Paris in the spring

As a somewhat belated birthday celebration for my wife, we packed our bags and headed for Paris. Expectations were tons of good food and some shopping, mixed with sightseeing.

On our first day we headed to Sacre Coeur. Kids had fun on an old merry-go-round. Angsana stayed with a sleeping Thai-Tai while I climbed to the top of the stairs with GB to enjoy the view. To be honest, not that much of a view because the Eiffel tower and other landmarks are in a different direction, but it was nice anyway. The area below the church had tons of tourist shops with mementos like key chains and fridge magnets. On my previous visit to Paris, Notre Dame was the best spot for buying gifts so we ignored the stores here, but in retrospect we should have paid more attention because very few tourist vendors were active in other parts of the city.

We headed for lunch at Bouillon Pigalle which came with some recommendations, but I thought it was quite average although the prices were rather high. Again, in retrospect, this was one of the cheapest places to eat in Paris. All the restaurants charge 6-7 € for a bottle of water which you can buy for 0.8 € at the supermarket. Crazy markups on everything when you go out to eat – which you must do as a tourist. After lunch we walked by Moulin Rouge for some photos of the exterior. Would be nice to see the show at some point; I missed it last time I was here too.

We stayed at Novotel les Halles, which was nice. Slightly east of the hotel is an area with shopping and lots of restaurants of a more budget-conscious type. We tried KFC, which was probably the worst KFC we ever went to. Angsana kept a good mood and we made a funny sarcastic video about cover your ears for all the crispy sounds from biting into the KFC chicken and fries…followed by silent chewing soggy food.

Second day it was raining so we went to the Louvre. After the exhibition there is a shopping mall and when we left that a couple of guys asked to see our tickets. I handed them over habitually, and was slightly surprised to see him pocket them. Then I realized there were wearing common clothes, not uniforms. So I asked to get my tickets back and the other one responded “You have to buy new tickets at the main entrance if you wish to re-enter, sir”. Obviously, they meant to sell the tickets to someone else, since you can most certainly use the same ticket to go back in. We didn’t plan on going back inside, but I can’t suffer this kind of low morals so I insisted to get my tickets back. They were also insistent, so I had to raise my voice and act quite threatening before they yielded. If I was a bit smaller they may not have backed down, I’m guessing. Bad form of me to not look before I handed our tickets over, but at least I resolved it.

For our second lunch we went to Higuma for japanese food, because the japanese rarely dissappoint. It was good enough, and very large portions, but still expensive in my view. Then we headed to Hermés were Angsana wanted to buy a Birkin bag (?) but were informed there is only online booking and no way to bypass. Then Angsana was blocked by the online booking system for some random reason, which made the whole process unreasonably difficult. Fortunately, she has some Thai connections that were able to go through the process earlier and she bought the bag from them at a slightly higher price than the Hermés store offered. Worth it. But in my view puts Hermés in a rather bad light, because basically they rely on these people who play their game to become their sales people, and to become such a sales person you will never make enough money on it to call it a salary; it’s just something to occupy your time and make you popular in rich circles I’m guessing. Which just proves that people who has a lot of money needs to be taxed so they have a reason to do some real work. Apparently if you spend tons of money at Hermés stores, you can bypass their game system so it’s basically a pyramid scheme that you buy into.

We then walked through Place Concorde and Jardin de Tuileries to our hotel. On the way we stopped for some overpriced crepes at Le Nelson’s but their cappucino was really great. Dinner was served at Liberta, where I had pasta covered in thick slices of truffle mushroom, and Angsana had pasta with smoked salmon. Very tasty, and the italian food is definitely the best part of Paris, ironically.

Third day we got on a train to La Vallee Village outside of Disneyland. They have all the big brands with really discounted items. I bought an Armani belt at 40 % discount and Angsana bought a Longchamps bag, among other things. Then we headed to Trocadero Gardens and the Eiffel Tower, but the tower was going through renovations so the area was a bit empty. We intended to eat dinner at a restaurant here, but they were mostly closed, perhaps due to renovations of the tower and fewer visitors, so we ended up buying some food a a Franprix grocery store instead.

Fourth day we got on a train for Versailles. Now, this train turned out to be a bit tricky. There are three end stations at one end of the line and two end stations at the other end. So you need to figure out which end station you are going to. On the platform, I saw that there was a sixth option where the name of the end station was Versailles Chantiers. I thought this was the safe option, so we got on that train. Turns out, the Versailles Chantiers end station sixth option of end station for this line means it goes in a wide circle clockwise around Paris before ending up at Versailles, so the trip was more than twice as long as we thought it would be. Some american tourists approached us on the train, wondering what was going on and why it was taking such a long time, and by that time we had figured out what was going on so we just informed them that at that point it was better to just stay on the train and enjoy the view of French countryside. Moo, goes the cow.

When we finally got to Versailles we decided to give KFC another chance. It was terrible. I bought a sub sandwich at Boulangerie le Breton which was super nice and Angsana had a pie there with smoked salmon which made up for the KFC disappointment.

Versailles is huge, and the garden is enormous, so we only had time for a walk-through. Impressive with all the rooms and gold everywhere, but my conclusion was that you cannot buy taste with money. Rome was so much more impressive in this respect. It’s still a must-see-once kind of place, but for a second visit I would head for Rome or even Athens.

After Versailles we had some time left over before dinner so we went to Champs Elysées where we walked around a bit before settling down for dinner at the Brasserie L’Alsace. Angsana had an oyster platter with cockles and shrimps as well while I had a steak. It was a nice meal, but not worth the over 100 € in any other town except Paris where it is a normal price for dinner.

For our fifth day our feet were really tired but we headed back to Champs Elysées and this time started at the Arc de Triomphe. I tried a falafel at O’Kaslik, because people say that “you have to try falafel in Paris” and got 8 € worth of disappointment from two balls wrapped in bread and almost no vegetables. Then we headed to Ladurée where we got some AMAZING macarons and a green ball of pistachio heaven. Kids got their fill from a quiche lorraine at some shopping mall and we also stopped by a place with bread and coffee.

The highlight of shopping was the Disney store for the kids and Gucci for mommy and daddy where we were waited on like we were the king and queen and Angsana bought a nice belt. It did take almost an hour in line waiting before we got into Gucci though, and the line for YSL was longer so we skipped that and didn’t even go to look at Armani.

For dinner we decided to go around the area of les Halles to find a restaurant that looked nice. From Google I saw that most restaurants don’t seem to open until after 18:30 so we waited rather late before venturing out. By the time we got there though, most restaurants were already fully seated. Strangely, barely anyone was at the restaurant to eat, they were all just drinking beer. In any case, we walked the streets up and down without any luck and without wanting to stand in line for a table because “there are so many restaurants here I’m sure one of them will have a spot for us”. Finally, we landed on Ippudo for some ramen, which was good but far from the standard we are used to in Asia.

Our sixth and final day we just ran out for some souvenirs at a store opposite of the museum of modern art (or something) in les Halles and then took the train to the airport. At the airport we tried coffe and pain du chocolat from Paul, which is a chain of cafés that seem to be everywhere but it was nothing special. Then we waited at the gate for a couple of hours, only to find out at the very last minute that they decided to change gates all of a sudden so we almost missed our flight.

To sum it all up, I would really like to go to Rome again. Even though we went to Rome when it was cold and off-season, that trip was so much nicer than Paris. Also, less expensive. Also, better shopping. When I sum up a trip to Paris by saying that I just keep thinking about a different city I want to go to, I hope that communicates my general sentiment about the trip. Paris is nice, sure, but other places are much nicer.

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