September 5, 2004

A weekend in Paris

I left for Paris on the EuroStar Friday night at 7 and got into Paris at about 11 PM (Paris time, which is 1+ London time). It was my first time traveling on the EuroStar from London Waterloo to Paris Gare du Nord. The ride was rather uneventful, with me sleeping most of the time and a group of loud men talking about their sailing trip.

My friends Max and Sheel who used to live in Paris were in Paris for the weekend. Sheel was there for work. So, I crashed at their fancy hotel, the Sofitel Arc du Triomphe. From Gare du Nord station, I took the M4 North for one stop, then took the M2 to Charles de Gualle Etoile. This brings you right at the Arc du Triomphe. I was so happy with myself being able to get from the train station to the hotel without any help. I have to admit that the Paris Metro is very dirty... and with no cool air in the summer, it's almost unbearable.

After getting to the hotel, the three of us went to Sir Winston, a bar/lounge near the Arc. Rob, Max's friend, joined us a little later. With a name like Sir Winston, you would probably not be able to guess its interior. A large buddha greets you at the front, cloth-covered cone-shaped lamps dimly light the room, and other asian-styled lamp shades provide a nice ambiance. There was a DJ there who was playing some nice lounge beats and was softly adding a little jazz with his trumpet and voice. We didn't stay long since everyone was tired.

The drinks in Paris are fun. If you order a rum and coke, they'll bring you your rum in a tall glass with ice and a stir stick. You'll also get a beaker of coke, separately. It's up to you how strong or weak to make your drink. This is a good because: 1. your drinks get served faster, 2. makes the bartender's job easier, 3. you get to make your drink the way you like it, and 4. drinking is now an interactive activity! Bad thing is that they charge you for the rum and the coke separately.

We were a lazy bunch and slept in on Saturday. We walked the Champs towards Concorde and then took the Metro to the Marais district. It was HOT. I think it was 31 degrees Celcius. This was my first time to be in Paris in the summer. The other times had been, early June (still cool), September, and January. My friends used to live in the Marais district. It's just a really cool place with really great shopping and restaurants. Not full of tourists. I had wanted to go to Las Du Falafel (frequented by Lenny Kravitz), but I forgot that most of the Jewish establishments are closed on Saturdays. So, we went to another place close by for falafels and humous. Afterwards, we walked around the area and shopped. The best chocolate shop in the world can be found in the Marais... Chocolats Mussy on Rue di Bourg Tibourg. The pieces are small and have really smooth texture. Their specialty is tea chocolate! I got a really big variety box to take back to London. Then we went to the Samaritan, a big department store near Chatelet. Sheel wanted to look for brief cases. I saw a few people with their dogs in the store. It's not uncommon. I just enjoy seeing the cute little dogs behaving so well. After deciding against getting the Mandarin Duck briefcase, we return to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner.

My favorite restaurant in Paris (for the past 3 years) is L'Arganier, a Moroccan restaurant in the Marais. If you're a meat-and-potatoes eater, the Tagine Kefta is supposedly really good. If you're a veggie, then you'll love the Couscous vet Legumes (a veggie stew with couscous). They have a bellydancer, but only on Friday nights. Five of Sheel's coworkers joined us for a big feast. After dinner, we stopped at a nearby cafe for a drink outside so we can people watch and talk about the Parisians.

This morning, Max left to go back to Texas. Sheel and I window shopped on the Champs and then had lunch outside at a little cafe in the Marais so we can people watch again. Afterwards, we stopped at the A.G. Spalding & Bros. store to pick up a few items for Sheel. They sell leather wallets and other accessories, including stationary holders, pens, and bags. Don't let the name fool you, it's an Italian brand. They once had a store on 5th Avenue in New York and, some how, the name stuck. For the quality, their prices are pretty reasonable.

I caught the 3 o'clock EuroStar train back to London. I am so lucky to have friends who can speak fluent French! Paris is like London, but ... cooler.

Posted by oneray at September 5, 2004 1:21 PM