On Friday, we made our way from the Eurostar train through the Metro to Dupleix, a cheerful neighborhood in the Southwest of Paris, just a short walk from the Eiffel Tower (I’m trying to mark all the major spots we visit on the map to the right, give it a click to see), where we met Justine, our couchsurfing host.
We were her first couchsurfing guests and she our first couchsurfing host, so I think we were both a bit nervous, but all hit it off immediately. She’s cheerful and easygoing, a hostess on the Eurostar, moved to Paris from Fountainbleu just to the South a few years ago, and has the patience of a saint to explain all the details of Parisian living and French to us.
She welcomed us into her tiny apartment with croissants and coffee, gave us a bit of time to get our wits about us, then we three set out for a walking tour of Paris. I guess I thought that only certain sections of Paris would be narrow, winding cobbled streets with balconies overlooking, but everywhere we went seemed like that (occasionally broken up by the larger boulevards).
I didn’t take a ton of pictures, mostly content to gawk and chat, but was enamored enough of a few pieces of street art that I grabbed photos of them. The one below of the cart with the purple cat and the heart balloons is signed at the bottom "Le Koeurele", which Justine explained was a play on words: "couer" is heart, "quereller" is to argue and the "ele" ending means that you have wings, so the artist’s signature is something like an arguing heart with wings.
Yeah, maybe you have to be French to get it.
Another thing I love about this city is the public bikes. All over town they have these beige bike stands. You can use a card to check one out and then return it to a similar stand elsewhere in the city when you’re done. I’m not sure exactly the price, but I think it’s free for the first 30 minutes, then a dollar or two an hour after that.
We ended our walk by passing through the Louvre (just the outside, the inside is for another day) and enjoying a glass of wine in le Quartier Latin and then returned to Dupleix, where Justine fixed us a delicious meal (Pouler du Justine), a nice change from the taste and price of English food, I’ll tell you!
La Nuit Bleue
The three of us hopped the Metro to go out, but Justine got a call from a friend on the way who was having drinks in the Quartier Latin, so we shifted direction and headed over there. Our first stop was a fun, loud Australian bar where we had a few drinks and met the crew we would be spending the night with, all of them Moroccan by origin, but most with flawless English and long tenures in Paris.
I chatted the most with Amin, the dark-skinned clean-shaven headed guy you’ll see in the pictures below. I couldn’t figure out exactly his job, but it had something to do with "yield", with determining prices variably based on expected demand and time, the way airplane prices are set (i.e., if you buy your tickets far in advance, they’re super cheap, even cheaper than the cost of production, but if you buy them the day before, you’ll be paying thousands of dollars more). Excited and extended discussion followed.
After an hour or two there, we headed over to Bar Oz, a nightclub in Beaubourg or La Marais, I wasn’t quite sure, about a ten minute walk on the other side of the Seine.
The place was packed to the gills, way over what would be considered "fire capacity" in the U.S., the music was bumping and everyone in the place was dancing. The tunes were mostly all old familiars (a dance remix of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock n Roll, Funkytown and the like) and the DJ was a bit sloppy with the transitions (mostly just stopping one song then starting another), but the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic and we danced ourselves silly (and sweaty). Occasionally, the whole place would break out into chants of "Allez le bleu" in anticipation of the big rugby match between France and New Zealand the next day (despite the fact France was widely expected to lose).
Around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., worn out from not more than an hour or so of sleep the night before, we stumbled out with Justine and made our confused way home to much, much needed sleep.
Justine’s couch, should you be wondering, est tres comfortable!
Food, Money, and Clothing
The food in Paris has been a little bit of a disappointment. Even as I type this, Michelle is reading in the guidebook that the food of Paris proper is over-rated. Probably we just don’t know the right places to go (I suppose if I were wandering Seattle and ambled into whatever restaurant I passed, I’d probably be disappointed, as well), but it mostly tastes like standard, mid to low-grade French food.
The dollar is much more effective here in Paris than it was in London. The Euro is worth about a $1.40 and, again, things are priced roughly the same in Euros here as they would be in dollars back home (meaning things are about 30% more expensive, which is better than the 100% we were seeing previously).
On the fashion side, Paris is distinctly more casual than London (or at least the parts we visited). The most common outfit we see by far on women is a short black dress over black shorts, black tights and black boots. Cute!