Dinner in Paris

Imagine a young couple trying to get on their first international standby... flight 50, leaving DTW 13 Sep 97... they finished loading the plane, did a headcount, and found two seats for us. The gate agent seemed as happy for us as we were that we actually got on - it isn't easy to actually take advantage of airline employee flight priviledges on a flight to Paris. The crew was a lot of fun, brought us lots of stuff and were constantly making us laugh. One of the guys looked just like Rip Torn, wore ten rings, and was just hilarious. The plane lost three toilets on the way, but made it in anyway (we would have probably preferred losing three engines).

Upon arrival, we rushed through customs and went to wait for the crew bus. After waiting with no sign of it or the crew, Karen realized we were on the wrong level, and we rushed down, fortunately to discover that they were waiting for us. I gave the driver a really big tip when we got to the hotel. We checked the layover hotel, confirmed that it wouldn't work for us, and walked the three blocks to our hotel. I'd gotten a reservation on the web, it was right across from the shopping center in Montparnasse, and basically perfect. Arriving first thing in the morning, we couldn't check in, but left our luggage and headed off towards the Latin Quarter. We went straight to te church at St. Severin, and I asked when the service was, wanting to go. Karen didn't realize it was Sunday the 14th, but I confirmed it by showing her the order of service with the date on it. I love that church, and wanted to share it with her... thought it was particularly neat that they had lots of info in spanish, being in the Latin Quarter, since she's into spanish stuff. It was a beautiful service, mostly singing, with a sort of cantor with a wonderful voice leading the congregation by singing the tune first. The sunlight through the stained glass was unbelievable. Karen fell asleep, and I convinced the priest to quietly marry us before she woke up. That must explain why she woke up testy.

Unfortunately, my favorite cheap little creperie across from the church seems to be out of business, but we walked down the street to another, more expensive one, and sitting out under an umbrella listening to the bells from Notre Dame is definitely worth the price of admission. I'm feeding her crepes now, hopefully she wont say im rude anymore, and i can convince her to go back to the church office and plan the real wedding - but she refused because she hasnt picked out the dress yet, priorties, priorities.

Still under the umbrella, the cathedral right in front of us across the Seine, watching paris come alive on the street corner... admission was 96 ff, corner of rue buchere and bvd st michel. A couple of gendarmes arrived to direct traffic, shouting at a sportscar whipping past the rest after the light changed... then a little ballet ensued, moving the road work signs from one side of the street to the other in the sewer, guy trying to turn after he was thru the intersection (the cops didn't let him back up into traffic!

After breakfast, we wandered on down the Seine to the Musee d'Orsay. We particularly enjoyed basking on the restaurant balcony, high above the Seine, and had fun with the architectural exhibit. I had to sit and bask in front of Renoir's country dancers, as usual. We were really tired by the time we got done, so we headed back to our rooms for a nap. by the time we woke up, it was 11, and I thought I'd missed my dinner reservations. I started feeling miserable about missing my birthday dinner, and the fact that Karen hadn't even wished me a happy birthday, but I decided to call Julien and check, and they said of course, come on down, we don't close 'till 2am! So, we got up, dressed, and went out to eat. I don't think I'll ever forget that birthday dinner. The staff at Julien are so warm and welcoming, the service exquisite, the restaurant an art nouveau masterpiece in stained glass and wood dating from the 1800's, and the food absolutely wonderful. We started off with crayfish salad and pate, the best, freshest, lightest crayfish you could imagine with just a light touch of oil and lemon. I don't normally like pate, but I tried some of Karen's and wanted more. Duck and veal for a main course, finishing up with their famous profiteroles with fresh cream and a sliver tureen of chocolate. Because it was my birthday, and they couldn't do their normal thing because it was too late, they kept pressing champagne, a wonderful Richard coffee that would pass for espresso anywhere else, and more desert on us, all at no charge... the bill was actually quite reasonable, I wouldn't have been surprised to pay twice as much. On the way home, too late for the Metro, we took a taxi and made a brief stop at a pharmacie... the celebration lasted all night, as did the buzzing in my head!

In the morning, because we were right across from the Montparnasse NAME shopping center, we headed out to look for shoes and clothes. Karen found a wonderful, sexy pair of black velvet shoes for Andy's wedding, and kept discovering one more piece in green that she needed - my decision of "Karen, you simply must get that hat, it's too cute on you" turned into, "oh, I can't have it without the scarf" and "shh, don't tell him, just add the gloves to his bill". Grin - I wasn't complaining, I found a green jacket that just felt and looked tremendous, and I spent more on it than even her shoes. We finished there, spent a while at Habitat, logged in at the cybercafe on the roof, and wandered on down the street. Found a very cool watch for my little brother at a music store. For dinner that night, we decided to go to Batifol Blanche and then the Moulin Rouge. The restaurant was unremarkable, but we had great fun at the show. There was a talking dog act, with a remarkable ventriloquist... I thought the dog was audio-animatronic, but Karen thought he was real... he certainly walked across the stage and got up on a stool, but the way he held the cigarette he'd asked for in his mouth, and then kept dropping it to talk was just hilarious. The audience was about 70% anglophone, 30% spaniards. The admission includes a fairly good bottle of champagne, the girls were quite pretty, some of the costumes were amazing, and it's the only time I've actually seen someone ride a horse onstage, but they didn't actually do anything, just walked out on stage (or were carried across the stage on a horse or a flying carpet) and then off again, like tableaux vivants at a Mardi Gras ball. The best thing was the comedy routines in between. There was a great juggler, and a shadow artist that did things I'd never imagined before.

On our final day in Paris we went dress-shopping, Karen tried on quite a few things, and found long and short skirts, both in green velvet, plus a lovely top, at Kookai. Unfortunately, she left her fanny-pack behind in the changing room, with her camera and all our pictures in it.

Le musee du moyen age, a Cluny, was closed, but the creperie de cluny has a menu that you wouldnt believe. crepes bergere, with wonderful cheese, salade mexicane which we would never think of as mexican in the states, very light and delicate, have to come back, 20 rue de la harpe! crepe de la cluny a wonderful desert. The only bad thing was the gypsies constantly wandering by, begging from restaurant patrons out on the sidewalk. Remember to sit inside rather than doing the romantic thing. One woman finally lost her patience and told the kid to let her eat in peace, and the kid started yelling "fouche toi" at which point the waiter came over and started yelling. Only had one beggar by Notre Dame, and the waiter was over before anything started. Didn't have any gypsy problems on the Metro, but perhaps that was because of the nice weather.

On the way home, the only problem was that the airline wouldn't let us carry on our luggage, and then the French customs wouldn't let us get our customs stamps for stuff we had purchased. The customs officers were really rude and nasty, accused us of lying and the airline was no help, especially by not telling us about the problem. I have never seen such a mess, and it cost us a lot of money in tax refunds, because of the cost of Karen's shoes and my jacket. All in all though, who can complain about going to Paris to have dinner o your birthday?