Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bon Anniversaire: 24 Hours in Paris

My friend Diana announced on Ash Wednesday that she was giving up sweets for Lent, despite an upcoming trip to Paris before Easter.  Being the wonderful, selfless friend that I am, I offered to go to Paris and eat all the sweets before she got there, so that she wouldn't be tempted.  I tossed my fat jeans in a bag and headed to St Pancras first thing on Thursday morning to catch the Eurostar to Paris.
A foggy day in Paris
OK, that's not REALLY why I went to Paris.  Josh had to attend a meeting there on Thursday afternoon, and since Friday was my birthday, we decided to make an overnight trip of it.  Nothing eases the pain of turning 29 for the umpteenth time than waking up in Paris on your birthday.  Of course, that only gave me more of an excuse to make a dent in the supply of cakes, pastries, chocolates, and other treats that might tempt Diana to stray from her Lenten dietary restrictions.

We arrived at the Gare du Nord at 11 am Paris time and took the Metro to the Hotel Baltimore, the lovely, conveniently-located hotel where we stayed on our previous visit.   Since this was a last-minute trip, and Josh's meeting was a 5-minute walk away from the hotel, we decided to wait for another opportunity to stay in a different part of town.  Josh had to dial in to a conference call as soon as we checked in, and then left for his meeting, so I was on my own for the afternoon.

So, how do you spend an afternoon on your own in Paris?  It was a cool, drizzly day, but the risk of a bad hair day wasn't going to keep me from venturing out.  I started out with a nice walk from the hotel along the Seine towards the Jardin des Tuileries.
Museum of Fashion

Place de la Concorde
By the time I reached Tuileries, I was pretty hungry, so I bought a ham and cheese crepe at an outdoor stand and ate it by the fountain.  I was immediately surrounded by a Hitchcock-sized flock of pigeons and seagulls, but after I failed to share any of my crepe with them, they eventually lost interest and wandered off in search of more generous tourists.
Jardin des Tuileries
After lunch, I visited the Orangery, a small museum affiliated with the spectacular Musee d'Orsay across the river.
Musee de l'Orangerie
The museum had a great exhibit on Claude Debussy and the artists who influenced and were influenced by his work.  There are also two large oval rooms designed by Claude Monet to showcase his massive water lily paintings.  No photography is allowed inside, but you can take a virtual tour here.  It was just the right size for an afternoon outing.  Afterwards, I headed through the garden towards the Rue St Honore.
Seagulls posing for photos
Napoleon monument in Place Vendome
My destination: Jean-Paul Hevin chocolaterie.  When my friend Lynda learned I was going to Paris, she gave me a newspaper article she had been saving about hot chocolate bars in Paris -- but only after she made me promise to give it back to her.  With such important information in my possession, I had to try at least one of them, and this one was only a few blocks from the museum.
Jean-Paul Hevin
It was hard to make it past the displays of chocolates and cakes to the cafe upstairs!
Who could resist these cakes?
I treated myself to a raspberry hot chocolate and a small chocolate tart.  Yum!
Chocolate tart and raspberry hot chocolate
On the way out, I bought myself a small box of chocolates as a birthday treat to myself.
I hopped on the Metro and met Josh back at the hotel in time to change for dinner and head out again.  We had a reservation at a restaurant that was less than a mile from our hotel, so we decided to walk, since Josh had been in meetings all afternoon.  We had some nice views of the Eiffel Tower along the way.
Eiffel Tower & Trocadero
We had dinner at Restaurant La Gare, which was recommended by another friend from the AWC who lived in this part of Paris before she moved to London.  It used to be a train station (hence the name), but has been converted into a huge restaurant.
La Gare - a former train station
At 8 pm on a Thursday night, it was still pretty quiet, but it did fill up as the evening progressed.
We had a lovely meal, although I was so full by dessert that I couldn't finish my molten chocolate cake.  Sorry, Diana!  I tried...
Chocolate dessert, of course!
Friday morning we had a nice breakfast at the hotel (including Nutella crepes, of course!), packed up our things, and took the Metro to Notre Dame.
Notre Dame

Josh and I had both visited Paris as teenagers, but I only have vague memories of touring Notre Dame way back when, so it was nice to go back as an adult, especially after just having visited St. Paul's in London.

iPhone self-portrait
Front doors
Did I mention that I LOVE stained glass windows?!

Just as we left, the clouds finally broke up and the sun came out.  Too bad we couldn't have stayed longer to enjoy it...
Notre Dame in the sun
We walked across the bridge and had lunch at a cafe near the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore before heading to the train station to catch the Eurostar back to London.
Shakespeare & Co.
This ad caught my eye in the train station.  At first I thought it was for McDonald's, but no.  It's for Quick, a French fast food franchise.  Um, OK.
Our train ride home went smoothly, although Josh had yet another conference call scheduled for the moment we arrived back at St. Pancras, so I had to leave him there and take the Tube home by myself so I could start getting ready for our evening plans.  It would have been nice to spend more time in Paris, but hopefully we'll have other opportunities to go back, and we had other commitments lined up. Yes, the trip to Paris was just the beginning of an action-packed series of adventures -- both birthday-related and otherwise -- over the past few days.   Stay tuned for the next installment...


  1. I laughed out loud when I read this. You're the best.friend.ever. :) I was particularly fascinated by the raspberry hot chocolate. Given that I have consumed a coke Zero or two since I gave up sweets for Lent, I wonder whether that may be okay, too?

  2. Beverages do not count as sweets. OK, maybe milkshakes, but not hot chocolate, and certainly not Coke Zero!


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