After a wonderful night’s sleep we woke up refreshed and ready for our second day in Paris, France. We immediately opened our third floor streetside window and were greeted by overcast skies and a bustling Rue Cler below. That’s all we needed to hurry up and head out. We cleaned up, dropped off our room key at front desk, and walked out of our hotel to jump headfirst into the scene.
It was Tuesday and Rue Cler was in high gear. The tinging of cafe dishes and the smell of pastries filled the air. Children on scooters and with backpacks were heading to school and the markets were loading their store-front stands with some of the prettiest produce I had ever laid eyes on. This was indeed the Rue Cler I had read about. I wanted to stay and just watch the local’s day unfold but we had a date with the Musee d’Orsay. We branched off of Rue Cler and found a cozy little patisserie with inside seating. We walked in and were greeted with a hearty “Bonjour” by the owner. We both had cokes and flaky pain au chocolates. Wonderful!
We headed out and walked to the Orsay. We got there just before opening and the line was long. We hopped right in and waited for our turn through the doors. It started sprinkling and umbrellas popped up throughout the crowd. A group of men were ready and pulled out umbrellas selling them for 5 euros each. Opportunity knocked and they were ready. We laughed as umbrellas bumped together as the line moved forward. A little old lady no higher than my belt buckle had been here before. She made her way through the line, cutting in front of people without them even noticing. Some of us that had spotted her were amazed at how slick she was.
We waltzed through security where the exquisitely laid out Orsay awaited. You would never know this was once a train station. A center of amazing sculptures is lined by floors of incredible paintings including an amazing Impressionist collection near the top. How amazing it was to look on Monet, Renoir, and Van Gough’s masterpieces. Then you have the breathtaking view from behind the clock that looks upon the Seine and its architectural treasures on the other side. The crowds were intense and I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that it did hinder the experience a tad. But it was still a memorable time that Jacki and I enjoyed.
We reluctantly left the Orsay and decided to grab a bite at the extremely busy Les Deux Musees bistro right behind the museum. It was a little overpriced and the food was nothing that blew us away. The waiters were nice enough but they were extremely busy. This was clearly a stop full of tourists and a few French locals. After our meal we headed over to the Seine where we got our Batobus passes and hopped onboard. The hop on/hop off Seine river cruise was relaxing and comfortable. We rode along until we reached the Hotel de Ville stop. Off we went.
We crossed the street and noticed a gorgeous building to our left and a beautiful old church tucked behind a square to our right. At the time we had no idea we were looking at the back of the Hotel de Ville. The next street up was the famous Rue de Rivoli, an amazing street named after one of Napoleon’s earliest military victories. Jacki’s attention immediately moved to the huge shopping center in front of us (we later learned it was called Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville). In we went! There was something like eight floors selling everything from designer fashion to bath towels and hacksaws. It was impressive. After plenty of browsing, Jacki bought a pretty little French scarf and we were on our way. Still unsure of the astounding building to our left, we finally crossed the road to investigate. After noticing some fountains up ahead we walked forward to see a huge square and, of course, the front of the Hotel de ville!
WOW! The building literally blew me away. Paris’ administration has been housed in this location since the 1300’s and the sense of history as I gazed up was astounding. The building has had several additions and subtractions but it’s architecture was unlike anything I had ever seen. I found myself walking back and forth taking picture after picture and examining every little detail. I think Jacki got a kick out of me. This was one of my favorite buildings of the trip even though we never made it inside.
Jacki finally got me away and we started to explore. We roamed around looking at buildings and just enjoying the beauty of the city. After a few fun wrong turns we found ourselves at the Shoah Memorial, a holocaust museum that showed the darker side of France during World War 2. After finally figuring out how to get inside we made our way through this powerful and sobering history of the Jewish people and their struggles during that terrible time. It was well worth every second.
We stepped back out on the street and realized we were going to have to shave off some of our itinerary. We decided to stroll over to Place des Vosges, Paris’ oldest constructed square stuck right in the Marais. What a great decision. We made our way there, sat on a bench with a view, and just watched the people. Kids kicking balls on the grass and riding scooters all around. Parents watching and laughing. Couples snuggled up as close as we were. It’s here that I actually felt as though I was part of this city, this neighborhood. How could things get any better? I know, how about with a snack?
We walked out hoping to find a nearby place to grab a pastry and drink to take back the park. We found a lovely patisserie on the corner. It was time to try our first macaroons. We grabbed some bottles of water and a large chocolate macaroon for me, coffee macaroon for Jacki. We made our way back to the park and found an even better seat than before. After tossing a ball back and forth will a smiling but curious young local, we sat down to enjoy our treats. We toasted Paris and our beautiful setting then chomped down on our delicious macaroons. Oo la la! Tres bien! They were so good and we both wolfed ours down in a snap. We could have stayed at Place des Vosges all evening but we were a long way from the Hotel de Ville Batobus port and even farther from our hotel in the 7th.
We took off on a different street but an equally beautiful one. We explored several tight little avenues filled with cozy cafes and clothing stores. Then the clouds opened up and it began to rain. At first we shared an umbrella which I must admit was quite romantic. The cheesy but true realization that we were walking the back streets of Paris during an afternoon shower really hit me. Jacki on the other hand was just getting wet. So out came umbrella #2 (which was probably the smartest thing anyway). The locals just kept moving, never allowing the rain to interfere with their day. We embraced that mentality as well. We made a left turn and eventually walked along the quirky looking but closed Pompidou Centre. Before long we came upon the Eglise Saint-Merri Church. In we went.
It was nice to get out of the rain but this was actually the first old church of the many we were to see. The gothic designed church’s origin dates back to the 16th century and it’s bell in the bell tower is said to be the oldest in Paris. A small service was going on in the back so we quietly made our way around in awe of the architecture and humbled by the silence. Nothing could be heard but the occasion rumble of thunder and the subtle singing coming from the small group of parishioners. We eased out after the service was concluded, popped our umbrellas along with the little old ladies who had just finished worship, and like them went our separate ways. We took one more trip by Hotel de Ville, went down to the port, and hopped onto the Batobus for a Seine river ride to the 7th.
We hopped off at the Eiffel Tower port (literally right next to the tower) and walked to our hotel. We caught our breath, freshened up, and headed out for a nice French meal. No cafes! One of my goals was to treat Jacki to some fine meals. I had done lots of research so I chose Restaurant Mariette. Now I had went against sound advice and had made no reservations since I had no idea when we would be getting back to our hotel. It was a chore to find the restaurant but soon we arrived. The rain had caused cancellations and the charming waitress seated us immediately. It was a small but beautiful restaurant and we giggled as we were about to have a true French dining experience. We were such tourists. The waitress helped with the menu (her English was much better than our French) and we placed our orders. We met a couple from the States that clearly recognized us as Americans and shared a few words. Soon the entrée (what we call the appetizer) arrived – Escargot Stuffed Ravioli, tres magnifique! I had a wonderful cut of steak with potatoes and a chocolate dessert to die for.
In Paris, your meal is intended to be an event. Fast service is considered rude. The table is yours and they want you to stay, enjoy your company, and enjoy your food. After two hours we paid and got up to leave. Our hostess introduced us to her sister. Soon her husband the chef came upstairs to meet us. They owned the restaurant and were truly thrilled to have us visit. We talked about everything from the weather to family and soon we were sharing pictures of our children. We walked out with big smiles on our faces amazed at the wonderful meal but more so on how we had just been treated. Rude French people? Not at Restaurant Mariette!
Night had fallen and we had a short but romantic walk back to the hotel. Holding hands and again rattling on about being in Paris made it all the more special. There’s something about the city. Sure it’s filled with history and beauty. But there’s something more that attracts me to it. We reached our hotel and were greeted by another friendly worker. We sent messages back home, showered up, and hit the bed. It had been a long but amazing Tuesday and Wednesday held one of my most anticipated sites to see in all of Paris!