Monday, September 21, 2015

Thrilled to Pieces to be Back in Paris!!

Staring down six escargot, wondering how to get to the little nuggets of meat.

W

   e're in Paris!  Flash back a few hours ago.  Today, I had to rustle Z up awake, bright and early for him.  We had to catch the 9:23a train that would take us from Ghent back to Bruxelles-Midi in Brussels and from there to Gare du Nord in Paris.


I had told Z last night to fully pack up his suitcase so all he would have to do this morning was shove his pajamas and his toiletry bag into his suitcase.  Of course, I was up at least 40 minutes before him to make sure we were leaving the apartment in good order.

With a final check of the apartment to make sure we hadn't left anything behind, I left the keys on the table, walked out the apartment and pulled the door shut behind me.

Down the elevator we went and onto the nearest tram stop.  At the kiosk, I dropped in 6 euros and bought two tram tickets and stood next to Z and a few Belgian worker bees to wait for the tram to arrive.

A few stops later and we were back at Sint-Pieters train station.  By now, we were Belgian train veterans.  We easily figured out the platform number and made our way up to it.  As is always the case traveling with me, we arrived in plenty of time - we had at least a half hour to way.  It was a sunny, albeit chilly morning.  Thankfully, they have enclosed waiting areas.

Our train pulled into the station a few minutes ahead of scheduled departure time.  For the short ride to Bruxelles-Midi, we could simply board any second class train.  As soon as we were seated, Z plugged in his headphones and immediately shut his eyes.  Tired.  Pooped.

We were obviously on a commuter train - too many people around us carrying bags, looking ready for a good day's work at the office.  Oh, how I DO NOT miss being a worker bee, let alone being a commuter.  Being retired rocks!

From Bruxelles-Midi, we made our way to the platform for trains to Gare du Nord.  This time, we had assigned seats so we had to find the correct car and in my case, boot another passenger from my seat.  It was obvious he was seat hopping.

Gare du Nord is a busy train station.  I told Z we had to figure out where to go to get the Metro.  He might have been groggy but he was still sharp eyed as ever.  He spotted the signs and I followed.  Part way to the metro station, I stopped at the ticket counter to buy tickets.  On my previous visits, I always bought a bunch of them so I didn't have to buy a ticket each and every time I took the train. Today, I bought 20 tickets at 1.80 euro each for both Z and I.  I figured we would take at least 10 train rides in the week we'll be in Paris.

Our Airbnb hostess had given us very clear directions on how to get to the apartment from Gare du Nord via the metro so all we had to do was follow them.


We finally exited the metro station at Place Monge and took the short walk to our apartment on Rue Thouin.  Along the way, we walked on a short stretch of Rue Mouffetard - one of the most famous food streets in Paris.  Strolling past several small eateries, cafes, bistros, restaurants and even a boulangerie, I was immediately transported to French foodie heaven!  Z and I will most certainly eat well in Paris.

Outside the apartment, our hostess's friend was waiting for us with key in hand. He showed us how to use the key to open the outer door and then use the fob to buzz ourselves past the second door.

The modern entrance to the apartment building belies its age.  It's not until you pass the metal mail boxes and the inner door do you see what was originally a traditional apartment in Paris.  A set of narrow and winding wooden steps lead to the upper levels.  We were at the very top, on the 3rd floor.  Thankfully, I had help getting my suitcase up!


The lock to the apartment is tricky to open.  Z has been in charge of the key so I leave it up to him to get us in.

The apartment was small but a skylight made it feel light and airy.  The bathroom and kitchen were also teeny tiny but we had everything we needed in terms of amenities except for a clothes washer.  That was disappointing but otherwise the apartment was comfortable enough.  Our windows opened out onto a courtyard and so the place was quiet - perfect for sleeping!


As always, we took a few minutes to get settled in and Z took a quick look at the Paris map, which includes the Metro map, on his iPhone.

Walking by all those eating places made me hungry....okay, maybe I'm just being greedy but I quickly declared lunch time. :-)

We walked down Rue Moufftard looking for a nice place to eat.  I had in mind a bistro as I wanted Z to have the experience of eating in one.  Lucky for us, about two blocks from our apartment, on a street, was a classic bistro serving the traditional 3 course meal.  The menu was traditional bistro fare - I knew Z would enjoy it.

We took a table near the sidewalk so we could people watch.

Z takes his menu reading very seriously and we were lucky at this place because they had an English menu.


For his starter aka appetizer, Z went with the escargots.  Kudos to him because I don't know of anyone, other than me, who would have ordered snails.  They were cooked in the classic way with a herby, garlic sauce and a basket of bread to sop all that goodness up with.


It took a few tries before Z got the hang of using the tongs.  At first, he didn't know what they were for but once I pointed out the purpose, he went to town.  So, I had to ask him how he liked the escargot and he gave them two thumbs up!


While Z enjoyed the escargots (which I also happen to love), I had the classic pâté de campagne.  I could eat pâté everyday!  The salad looked a bit messy but all the ingredients had been nicely chilled so it was a very refreshing salad.


For our entree, we both ordered the duck confit.  Seriously, my favorite preparation for duck.  My only comment was that it should have fried so that the skin would have crisped up some more and it would have been better with French fries versus homestyle fries.  Flavorwise, it was delicious.


Dessert was two classics - chocolate mousse for Z and crème caramel for me. I love all things custardy and pudding-y.   It was okay.  The sugar needed a tad more cooking - it wasn't quite caramel.  Lucky for me, I have a good friend who makes a mouth watering good crème caramel and I can pretty much get it on request - she spoils me :-)


After our leisurely lunch, we were ready to hit the streets of Paris! I looked forward to sharing this most amazing city with Z!