in search of lunch. Why is it that most of my vacations seem to revolve around finding food? And most conversations over meals involve where to find the next one. We ended up at a little café near Saint-Michel, and I had an omelet and a very restorative glass of wine. Then we wandered the streets for a awhile and found some lovely food stores and a wine shop that I remembered from last year, and we bought some wine to bring home. (I bought half-bottles, thinking it would be easier to pack).
Before facing our next meal, a brief nap was necessary. When we woke up, it was around 7:00 p.m., the early side of Parisian dinnertime. We decided to go back to one of our favorite restaurants from last year, a bistro called Au Chien Qui Fume. If possible, the food was even better this time: I had soupe de poissons, which sounds so much better than fish soup, duck breast filet with a sauce of cassis (black currants) and poached pears, and for dessert, a pear/gingerbread charlotte with caramel sauce.
With an aperitif and a bottle of rose, it didn’t come to much more than a big night out at home, and the food and service was so much better. There was a British couple at the next table who were quietly complaining the entire time about the service and the delays in the food arriving and the attitude of the waiters. They experienced the same service as we did – only it was just fine. The waiter's job isn’t to ask you what you want to eat before you’re done reading the menu, serve your entree while you're still eating your appetizer, and then whisk the plate out from under you before you've finished. You’re there until you’re ready to leave, which is one of my favorite things about France. The idea of rushing you through a meal doesn’t even enter their minds.
Before bed, we walked along the Seine for a while, just enjoying the fact that we were back and that it was nearly bedtime and still 70 degrees, and stopped into a café for a final espresso of the evening. Coffee generally doesn’t keep me awake, but after such a long first day, I have had a gallon of it and it wouldn’t have made a difference.