Paris, je t’aime

Canal de la Somme

We arrive in Paris on a Saturday. A friend of mine told me about this piano bar with a cabaret show, so Steve and I book a 9pm reservation. It’s a beautiful, long walk to the bar, and we take in the gorgeous scenery of the Notre-Dame Cathedral and canals. We are in PARIS. I can’t believe it.

Our last leg in Europe and the one I’ve been dreaming about. It’s weird to finally be in a place that I’ve thought about visiting since I was in middle school. Is it as romantic as everyone says? So far, yes, actually, it is.

We arrive at Aux Trois Mailletz and are directed downstairs to the basement. We’re seated fairly close to the stage – there’s not too much of a crowd yet. There’s a man singing on stage. He sits on a high stool and belts romantic French lyrics. There’s just one other older man on stage, playing a keyboard. As the hour goes on, this singer – I find out later that his name is Pasquale – this one-man show, very progressively gets more and more upbeat. He’s even singing some songs I know! In English! Stand By Me, Respect, I’m So Excited, New York, New York… Steve and I are really enjoying this.

Finally, Pasquale is standing and taking over the whole stage. Little by little, more and more people join him, some with instruments like guitars and saxophones, others with microphones in hand. It’s quite the array of people. I don’t know how they can all fit on this small stage! They’re clapping in time with the music, laughing and talking with each other. It seems like an organized mess of solos and duets; everyone knows exactly when it’s their turn to step up and start singing. There’s even one lady without a mic who’s sole purpose is to dance, when the song is upbeat enough. She’s older and very tall and lanky, wearing a long colorful dress with cutouts around her sides. She basically does the same move the whole time, flailing her arms around with the biggest smile plastered on her face.

Our favorite performer – besides Pasquale, we really loved him – is this tiny little girl who might be in her late 20’s or so (early 20’s? thirties?? no clue). She looks like a punk rocker with her tight leather pants, leather jacket, and short, jet-black hair with a blunt cut and bangs to match. She really gets the crowd going, singing in French, and sometimes in English, too. At one point she jumps on top of the long table in the middle of the room – where people are eating dinner – and struts down the length of it as she sings.

It’s such a cool experience and only our first night in Paris. What a welcome.

Piano bar

Steve booked our hotel in the best location ever, right next to the Place de la Republique (on the border between the 3rd, 10th and 11th arrondissements). A little off the beaten path but still walkable to every amazing place we could imagine. Also, away from the extremely touristy areas, like by the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre. Of our three tours in Paris, these are two of them. We take an Uber and neither are too far away, but it’s incredible how crowded it gets as soon as you get near these locations. We hate the crowds (have I mentioned that?). And to be honest, while we’re both happy that we go to the Eiffel Tower – it is pretty – if we could do it over again, we wouldn’t go. So many freaking people, such a long wait in line to the top. For what? A cool view. I enjoy walking in the park and looking up at the tower more than actually being at the top. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of Sleepless in Seattle. I wanted to see the top. But I wanted it to be the way Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan saw it – with barely any people up there, if any at all. Not swarms of people milling about and bumping into me. This is not my idea of a lovely afternoon.

The same goes for The Louvre. I’m just really not a museum person. The Louvre is massive. If we didn’t have a guide, I probably would’ve gotten lost. We booked a tour through Airbnb called ‘Laugh Your Way Through The Louvre.’ Cedric is our guide. A local comedian. He is very funny and I do enjoy most of his commentary as we make our way through the most enormous museum I’ve ever been in, but I’m not exactly impressed. I’m not overcome by the beautiful art. It’s interesting at best.

There are some odd people in our group, and at the end, Cedric walks us somewhere nearby the museum for coffee and tea. He talks at us for a bit, performing more than engaging, and then very weirdly says goodbye and leaves us there, sitting around the table staring at each other. We very awkwardly take this as our cue to leave.

Our final tour is absolutely phenomenal. Obviously, it’s a local food and market tour that ends with a glass of wine. This is what I’m talking about. Our tour guide is Natasha, a local foodie. Steve and I meet her on a street corner with the rest of our group – it’s two other couples. Natasha takes us to this huge outdoor market where everyone knows her name. While the market is outdoor, the street that it’s on is lined with shops. We stop at a bunch of different places and sample treats. A cheese shop, a butcher shop, and Alsatian shop, a dessert shop. So much deliciousness.

Natasha shows us the lay of the land, educating us as we go. For produce, she doesn’t consider anything that’s not local, so if a vegetable is from Germany, no, thank you. This makes total sense and I will bring this mentality back to the states when I’m shopping at the farmers market. North and South Carolina only, please. I don’t want no peppers from Michigan.

She also explains how French people don’t diet. Sure, they eat bread and cheese at every meal, but it’s always fresh, real ingredients and they don’t overdo it. They eat real food, they don’t diet, and they’re all skinny. Go figure. It is pretty crazy to see the difference in our cultures. America is always on a new diet and eating shitty, processed food. The only diet anything we see in Paris is diet Coke. Natasha sarcastically thanks us for that. (I really can’t tell if she likes Americans or not.)

We eat the most amazing food on this tour and when we end with a glass of wine, Steve and I really enjoy chatting with the other couples in the group. Aurelie was my favorite tour guide, but the market tour with Natasha is easily my favorite tour.

While Steve and I did book a few tours, we make sure to leave time open to just walk around Paris and sit outside a café with a bottle of wine and watch the Parisians walk by. Cafés are everywhere in Paris. On every street, every corner, and always with so much outdoor seating. They all look the same. The tables and chairs are very tiny and seated so close to each other, but no one seems to mind. If a person got seated that closely to someone in the states, he’d probably ask to sit somewhere else.

Our absolute favorite café is Café Charlot. We get to do the thing we’ve been talking about doing for months. Sit outside with a bottle of wine and people-watch. We take in the French fashion. Steve loves all the high-waisted, wide-legged, flow-y pants the ladies are wearing. He tells me I should get a pair before they get trendy back home. (While they might not be trending in Charlotte yet, I let him know that I’ve already seen this look in LA. I do like the look, but I’m not sure I can pull it off.) It’s a perfect afternoon, in fact it’s our favorite afternoon in Paris, and the sun beating down on us feels wonderful. Pairs nicely with our crisp Rosé.

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