The next day started out COLD. As in "oh my god it's sooooo freezing are you sure you want to go outside?" cold. Brrrrr. Still, we wrapped ourselves in layers and headed out. Our first stop was a cafe along the Seine that we heard had great Croque Madams. Alan thought his was great, mine gave me heartburn. Oh, and I'm not convinced they have the same chickens in France as we do in America. Check out the color of this egg yolk!
From the cafe we walked over to St. Chapelle but there was a huge line to get in and we still had a couple of churches to see throughout the day so we gave up and walked over to Notre Dame instead. I have to say, I loved this part of town. The squares were adorable and it felt very much like what I thought Paris would be before going.
Like the rest of the tourists, we spent some time in front of Notre Dame taking pictures. These are pretty self-explanatory.
The church itself was absolutely beautiful inside. Maybe one of my favorite church interiors? I wish it had been sunnier so we could have really experienced the stain glass windows.
After walking through the church, we went down into the archeological crypt to see the remains of the city over the course of history. While this was interesting, I wouldn't call it a "must do" - especially if you've been to Rome and have seen the ruins of that ancient city. This crypt kind of paled in comparison, but it was nice that they've gone to such great lengths to preserve the history and educate visitors on the history of Paris since the Parisi lived on Ile St. Louis.
Oh, and obviously we didn't climb to the top of the church and hang out with the gargoyles. I'm not really into stairs. Especially several hundred of them.
From Notre Dame, we took the metro to Montmarte. This was an interesting experience. I knew, going in, that Montmarte is seedy and the streets are lined with sex shops. But in my head I couldn't quite reconcile how THAT could co-exist with the idyllic village-life in a different, yet the same, Montmarte. I now know it's because they don't peacefully co-exist, and in fact, the two are nothing alike. Unfortunately, every guide book we had included a walking tour that took us through the seedier part of town. I kept thinking to myself, "this is awful. Why did I push to come here?" Oh, and I saw the hotel we nearly booked. THANK GOD WE DIDN'T. It was literally next door to the Sex-O-Drome.
After walking around what I likened to San Francisco's Tenderloin district, we finally came to the top of a small hill that was lined with shops hawking their crappy $4 wares. That was the first glimpse we got of Sacre Cour. It's beautiful.
You have a choice - you can either walk up the 300-something stairs or you can take a tram up the hillside. ALWAYS go for the tram - you do enough walking in Paris, you don't need to prove that you can hike up a hill too.
I wasn't really blown away by the interior beauty of the church, but its history is really fascinating so it's definitely worth walking around inside. Know, however, that they will yell at you for improper clothing and they do not allow interior pictures. While other churches in Paris were a bit loosy-goosy on the rules and regulations, they had docents (?) who were actively enforcing these rules.
It was only when we left Sacre Cour that I got to experience the Montmarte I'd previously read about; the one I really wanted to visit and hang out in. It was this Montmarte that I would have loved to rent a flat for a week or so and just live in the village like a local. It was just beautiful to me.
We didn't buy any art while we were here (or anywhere in Paris, for that matter) and we avoided the charicature artists like the plague - these guys love me (apparently I have easy features to draw) and they always make me look like an imp, an ape, or a loon. (Sidenote: in Florence we had a guy practically beg to draw me, he wanted to focus on my cheeks apparently. I was horrified. Alan thought it was hilarious.)
We wandered back down the hill toward the metro, making sure to stop in at a cute little curio (??) shop to buy gifts for Alan's family before heading home. We bought mustard (I think, did we?), almonds and rose candies. Maybe chocolates. I'm having a hard time recalling. I wish we had bought a bottle of absinthe (would they have let us bring that into the states?) and some more goodies for us, but alas we did not because we're cheap bastards.
And we continued to marvel at the sweets.
The obligatory shot of the Moulin Rouge. As this is one of my most favoritest movies of all time, seeing how ... ugly ... the area was made me sad. I didn't even want to linger.
From Montmarte, I think we went back to the hotel to take a nap before heading out for dinner. Since we only had a couple of nights left we really wanted to hit up this place we'd read about on several foodie blogs. I knew it was a fixed menu at a wine bar and that you ate family style and the food was magnificent. I left finding the joint up to Alan because I'm awful with directions and maps. Apparently, so is he.
We took the metro a couple of stops to an area of town near the Eiffel Tower (ish) and then we got off and walked. And walked some more. And even more. I'm pretty sure we walked a couple of miles. The whole way I was so upset because we were wandering through some pretty unsavory looking areas. Nothing scary like Hunter's Point, but places that clearly weren't where the tourists go and where most of the shops were closed for the night and the people who did live there really had no reason to go out. Alan kept pointing out ladies in their mid-60s carrying their groceries home, as if that was going to make me feel better. French women are tougher than I, doesn't he know that? After what I can only surmise was an hour we finally arrived at the place - La Cave de l'os a Moelle. It was lit up like a beacon in the night.
We didn't have reservations but the English speaking host sat us at a large table with another french couple and a french family. The couple across from us spoke very little English but they were nice and answered our questions (when we had them) and asked us their own. I wasn't a fan of the family next to me - they wouldn't share any of the food on their side of the table and I'm pretty sure I recognized a few slurs being bandied our way. It's pretty hard to miss the word "American" when everything else is French.
The meal was, quite simply, wonderful. It started off with some shredded carrots in a vinegar sauce, what I think was shredded potatoes in a cream sauce, and some red cabbage in a vinegar sauce (we didn't get any cabbage b/c of the hogs next to us). We also had pate, and two turrines which Alan loved. He is now obsessed with pate and cornichons - I should learn how to make it. After the salads and pates we had a mussel soup that was so light and delicate, but at the same time very flavorful. After soup was the main meal which is sitting out on a stove at the back of the restaurant and you help yourself to. It was some cut of pork that we were never able to identify, braised in an anise and peppercorn (maybe?) broth - it was meaty and sweet and smoky all at the same time. Just the most delicious thing you'd want to put in your mouth. After the meat course, we had a cheese course (more chevre) and then the desserts. These too were all sitting out and you just put whatever and however much you wanted on your plate and ate. The total price was 22 euro/person and it was quite possibly the best deal on any meal we had the whole trip. I highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Paris who wants a true, homestyle meal. The funny thing is, the French couple across from us asked how we knew about this place since it was clearly off the beaten path and we didn't speak French. When we told them it was on the Internet they looked a bit disappointed, as if the secret was out and now it was all going to go to hell in a handbasket.
It turns out that we were about 1 block from a metro stop at the restaurant so we hopped on it and headed back to St. Augustin to crash for the night, our bellies full and our taste buds sated.