One week in Paris
Last month me and my girlfriend went for a vacation to watch Ice Hockey Championship games that were played in Paris. We arrived to Paris on a Thursday 11th of May around the evening. We landed at Paris-Orly airport and took a bus from there to Denfert-Rochereau metro station and took 2 different metros to get to our hotel Absolute Hotel Paris. Using Metro in Paris is very easy and we found our hotel without any hassle. Except for the wrong turn taken when exiting a Metro station near our hotel, but spotted a good supermarket where we did a lot of shopping during our stay. They had a machine inside that you could use to bottle fresh squeezed orange juice, wish every shop had that!
The hunt for first meal
We dropped our luggage at the hotel, after we finally managed to check-in. Seems the hotel is very popular as we had to wait for a while for the man at the check-in desk to get off the phone. While we walked to the hotel from the nearby metro station we saw few restaurants so we went to have a closer look. There was a lot of restaurants in the area where our hotel was, too many options for a tired traveler. So after a short walk and browsing different menus we chose Buffalo Grill Paris restaurant at Republique square. It was a American steakhouse restaurant, quite okay place. I had a Little Italy salad which was nice and Mari took Fish and Chips that was good also. We shared a carafe of house white wine. For dessert had a Creme Brulee but that was a disappointment, the sugar melted on top was burnt which gave it a bit foul taste. After our supper we just returned to the hotel and went to sleep.
Breakfast over Seine
On Friday we didn’t have any plans made so we just headed out from the hotel. Purchased 5-day tickets to the metro and went couple stations closer to Seine. We spotted a cafe selling baguettes filled with various things so we instantly decided to buy some for breakfast. We walked to a bridge over Seine and sat on the benches to eat. After enjoying a moment to ourselves and having finished our breakfast we walked to check the queue at Notre Dame. It was already about noon so the queues had built up, going around a street block. Knowing that we had plenty days left in Paris we opted to not stand in queue for hours. We returned to Seine and kept walking by it for a while until we arrived at Louvre, here the queue was very short so we went in.
Cake time in Louvre
We walked around Louvre for good 3-4 hours. But that time wasn’t enough to see everything, probably not a surprise since Louvre is worlds largest museum. Originally Louvre was built as a fortress but it lost it’s purpose as a fortress due to urban expansion and was converted into a residence for French kings. Later on it was made into a Museum.
The first thing we headed to see was Mona Lisa, after that it was pretty much just wondering around aimlessly and stopping by for a coffee, cake and wine in one of the cafes inside Louvre. We were lucky and there was a table free on the balcony overlooking the yard and glass pyramids. Unlucky for the fact that it started to rain not long after we had sat down. Finished my cake before the rain though.
Getting drunk in Lion’s cave
After leaving Louvre we returned to our hotel, had a little rest and freshened up and headed to a bar that was set-up for Finnish hockey fans for the duration of the tournament. Ice hockey team in Finland is called Leijonat (lions) so the fan bar is called Leijonaluola (lion’s cave). We were meeting up with a friend at the fan bar who flew from South-Africa to Paris on business, his business being to see some hockey games 😀 We arrived just in time at the bar for last happy hour beers. They had Belgian beer on tap from Delirium brewery. 8% strong beer, needless to say we did get pretty wasted with the all the other Finnish hockey fans. Finnish pop and rock songs blasting in the background, this place triggered so many flashbacks of drunken nights from the time I still used to live in Finland..
Went to sleep around 5am and Norway – Finland game was at 12:15…
Saturday morning didn’t feel funny at all, thanks to drinking way too many pints of that 8% strong Belgian beer. While walking to a Metro we picked hangover breakfast from McDonalds and headed to AccorHotels Arena where the hockey games were played. It was my first time being in a big arena watching a hockey game so I quickly forgot about the hangover and just went with the moment. Finland managed to win against Norway 2-3 after overtime but the hockey match we witnessed was nothing spectacular. After the game was over I realized I still have some hangover symptoms so we just retreated back to the Hotel. Close to the hotel we went to a supermarket to get some drinks, snacks and something to eat. After couple hours of rejuvenating in the hotel it was time to go find supper.
From my previous visit to Paris I remembered somewhere in Paris there was a restaurant district and after some google searches that restaurant area turned out to be the Latin Quarter in Paris. We took the tourist map from the hotel that also showed the location for the area and took off. After couple metro station we were thinking to be close and hopped off and walked out from the metro tunnel. After walking for a while in search of the Latin Quarter we ended up at Pantheon and at this point we realized that the tourist map from the hotel wasn’t very accurate. From my memory I also pictured a different landscape for the restaurant area that I had visited last time.
Disappointed of not finding the area we headed towards Seine so we can find a metro and at least something to eat. We came across small square with couple street cafes and decided this is as good as anything for tonight. We sat down to the cafe that seemed most okay, next to us were sitting 2 older French ladies eating Onion soup and I was thinking ‘oh yes please I’ll have some of that’. French Onion soup is one of my weaknesses and can you imagine the feeling when you are served some sort of warm onion water. At least the cheese and bread on top of it was good but I couldn’t finish the soup. For main I had ordered a Pasta Carbonara which was an improvement from the soup but I had hoped for a better food experience so we didn’t order any desserts but just paid and started to go back to the hotel.
After about 3 minute walk from the restaurant where we ate, we arrived at the Latin Quarter..
Disappointed from the food and tired from the last night’s shenanigans we just headed back to the hotel and went to sleep.
Starting the day the French way
On Sunday morning we went for a breakfast at the cafe next to our hotel. We both took a French breakfast deal with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice, I had mine with 2 sunny side up eggs. After finishing our breakfast we did some map reading and started to head to Montmarte hill to see Sacre-Coeur Basilica. After couple metro stations we arrived at the bottom of Montmarte and started to look for a way up. This was the first time we got some pestering from the street vendors trying to give those friendship bracelets, I always get their attention because of my dreadlocks. Not giving any attention to them I pushed through and we arrived at the top, noticing the line moving quickly and the entrance being free we joined the queue to get inside.
It started to rain just when we entered the church. We waited for the rain to pass, checking all the corners inside of the church. When leaving from Montmarte hill we noticed that on the other side of the hill from where we walked the stairs, there would have been a cable car that can be used with our metro tickets. Well at least we got a ride down and got some exercise going up.
We walked down to Moulin Rouge, took a couple pictures of it and sat for a drink at the Irish bar next to it and planned our next move.
Arc de Triomphe
From Moulin Rouge we took a metro to Champs Elysee and waited for our friend Joonas to join us at Arc de Triomphe. After some hesitation we decided to go on top of it. 284 steps later we were at the top and were greeted by a great view over Paris and Champs Elysee. After some mandatory pictures and selfies we headed back down and had planned to go to the Latin quarter for dinner but again we failed. Due to the Inauguration of the new French president some areas near Seine were blocked off so we couldn’t get to the other side where the Latin Quarter is. We just picked some restaurant in random, ordered pizza and pasta and had a dinner before heading to see Finland – Switzerland match.
Another wild night at the Lion’s cave
We arrived at the AccorHotels arena well in time so we had couple drinks at the bars near the arena before heading in. The match itself was mediocre at best, Finland trailing by 2 goals after 10 minutes to first period. Swiss hockey fans can make quite a lot of noise by the way 😀 Miraculously Finland reduced the lead to 1 goal by end of 1st period and on 3rd period we were tied 2-2 and again we won the match on overtime, like we did against Norway also.
Feeling good that at least our team managed to win after it being 0-2 against them, we headed to the bar for Finnish hockey fans. We were some of the first to get there from the match as we left from the arena right after the match was over and took a metro. They had live Finnish music for entertainment so it was another evening of flashbacks. After several beers later we were zigzagging it back to the hotel around 3am.
It was another rough morning for a hockey tourist. This time we settled for the hotel breakfast, typical continental breakfast but at least something to fill my stomach with. For Monday there was no ice hockey games so our plan was to get on top of Eiffel tower. We had agreed with our friend Joonas to meet up at the bottom of the tower. Unfortunately there was a bit of a queue so Joonas couldn’t come with us as work was calling so me and Mari took our places in the queue and waited.
We got up the tower quite fast eventually, The elevators take about 60 passengers at a time from bottom to the 2nd platform, to the top level you get on a different elevator. We spent some time on the 2nd level before going to the top and in total it took us 2.5 hours in and out, including all the queues.
Picnic by the Eiffel tower
The weather was pretty amazing this day so we looked around to find something we could eat at the Champ de Mars park but couldn’t decide on what to eat. We eventually came across a small convenience store and bought stuff for a picnic. The shopkeeper was nice to give us cups and napkins so we were all set. We headed back to park, picked our spot and relaxed in the sun for couple hours. After snacking on our picnic lunch and having finished the wine we both started to feel bit sleepy so we headed back to the hotel for a nap.
This isn’t my dish
We had some ambitious plans to finally go eat at the Latin Quarter but after napping we were feeling too lazy. So with the hotel WiFi I used google maps to study our hotel surroundings for restaurants. Some restaurants are closed on Mondays in France and the ones I really wanted to go to, were closed. So we had a limited amount of restaurants to choose from.
We eventually set out from the hotel and walked to the Republique square where we also ate on our arrival night. I had a different restaurant in mind this time however and eventually we settled with Pizzeria Renato. We sat down outside to see over the street, we placed our orders and waited for our food to arrive while sipping on the carafe of house white wine. We ordered a salmon risotto and a side salad to share between me and Mari. There was another couple sitting at a table beside us and twice they served their food on our table. First they brought their pizza to our table and then a pasta dish they had ordered. Politely we pointed out that this was not our orders and continued waiting.
Finally, we were served the side salad we ordered and a risotto.. ..Buut it was not the salmon risotto we ordered but a mushroom risotto someone sitting inside had ordered. The waiter was not having his best day, but he was very friendly and apologetic. And after finally getting our orders, the food was so good that all was forgotten. We ordered a second carafe of wine and checked the dessert menu. Mari wanted to have another go at the Creme Brulee while I ordered a Tiramisu for dessert. This time we were served a beautiful, tasty Creme Brulee and my Tiramisu was good as well. From the restaurant we headed back to our hotel to get some sleep.
Thinking of Quasimodo
On Tuesday morning we opted for a quick and easy on the go breakfast. So it was a take two of the McMuffin in Paris. I picked them up from the Mc Donalds next to our hotel and we ate them on the way to metro. We had agreed to meet up with Joonas at Notre Dame to climb up the stairs to the towers. We were at the site around 10am and joined the queue. This time it wasn’t as long as on Friday when we came by so we took our place in the queue and waited.
After about 1 hour we got in and started to climb the stairs, there is about 400 steps to the top. To see the gargoyles and other sculptures up close and personal was worth the wait and climb however. Plus you get a great view over the neighboring area. We descended from the towers thinking that we still have the inside of the church to see but the tower visit doesn’t actually get you inside the chapel. You exit from the other tower back to the street. We thought of checking inside but it was almost noon and the queue had grown a lot since when we went in. We decided to come back tomorrow morning when there wouldn’t be that long of a queue already.
Finally at Latin Quarter
After we left from Notre Dame we decided with our friend to go to Latin quarter to have lunch. After checking some random restaurants the waiter outside of one place recognized that we are Finnish and greeted us in Finnish. We were checking the menu of the place and the waiter said the the first drink is on him so we were convinced. That free drink was a complimentary Sangria glass that they served to everyone in the restaurant upon entering. The interior of the La Taverna restaurant was quite nice however so we didn’t regret our decision. Although the stakes were high since we hadn’t eaten at the Latin Quarter yet during our stay in Paris and we wanted the restaurant to be great.
We ordered 1 litre of the house white wine for the 3 of us and I decided to give another chance for the French Onion soup and Joonas and I shared a small plate of snails. Mari ordered for herself a Cheese Fondue of 3 different cheeses, served with cold cuts of prosciutto and salami, potatoes and bread. Joonas ordered a pizza for himself.
I was positively surprised when they served the Onion soup for me that I got side plates with croutons and shredded cheese, this way it wasn’t so messy eating as I could keep adding cheese and bread on top. After having the first taste from the soup, I was satisfied with our choice on the restaurant. The onion soup had a proper flavor and thickness to it, it was on a completely different level compared to the soup I was served on Saturday. Joonas ate his half of the snails and passed the plate to me and we immediately started to regret of not ordering the bigger plate with 12 snails. So good they were. We finished up with our dinner with me dipping into the cheese fondue, Mari doesn’t like cold cut meats so much so I assisted her in finishing those up.
Paris holiday was saved, finally there was a food experience that makes you rub your belly with a smile thinking, I’m full! Can’t remember what we had for dessert here.
In hockey you can’t win every time, if you are Finland
After our highly satisfying lunch we did some shopping and headed back to the hotel to have a rest and change on our Hockey jerseys. Before going to the hotel we stopped at the Supermarket and got some stuff for breakfast so we didn’t have to go out to eat tomorrow morning. We also bought 2 small wine bottles as the bars outside the arena were so expensive but we wanted to have a drink there before going inside the arena. We met up with our friend again in front of the arena and had a chat with some hockey fans from Canada as Finland was playing against Team Canada in the group final.
The match went pretty much as anyone would have expected, Canada taking the game by 5-2. They were just better team almost by every aspect. During the break between periods we went to try some food from the arena and got 2 hamburgers, fries and 2 sodas and 2 official ice hockey championship drinking cups, costing just over 30 euro. Glad we didn’t have to eat at the Arena more often. While Finland didn’t play a good game, at least Canada was showing us some really good hockey.
After the match ended we were feeling bit disappointed about Finland’s performance and headed back to hotel. Tomorrow was our flight back to Malta so it was good choice to go sleep early.
Last day in Paris
On Wednesday morning we ate for breakfast what we had bought from the supermarket yesterday. We packed our stuff and signed out from the room and left our luggage at the reception and headed to Notre Dame to see inside the chapel also. Joonas was already there so we joined him in the queue and were inside in few minutes. After walking around the place I saw in a wall a wooden sculpture portraying the life of Jesus and was surprised to see that in it, was shown that Jesus and Mary Magdalena were married. I’m not a religious person but to my knowledge that is a the opposite of what religion has taught us. Seeing inside the Notre Dame made me wonder about our human ancestors that how they were so patient and collaborative, Notre Dame took 200 years to build and the walls are littered with sculptures and statues. Imagine the effort made from generation to another.
All older buildings and furnitures are full of carvings, sculptures and small details everywhere. Why we stopped making this beautiful things?
Outside of Notre Dame there was a huge tent set up and inside there was a bakery with all kinds of sweet pastries and baguettes being made. Some had fillings and some had cheese or meat baked in to the bread. We all picked something from there and after I tried my baguette with chorizo and cheese baked into it. I had to go back inside and get another one. We went to a tobacco shop near by and bought small wine bottles and with our loot from the Bread festival, sat down on the riverbank of Seine for a picnic.
After watching some boats sail through Seine and finishing our Picnic, we decided to go for a walk around somewhere. Our aim was to walk to the park of Luxembourg Palace and have a quick look at the palace. However we ended up visiting a small Saint Severin church and a souvenirs shop and a clothing shop. By now it was already afternoon so we skipped the palace and headed to Latin Quarter for our last lunch in Paris.
Last lunch before flying home
From yesterday me and Joonas already had our mind set on frog legs, we wanted to try them out. So in Latin Quarter we kept checking for restaurants with frog legs on the menu. We eventually settled with a restaurant that was just behind the church Saint Severin, and the restaurants name was Le Saint Severin. It was really hot day so we took a table outside in the shade.
Me and Joonas ordered frog legs and snails to share between us, 12 snails this time. For myself I ordered a Salad Nicoise, it was the perfect summer day for this salad. And I had wanted to eat this salad while in Paris but other restaurants that we had visited earlier had it with potatoes or with kidney beans or other random ingredients that traditionally don’t belong in salad nicoise.
Mari ordered herself a Cheese crepe, she had been talking about having a crepe for almost since we landed in Paris.
Joonas ordered a salad with potatoes, prosciutto and bacon. It looked like the perfect meal after a night out or something to eat for a hangover. It was still really good without any prior alcohol consumption 😀
Food is served
The first impression from frog legs was that they looked kinda like chicken wings, they were served in a simple marinara sauce. Neither me or Joonas had eaten a frog before so there’s first time for everything.. right? I started to eat my share from the snails while Joonas started on the frog legs and halfway we swapped the plates. Taking the first bite from the frog legs was a bit awkward, frogs have very tiny bones and there isn’t much meat. But it is actually quite delicious, it reminds me of chicken by texture and the flavor is something of a chicken and a fish, as I would describe it at least. Squeezing lemon juice over the frog legs improved the flavor also a bit.
It didn’t take long for us to finish up the snails and frog legs, they were so damn good. Right after we were served with our main courses of salads and crepes. I was very pleased to my salad nicoise, I’m not a huge fan of anchovies but in this salad the ratio of anchovies to other ingredients was good, the anchovies didn’t overpower the flavor but added a slightly salty and fishy taste at the end. Mari was satisfied for finally getting a crepe and Joonas seemed to enjoy his salad with potatoes and bacon.
Satisfied that our last meal in Paris was a huge success, we paid up and started to walk towards a metro station. We said our farewells to our friend Joonas who was flying back to South Africa the same day as we were leaving. We got back to our hotel to pick up our luggage and then started to head back to Paris-Orly airport.
Mama I’m coming home
We got to the airport well in time so we browsed some of the airport shops and bought some snacks and I got myself a Wired magazine for the flight. Our boarding was delayed a little bit so we were sitting close to our gate and reminiscing our time in Paris.
It was a wonderful city vacation, Paris is full of small details and unexpected beauty. Buildings and gates and statues and sculptures that capture your eye pretty much anywhere you go. And we got some first time stuff covered, like the frog legs and watching ice hockey on a big arena and some others also 🙂
I had been to Paris 11 years ago for a long weekend but this time I was pleasantly surprised that we managed to do everything without knowing a word of French. In my previous visit that wasn’t the case, luckily the friend I traveled with back then, was fluent in French.
I would probably go to Paris again, at least there are few places that I haven’t seen yet and I kinda would like to go to the Jules Verne restaurant in Eiffel tower.