Our arrival in Paris began with the easiest customs check ever. We were in and out with a smile in minutes! We got lost trying to find baggage claim, exiting the airport entirely. When that had happened before in Pearson airport, I had to line-up and go through security again – but not here! Information desk simply directed us to a set of doors where two other lost travellers were waiting and we were let back in by airport staff. No problem!
We took the bus to Eiffel Tower bus stop. Frost and ice covered much of the scenery on our way into the downtown core. Everything looked beautiful in the white dusting of frost – green grass and leaves all covered. It melted in the morning sun by the time we got downtown.
We walked by the Eiffel Tower and found our AirBnB. It was in an old building on the fifth floor at the very top of a spiraling wooden staircase. We were both out of breath by the time we got to the top with our heavy bags.
After getting a tour of the flat with our host, we went out in search of food. I was craving a warm bowl of soup, so we stopped by Le Bistro de Gaspard, a restaurant past the military school. The staff there were very nice to us and made us feel welcome. I ordered pumpkin soup with bread and Matt had French onion soup. We then shared a charcuterie board of cheese, meat, and salad. It was so big we couldn’t finish it all! We were stuffed!
Grocery Shopping in Paris
After a short nap at our new home, we went grocery shopping. I love buying groceries in foreign countries and Paris was an absolute delight! All the packaging design was beautiful and everything looked delicious! We bought smoked salmon with dill, little jars of yogurt, pear juice, mineral water, some interesting looking beers, creme caramel, and of course – French champagne!
I went searching for milk, only to find it near the back in what I thought was the cleaning section. The milk jugs resembled containers of bleach! I thought it was odd such a large section of the store was dedicated to bleach and that it came in so many different sizes! But no – that was milk.
The French also seem to love their maple syrup. There was an array of it from Canada! I was a little disappointed as I’d brought maple syrup as a host gift, thinking it was something special from Canada that would be hard to get here. But no, maple surup is plentiful – and our AirBnB host already had some.
Walk from the Eiffel Tower to Notre-Dame
After dropping our groceries off, we went for an epic walk. I was tired and grumpy, but Matt assured me it would only take a hour. It didn’t take a hour – it took four.
First we went to the Eiffel Tower. Champ de Mars was all fenced off, which Matt was disappointed about. It looked like they’d just laid down new sod. We then wandered into a Christmas market called Eiffel on Ice. There you could go skating beneath the tower, buy roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and other delights. We got a glass of mulled wine to share as we watched the skaters and continued on our walk through the crowds and towards the garden to watch the tower’s hourly light show.
At the stroke of 8pm, the Eiffel tower literally sparkled. It was quite fun to watch. We took some pictures for some tourists and finished our mulled wine. Matt and I walked along the Seine river to Notre Dame Cathedral, seeing many sights along the way: Pont Neuf, City Hall, the Obelisque , Museum D’Orsay, and various other buildings. We walked across numerous bridges, back and forth across the Seine. So many in fact, neither Matt nor I could recall the number!
Matt wanted to show me the flying buttresses and gardens behind the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cathedral looked eerie in the fog, framed by the bare tree branches, black against the starless night sky. The garden was closed for the night, so we made our way across another bridge.
Matt suddenly had a memory of this place and told me how on his first trip to Paris he had heard an accordian player play La Vie En Rose here in 1998. Just as the words escaped Matt’s mouth, we heard none other but an accordian across that same bridge!
We followed the sound of the music. At the centre of the bridge was a story teller talking to absent listeners about the Seine in a grand, booming voice. At the far end was a couple cuddling, listening to a song from the film Amelie on the accordian. Matt gave the musician two euros – one for this memory, and one for his first fond memory of this place.
The Self-Cleaning Public Washroom
After all that walking and mulled wine, I desperately had to go to the washroom. Surprisenly, there were no Starbucks or McDonalds to walk into use the facilities, so Matt got out a Google Map of public washrooms in the area.
After a desperate search, we found a free washroom – but this was a public washroom like no other! This was a fully automated, self-cleaning public washroom! It was a random pod on the sidewalk, like an oversized garbage bin!
A man was just exiting as we arrived. We watched as lights and a recorded voice guided us through the washroom’s process – from occupied, to cleaning (the floor, the toilet, and sink) then available for use! We pressed a button and the door opened, then closed all by itself. There was no seat on the toilet, nor did it flush – but you’d press a button to tell the computer what pressue to use when cleaning! There was then three stations over the sink – one to place your hand under for soap and water, then other to dry! I felt like I was a cog in the factory of sanitation!
We ended our journey at a French bistro for hot chocolate and crepe, with our first experience with a snooty French waiter. What with the exuberant cost of eating out in Paris and the French staff, I decided that grocery store meals were the way to go!