Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 15: Paris to E-ville, May 24 (aka, the longest day)

Day 15: May 24, Paris to E-ville

Weather: Intermittent overcast and then eternal light as THB and DB get on at 10am and get off at 1pm, 12 hours later!

Greatest hits: brioche toast, chocolate thing, traditional croissant, snail, and almond thing (in center)

Car service arranged by OneFineStay, the outfit that handled arrangements for 20 Rue de Turenne; the car is early, we’re in the airport in around a half hour. It takes what seems like a long time for checking in, even with Sky Priority allowing us to jump lines. We did the auto-scan process for VAT: one of the three receipts doesn’t scan so DB gets in the line and during that process two of the four clerks go on break.
The car taking us to CDGaulle is under the tree

Even so, it is way faster than NY priority and the lounge (when we finally arrive) is large and plenty of seating. Plug in and get 45 minutes of more computer time. DB uses the time to do some last minute shopping.

Paris Observations

Tipping: Our food guide, Claire, was a part-time Irish chef, 35ish, knew the food scene (though had never heard of ES), and did well handling a group of 7 with one rolling roving rogue.

Martine, our art guide, was very well prepared (though she didn’t leave us with her prep, we could have used a printout), around 60, a bit distracted at times (she met up with a good friend in the jewelry store, THB is sure they were – appropriately -discussing at length Martine’s new/first grandchild), had been a real estate lawyer for many years and was now transitioning to art consultancy, and took us back to her very high end St Germain apartment and served us tea (we turned down wine).

For Paris by Mouth tour, we pre-paid, 95E pp. For the art tour, they wanted 350E in cash at the end of the tour even though a rep of the company showed up at the Pompidou to greet us and could’ve taken payment then (e.g., with a Square, on a smart phone).

THB, who was in charge of the tipping, gave Claire 30E (around 15%) at the end of tour, which was a bit haphazard as we were in the chocolate store and people were floating away on their own.

THB counted out 350E in 50E bills and did not add anything on for Martine. Fair? There is almost no tipping in Paris. Other than the food tour, THB only tipped one other time, at Bones, where the waiter said “tip” not included when THB asked if services was included. Lost in translation? Cabbies don’t expect tips. Restaurants don’t expect tips. Nobody expects tips.

Was Martine disappointed? Hard to tell. She did follow-up to our queries and she asked us if one of the galleries could have THB’s e-mail. The tour wasn’t near as vibrant after lunch (when we treated) than before; we suspect that has something to do with the two areas: St Germain is way more genteel and high end than the sometimes edgy contemporary art in the Marais.

20 Rue de Turenne: Our apartment was rented through OneFineStay (OFS). OFS was extremely helpful and very accommodating when DB was trying to negotiate the VRBO maze (in other words, VRBO is so successful it has become unwieldy) and OFS personally vets their limited selection and you can talk to a human about the places. They are there (even early Sunday morning) to greet you and get you oriented.
THB could've used a Japanese mini-stool to sit on (and amazingly found one for 53E)

The apartment itself was clearly lived in, well lived in enough that THB had no thought about whether the furniture was too pristine to sit on. There were plenty of nice fluffy towels (there was a mid-week cleaning; we turned it down when they scheduled it for Friday afternoon and we were leaving early Sunday). We made sense of the kitchen and ate in every breakfast and usually either lunch or dinner.  Kind of like a house exchange except you pay for and independent party doing some validation and non-emotional expectation setting.

Postscript: OFS said we left a broken plate in the dishwasher and we think are asking for remuneration for our deposit. Since 55% of the plates we used were chipped, this seems a bit petty. The everyday chairs were cracked and peeling. One last thing to deal with…shabby chic?

The New World: OFS left an i-phone loaded with instructions on how to use the apartment, local food stores (though no eating recommendations), the codes on gaining entry to the building (which we had a paper version of so we could get in the first time), their phone number, ability to make calls and texting in France, and access to local maps. There was a $1,000 deposit on the phone (or maybe just an overall deposit), so if you lost it they bought two in replacement.
In the new world, everyone knows about locks on bridges

Smoking: There is a ton of smoking going on here, all in the street: the outdoor seating at cafes, right outside just about any shop, walking the streets, hanging out windows, in any little gallery alcove, and during breaks in meals.
Eat an oyster, take a break?

Monuments: there are a ton of architectural marvels spread around town. THB looked at most of them 25 and 45 years ago. This time around, THB barely glanced at them. For first-timers, it can take a week just to pull in most of them.

Museums: The d’Orsay and Fondation Louis Vitton are wonders, worth a detour. The buildings and art look fabulous.
From the back?

For the d’Orsay, it looks like if you get there early (and you are not in tourist prime-time), there are long lines; go to the special exhibits first and leave the standard rooms for later. THB and DB had some giant salons to ourselves, an hour after the opening. The Ceramics museum is worth a detour if you’re interested in clay; the building is pretty much falling apart (does that make it noteworthy? Maybe!).
From the front?

Crowds: It is a bit crowded on the narrow sidewalks. Many (French) people use the street and bike lanes on streets without much car traffic. And, there is not much car traffic. While the cabs are expensive, some of that is the steep flag drop and some of it is the many lights (thus wait time), not because there is a ton of backed-up traffic. The Metro can be very crowded, though never to a point of discomfort.

Food: Exceptional, and very much Bay Area prices (or even a bit less) and quality, and cheaper than NY for the top meals we had (though we did not seek out starred Michelin restaurants, so that kept costs down). We ate way better in Paris than in NY. Two local bakeries in the Marais were the equal of SSB and Lafayette. Now to go back to Fresh 20 and lose some of the weight associated with excessive calorie intake and lack of a fitness center.

Pics around Paris arondissements

Pics of Paris

Site of memorial to children sent by Nazis to death camps