April 13, 2005 GMT
Paris, France

We couldn't have had a nicer start to our time in France than being able to stay with Dave's friends Tony and Caroline in their cute little Parisian flat, conveniently located just steps away from the kebab house and the croissant bakery. It was tough to tear ourselves away from all that good food and hospitality, but being the dedicated travellers that we have committed ourselves to be for the next year or so, we hauled ourselves out of bed each morning at the crack of dawn (okay, maybe it was more like some time before 11:30) to discover all the charming neighborhoods and tourists haunts we could find. As the motorcycle did not get shipped until a few days after we did, we relied on our feet and the Metro to get us where we wanted to go.

Our personal tourguides had the weekend to orient us to the town. Had some great Greek food in the Latin Quarter, then stood in the fast-moving line to enter Notre Dame Cathedral. Who would have known that you could take the elevator to the roof of La Samaritaine, a big trendy department store, to get a scenic view of the Seine River.

View from La Samaritaine.jpg

Of course it took a while to drag Dave away from all the haute Parisian fashion he wanted to buy. Gotta love those cute plaid handbags, a nice complement to the Transalp paint job.

Next day we checked out the Arc de France, a modern structure allegedly big enough to encase the Arc de Triomphe (with room left over for the pidgeons). Not too far from the Champs Elysees, where real high class city folk shop for the latest GAP jeans. Further exploration led to the Place de la Concorde, a huge square surrounded by government establishments and a great Egyptian obelisk, and the Jardin des Tuilleries, not too vibrant with spring flowers in the April chill but still quite a draw for all the Parisian workers who seemed quite content munching their big ham-and-cheese baguettes for an extended lunch break.

Erika & Dave in the gardens.jpg

Monday we spent an aesthetic morning at the Louvre purveying treasures from Egypt to England. Dave felt he was just as mysterious and intriguing as the Mona Lisa and stood for some time near the original to see if other viewers found him as lovely. Most viewers seemed to focus more on the Mona Lisa. No accounting for taste.

The Mona David.jpg

Finished up with a panoramic view from the chilly Eiffel Tower--in retrospect we were pretty lucky as that afternoon was the only one on our trip so far where the sky wasn't a blanket of clouds and rain.

The Eiffel Tower in April.jpg

That evening Tony and Caroline rounded up a bunch of French friends to have drinks at a smoky club in the up-and-coming Butte-Aux-Cailles neighborhood. Erika could figure out a few words of their lively banter, but both she and Dave were glad they could manage a few more words of English. Caroline is a native of France who has spent time in San Francisco, as well as New Zealand, from whence Tony hails. Her fluency in French and English came in handy way more than once, as we attempted to navigate menus, subways, and motorcycle pick-ups. After drinks, we headed down the street to find a restaurant special enough to qualify for a birthday dinner for Dave (who spent his actual birthday Erika-less at the International House of Pancakes in Vancouver). Had a traditional French meal with tasty fried tripe and white wine. Wish Dave had enjoyed his main course as much as the fried tripe--though he is not fond either of boiled vegetables or fatty gristly meat, he wound up ordering "Pot Au Feu", which, loosely translated, seems to mean something like "boiled vegetables with fatty gristly meat". Mmmm.

Dave happily got a taste of reconnection with his beloved missing Transalp the next day when we stumbled across a street packed with motorcycle stores. REALLY tricky to pull him away from brand-new European Transalps and all the accompanying gear. He was conveniently able to locate a Honda place that had a computer specific enough to show the actual obscure part he needed (somehow the word escaped him en Français). Buoyed by contact with motorcycle parts, he was able to endure another afternoon on foot climbing the steps of the Sacre Coeur church. We loved Montmartre, the hilly neighborhood once frequented by Picasso, Dali, and other creative types of an earlier era and now frequented by busloads of rowdy foreign tourists.

Montmarte Neighborhood.jpg

Luckily for us we seem to have arrived a few weeks before the tourist buses. (in a week Erika's parents will be arriving in Montmartre for a two week tour, but since her mom is Swiss and her dad is honorary Swiss they don't count as foreign. Though they have been known to get pretty rowdy. Have a great trip M & D!! :)

We went out for our "last meal" with Tony and Caroline to a Thai/Lao/Cambodian restaurant in their neighborhood (sometimes known as "the chinatown of Paris"). It was great, but boy did we fool them about the "last meal" part. Our plan to leave early the next morning to pick up the bike at Charles de Gaulle Airport was thwarted when we found out the next morning that the bike hadn't arrived on time. (or so we told Caroline, who was then obligated to cook more meals for us. clever, huh.) So we bravely suffered through another day eating cheese crepes and croissants and exploring the Biblioteque François Mitterand (four modern buildings designed to look like open books, allegedly the largest book collection in the world). Erika wanted to tell our hosts that the bike STILL hadn't arrived the day later, but Dave could only be separated from his motorcycle for so long.......

Posted by Erika Tunick at April 13, 2005 01:59 PM GMT
 
 

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