Today’s first day in Paris was filled with a few hours in the Louvre, walking around the city, and a food-tour. We had a pre-purchased ticket for a 9:30 AM start at the museum which although on the earlier side, was not the first available time.
We did better navigating the metro this AM after we realized that our tickets had been demagnitized so they refreshed them for us and we were on our way. We arrived at the museum about 30 minutes later and found lines among lines among lines and nothing was moving. We don’t know what exactly happened but instead of opening at 8 or whenever it was supposed to open, the doors didn’t open until about 9:20 AM. What we do know is that the staff at the museum cannot handle crowd control well and I’m surprised there wasn’t a peaceful riot outside as there was zero concept of line control which made the thousands of people waiting fairly unhappy.
Once we were inside, we were overwhelmed. If you haven’t been to the museum before, it’s hard to explain that the three wings comprise miles of items to look at and if you spent 1 minute looking at every item, I think you’d be in there for years. That said, we made our way to see the Mona Lisa right off of the bat so we could knock that off the list before returning to the front to get an audio guide to help us understand what we were seeing.
While neither of us are anything close to Art History majors, we did appreciate the extensive collection and history of what was being exhibited to us. We made our way to a few collections in every museum, probably enjoying most the Napoleonic Apartments and some of the mummies from ancient Egypt. It was fascinating how crowded this place was and how quickly it was getting more and more overrun.
We made it maybe 4-5 hours but were exhausted, overwhelmed, and not at all upset to be moving on to the next activity. I think when we return, we may just decide to join a group tour and/or have a guide for nothing more than having a planned/structured visit as its so large. The funniest thing was that at the moment we decided to leave, it took us nearly 15-20 minutes just to get to the lobby and another 7-10 to get outside- crazy. After the museum, we made our way to a small-time bistro that Lindsay had visited on a prior trip.
While it was hard to find, this place did not disappoint. We were the only English speaking folks inside but thankfully the waiter/owner was able to provide us with all of the help we needed. We split a beef bourguignon and a goat cheese appetizer as it was 2 pm and we had a big afternoon ahead of us. Our only regret was not going to the restaurant for dinner as everything was great and we wanted to order so much more.
Given that we had plans at 5 pm and we finished lunch at 2:30, we just decided to slowly make our way towards our meeting point for the food tour, stumbling into a bakery that Lindsay had also recommended and getting an apple turnover for the road.
We walked through some small streets and neighborhoods before reaching the Notre Dame- the “island” that it sits on is entirely closed off as they commence construction on the natural beauty. It’s a shame it was closed as I really wanted to go inside with Debbie and climb to the top but we’ll hope that it’ll be fixed by the next time we’re here.
As we continued to make our way towards the food tour, we stumbled into a coffee shop that also runs bike tours that we’d seen online and decided to book a tour for Friday (this was on top of Debbie’s bucket list- bike riding in Paris).
We finally arrived at the food tour meeting point a few minutes before 5 pm and met our guide, Camille, for a lovely evening of quite the assortment of local treats and treasures. We made our way to 8 different locations over the 3.5 hours together as group of 8 people- 6 from the US and 2 from Canada.
We hopped quite quickly between sweet and savory items on the tour and I enjoyed nearly everything we had, with the exception of some truffle item (not a truffle person). I didn’t get the best pictures/notes during the tour, but the stops were: (1) Barthouil- a smoked salmon and foie gras shop where we had smoked salmon, duck patte/rillete and some sort of smoked cod eggs; (2) Le Petite ferme D’Ines- a cheese “monger” in the oldest covered market in Paris, trying 4 different types of cheese and some wine; (3) my favorite stop, Popelini, enjoying some cream puffs; (4) Le Chambre aux confitures- a “jam” and chutney store, we tried quite the assortment of items during a blind taste test; (5) Edwart’s- a chocolate store that is allegedly one of the top-10 in the world, specialty is sole-sourcing various local cocoa beans and not blending them; (6) Maison Bremond- a provincial grocery store, (7) Pierre Herme- macaroons, and lastly L’Allivi- a Corsican traditional restaurant.
It may not have been the pastry tour that we had originally planned on doing, we had a fun evening with the group and enjoyed the food and certainly didn’t need to eat anything else before making our way back to the hotel. Thankfully we were able to get our tickets re-magnetized before traveling on the train again because they had 2 different “police” ticket checks that we had to pass after already going through the turnstiles and we were very fortunate that we had connected with someone beforehand and weren’t SOL and/or subject to any fines.
Tomorrow’s agenda is also quite packed as we continue to cram everything in that we can- a trip to Versailles before dinner at a tiny hole in the wall spot called the Eiffel Tower.