The first place we ate in Paris was the mall. It served steak and had a stained glass dome.
It was a kind of upscale food court with windows lining the dining room that looked out over Paris. You could see the Eiffel Tower. Which, I guess technically, was the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower - from the mall food court.
What I remember most about our first meal in Paris wasn't the food, but rather, the wine fountain. It was like a soda fountain, only instead of Diet Coke, you put your glass under the fountain and got Chardonnay, or rosé, or whatever. So we all had wine with our food court food steaks.
Gabriel, who is well traveled in Paris and speaks French - he doesn't consider it a "good year" unless he's visited the City of Lights - insisted we go to this mall first thing because the view from the top is a hidden gem, he said.
And he was right. The rooftop terrace rewards you with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower, the Opera House and the Paris rooftops.
|The view from the Galeries Lafayette.|
But the first real "Parisian" meal I remember was at Le Fregate, across from the Louvre. It was the real hidden gem. The Louvre is so enormous, so many city blocks, that Le Frégate was a bit out of the way for Louvre goers, and when we went that first night we had it nearly all to ourselves. Plus, restaurants in Paris don't really stay open that late. When we arrived about 9, it was nearly empty.
It isn't the best restaurant in Paris, and we probably didn't drink the best wine. But it was my favorite because it was the first, and because we sat outside on a cool fall evening and overlooked the Seine in those classically Parisian wicker chairs at one of those round, classically Parisian tables.
Gabriel speaks French and told the waiter that I wanted my filet with no pink (well done), and I thoroughly enjoyed the waiter hardly and hilariously tolerating me pouring my own wine. (It was his job and he wanted to do it, so he stopped me when I tried to do it myself. If this is the notoriously bad French service, I'll take it, I thought.)
|Gabriel and I post-dinner at Le Frégate in Paris.|
Sean and Gabriel, our travel companions to Europe that trip, eat at Le Frégate whenever they go to Paris. It's their thing.
It's soon to be Ray and I's thing as well.
We went to Paris this time three years ago, and we're returning in a few weeks for my birthday. Definitely on our agenda is having dinner at Le Frégate again.
When we first went to Paris I wasn't sure if I'd ever be back, you know how way leads on to way... But, happy birthday to me! We are celebrating October 17 with a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, followed by a stroll across the famed Pont des Arts 'lovers bridge.'
On our last visit, we stumbled upon this gorgeous pedestrian bridge that links the Louvre and the Institute de France by accident.
We had hopped off the double decker tour bus at the Louvre when we idly decided to walk across. It was filled with people milling about, some of them sitting on blankets having picnics and drinking wine. (Life is better in Paris.)
Ray noticed the locks first. On closer inspection, they were everywhere, all the way down the bridge, on the fences down both sides.
Engraved. Blank. Ornate. Simple. Masterlocks. Antiques.
Locks of all kinds with names from all over the world - Alan, Stephanie, Amelie, Lulidle et Doudeu.
We poured over the locks - the names and dates and types.
I especially loved the message on this one.
Leaving a lock is controversial now, but stumbling upon this lover's bridge is one of my favorite memories from Paris. This time around, I hope we're one of the people on the bridge having wine.
But my favorite place in Paris is the Latin Quarter, just over the lock bridge on the Left Bank.
The famed Shakespeare and Company bookstore is right across the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral. It gets all the ink and is a worth a visit because of its history, of course. And it makes an excellent cameo in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. (Love that movie.)
But the true wonder for bibliophiles are the outdoor booksellers in the Latin Quarter, whose bookstalls line the Seine with stall after stall of paperbacks for next to nothing. The titles are all in French, as opposed to Shakespeare and Company, which is English speaking, but I preferred the French books. Browsing titles in French was much more fun.
I told Ray I wanted a copy of something very American, in French. We opted to search for something by Hemingway, which was harder to find than you'd imagine given that Hemingway is intertwined with Paris.
|Is there a Hemingway in here?|
But what a great mission to be on - to find a French copy of a Hemingway among the thousands of titles in French along the Left Bank.
Finally, Ray found a copy of A Farewell to Arms. L'adieu aux Armes.
It is one of my most prized souvenirs ever. It is still covered in the cellophane that was used by the seller to protect it from moisture and wear. It sits prominently on our dining room bookshelf among the English Hemingway titles.
|Me among the books.|
It wasn't a few blocks from here where we had another of our most memorable meals in Paris. I don't remember the name of the brasserie but we were exhausted, hungry and needed a break, and the outdoor tables were just what our weary legs needed.
We filled up on wine, bread and an assorted cheese plate. Despite the steaks and delicious crepes we had at other restaurants and take-aways, it goes down as our favorite meal in Paris.
|The perfect meal.|
Before we went to Paris I had written that I didn't want to do anything but walk around and eat and drink and see the city and the people living it. And that's my goal for our trip in a few weeks.
You can do a lot when you're doing nothing.
|Lying in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.|