01 – The Second Honeymoon
02 – Conquering Medieval Stairs
03 – Urinating in Brussels
04 – On to Paris
05 – Seeing Louvre
06 – A Police Story
07 – The Sun King’s Blingy Home
08 – Her Majesty’s Beverage in the Sky
09 – Hangin’ with Our Royal Neighbors
10 – Sending Ourselves to the Tower
11 – Raining on the Parade
12 – Her Majesty’s Beverage in the Sky Again
Got out of bed in the morning, not yet fully awake, and I was confronted with this sign just a few steps down the hall. I was so horrified, that we immediately checked out of the hotel.
Work was stalking me on vacation
We wanted to fill our stomachs before starting the day of sightseeing. Hong suggested this “bakery” named Angelina that we walked by yesterday, thinking we could try another brand of croissants and pastries. We didn’t realize until showing up that the bakery part of Angelina only made desserts like macarons; its breakfast portion was in an old-world luxury dining room attached to some palace-turned-hotel, decked out in gold.
The exterior looked cute and innocent
The interior… was a few notches fancier than we expected
I wasn’t expecting to hold a leather-bound menu for breakfast… like ever
Care for a 14-Euro croissant?
We both got the breakfast combo, served akin to the English afternoon tea. On the top layer was, among other things, the Isigny butter that my sister told us about just a week ago. Hong immediately agreed that it was the tastiest butter ever, but I didn’t have that sort of fine palate to appreciate it. The pastries were rather weak.
Hot chocolate, what Angelina was famous for
Statue of Miss Arc, not far from Angelina
After having coffee, bread, and butter like a king and a queen, we headed toward Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame. To get there, we walked over Pont Neuf (“New Bridge” circa 1607, the oldest bridge in Paris) to Ile a la Cite. This was when the most exciting thing of the day happened…
Immediately upon exiting the Metro at the north end of the bridge, I saw a bunch of girls holding pen and paper for people to pledge donation. We came across a few people like that at the Louvre yesterday so I knew, more or less, what they wanted. I turned to walk in the opposite direction but Hong just ignored them to admire River Seine. When I rejoined her was when one of the girls started asking us to sign the paper. We said no, at this point mostly just considering them a nuisance. However, the other two or three started surrounding us, asking the same question and getting physically close to us. At this point I noticed that they were all kind of short, chunky, wore low-cut shirts, had curly hair and red lipsticks. I still didn’t fully grasp the situation but became subconsciously more alert, guarding my jacket pockets and maintaining distance. Hong and I started physically pushing back – we weren’t afraid of fighting our way through crowds, but being in a foreign country it was difficult to judge the level of appropriate resistance. I remember wondering how we could get rid of these pests without getting ourselves in trouble for assault. Realistically, my options were pretty much pushing their chests or punching them in the face.
Then a big man shouted and charged over, and the girls dispersed like mice seeing a cat. He grabbed one of them, took her paper, and tore it into pieces. In that split second, we were confused more than ever about what was happening: were they illegally soliciting donation for his charity, or were they prostitutes who somehow pissed off their mafia boss? A skinning man joined shortly after, also yelling and taking control of the situation. We stood there stunned but realized that they were helping us… and were grateful to be rid of those solicitors. The skinny man approached us and identified himself, twice, while showing badge, as French police. It became clear that the girls were known scammers who picked tourists’ pockets. The skinny cop asked us several times, in English with heavy accent, to double check that we didn’t lose wallet, money, camera, or phone, and asked whether we wanted to file a complaint against them. We wanted to, but didn’t lose anything.
The two plainclothes cops were quite rough in the handling of that one girl, throwing her against the wall and yelling to shut her up. It was so satisfying to watch the cinematic version of police work right in front of our eyes. I thought it ironic how Hollywood (i.e. Kiss of the Dragon and Taken) loved to portray French police as corrupt and evil, yet our first experience with “cops saving the day” happened in Paris. The two men were courteous and professional to us, rough on the criminal suspects, and seemingly really passionate about serving justice.
Pont Neuf, where the day could have started really poorly
Smiling bigger than ever after watching immediate karma coming to those who wanted to f with us
Neighborhood on the other side of the bridge
Okay, show was over. We went on to Sainte Chapelle. Pre-purchased online tickets really rocked in this case, as they allowed us to skip lines like a boss.
First we were escorted past two of these security lines outside. Due to capacity control, they appeared to move really slowly
Then we were able to bypass this ticket-purchasing line on the inside
Sainte Chapelle was a chapel built by King Louis IX in 1248 to house a bunch of Passion-of-the-Christ relics in his collection. Those relics, plus the silver chest that was made specifically to hold them, cost 6 times as much money as the construction of this building. They said the inside of Sainte Chapelle looked like a jewelry box? Well it was intended to be exactly that.
Ground level. Gorgeous. For a moment I thought that was it…
But the real deal was upstairs
More than half of these stained glass windows were destroyed in the French Revolution. We were looking at the restored version
After Sainte Chapelle, we walked by the more famous Notre Dame. There was no entrance fee, but the line was ridiculous so we did not go in.
In front of Notre Dame was a mark for the official center of Paris
Notre Dame with no hunchback in sight
“Do not hold your child’s hand”? Good thing we didn’t bring ours…
A quick break for crepes next to Notre Dame
Later on, we found ourselves in Saint-Germain des Pres, having lunch next to the Abbey of Saint-Germain des Pres, the oldest church in Paris. We ate at Les Deux Magots, one of the most historic cafes in Paris that was reportedly frequented by famous people including Hemingway and Picasso. The name of the place referred to statues of two oriental people, and it seemed fitting that two oriental people were dining here now.
It was far more convenient just referring to it as “the two maggots”, though
The two orientals
The pasta with lamb & bone marrow was among the most irresistible pasta dishes I had ever had
Not far away was Musee Rodin, exhibiting works of one of the only sculptors that we knew. It was a decent visit, but the free-to-the-public collection at Stanford seemed better.
Hotel National des Invalides, across the street. San Francisco’s city hall was supposedly modeled after this dome, under which laid Napoleon’s body
The Gates, the awesome art piece where many of Rodin’s most famous sculpture pieces came from
Was The Thinker thinking or just taking his time on the toilet?
In the evening, we paid our obligatory respect to the Eiffel Tower, the overused symbol of Paris that neither of us cared much about. The long stretch of Champ de Mars in front of it was under some sort of construction, leaving only a small patch of the park for people and their dogs to play and litter.
“Yay Paris XOXOXO” <– the kind of selfie every visitor needs to have
Dinner was at Les Cocottes, a restaurant by Christian Constant. Let me tell you, I had no clue who Christian Constant was, but his name was all over everything in the restaurant from napkin holders to menu items. They were also selling two of Chef Constant’s books, both of which had so many copies on the shelf that you’d think they were a registered bookstore. The food was fantastic, but so far in this city we hadn’t put anything less than delicious in our mouths, so I could not attest to this celebrity chef’s power over the average cafe cook.
Just steps away from the Eiffel Tower
We were seated at the bar
Chez Constant’s monogram on the napkin holder
The kitchen view was awesome, but this dude was going back and forth between cutting raw meat and doing final plating of cooked food. We were quite concerned…
Egg & bacon salad
Seafood pasta risotto
“Chez Constant’s Famous Chococlate Tart” was the name of this dessert. I’m sure it’s true, but his non-discrete love for himself was rather humorous
Tonight we stayed at another hotel: Park Hyatt Paris – Vendome, a block and a half away from Le Grand and next to Place Vendome. It was a more intimate, more modern hotel, and equally unaffordable without lots of points. I loved Hyatt, and Vendome was among Hyatt’s top 1% properties. Expectation going in was really high and they met it.
The entrance was low key and quite easily missed
The elevator was entirely gold
The room was modern with touches of old world luxury. It didn’t win my heart over from Park Hyatt Seoul, but it was appropriately Parisian.
The bathroom was quite nice. Loved the connecting bathtub and shower
My gold phone fit right in with the gold fixtures
The hotel had a lounge downstairs with a nice fire place. Like our Bruges and Brussels stays, we decided to camp out there at night. Well the problem with managing to stay at a hotel with a crazy price tag was, that whatever fringe service offered also had a crazy price tag. Twelve Euros for a soda or tea bag? Um. I suddenly convinced myself that alcohol was not good for me, and looked away from the cocktails. Two non-alcoholic drinks still set us back 33 Euros.