France – Jour 2

After a warm night’s sleep – I awoke early – still not quite adjusted to Paris time, but it did give me some time to complete yesterday’s blog post (apologies as it was quite long!).   We had breakfast at Chez nous (i.e., at our place) – for me avocado on toast with supplies gathered from the Rue Montmartre Sunday market, and Andrew had vegemite on toast (he’s such an Aussie boy!)

Helen’s avocado on ancient grain toast from the Rue Montmartre market

We had no plans til the evening when we were going to do a night bike tour around Paris.  What to do in the meantime…?  I knew the tour didn’t go to Sacre Coeur – so I suggested that we head up to the highest place in Paris and check out the great church.  It’s a fair hike – so we decided it would be the day to take on le metro!! We successfully negotiated purchasing our carnet (book of 10 tickets) and found the right platform.  The Metro is really quite amazing here – and the trains come every 3-4 minutes during the day.  Thankfully, our experience from New York last year held us in good stead – and we were able to work out where to get on and get off, change lines and finally got to Abbesses  – the stop for Montmartre.  What the guidebook didn’t tell us was that this stop must be like a kilometre under the ground (well that’s what it felt like) – as we climbed up a never ending spiral staircase.

Coffee stop self portrait

We emerged into the daylight and after my heart slowed down – I suggested perhaps we should have a café before continuing.  Great idea!  So we plonked ourselves in the middle of a sea of cafés and got ourselves a café crème.  I’m still trying to work out how to order a great coffee.  Alas, it wasn’t my regular ¾ flat white – but it hit the spot!

While we were waiting for our coffees to come, I was inspired by the image of a café across the road where the manager was writing up the day’s specials.  His one patron spotted me taking the photo and starred straight back at me – but he smiled and nodded conspiratorially to me once the photo was taken.

And now – to le funiculaire!  Andrew laughed at me when I said I would not walk to the top – and really it wasn’t that far.  But there was a funiculaire – one must take a funiculaire when one can.  Why?  Because it’s such a great thing to say – Funiculaire!  Andrew, the man with freakish stamina, just ran to the top – such a show off!

Say it with me people! Le Funiculaire! 

Alas the day was pretty smoggy – so the view from the top was not that great – but will be recorded here for posterity.

The outside of the church is amazing – so grand in scale. So much architecture!!  The guide book tells me that, although it resembles a Byzantine era church, it was actually built from 1876-1919.  In the crypt, which we didn’t go into – they claim to have Christ’s sacred heart – hence the name.

We went inside to see the gorgeous basilica – a living breathing church that was actually about to have a service. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside – but there was an amazing inner dome as well as a spectacular mosaic mural on the quarter dome ceiling of the apse.

The de rigeur self portrait – at the bottom of the stairs.

A great juxtuposition: Fairground carousel and basilica

We made our way outside again – and found ourselves in tourist overload – as we meandered into a street full of postcards and Paris aprons!! Oooh la la!!  We have to get out of here – this is such a tourist mecca.  I think we’d seen enough.

Montmartre – Tourist mecca

The next exciting question – where to have lunch??? I knew we needed something substantial – because dinner was only going to be a quick bite before we did our cycling tour – so it seemed a great opportunity to check out what was meant to be Paris’ best steak frites!

Another metro trip – this time to the 14th arrondisement – meant that we were basically going from one side of Paris to the other!  It felt a bit weird to be travelling underground for so long – but we emerged unscathed and set out to search for Le Severo!

Now – this was a Parisien restaurant. No fake wicker seats outside this restaurant – and it was tiny inside.  There were a couple of other tourist couples – but everyone else was speaking French, and many seemed to be regulars.  They were being welcomed like I usually am in Ezard – ah well – maybe not quite – but you know what I mean.

There was no menu in English – so we did our best to work out what would be Andrew’s regular eye fillet.  Alas – no fillet available today – so we ordered rumsteak for him, and cote de veau for me.

Some lovely warm bread

Rumsteak, frites

We didn’t know how to say medium in French, but the lovely waiter (who couldn’t speak English) – counted on his fingers – bleu, saignant, á point. Taking this as a literal translation of rare, medium and well done – Andrew ordered what he thought was medium.  What we worked out later was that it was actually rare, medium-rare, and medium.  And, remembering we’re in France – saignant is probably more like we would have rare in Australia.  Ahhh… learning curves.

Even though it was a bit rarer than he’s used to, Andrew enjoyed his steak – but did say it didn’t quite make it to Oakdene’s standard.  Next time, we’ll order á point!  And for those who are interested… (thank you Google)…

1-Rare = Bleu (core temperature 45/47 C )
2-Medium rare = saignant ( core temperatue 50/52C )
3-Medium = A point ( core temperature 55/60 C )
4-Medium well = cuit ( core temperature 63/65C )
5-Well done = bien cuit ( core temperature 70/72C )

Cote de veau, girolles and purée

My veal was beautiful – and a very generous serve.  The girolles on top were sautéed to perfection – and I do love mushrooms.  And the potato – oh my goodness – so smooth and beautiful.  It was a really enjoyable, and a truly French experience.

When we came out of the Metro station on the way home, we happened across the very famous Dehillerin kitchenware store – where Julia Childs shopped while doing her cooking course in Paris. This place was an amazing treasure trove – apparently they haven’t changed the layout of the store since 1820 when they opened.  Definitely going back to buy something here …. as you can see I was mightily tempted by the biggest stirrer I have ever seen….but not sure if I could get it through customs…

So, time to head home and have a rest before we geared ourselves up for the our night ride!  Another trip on the metro later  – we arrived at the south leg of the Eiffel Tower where we met the guides from Fat Tyre Bike Tours.  A short walk to their headquarters and a quick orientation later we were on our Californian cruisers and cycling through the streets of Paris.  Stu – our guide – was an English guy studying politics, French and history, so he was passionate about the subject matter and was great fun.  He taught us about the power of the hand when cycling in Paris, and to realise any tooting of horns was really the Parisiens’ way of saying “Bonjour” from their cars!!

There  was a great mix of people on the tour – including a 70 year old woman with her 80 year old husband on their second honeymoon / birthday / 30th wedding anniversary tour.  Connie would be the first to admit that she struggled to keep up – but keep up she did – a great example for her age.

Fat Tire Bike Tour of Paris

We covered about 13.5 kilometres – thankfully Paris is very flat so it’s very easy to ride around – here are some pics to give you the feel of the ride. Please pay attention to our very fashionable high vis vests!  Trés a la mode!

Notre Dame from behind (L) and the side (R)

The gorgeous Notre Dame – which actually looks better from behind than from the front.  Our guide said there are only two women who look as good from behind as from the front – Notre Dame is one, Marilyn Munro is apparently the other!

Part of the tour included a boat ride up the Seine where we could enjoy a glass of wine (well actually – a plastic cup – but wine is wine) while we enjoyed taking in the sights along the river.

Clockwise from top left: Institut de France (apparently where the French language is safeguarded),
one of the boats moored along the Seine, Me in my very fashionable vest at the Louvre, and the famous Tour Eiffel.

Andrew and I in the quintessential Paris shot, Hotel de Ville (which is really the town hall),
and another shot of the Glass Pyramid at the Louvre.

Part of the tour included stopping to get some ice-cream from the most famous ice cream shop in Paris on the Ile St Louis.  Andrew took a great photo of this couple having a late night digestif.

By the time we finished up the tour and got home it was about 12:30pm (it did go a bit later than advertised) – but it was a great way to see the city and get some bite size pieces of history and background on buildings and monuments.  Overall – we covered a lot of ground today.  About 30 km on the metro, and almost 15 km on the bike – not to mention a bit of walking around – and a grand total of 11 metro tickets!!  We were really hungry – but also really tired – so we decided to forego dinner to go to bed and get some sleep.  Another exciting day tomorrow which includes a foodie tour of Les Halles!