moulin rouge

My third day in Paris meant a to move to our second location-a small studio apartment in Montmartre.  Our dilemma was how to economically get there.  As we headed out for breakfast we asked one of our neighbors where the closest Metro station was. He directed us to the end of the block and then to the right, where the Metro station was located on a traffic island in the middle of the large Boulevard.

After checking it out and making sure it was the right Metro line we found a small bistro to grab breakfast since our favorite patisserie assured us that there would be no quiche until noon. We were thrilled to find out that it served eggs although it was before 8am unlike the other restaurants.  We ordered ham and cheese omelets and café au lait and also enjoyed our pastries from the patisserie.

My friend could not believe that in France everyone has their coffee at the coffee bar in a real cup-not  paper- that they carry with them.  There is definitely a different pace of life and an appreciation for socializing not just grabbing a cup of Joe on the run.

After packing up, we headed back to the Boulevard and down the stairs of the Metro station.  One of the challenges we faced was the fact that the Metro in Paris has lots of stairs and little to no escalators or elevators.  This was a challenge because we had to haul our luggage up and down the stairs.  We knew that at the Montmartre station there was an elevator because it is the deepest station in Paris. I packed light so my luggage was easily managed, however, my friend’s bag was not so easy.  We did get some assistance from some very kind Parisiens.  By the way, American-hating French must be some kind of urban legend.  I don’t know if it was because I was able to communicate a bit in French or what exactly, but we found the French people very kind and helpful in nearly every encounter.

We arrived a bit early for our appointed meeting with our air bnb host so enjoyed some café au lait  at a bistro and then a fabulous French Onion soup at a corner pub. Meandering our way up the steep cobbled streets of Montmartre we finally arrived at our abode for the evening.  A new challenge presented itself as there was a narrow winding staircase that we had to tackle to get down to the petite pied de terre apartment. It was close but my friend was able to maneuver the large suitcase.

The apartment was tiny, but clean and had everything we needed including wifi.  We headed for the top of Montmartre to see the Sacre Coeur Cathedral.  We were told to keep climbing and when we couldn’t climb any more we would see it.  The village at the top was filled with bistros and shops and a cobbled square where on a warm, sunny day you could see artists at their easels painting the beautiful scenery. Since it was neither warm nor sunny but drizzling grey and rainy, there were only a few hearty souls creating their works of art.

We found our way to St. Peter’s church but although we were at the top I couldn’t see the Sacre Coeur.  I asked someone where it was as we meandered down yet another cobbled street and was directed to my left where a hard to miss ominous structure loomed.

There were more steps to climb to reach the beautiful cathedral.  As with all of the churches I saw on the trip, this was beautifully decorated for Christmas.  There is a holy hush that envelopes you as you enter these monuments to Christianity.

We went from the sacred to the tainted as we hopped a cab to The Moulin Rouge located on a beautiful tree-lined boulevard at the foot of Montmartre.  We tried to peek in but there was no show going on til the evening and for a pretty steep price.  We did enjoy the colorful wall mural depicting the debauchery of the Moulin Rouge.

We walked back up the hill and decided to get a carry out dinner from an epicerie fine.  We selected half of a roasted chicken, scalloped potatoes, green beans and a large slice of citrus cake.  Then we stopped in the corner grocery store for a small bottle of red wine. It was a delicious meal!

The next morning the challenge of the large body bag (my friend’s luggage) meant hauling it up the narrow spiral staircase then maneuvering it up and down more Metro station stairs on our way to the Opera district.  Once again a few kind Parisians offered assistance.  I even got an assist for my small bag.

When we reached the Metro stop and I asked the other passengers if it was the right stop, apparently I was overheard and as we stepped off the train a beautiful woman said “Follow me”. She led us through the maze of a Metro station delayed by luggage hauling and even walked us the few blocks to the street where our hotel was located. Once on the street, we still had several blocks to cover before finally reaching our destination.

It was too early to check in, so we left our luggage with the bellman (thankfully) to explore the beautiful district.  It was a great shopping district beautifully decorated for Christmas.  My friend was in search of a Dr.Pepper so we entered the local McDonalds.  After 5 days in France one whiff and I had to give in to my American impulse.  My friend could not handle the throngs of people jamming the American eatery (all French I might add) so I enjoyed my fromage royale alone.  I watched the European Union meeting on the TV and listened to Vladimir Putin being dubbed in French while the Parisians chatted around me.

printemps

We did some shopping and enjoyed the beautifully decorated windows with various festive scenes.  We got back to the hotel at check in time and enjoyed the luxury of the Ambassador Marriott.  We had an early dinner of a light seafood ravioli appetizer and chestnut soup in the hotel restaurant and then waited for our traveling companions to arrive from the U.S.

Then we hung out with them back in the lobby while they had their late dinner.

I was thrilled that there was a large bathtub in my room where I could take a long soak.  The next day we got a quick breakfast from a carry out restaurant and selected some food for the train ride.  We caught a cab to the train station and headed for Basque country on a 6 hour train ride.  To be continued….

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