paris, day one

Nous somme ici!

Connie (my mother) and I got tired of killing time in her apartment and decided to have dinner at the airport. Somehow we managed to stay awake until our 11:30 flight, but my mom was asleep soon after takeoff. I, of course, was up all night, as I can't sleep sitting up, ever. I find that listening to music helps a lot, although it can be a long night when everyone else is snoring.

The flight was perfectly normal and uneventful. I didn't even have to pay baggage overweight fees as I had been expecting. So based on this limited experience, thumbs-up for XL Airways France. We took a cab to our hotel.

I chose a hotel further out of the centre than we normally would, The Hotel Sport, in the 12e, near the Bois de Vicennes. This allowed us a slightly upgraded room at a budget price, plus we love to stay in a more residential area.

As soon as the cab pulled up, we were happy. We're in an archetypal Parisian - or European urban - neighbourhood: wide, tree-lined streets stocked with a florist, patisserie, small supermarket, and all manner of bistros and cafes. Our room wasn't ready, so even though we were somewhat disheveled, we walked around a bit and settled on a place to eat, Le Tramway.

I couldn't help but feel a bit sad that Allan wasn't with me: it was our kind of place, down to the chalkboard specials and the street-facing rattan chairs. After two cafe cremes, Connie and I ordered two simple salades composee, and the standard French miracle occurred. Mine, a seafood salad, was piled with exquisite smoked salmon, herring, shrimp. crab meat, and octopus. My mom's was a cheese plate, a small mountain of toasted goat's brie, luscious bleu, and a few other cheeses we didn't identify. Both were gorgeously arranged on perfect - and perfectly beautiful - green salads. Just a little neighbourhood lunch...

Connie and I love that after a day of sightseeing, we can have dinner in the neighbourhood and saunter (stagger?) back to the hotel.

Today, we were hoping for a boat ride on the Seine, thinking it would be the perfect low-impact activity for jet-lagged brains, but the weather is cool and wet, so we scrapped that. Thinking we were shopping for something we need, but completely miscalculating, we ended up wandering around Le Bon Marche, Paris' oldest department store. It is elegant and understated, but still over the top.

We also wandered around Le Grand Epicerie, the store's giant food hall [Allan, if you're reading, you should remember this], and then stumbled on the same chocolate store Allan and I were wowed by last year. My mother, for whom every bite of good food is the single greatest food experience ever, was beside herself. You would think she was raised by wolves or something.

The best part of this brief outing was showing Connie how easy it is to use the Metro. I could tell she was a little apprehensive, especially when she saw how many stops away we were, and that we had to change lines. She wanted me to write down the stop name (I did not, it's useless) and she didn't understand how we could walk to the Metro without knowing exactly where we were going. (Answer: big maps in station.)

So we did it, and she loved it. The Paris Metro is fast, clean, quiet, and above all, frequent. Although changing between lines is often highly inaccessible (lots of stairs), if you can do it, you can get almost anywhere. There are also buses, which are accessible, but I don't know how much of the city they serve.

Everywhere, people have been friendly and helpful. My French sucks, but I keep trying.

Speaking of which, staff from XL Airways saw my Canadian passport and greeted me en francais. I should have just faked it.

[Please forgive French sans accent marks. I am having horrible keyboard trouble.]

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