Okay, here it is! The first paragraph is not neccesarily entertaining, but I decided to include it as it might have useful insight for others taking the RER to the airport. Enjoy!
Montmartre trip report #3
I went to go pick up my friend Tammy from the airport (CDG), and my intent was to ride the RER. I wasn’t sure how long the ride would be, but I gave myself and hour and a half to do it. I didn’t want to be late, because she has not traveled much, and I had told her to exit customs and I would be right there to greet her! I told her if she did not see me, to sit tight! Don’t move until I get there! But of course, I did not want it to come to that. I arrived at the St. Michel station to transfer to the RER, and I have to say it was a bit confusing figuring out which train to take. There are several different ones. And I knew my Carte Orange was only good for zones 1-3, and that the Airport was out of those zones, so my intent was to get off at the last stop in zone 3 and purchase a ticket for the remaining trip. A train pulled up, I hastily asked a passenger if this train was going to CDG, and when he said yes I jumped on. A pretty North African gal noticed me staring like, forever, at the route map on the wall and asked me in English if I had questions. I asked her if she knew which stop was the last zone 3 stop, and she told me it didn’t matter because we were riding on a direct express! Oh no, now what? I knew that I would not be able to exit the station with my Carte Orange, and I just am not the type to leap over the turnstiles like a thug! :-) She very graciously offered to let me go through with her, but she is getting off at CDG#1, and I needed CDG#2….no problem, I said, I will get a ticket from #1 to #2. So that is what we did, we had to exit right in front of a guard kiosk, (of course!) and she told me to make like I was placing my card over the magnetic reader….it was kinda’ comical! Anyhow, we got through unnoticed and I thanked her for all her help. I then grabbed the free bus that goes between the terminals, but I realized I didn’t know which terminal she would be arriving at! (my itinerary didn’t specify) It is 2:00 and I am to meet her at 2:15...no problem, says I. (ha!) I make an assumption that it is to be terminal 2B...and naturally the bus goes the backwards route, stopping at 2F first! Ack! We finally make it to 2B, and I find out that it’s not there, but at 2C! Run run run through the underneath tunnel, it’s like 2:20 now! I am so mad at myself for not greeting her…..I’m dashing along when I hear her call my name! There she is, with all her luggage, sitting tight like I told her! Whew!
For some reason my second guest doesn’t see as many sights as my first friend...I’m still trying to figure that one out. I realllllly don’t want to suggest it has anything to do with my having already seen the sights the week prior, and in all honesty, I am not sure if this really plays a hand or not. For instance, we did not do any museums, but she is not really the museum type. We wandered about a lot, though, and walked streets and discovered things. We did “cheap shopping” buying insanely cheap shirts, sweaters, kids clothes, shoes, (a mens bomber jacket with aviation patches for 5 Euro! 3 Euro sweaters! All new!) at all the shops along Blvd. De Rochechouart, such as “Tati”. I love Tati, and I am not ashamed to say so!
It is like America’s version of the 99 cent stores. I bought the cutest little gift set of 6 expresso cups/saucers and paid a whopping 2.50 Euro! I did show my friend Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, which blew her away with their size. She had never been in a cathedral, much less one so large! We visited St. Denis, and she loved all the funerary statues there. But before we could even get into the cathedral, we could not help but see the swap-meet (oh sorry, flea-market….we call them swap meets, here)! going on, when we exited the Metro. She wanted to shop….it was lightly raining, and let me tell you, (exasperated gasp!) wandering about between the stalls, with your umbrella up, and having to duck all the awnings, etc, and trying to keep your labour-intensive “big hair” from getting mussed up, is not easy! (Ok, I confess to being the last bastion of big hair in American, and I alone am keeping the hairspray industry afloat!)
When we were checking out the flea-market, I kept hearing this yelling. Loud men’s voices, barking out ???? (I want to say instructions, orders, or something! But it was in French, so I am clueless!) Anyway, after a spell I find the source….I notice a building right alongside the market, and I see a wide open doorway into it. I glanced and saw that it was a meat and fish market! I wasn’t in need of a fish or anything, but I really wanted to check it out! My friend took some convincing, but I didn’t care, for some reason I just knew it would be an “experience”! And was it ever. UGH! I think the nose is the first sense to kick in….what an odor! Then all the vendors were yelling, trying to outdo the next guy for your Euro...and now your eyes focus, and my goodness, what a flesh market! I am talkin’….Big-Huge-Vats-Of-Unidentifiable-(Beef???) C H U N K S-Of-Meat. With patrons indiscriminately picking up chunks and putting them in bags. I took photographs of all of the market. The big huge mound of Tripe caught my eye artistically because there were so many textures going on. My friend told me she suspects that all the top chefs come here to get what they need for the days menu and that as gross as it looks, the best stuff is probably here. She’s probably right!
We hiked up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower! I have wanted to do this for so long! It’s just a challenge thing, ya’ know. I mentioned it to my first friend, who was like “Knock yourself out”...in other words, she would not be joining me. That’s no fun! So I put it on the back burner, and mentioned it again to my second friend, who was very enthusiastic. YAY! So we laughed and giggled and gasped all the way up to the second level...25 flights of stairs….20 steps per flight….in total, 668 steps! I was pretty bummed that we had to stop at the second level and take the elevator the rest of the way. That was the only method they allowed at the time. (Grumble)…...I could have made it, no problem, you know, Hhmmmph! Though I am a plus sized gal, I like to be physical! I love a challenge and lazy is not me, at all. Oh well, someday I will do the entire tower!
One evening we had some lovely cheap French wine, and when our hunger pangs grew larger than the cheese and (I confess, Pringles!) from the Monoprix...we hit the streets of our neighborhood, intent on eating out at one of the local places around the place du Tertre. We were checking out the menu at Le Tire Bouchon, red little shack with a crepe window, and a piano. We weren’t sure if we wanted to go in, but the cutest French guy walked in the door and he held it open and gestured for us to enter. Well, this is a no brainer! We walked in and I told him “You probably work here!” but he got a little indignant and said no, he is friends with the crepe man and came to borrow money. Ahh. Anyhow, my friend and I got settled into a booth, surrounded by walls that have hundreds of pieces of paper stapled to them...notes, sketches, business cards, you name it! A neat little atmosphere. A few minutes have passed while we were getting settled, and I glanced up and Mr. Cute Frenchie is standing there staring….I don’t know what came over me (oh, beside the lovely cheap wine we had back at the apartment, that is!) But I said to him “Come sit with us!” So he slid in next to me and oh what a character and what an evening! Dreamy accented English, hair falling into his face, a bit of a scoundrel and every inch a rake! And very witty, too. Oh he was just perfect! He is one of the sketch artists that cruise the area, and he ran out of paper, so was done for the night. He tossed his pencil leads on the table which I promptly pocketed as a souvenir. I bought him dinner because he said he hadn’t eaten in 3 days, and he was skinny enough to believe that one. Well, we must have stayed 3 or 4 hours at the piano bar. I unleashed on Montmartre my loud American guffaws and unabashed drunkeness! :-) My poor friend, who does not drink, was ordering bottles left and right! (And trust me, she won’t be doin’ any drinking for a looooooong time!) The next day we were both so hung over! Dang it all too, if it wasn’t the day the maid was scheduled to come clean, and we knew we needed to vacate the premises while she cleaned so we draaaaaaged our self's out of there
And grabbed the train to Versailles. We both kept falling asleep on the train, and when it pulled up into the station, I said “Let’s skip Versailles and go back to the apartment and get some more sleep!” Since the maid would be long gone by now, and she said “OK!!”...so that’s what we did, and we never did make it back to Versailles. We got back to the apartment about 2:00 p.m. and the maid had not even come! Well, we slept all the way till the next morning. It was at that moment, the next day, that I realized we missed the TripAdvisor get together! I felt so bad, just awful about that...and I didn’t have internet, and we intended to find an internet café to say sorry, and we never even saw any!
The next day we were off to Rome for a few days. What a fabulous city that is! Very different from Paris. All the buildings are painted in soft oranges and earth tones. Fountains at nearly every corner! Their subway is far below Paris’ as far as cleanliness and grafitti. I thought people on the Paris Metro looked dour, but in Rome it is twice the intensity! But, on the streets, and shops and restaurants, the Italians are very friendly, and always say Gratzi Gratzi, and Prego! I don’t even know the word for “you’re welcome” in French because I don’t think I’ve ever heard it spoken! Well, they say it A LOT in Rome! Toured the Vatican, which blew me away. I saw so many incredible rooms with painted ceilings that by the time I got to the Sistine Chapel it was very anti-climactic! St. Peter’s is also massive and awe inspiring!
When we got back to Paris, we had only a handful of days left. I could not believe I had stayed there a whole month! It breezed by, let me tell you. I took home with me the feeling of the neighborhood of Montmartre, which to me is by far the best area of all of Paris. I just want to be wrapped up in it’s warm blanket all the time, but life, work, bills,…….SIGH! Have to return home. I was gone so long, that my reality started to seem Montmartre, and when I got home I could not remember who the me was from prior to the trip! Has any of you ever experienced similar feelings?????
I hope you enjoyed my trip report, and I hope that you may find it useful in some way!