29.11.12

Wide-Eyed in Paris

Palais Royal Gardens, Paris

In the enduring spirit of Thanksgiving, I can't help but express my gratitude for friends. As somewhat of an early holiday gift, I received a visit from someone I used to clown around with at Hebrew school each week as a kid, share my angst-ridden tribulations with during high school and with whom I talked through my existential quandaries throughout college. With him, I have that coveted friendship that no distance, absence or difference in lifestyle can dull.

A trip to Europe was his gift to himself to celebrate passing the boards and accepting a position as an assistant district attorney- a stop in Paris was a non-negotiable. I would be his dutiful guide but the prospect was daunting. Would he glean even a jot of the city's brilliance in only 36 hours? Could I do it justice for a first-timer? Judging by the wide-eyed wonder with which he approached our weekend, I think I can say with confidence that I succeeded. In fact, the last time I saw such cartoon hearts float above the head of a new visitor it was that of my father- one grandiose turn of the corner after another left him transfixed. And let me tell you, there's nothing quite like seeing a grown man hurry his pace when the Louvre Pyramid catches his eye.

On the street in Paris

We gave my friend what could be considered a perfectly balanced exposure to the city - a blend of touristy musts and our own local haunts, heightened by the historical context provided by my pal Bryan Pirolli who led a phenomenal tour. Not even the perpetually ashen sky could detract from his experience (and I made sure there were enough pastries, salted butter and beautifully tender steaks to keep him sated). 
  Place des Vosges

So what were some of the highlights? After picking him up from Gare du Nord at 4pm, we raced straight to Du Pain et Des Idées for two savory pavés and one earth-shattering pistachio/chocolate escargot to properly introduce the sacrosanct concept le goûter (snacktime). My explanation was further supported by passing in front of an elementary school just as kids whooshed out the door to meet their parents who were armed with croissants, pains au lait, and chocolate bars. I couldn't have timed it better myself.

View from the Pomidou Center

A quick tour of the apartment and a pre-dinner espresso later and we were out the door again for a carnivorous dinner at L'Aller Retour, my regular source for generously priced, top quality steaks. Saturday began with breakfast at Télescope followed by a stroll through the arcades and gardens of the Palais Royal, over to the Louvre and around the Tuileries. A copious lunch at Chez Marianne on rue des Rosiers gave us strength for the long afternoon ahead - from Notre Dame, we idled along the Seine, perused the bouquinistes, snaked through Saint-Germain, sipped wine on a heated terrace, dined at Semilla, swanned across the Pont des Arts, gawked at the shimmering Eiffel Tower then finished the evening by descending the Champs-Elysées and hopping in a cab home to save our backs and feet.

An American Tourist in ParisA perfect day in Paris, we swapped museums for stunning views and good eats. Sunday was no different - a carb and butter-laden breakfast preceded a couple hours of shopping, a jaunt up to the top of the Centre Pompidou, and a trek to the Place de la Concorde where gilded statues donned red clown noses (no, really) ending the weekend with a late lunch on rue Saint-Anne (little Tokyo) for heaping bowls of Japanese Udon soup - an unusual finish that felt just right.

There isn't one right way to see the city but for longtime expats, it can take a visit like this to remind us of how lucky we truly are to call this wonderfully cacophonous, picture-perfect place our home.

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