Eurotrip 2011: Paris.2

Like what you see here? Our travels took us other places too! See all our trip posts here.

After an exhausting day of travel, touring, and socializing with our couchsurfing hosts, the next morning came way too quickly. I woke up feeling like no amount of sleep could have made me feel alive. It was this particular morning when we experienced our first serious limitation of couchsurfing: When your hosts leave the house for work in the morning, so do you. We were out the door by 8:30, sans any makeup or primping efforts. This is highly unusual for me.

N could tell I was really struggling. His first clue was probably that I didn't have the presence of mind to say "Happy birthday!" to him the first second I saw him. Usually I'm wishing him a happy birthday before he even opens his eyes. Also, when he saw me walking out of the house with sunglasses on in lieu of mascara, I think he got the gravitas of my fatigue.  Fortunately for me, he felt the same way, so I didn't get any sarcastic remarks about my dreariness. Fortunately for him, it was his birthday. On any other day, I probably would have been openly cranky. But no one deserves a cranky spouse on their birthday, so the happy face came out.

The happy face was helped by a small French patisserie near the metro in Malakoff, where we indulged in espresso and croissants. N's croissant even had chocolate in it - quite appropriate for the birthday boy.

The weather looked uncooperative, so we headed straight to the Louvre. Although we had seen the exterior during yesterday's bike tour, being inside gave an interesting perspective, as the entrance is below street level, and you can see the surrounding buildings from inside the glass pyramids that make up the courtyard.

After buying our €10 tickets (and me hurriedly applying makeup in the bathroom), we attempted a couple exhibits. Our mental capacity hadn't risen to the level of fine art appreciation, so we visited Napoleon's apartments. Opulent!

Don't know if Napoleon had "small man syndrome" or not, but that guy had great taste in decorating!
Not that I'm partial to gold, or anything.

We also briefly checked out the Ancient Egypt exhibit, because N's usually into those things, but it didn't take long before we both sat down on a bench in a mental haze. N admitted that he couldn't do any more of the museum stuff. We both just wanted naps. Desperately. We had no hotel to return to, nor could we use the guest bed at our hosts' house in their absence.

We wandered out of the Louvre into Tuileries Garden, hoping for a nice, quiet grassy spot where we could recline and rest. But the grass looked just a bit too well-manicured to me, and we soon concluded that no trespassing was allowed. Without any alternate plans or energy to make them, sleep was the only thing on our minds. Suddenly the metal chairs surrounding the fountain in the garden looked mighty inviting. We found two side-by-side, put our sunglasses on, and reclined as much as possible, wishing for iPods in our ears to drown out the sounds of other passers-by. I think N dozed off pretty quickly (he always does), but I characteristically found it harder to shut out all the noises. I didn't have long to try though, because shortly thereafter it began to rain.

We dashed out of our chairs and put up my tiny umbrella, heading back to the Louvre's interior. N made an important executive decision: Chasing sleep was fruitless. Instead, we needed to get "hopped up on caffeine" (his words) and embrace the day. Obtaining a caffeinated drink (or two) sounded easier to me than trying to sleep in a park. Fortunately, just outside the Louvre's entrance in an underground corridor, there is a two-story Starbucks. Soon we were happily sipping away at an Americano and a mocha (you can guess who had what), using the WiFi, and, most importantly, staying dry.

Finally, I felt refreshed enough to see more of the Louvre. N needed more down time, so I left him at Starbucks (and he eventually migrated to the nearby Apple store) while I toured. I headed straight to the Italian works, since of course, I had to check the Mona Lisa off my list.

The following photo is just to exemplify the enormity of the Louvre's galleries. It's just an incredible place to be, even without mentioning the world-class art on practically every surface.

But I will mention the world-class art. I did finally make it around to the Mona Lisa, like everyone else in the museum. Like our Fat Tire tour guide had warned, the painting is a bit disappointing, in that it's rather small, it draws a crowd, and you can't get very near it. But I saw it. Check!  I then wandered around the French galleries for a bit, and enjoyed them much more than the Italian section. Next time, I'll go there straight away.

N felt like he had probably overpaid for the small section of the Louvre he'd actually seen, so he ended up selling our two €10 tickets for a total of €15 to people standing in line. (It was his birthday, so I let him.)

Next up: Birthday crepes were on the brain. N had read reviews about some creperie near Montparnasse, so our hunt began. (This is one of his famous moves: Finding about a place online and proceeding to search high and low for this one particular spot while we pass by tons of other perfectly acceptable places. All while our stomachs growl.) Anyway, all we knew was that this creperie was called "Josselin" on a road called "Montparnasse". What we didn't realize was that "Blvd Monparnasse" is not the same thing as "Rue Montparnasse"... we definitely walked several block down "Blvd" when we should have been on "Rue". Thank goodness for an English-speaking pharmacy clerk who sorted us out.

Finally we found it on that blasted "Rue" - and it was closed! It was like the universe was out to foil us. Our empty stomachs would allow us many options. We merely crossed the street (rue), checked out the extensive crepe menu, and took our seats.

It was actually a super cute place, and because of the late lunch hour, we had it all to ourselves. The collage above is my little study in blue while we waited for our meal.

The crepe selection left nothing to be desired. His savory buckwheat crepe involved egg and cheese; mine had salad and meat. And our sweet crepes were full of fruit, nutella, and chantilly (whipped cream.) You can see why I've marked Paris as our food favorite.

In a nice little twist of irony, as we left the creperie and headed toward the Montparnasse tower, we found the true "Josselin" creperie just a few storefronts down (with a line out the door, no less! The reviews don't lie.) We then realized the first "Josselin" was something like "Le Petite Josselin". Oh well! We'll save it for the next trip.

To see a panoramic view of the city, most tourists climb the Eiffel Tower. Our tour guide advised against it because, in addition to the high cost and long lines, there is one major downside: You can't see the Eiffel Tower. It all made perfect sense to me, so instead, we climbed (rather, took the elevator to the top of) Paris' one skyscraper: Montparnasse. Even on this hazy day, the views were wonderful.

Here you can see how linear Paris' boulevards are.

The photo above was taken from the 59th floor (accessible via stairs after taking the elevator to the 56th.) Speaking of the 56th, when we exited the elevator, we were greeted by a green backdrop and a professional photographer. We half-rolled our eyes and let them take our free photo, just to avoid being the cranky Americans. It reminded me of being on a cruise ship. However, when we saw the result, we ended up being pleasantly surprised. €15 and five photos later, we landed this:

Now, there's a shot I wouldn't have captured myself. Nor would I have the next one, which we took on a second round of posing (per their encouragement).

Okay, so maybe we got a little into it. But look, it has his birthday in the corner and everything!

Up next was another check-the-box stop: The Arc de Triomphe. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, this landmark was in the middle of a very busy intersection, with cars whizzing around in a most confusing roundabout. Fortunately, they've created an underground walkway so you safely cross the intersection to see all the Arc's angles.

Finally, the event of the day: Our night bike tour of the City of Lights. Fat Tire Bike Tours offer four different Parisian tours: day, night, Versailles, and Monet's Garden. Our day tour was so enjoyable that we signed up for this night tour the very next day, and even talked our Australian acquaintances to join. While the day tour offered lots of historical facts, the night tour focused more on enjoying the city during and after dusk. And enjoy we did.

I liked that the night tour took us around sections of the city that the day tour skipped. Here's where we got our first glimpse of Notre Dame from a bridge (Pont de l'Archeveche) as we faced west to watch the sun start to dip behind the cathedral.

We rode a short distance eastward to the Ile Saint-Louis - a tiny, high-class island that meant one thing to all of us: Famous Parisian gelatto. On the bridge to the island, street performers serenaded couples in the evening light.

Oh yeah - Birthday ice cream from Berthillion. Totally delicious, and I'd also say refreshing, if my breath wasn't being completely taken away by the surroundings.


The tour kept moving without many stops, as our ultimate goal was to board a river boat for an evening cruise. We had just enough stops (mainly in and around the Louvre) to capture the spirit of the City of Lights at night.  To be honest, before this tour, I was enjoying Paris, but I hadn't fallen in love. But on this night tour, showcasing Paris' midnight blue backdrop and warm golden lamp lights reflecting off the river, put a giddy grin on my face as we peddled steadily along. It might as well have been my birthday.

I couldn't have been more pleased that the bike tour included a river boat cruise. Anyone who knows me well knows my obsession with the 1963 film Charade, featuring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

Along with delivering a clever plot using two of my favorite actors dressed to the 9's (Hepburn wears plenty of Givenchy dresses as she totes around classic Louis Vuitton luggage), the movie keeps me glued to my seat with the beautiful on-location filming in Paris.

One scene involves a river boat cruise, and it might as well have been the one we were on:

While floating down the Seine, looking at all the glowing Paris monuments, we chatted with the other tour participants, which, along with the Australian couple, included the tour guide's mother and sister, visiting from the States. Everyone on the tour got along like old friends, comparing travel notes and personal stories, like our move to Grand Cayman.

When the cruise ended, we hopped back on the bikes to return to the Eiffel Tower to see it "sparkle". Every hour on the hour, thousands of light bulbs on the already-lit Tower blink on and off, making the entire thing look like a huge, glittery Christmas tree. We arrived just in time for the 11 p.m. razzle-dazzle.

It's impossible to capture the glitter action in a photo, so here's a short video to give you a better idea:

So in summary, despite a rocky start to our second day in Paris, I think N had a pretty spectacular birthday in the City of Lights. We went to bed that night feeling like Paris had wooed us and won us, in all her romantic evening splendor. I was excited for two more days of touring. But first: Sweet sleep. Tomorrow was Saturday. Thank the Lord.


  1. Wow! Such a great post! Love the professional pictures of you guys! Happy Belated Bday, Nate! Glad it was a good day for you :) The lights are GORGEOUS!