As I’m writing this, I am so full. But let’s start chronologically, shall we?
I woke up in Paris, and went out in the morning to recharge my navigo metro pass and buy a croissant from our favorite bakery across the street, which is called a la petite chocolatiere. They have the most crispy and flaky croissants. I also grabbed an apple crumble pastry to have later.
This morning it was really exciting to reunite with everyone on my program, and we all were talking about what we did over the weekend and how glad we were to be back. I really loved this reunion, hearing about people who went to Amsterdam, Barcelona or stayed in Paris.
For class today, we walked around La Defense, which is a more modern area kind of on the edge of the city so as not to disrupt the six-story building historic center. There was a huge arc and lots of glass and steel buildings; Teo said they tried to make this like a futuristic utopia.
(The view from the steps – you can see the Arc de Triomphe in the center in the distance)
Just beyond the steps was a carousel, which we stopped to ride like little kids. This was Teo’s surprise for the day, and I rode a little horse!
Since today’s theme was modern Paris, we also strolled through rue Montaigne with all the designer stores. At one point, Teo joked that we should all run into Gucci I think it was and steal all the clothes, and suddenly a security guard came to the window and looked at us. We all laughed and the guard was very confused.
Rue Francois had a really cute roundabout courtyard, that might have been my favorite courtyard for no particular reason. Maybe I’m just glad to be back in Paris after a tiring weekend, but it was very sweet with the typical buildings and colorful flowers and blue cloudy sky. I feel like I’d recognize a French building anywhere, but maybe more of Europe is like this that I just haven’t seen.
One of the last stops was outside the Grand and Petit Palais, two museum type exhibitions that are simply beautiful on the outside. We didn’t go in, but admired the classic architecture that can be randomly and casually found throughout the city.
We crossed a bridge towards Napoleon’s tomb, but the bridge itself provided a perfect view from all angles of the Seine, the Tour Eiffel, the tomb, street lamps, the Palais… just everywhere was picture ready. Apparently this is a rather famous bridge with gold colored statues.
(That view…unbearable. Great way to end our walk.)
For lunch, a few of us went back to Le Marais to try the world famous falafels. I don’t even like falafels, so I was hesitant to spend a Parisian lunch eating one, but this restaurant Teo had pointed out earlier was amazing. It’s a soft pita with vegetables, sauce, eggplants, cucumbers and chickpea falafels.
(Yes there was a line)
(My half-eaten falafel)
Like I said, I don’t even LIKE falafels and I loved this. Wonderful flavors and textures, almost like a Greek gyro. Someone from our program loves falafels, has even eaten them in Israel, and said these were the best ever. We sat on the curb outside to eat because there’s no seating offered. Side note: Oh, the places I’ve sat on this trip. I don’t even care anymore – we walk so much that I’m so tired that the floor becomes a viable option. I’ve sat on metro floors, on streets, on the cigarette-covered Champ de Mars… This was nothing.
Even though we were full from our wonderful falafels, we passed by a Swedish ice cream place we wanted to test out. This double creme meringue was delicious, like extra creamy vanilla with meringue chunks. Some of the girls felt like we were cheating on our favorite ice cream, Berthillon, though.
After an afternoon of rest, I went on my adventure project. This was assignment Teo gave us the first week, where he wrote down addresses on scraps of paper and random groups of three students chose a piece of paper. Ours was 83 rue de Reuilly, and since we had a free afternoon, my group went today. The metro took 30 minutes, but we got off in a neighborhood we’ve never been to and turned the corner to find the impasse we were meant to explore.
It was merely a cobblestone street with houses and cars parked along the side. It was a side street with a few local French people watering their gardens or reparking their cars. We walked down to see the blend of old and new – the parts of paint chipping, piles of broken cement, graffiti, and old shutters. Then we saw the new parts with growth, like flower pots and a roof with grapevines and grapes hanging over the side.
It was strange to see a cute little side street that was worn down yet still full of people living. We don’t really know what the assignment is, other than to investigate this hidden area of Paris and report back. It wasn’t really all that special, but just a nice little street.
One thing we really noticed was the quiet. The street perpendicular to it was completely loud, with tons of buses and cars and bikes and people everywhere. Then you simply turn right and it’s silent in the side street except a bell chime. We don’t know why, because there’s no door or illusion – but it’s very quiet just one foot away.
Once we returned to the hotel, a group of friends went out to celebrate a girl’s birthday. We have a bucket list of food places we want to try, but in Paris everything is closed on Mondays, so our go-tos weren’t open. We consulted Yelp, as we always do, and found a place a few blocks away called Le Volant Basque.
A lot of us wanted boef bourguignon but (and this is something that has happened before in France) the waitress suggested that we try other things, too, and not all get the same item. If you all order the same thing, they will actually tell you to get other things to eat, I guess because they want you to try more of their dishes than just the same one? I think the French are just so proud of their food that they want you to have a good experience, and that’s how you know you’re “in” if they give you tips and advice. Though we usually listen to their advice, one girl got salmon but the rest of us stuck with the boef bourguignon anyway. Eventually they brought out bread and our food.
The boef bourguignon was brought out in a copper pan, full of brown sauce, pieces of beef and mushrooms and some sort of bacon-like pork on top. We thought it was one portion and were freaking out that we ordered way too much, but luckily the waitress must’ve realized our naivety and only ordered two dishes for five of us to share. And we still had extra. It was amazingly tender and flavorful and so genuinely homemade French. They even brought out polenta, some vegetable rice and mashed potatoes to eat with it. It was just so good, probably the best meal I’ve had here. Very rich, though; I only had three pieces of beef. I’m still full two hours later.
For dessert, we shared two creme brûlées whose insides were very creamy, melty and did not hold their shape. I’ve had some before that are thick, but these in France aren’t. It was good but not stand out. After a truly Parisian dinner of three hours and many laughs (including one girl’s story of being called a disobedient avocado), we walked home very happy and full from a wonderful day of eating.