After the Eiffel Tower, the second most important thing we wanted to do in our Paris day-trip was to enjoy fine French cuisine at a local place – you know, where the French go. I have never, ever been more unprepared for a trip in another country. We soon realized that there was really nothing promising around the Eiffel Tower area, so we walked North? West? South? East? we had no idea where we were going. The mood began to go down as we became more and more sore, hot, dehydrated, famished, and clueless. After a few unpleasant encounters, we had given up on the concept of asking around for fear of feeling as unwelcomed as we did. But oh what pretty pictures we were taking!
We found nirvana. A place to eat. No sign outside. We walked through this “alley” like place and into a beautiful, peaceful garden, with rock walls and white little tables. There were maybe 4 or 5 more people aside from us, none of them speaking English. Yes! We felt like travel masters. We were seated, and reading the menu when…oh there was one flaw in the plan. “Um…this place is called La Russe? I think this is Russian food. Oh mon Dieu! We’re not at a French restaurant.” The waiter was coming to take our order soon, and we were far too embarrassed to admit our huge mistake. We did not know how to politely explain that we were not, under any circumstances, going to eat Russian food. We quickly discussed our pros and cons: “Maybe it is a good place…it looks nice, memorable…But, one day in Paris and we do not eat French food? If you come to Paris for one day of your life you HAVE to eat French food! But I don’t want to offend the Russians.” We felt embarrassed in admitting our stupidity to this kind waiter. As usual, my best friend saved us by making a HUGE scene. Because that is way less embarrasing. “Hello? Mom? I’m with a friend…we just sat down to eat. WHAT?! Now?!?! Nooo. But mom! UGH….My mom is so annoying! Sorry, we cannot stay. I can’t believe she would do this today!” To what I could only reply, “I can’t believe your mother sometimes.”
Before I could say “Merci” my friend was hailing a cab and speaking French to the driver. Leave it to her to master a language in the middle of a crisis. He drove us to Notre Dame. I was a fool to think that the Eiffel Tower would be the best part of Paris. Notre Dame instantly took its righteous place in my heart. The breath-taking cathedral, and the streets that surround it are so full of color, and life, and French beauty. There were probably twice as many people as in the Eiffle Tower, but it did not feel overly touristy to me…It just felt incredibly alive.
We walked down a very colorful, lovely street called Rue de la Huchette, and narrowed our options down to three French places. We went with Jardin Notre Dame. A restaurant in the corner of Rue de la Huchette and Place du Petit Pont. It was almost empty, except for maybe 2 or 3 tables with people speaking French…Fantastique! “BONJOUR!” said my barbie doll friend in the middle of this nearly empty restaurant, catching the eye of everyone and their mother! The waiter loved her immediately.
And so we ordered. My best friend asked for the jumbo shrimp, which I actually believed were baby lobsters! And I ordered the scallops, and some white wine. For the appetizer, we were between the snails and the mussels. THE mussels. Just writing of them made me salivate just now. We have been marked by these mussels. It was SO hard to keep it classy when the taste of this delicious food enveloped not just our mouths, but our whole existence. Excuse me for losing glamour, but I wonder if the waiter noticed we were trying not to climax here. I have never enjoyed a meal and wine to such degree of pleasure. The texture, the taste, the smell, the view. It was a high peak travel experience, and maybe my favorite memory of this trip. How things can be going wrong, and suddenly going SO RIGHT is something that fascinates me.
We were each also served a small baked potato with something that seemed to be the upscale version of sour cream. We are both lactose intolerant, but under such magical gastric circumstances we could not care less. Our digestive problems be damned. This food was the best thing my tastebuds have been given since birth. The meal left us satisfied without making us feel like we had to roll our way back to the train station. The service was also great. The staff were kind, cheerful, patient, and polite. Paris was redeeming itself from the rudeness we encountered earlier. Way to go, Paris!
We left the restaurant feeling over the moon! There was about an hour to kill before heading back to the train station, and so we spent it strolling down the Seine and wooing the beautiful Notre Dame. My, My, Notre Dame, not just the actual building structure, but the whole place surrounding it was charming my eyes. It was soon time to return, and our underground trip back to the train station was even more terrifying than the initial one…what, with a creep following us, and a sketchy one asking us to follow him. The lack of sleep from the night before came crashing against us like the rough sea, and we slept on our way to England. Our day in Paris was filled with ups and downs, zero rain, tears of laughter, outer body food experiences, and the most enriching sights. It felt like a dream, but the best part was that it wasn’t. And I got the pictures to prove it.