Friday, April 17, 2009

Paris day 03, THE BIG HIKE

Ah, Paris. You go and see "the sights" and then you explore the neighborhoods around "the sights". You may even stay somewhere off the beaten path like four blocks away from a sight, and then you say to yourself (and most likely anyone who will listen) that you have REALLY been to Paris. You have seen THE LOCALS. You didn't eat or stay or shop or walk or drink (or blah, blah, blah, blah...) or do anything like a tourist. You know the real Paris!

Except you don't.

And now I will go on to tell you all about how we went off the beaten path and hit all the local spots and saw the people of Paris in their own neighborhoods and that I can now speak definitively all about the "real Paris"... except I probably can't.

I can tell you that all the guide books and article s will tell you about where we are going today:

The 19th arondissement is not for the faint of heart or for tourists who have never been to Paris. It is OK for seasoned travelers. The Boston Globe article posted on Trip Advisor talks about a narrow swath of the 19th that is in the northern half of the arondissement, but go south and the area can become very seedy very fast. Still, it's Paris and the streets are jam-packed with small green grocers, electronics shops, Chinese restaurants, pastry shops etc., however these are all average.

It was a Sunday. Lyle specifically told me he wanted to "get lost and wander". Richard and Christine had their fill of being lost the day before. You remember that torrential rainstorm? They tried to get a cab, but as any New Yorker knows, you can never find a cab in the rain. So they kept walking, hoping to find a cab soon or a metro stop that would take them directly towards the hotel without transfers. Then the rain stopped and they weren't "that far" away from the hotel. Except they weren't really "that close" either. But they wound up walking all the way home just like Lyle and I did.

We had breakfast together and then headed out on separate adventures.

Lyle said, "Belleville." I thought we were playing word association and blurted out, "TRIPLETS!" No silly, he wanted to wander around the neighborhood Belleville. We had been almost there before. Okay, we had been there before but had no idea where we were. Our last trip to Paris, we had stayed near the Place de Republique. Near the end we took a walk the other direction from our hotel and walked up the hill. Not as far as we would today, but it was one of those "Ooooo, look, real people" tours of our past.

Today, we took the Metro to the Republique stop and got out. We walked over to the canal and saw where we had walked before, so we turned left. Went a few blocks, turned right. Went a block and saw a small pop up farmer's market on the side of the street, we went there.
The produce was gorgeous. Pretty enough to take a picture of. So uh, I did. There we stalls for everything. Vegetables, cheese, meet, fish, bread, pastries, and even a stall that just sold oysters and mussels. That you could have right now. On the street. Lyle considered it and my stomach rolled over. "It's 1o in the morning, how could you eat a raw oyster ON THE STREET?" So he opted out.

We wandered and walked and came up to the house where Edith Piaf was born (sort of).

After a few gracious translations online, I believe this is the closest:
On the steps of this house, on December 19, 1915, in a state of utter destitution EDITH PIAF was born, whose voice, later, would turn the world on its head.

We continued on and came to a grand park, Parc de Buttes Chaumont.
I was digging the steps of concrete made to look like logs. The park had some very charming faux bois (fake wood) effects. We saw a temple or grand arbor off on a hill and went over to see it. It gave us a great view of Sacre Coeur where we had been the day before.

The photos taken from the top of the dome were taken from the large round one in the center, up in the top windows.

As we wandered through the park we commented on how structured the park was. Even the waterfall and babbling stream were "built" and controlled it seemed. Then Lyle read in his little guide book,
Buttes des Chaumont park is in the 19th arrondissment in the north-eastern part of Paris, on the site of a former quarry.

Well that explains why those hills have a cement finish that is peeling off.

Finally I had to tell Lyle, "I did not fly all the way to Paris to wear my Gucci scarf in a park on a nature hike!" And we emerged from the park to find food.

Lyle had done some pre-research on food in Paris. He had an article from Gourmet magazine on cheap and cheerful places to find food like the locals would buy. He was so brilliant, he carried the article in his pocket. At any given moment he could pull out a recommendation and lead us there. That is how we discovered this bakery off in the 19th district.
The Bakery by Véronique Mauclerc, an organic bakery that has a century-old wood-burning oven (83 rue de Crimee). This is where Lyle bought the stinkiest bread I have ever smelled. It was fine to begin with. It was just cheese bread. But leave it in your room in a bag for a few hours later and when you return... well, I told Lyle either he put in the fridge or it was going out the window. I believe it had Emmental cheese baked into it.

Of course we also got some pastries.

Refueled, we forged ahead. At one point Lyle said we should probably head back and I consulted my trusty iPhone with GPS Google maps. We were walking away from our hotel.

We turned around and meandered the right direction. This time we found a HUGE pop up Farmer's market. It was packed and we forced our way into it.
Please god, no. No more stinky cheese!

Lyle found the colors of the fish fascinating (particularly on the left). I was thrilled they didn't smell.

Hey, I know that guy!

Pretty door detail.

And then we walked some more. Back to the Place de Republique (where I offered to take the Metro, but Lyle said no) and then towards the Gare De L'est (the train station where trains departing to, or returning from points East begin or end). Then we stumbled across the "town hall" of the 10th arrondisment. It is known for it's extravagant design. How had we missed this before?

Then as we headed towards the correct direction we literally said, "Oh look, an arch!" and went the other direction towards the arch.
Porte Saint-Martin

This is when Lyle announced he had to sit down. He needed a break. I offered to take a taxi. He said no, he wanted to keep walking but first his feet needed a break! So of course I agreed and then pointed out there was another (ANOTHER!) monumental arch just a few blocks further the other (wrong) way and maybe we should go there and sit! That idea was met with stony silence.

So we sat near the Porte Saint-Denis. Lyle had a Perrier and I had coffee. We had our cliche Paris outdoor café moment sitting next to each other facing out towards the street while an old man to the left chain smoked and the wind blew it all in our faces. Ah, Paris...

This was what we stared at while we recharged. See anything interesting?
The name of the shop?
The faces carved in stone above every window?
How about the dead Christmas tree on the balcony in the middle row, second window from the left?

Recharged, we leapt to our feet (yeah right!) and headed the correct direction (so long other arch, you looked interesting but now I'll never know you...). And at last, AT LAST we were home.
Today's walk, 8.5 miles.

Recovering in our room, feet throbbing, sick of clothes and just wanting quiet, we heard the most amazing noise coming from the street outside. What the hell? An explosion? No. A demonstration? No. Like people yelling, but happy and the sound of water running or was it...? I had to know, I got up and looked out the window, OH MY GOD!

I ran and got my camera and Lyle kept asking, "What? What it is? WHAT IS IT?" And I told him he would have to look himself because I needed my camera! And so, if you had been down in the street below and looked up you would have seen the two of us standing in our window (me leaning out over the balcony) in just our underwear staring down in awe at this:
The street had been taken over by HUNDREDS of rollerbladers! This was the very end of it, but they had been going by for more than 15 minutes already. You can also see they have a police escort for both front and back. Totally amazing. I can not imagine Los Angeles giving up one street ever for anything like this.

That night we all agreed to eat somewhere close. Little or no walking. Luckily there was a great restaurant that Richard and Christine had seen that was just around the corner. Chez Janou. It was French Provence style cooking so there were more olives, tomatoes, rosemary and pasta used. Since we are still getting used to this whole dining thing we had not made reservations. Luckily they had tables available on the patio that was thankfully tented in and blissfully heated.
I had the duck breast over pasta. VERY flavorful.

We all had dessert.

After, since it is "The City of Lights" I suggested we go see some of them. How about...... The Arc de Triomphe!? Yes! Yes! Yes! No.

So Christine, Richard and I forged ahead and Lyle went home to put his (now bleeding and blistered) feet up.

I had read that you could go up inside the Arch and we discovered that yes indeed, you can. The Arch is open until 10:30 pm and the last entry is at 10. We had arrived at 10:15. Oh well.
I also knew that was a way to get onto the island that the arch is on but had never figured it out before. This trip we did.
We walked around the arch and it was so much more impressive being under it and up close to it than just looking at it from across 8 lanes of swirling Paris traffic.

Richard then noticed soemthing very special carved into an inside wall:

So there I am wondering why. Why is my last name on the Arc de Triomphe? I've done some research and the answer is, these are all names of battle locations where Napolean was victorious. Which led me to my next question, how is my last name a battle location? Turns out there is a city in Germany (across the river from Strausbourg) that is named, Kehl.

Okay, I've had this name all my life and I have NEVER known there was a city out there that is my name. It's a game changer. I now HAVE to go there. Next European trip we include Kehl and Strausbourg (because I think we all know the French side is going to have much better pastries).
In the way far away background is the Grand Arch.

A closer shot.

Mission accomplished, we walked a little down the Champs Elysees (well it was supposed to be a little, but we kept missing the Metro stations and then we were closer to the one in front than the one behind, so we walked quite a ways) and then it was home to rest. Tomorrow, would be another big day and I had no idea which shoes to wear.


Rachel said...

Cool! I want to hear all about your trip to Kehl! "Because I've never been to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"


Michael Guy said...

This is really quite like the Travel Channel. Like, if I had a TV.

LOVE it all!