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Monday, January 31, 2011

Paris 101- Things I Learned Today on Day 2

Waking up in a newly discovered city can be quite exciting. Tis' the case on a brisk Monday morning in Paris' 8th arrondissement where tiny cars zip down the narrow streets, children's laughter as their parents walk them to school, people lined up at the local boulangerie for the fresh aromatic morning baguettes. We too were excited to begin our day.

We headed to the Boulangerie Traiteur across the street from our hotel to order some fresh brioche. I wanted butter and finally remembered the french word and asked the lady at the counter. She shook her head in disapproval and denied me of butter. The brioche was moist, buttery, and tasty.

Although we had made plans the night before to go certain spots today, we ended up roaming the streets of Paris and discovering what was in front of us. It made for a more adventurous day than following strict plans. As we strolled down Rue St. Lazare, the snow was falling lightly on our skin and added an authentic feel to our experience. The Monday crowd filled the streets unlike Sunday and there were so many fashionable people in their everyday attire perusing Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, two amazing retail stores in Paris.

The abundance of people made Paris truly come to life and I was completely enamored with the city, its people, the history, and the culture. While shopping we stopped to have dessert at Cafe Pouchkine, and to my surprise the quality and presentation of their desserts were fantastic. We of course tried some macarons, and a raspberry cake called a Freijoa. Not long after, we headed down the street to Place Madeleine to have lunch at the ever famous Fauchon. The store was lit in pink, their signature color, and the candy and treats were beautifully displayed. Our meal was delicious, we started with Pan seared duck foie gras with raisins and pine nuts, then had some petit-escargot in a butter parsley sauce, followed by a pan crusted sea bream in a bed of endives and citrus sauce. For dessert, I wanted to try the poached pear, but it was sold out, so we opted for a milk chocolate filled eclair.We asked the waiter to "to go" our foie gras, and he didn't seem very keen on the idea. A few minutes later he dropped a piece of tin foil on our table, in which, I realized it was our take out. No bag, just a piece of foil. Ahhh it was a wonderful, appetizing meal and another lesson learned.

We headed for the Palais Garnier, an amazing opera house built by Charles Garnier in 1861 and was completed in 1875. This was the primary home to the Paris opera until 1989. Garnier, a not so well known young architect in his early thirties won the contest for the project under the rule of Emperor Napolean III. It was one of the most magnificent things I've ever seen in my life. I was in awe at the beauty of the architecture and the grand story it told. I imagined what it might have been like for wealthy men and women to have dressed up and attended the operas there. It was a magical experience, one you will have to see for yourself.

Our next stop was Dalloyau, another top ten Paris pastry shop Lucy recommended. But on the way to the patisserie on Rue du Faubourg St. Honore, we stopped into a few beautiful shops lining both sides of the street. Hermes, Chanel, Prada, Givenchy, and so many more covered the streets with high fashion. It was my little heaven for the day. And although I didn't come out with a Birkin, I was satisfied just window shopping, since I am not ready to buy my piece of souvenir yet.

We noticed a handful of reporters down the street, and many police officers guarding a grand building. We were of course curious and asked the policeman what all the hype was about. So guess where we were? In front of the presidential palace where Nicolas Sarkozy, the current president of France resides. And today was a special day because the World Champion French Handball team were all there to hang out with the President.

Meesh and I kept asking if handball was basketball, and the policeman said no it's handball. But we still didn't get it, until a reporter who spoke english explained that it is a mix of football and soccer. Which then completely made sense to us. We got to see the players come out of the palace and be cheered on by the paparazzi and local handball enthusiasts. It was quite an interesting experience. Also along that street are major French government residences like the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which we were not allowed to take a picture of.

Then off to Dalloyau we went, where they had well made pastries and chocolates and a cute logo for Valentine's Day "Si ca ne vous derange pas je prefere un gateau." Meaning, "if you don't mind, I prefer to eat cake." So cute! Their macarons were a little crunchier than I expected but still yummy.

We ended our day walking down towards the Seine River heading to L'Hôtel national des Invalides where Napolean's is buried. It was late and we needed to head back to the hotel to get our luggage and head to Dijon, but I would like to come back and see more when we are back in Paris for a few days.

What an amazing day it was! I learned so many new things today. You have to buy butter and jam at a separate store than your local boulangerie, waiters will look at you with disapproval if you ask for a "doggie bag", handball is not basketball and it's a national sport, and people will help you give direction but won't help carry heavy luggage for you. Oh, and we rode the metro without a ticket, went into the exit instead of the entrance, had to con our way into getting a nice gentleman to let us back in to get to TGV train. Meesh also got stuck in the middle of the train door because she couldn't get the heavy luggage through the already closing door and it's a whopping 18 degrees currently in Dijon.

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