My family and I spent our last morning in London trekking to St. Pancras train station, where we got our passports stamped and boarded a high-speed Eurostar train bound for Paris’ Gare du Nord station. The three-hour train ride went by quickly and was impeccably comfortable, although hectic and seemingly without order (carriages were unnumbered, luggage was arbitrarily shoved away).
In Paris, we quickly became familiarized with the metro station. A note on Paris: Unsurprisingly, nothing is in English. This is fine if you studied French in school, but unfortunately I studied Spanish. Still, after a little reorientation we were fine and on our way to our apartment in the 15th arrondissement, at quartier Saint-Lambert near Vaugirard. Our apartment couldn’t be easier to find and the neighborhood was perfect, conveniently located near lots of markets, bakeries and delis. It was so stereotypically French; during the five-minute walk from the metro to our apartment, I lost count of how many impeccably-dressed Parisians I saw carrying baguettes under one arm and a small dog under the other.
We were tired from the journey so we spent the rest of the day getting settled in and exploring the neigbhorhood. The next morning, we got up early and took the metro to Place Maubert, an open-air market with vendors selling everything from roast chicken and tapestries to foie gras and flowers:
Our next stop was the Pantheon, within walking distance, but we were getting hungry. We stopped on our way at La Methode, where I ordered the prix fixe because I was craving the featured coffee and dessert that came with the meal. What followed was a sign of things to come. Apparently at La Methode, if you don’t speak French, you don’t get your whole prix fixe and the waiter will insist to you that he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, even though the tables next to you who ordered the exact same thing are enjoying coffee and dessert, and the prix fixe menu clearly has “cafe” and “le gateau” scrawled on. This happened at a couple of other restaurants too.
My “prix fixe” included a penne eggplant salad appetizer and a country sausage and mashed potatoes entree:
The Pantheon was a stone’s throw away, and it was stunning:
Inside, the Foucalt pendulum is the centerpiece among impressive Corinthian columns and domes:
Downstairs lies the burial place of French heroes such as Voltaire, Rosseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Marie Curie.
After we exited, we continued to explore Paris by foot, even though it had begun to rain. We shortly arrived at the city’s largest park, Jardin du Luxembourg, which is now among my favorite parks in the world. It certainly didn’t hurt that a high school brass band was playing hits such as “The Final Countdown,” and playing them well! That pretty much made my day.
The main feature is Luxembourg Palace, but the park also boasts a puppet theatre, merry-go-round, a pond, and statues scattered throughout the entire area. We loved it so much that if it wasn’t starting to pour, we would have stayed longer.
Our last stop for the day was Musee D’Orsay, an art museum housed in a former train station along the Seine River:
The museum is best known for its extensive collection of impressionist paintings, but my favorite part was the unique and eclectic layout of the museum:
Oh, and it didn’t hurt that Musee D’Orsay has an amazing rooftop view:
We saw a whole lot on our first full day in Paris and just about fell in love with the city’s breathtaking architecture and depth of history. I dunno about those pseudo-prix fixes or eight dollar coffees (thanks, Euro), but Paris is gorgeous.