Surprisingly the morning after I arrived in Paris I slept in until 11am and was fine. No jetlag! All clocks have now been transitioned to the 24 hour system, something I’m still getting used to! I got myself in order and out the door after laboring to figure out the metro system before I left. It’s not soo bad but Paris has several different maps all in one and you have to figure out which ones connect and where while flipping frantically from one map to another. There’s the metro, RER trains and buses all through 20 Arrondissements.
The 20 neighborhoods make the “Ile-de-Paris” (note it’s not actually an island) incredibly difficult to spread your time out in because each neighborhood has it’s own community so there’s no real one central place in Paris you have twenty to choose from!
First order of business – find E. Dhillerin.
I arrived at station Chatelet-Les Halles only to discover I had no idea how to get out. Somehow I’d found myself inside a mall. While I only intended to be out and about a couple hours I figured I didn’t need to rush either so I just slowly wandered through the stores to see how different the selection was. Eventually I found an exit. I made my way onto the streets and looked for E. Dhillerin the cooking supply shop that Julia Child went to. Once I asked a few people and wandered around a few streets, I found the bright green and yellow sign telling me I’d made the right turn! Inside are tight little pathways, supplies lining the walls and sections all the way up to the ceiling as you walk over the creaky wood floors. The basement is more like a cavern with large stock pots and Le Creuset dishware in a dimly lit and almost eerie European cavern.
Beyond that I followed the signs on the side of the streets which offered plenty of suggestions of where to wander. I found myself many kitchen shops looking all the pastry and chocolate forms and the linen lined baskets for bread making. It was so hard to look and know I don’t have a kitchen of my own or a means to get all these lovely things home… I kept wandering.
In my wandering I found one of my first “must-have” experiences in France – street food! What kind of street food you ask? Crepes! The man was out of lemon so I indulged in a sugar and Grand-Marnier crepe and it was OH so good (though I discovered a few nights later at the house that nutella, banana and cinnamon was a great random combo… try it you’ll see what I mean!)
I must have looked listless because I didn’t know where I was going or what I might find. There’s a large cathedral near the exit of Les Halles and I slowly circled it on my way to finding the Pompidou. I suppose you could say I was perfecting the art of the Flaneur, slowly walking just taking it all in. Eventually I saw the inside out building I remembered studying in Art History. I had forgotten it was a gallery but I wandered the gift shop and enjoyed the glowing signs inside and got myself in line to find out how much tickets would run me. I got to the counter, he asked me what country I was from and handed me a free ticket. Lucky me!
It was a trip down memory lane with many of my favorite modern artists. Picasso, Rauchenberg, Debuffet, Chagall, Oldenberg, Twombly, Warhol, Giacometti and so many others that would form too long a list if I tried to get through them all.
I went until I had nothing left. Pain was searing through my shins but I still had two floors above me. It was already dark as I rose up the escalator running along the outside of the building and all of a sudden the Eiffel tower was to my right all lit up. I hadn’t been expecting it but it was beautiful! I pulled out my city map and placed myself within all the lit buildings I could recognize from the illustrated map with Sacre Coeur topping them all off on the hill in the distance of Montmartre.
To my luck I didn’t have a ticket for the top floor saving my body from more harm so I wandered back in a different direction past the hotel de ville which was sparkling with twinkling lights and admiring all the skaters circling around on the rink. It was dark and I was spent. I got back on a metro and seamlessly found my way home. Even in the dark with the 15 minute walk in Nogent! Success I’d say!
(I did however nearly give Gosia and Arno a heart attack not having told them I was okay and still wandering the city… Lesson for next time… Do make sure those who you’re in touch with have SOME idea what you’re up to… I’m clearly not used to have to keep others up to date on my affairs.)