europe · france · paris · Travel

April 2011: Paris in the Springtime (Part 1)

A 5am wake up call makes for a very grumpy Mrs Fletche but the frown is soon turned upside down when I remember why we are awake at this ungodly hour… we’re off to Paris! Suitcases are packed, guide book has been read and memorised, and thoughts of delicate French pastries and copious glasses of wine speed up the train journey from Birmingham to London, and then the Eurostar journey to Gare Du Nord.

The Eurostar arrives bang on time, and we are extremely lucky to be met by a friend of Mr Fletche who lives in Paris. A note: Mr Fletche has never met this wonderful gentleman, but became ‘cyber-pals’ due to a love of on-line gaming (mainly involving shooting mutant dwarves in some barren land, but I digress…). He not only gave up his Saturday afternoon to guide two Paris newbies to their hotel, but also his Saturday evening when he and his lovely wife accompanied us for a spot of French cuisine… more about that later… So thank you very much Mr & Mrs Pepper!!!

With our faithful guide in the lead, it is time for our first taste of the Paris Metro. Despite a small tangle involving the gates and our suitcases (clearly Parisians walk faster than the English, leaving our suitcases trapped on the other side of the automatic gate) we are soon wending our way below the streets of Paris to St Michel. With no time to stop and admire the views (Me: “Oooh, is that Notre Dame? Thought it would be bigger….” And Me: “Oooh, look at the souvenir shops with little sparkly Eiffel Towers and genuine French berets…”) we are soon standing in front of our hotel, the Agora Saint Germain on Rue des Bernardins in the 5th Arrondissement.

In April 2011, we visited Paris for the first time
Notre Dame from the banks of the Seine

A two-cheeked kiss for Mr Pepper and a promise to meet up for food later and it’s time to check in. Or so we think. The wonderfully polite gentleman on reception advises us that our room is unfortunately not ready for us yet, could we possibly wait for an hour? The weather is wonderful, and we have passed what seems like a hundred bars and cafés in the local area… of course we’ll wait for an hour. So, we deposit our suitcases in the basement luggage room (TINIEST lift in the world, room for one person and one suitcase, or possibly two very skinny people and a suitcase…), use the bathroom and set off for our first meander around Paris. We walk as far as the Seine (a five minute walk from the hotel) and decide that 2pm is ‘wine-time’ (after three days in Paris, I can confirm that any time of the day is ‘wine-time’…)

giphy (5)

We head for ‘The Long Hop’ on Rue Frederic Sauton. We waver for a short while as we’re unsure whether they’re open or not, but soon follow the lead of a couple of young ladies who sit themselves down outside. Two glasses of vin pour moi, and a couple of beers for Mr Fletche and we are starting to see Paris in a slightly fuzzy light – partly due to the alcohol, and partly due to the early morning start…

So it’s back to the hotel, where the wonderfully polite gentleman on reception hands us our key to Room 308. We retrieve our luggage, somehow managing to fit both us and our suitcases in the impossibly tiny lift, and soon locate our room. It’s the one with the maid’s cart completely blocking the entrance. The maid speaks very little English, and by a combination of hand signals and very basic French (on my part – not hers) we manage to ascertain that it’ll be another twenty minutes. We contemplate returning to our terrace seats at ‘The Long Hop’ – probably still warm from our departure just minutes before – but instead we trudge back down to reception (via the tiniest lift in the world…) to await the call that we can finally get into our room. Twenty minutes turns into half an hour, which turns into forty minutes… Eventually – TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES after the 2pm check-in time – we are allowed into our room…

Too tired to complain; the bed is wonderfully comfortable and it is a relief to finally shed our travelling clothes and rest our weary bones. It’s no surprise when the Fletches start to nod off… But NO! We are in Paris; we’re here for just two and a bit days; we must wake up and discover the delights of this city. Mr Pepper is meeting us at 7:15pm at the Saint Nicholas church just outside our hotel (whose bells provide a charming – if a little noisy – alarm call each morning).

Rested and fully energised, we meet Mr Pepper and it’s another whistle-stop walking tour across the city to the 4th Arr. to La Tête Ailleurs on Rue Beautrellis. This is a lovely little French-Mediterranean restaurant, very small and intimate… the type that Mr Fletche and I would have walked straight past has we been alone as there is no English translation on the menu…

In April 2011, we visited Paris for the first time
La tete ailleurs

Mr Pepper’s lovely wife joins us – and is happy to confirm Mr Pepper’s translation of the menu – and recommends EVERYTHING on the menu… This restaurant is a big favourite of Mr & Mrs Pepper – we soon find out why. Mr Fletche opts for the shoulder of lamb, and I choose the sesame crusted salmon; each mouthful is a taste sensation. A couple of chocolatey desserts later, all washed down with a fine vin blanc, and we can barely move for the amount of food and wine consumed. The meal for four, with wine, comes to approx 140 Euros; and it is worth every cent.

The food, company and wine have all been très magnifique, but we are definitely flagging by 10:30pm and, aware that tomorrow will be another long long day full of walking; we head back to home base to dream of churches, rivers and pastries…

Next up: Seeing the sights and avoiding the rain…

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