Eurotrip 2016: Part 2 (Paris)

See Part 1 here. 

Early on the fourth day of our trip, which was a Saturday, Doug and I got up and jumped on the train from London to Paris—we went through the Chunnel! From the train we got to see some nice countryside; the Chunnel was only 30-45 minutes of the whole three-hour train ride. I was reading The Secret Life of Bees so I didn’t have a chance to feel claustrophobic.

Our airbnb was in Le Marais (neighborhood), at the Arts et Métiers metro stop. The listing did not exaggerate, our place was right above the metro. This is a huge plus, especially considering our luggage. The minus was that the building’s elevator was broken and we had to climb six narrow flights of stairs to the seventh floor. This kind of cramped my style—I’m the kind of person who likes to pop back in to “home base” a couple of times throughout the day to regroup. Still… the view of the rooftops of my favorite city was certainly worth all those stairs.

paris-1

paris-14

paris-13

We were in Paris less than 48 hours so we really jumped right into our itinerary. We got something to eat at this hipster restaurant called Holybelly that I found on Instagram. The food and coffee lived up to my expectations! Heading to Paris and then eating at a brunch restaurant where everybody speaks English (so many American expats there) isn’t what I’d necessarily recommend to a first-time visitor, but since this was my 4th time in Paris it gave me a glimpse of what my life might be like if I actually had the opportunity to live there. PS: Know anyone in Paris hiring foreigners? ;)

paris-3

paris-4

After lunch we headed to Île de la Cité, the island in the middle of the Seine river where (uber famous) Notre Dame cathedral is located. We joined the long but fast-moving line to enter. Originally we’d planned on climbing to the top of the towers, but after having climbed to our apartment, my trick knee wasn’t really ready for another giant flight of stairs. Inside was even more beautiful than I remembered from my visit in high school. The stained glass windows are the most famous and beautiful aspect. The cathedral was not very crowded compared to Westminster Abbey from a couple days prior.

After Notre Dame we went to the Île’s other famous chapel, Sainte-Chapelle. I’ve only in recent years started hearing about this chapel, in part I think to its small size, and also owing to the fact that it was under a huge restoration took up the greater part of a decade. This was really the showstopper of the whole weekend in Paris. Approaching the chapel, it’s quite nondescript and there isn’t much buildup (construction zones, hallways, etc). Then, you enter a beautifully painted (dark) lower chapel, then go up a tight stone spiral staircase to the main event. The stained glass in this chapel was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s hard to put into words so I highly, highly recommend that if you ever travel to Paris, you must stop in. I’ll let my photos try to convey the beauty:

paris-6

paris-5

After Sainte-Chapelle I explored (legendary) Shakespeare and Company book store, then we had a crêpe and bummed around in the Quartier Latin, which I’d always read about in textbooks but had never ventured to. It was so-so. It reminded me of Pacific Beach here in San Diego, meaning bustling but pretty mass-market-y. Not so quaint, authentic, or tucked away. The crêpe was cheap and good, though. We ate in a nearby park; it was nice to sit for a while and just soak in the ambiance.

paris-7

paris-8

The next day got a bit derailed when we found out that the Air France pilots were on strike and the flight we’d booked for the following morning was flat-out cancelled. We spent a big chunk of the morning fretting about this, and we even went to the Air France office in the city, but it was Sunday, so naturally everything was closed. We didn’t have cell service or data, which made us feel hopeless. Trying to make the best of it and put the predicament out of our mind (plus, it was pouring), we went to the Louvre because honestly when you’re in there you can’t think of much but art. Like Notre Dame, I hadn’t been to The Louvre since 2005 so I was eager to visit.

paris-9

paris-12 copy

paris-10

paris-11

Underneath the Louvre is a small mall-type area. I used wi-fi at the US Embassy Apple Store to send off a few messages to Air France in hope of a resolution. Then we sat at a nearby brasserie (the ubiquitous corner cafes with colorful awnings and outdoor seating) and really stretched out our dinner, grateful to be out of the rain.

We went back to the (wi-fi less) airbnb to pack, determined to get to Madrid one way or another, in the morning. Long story short, we ended up mooching wi-fi off a shady cash-advance type of store at 11:30pm and buying two not-terribly expensive plane tickets from a different carrier (EasyJet) leaving at 6am. I’m still waiting on a refund from Air France for the cancelled flight. Frustrated about the unexpected cost and the second day of sightseeing being mostly derailed, but relieved to have flights booked, we rushed to our flat to try to get some shut-eye before heading out for the airport really, really early the next morning.

You can catch part one here, and my next post will cover Madrid! Have you ever had an unexpected trip-up while traveling? Was it before or after the smartphone age? How did you deal with it? 

Happy Halloween!

Earlier this week, I tried to stop by San Diego’s spookiest coffee house, Lestat’s, to take some photos for you, but it was so overrun with people staring at their laptops (seriously–like every table) that I only managed to get a couple good shots. This morning while I was brainstorming a few alternate ideas, I came up with the perfect idea–doctor up some shots I took this summer at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris! So I took the idea and ran with it.

(Did you know that most old movies shot “night” scenes during the day, with a dark filter?)

The cemetery is actually a pretty peaceful place to take a stroll during the day, and it’s worth stopping by to see some famous graves, like Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison. Just be sure to check their hours before heading over–it closes around 5 or 6 PM, so no creepy night visits possible (phew!).

I suppose you could call both photos above “The Escape!”

Seriously, though, beautiful cemeteries like this are so fascinating to me. Graves upon elaborate graves–something very, very different than the rolling grassy area dotted with headstones that typifies the average graveyard here in the USA.

To get the special effects on these pictures, I used (and then tweaked) a few of The Pioneer Woman’s Photoshop Actions.

Art from the Marché aux Puces (Paris)

Has it really been four months since we got back from our summer vacation to Europe?.

My number one priority (aside from showing Doug the best that the City of Lights has to offer) was making it to the famous Paris flea market, the Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt. While there are several famous flea markets in Paris, this one is the most well-revered by insiders. It is the largest, which means there is something for everybody–ephemera from every era at both high and low price points.

If you find yourself in Paris and would like to visit, don’t fool yourself (like I did) into thinking that just because your hotel is on Rue de Clignancourt (in Montmartre) that you’re close by. Sorry, you’ll be out of luck. It is easy to get to, though. Take the Métro 4 (fuchsia) north to Porte de Clignancourt, cross a street, and go under a bridge and you’ll be there. Sorry for the lack of detail, but it is large, follow the masses, and there are directional signs.

Clearly, I couldn’t afford (or transport) the incredible inlaid mirrors above, nor did I come away with a bargain on a perfectly aged Turkish rug (which was my secret hope), but I did leaf through one vendor’s extensive collection of magazine advertisements from the 1920s through the 1940s and two stole my heart. They were reasonably priced, in protective plastic, and would fit in the suitcase. WIN! We sandwiched them between a few layers of corrugated cardboard for the trip home to the USA.

You’re probably saying to yourself, well this is awesome, Staci, but why are you sharing this with us now, mid-October, when you bought them in June? 

Well, the good news is that Wednesday night I finally framed the magazine ads I bought at Les Puces, oh so many months later.

The first poster reads “Winter and Spring in Morocco.” If you lived in cold France in the 1920s, wouldn’t you dream of vacationing in one of your warmer colonies? I would too! The chunky and graphic line work first drew me to this, piece, and if you add the fact that I did my study abroad in Morocco, I would be a fool not to buy it. Not everybody can say they own something from 1929!

The second one is for a famous French-made car brand, Renault. This snowy Christmas ad contrasts nicely against the promise of warm weather in Morocco, and the color palette here is right up my alley. I love the blues and greens.

Next week I’ll show you where these ended up hanging in our new apartment!

If you’re like me, and love checking out other people’s vacation photos (it’s true!), check out my Eurotrip posts here, here, and here.

Pssst… just in case you didn’t know… I really love comments.