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.
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? ;)
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:
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.
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.
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?