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European travel journal – Day 9: Montemarte, Marais, Angelina’s hot chocolate, and the Eiffel Tower

PastaQueen presents the Eiffel Tower

I think my next book shall be called, "The European Vacation Diet," in which you eat whatever chocolate coated crepe or croissant you want without remorse because you are climbing to the top of Sacre-Coeur first thing in the morning. Warning: Here be stairs. Lots and lots of stairs.

 Sacre-Coeur

On my final full day in Paris, I finally got the weather I had been expecting. I walked under warm and sunny skies with my jacket tied tight around my waist and not pulled tight against my body. In Paris, I got the rainy weather I was expecting in Britain, whereas London failed to produce any significant amount of Heather Nova’s London Rain.

I woke up when I wanted to and not at a time dictated by museum openings. Then I had a leisurely breakfast at the cafe on the corner where I had a delicious coffee and this Omelet Nature:

A lot of food

I’m sorry to tell my fellow Americans that I did indeed eat the whole thing, plus the three small pieces of bread not pictured. I have done nothing to disprove the stereotype of Americans as gluttonous pigs, but I needed the energy for all the walking and stair climbing I had planned that day.

I entered the Metro to discover that my pass no longer worked and that holding up the entrance really annoys the person behind you. I’m not sure if I bought the wrong pass or if it got demagnetized, but it meant I had to go buy some more tickets. I stared at the lone ticket machine in the corner of the subway, unsure of how to make my selection after touching the screen didn’t work. Then the man behind me showed me how to roll the cylinder at the bottom up and down to make my choice. (And they say the French are rude.) I got my ticket and rode to Sacre-Coeur, a Catholic Church at the top of a hill in the Montemarte district of Paris.

Notice the word “hill.”

Cute little train.

There is a cute little train called the funicular that you can ride to the top, but that requires a Metro ticket and I didn’t want to go through that nonsense again, so I pretended I couldn’t hear my knees screaming and my cartilage whining as I hiked up the hill past people trying to sell me friendship bracelets.

The view was spectacular, particularly on a clear day like this. I toured the inside of the church and rubbed the foot of St. Pete’s statue for luck. Then I exited and moseyed around the cobblestone streets and steeps hills of Montmartre. It’s a quaint, Bohemian district of France where many famous and not-so-famous artists lived and still hang out. I wondered by Toulouse-Lautrec’s old house, past the building Vincent Van Gough lived in for two years, all the way down to the Moulin Rouge. I passed a bakery on the way where I stopped for a praline tart. If the line outside the store was this long, it had to be good. (And it was!)

Line at the bakery. Must be good!

I sat down and looked over my Rick Steves’ guidebook that had mapped out my walk to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, and whoops, I had walked right by the cafe featured in the movie Amelie. That’s one of my favorite movies, so I backtracked a block up the street to take a look and there it was!

Amelie's Cafe

For lunch, I bought a Nutella Panini from a street vendor. Yes, I had a chocolate sandwich for lunch, and it was good. They are crazy about Nutella in Paris. There were jars and jars of it on display on every street vendor’s cart. Montemarte is a good place to grab some grub because there was a wide selection of delicious-looking eateries open. I walked through the red light district, gawking at the items on display at the Erotic Museum, got back on the Metro and headed for the Bastille. On the way my insulin levels dropped suddenly from the chocolate sandwich or eight days of sightseeing and I felt like taking a nap. I sat on the stairs of the Opera Bastille instead and watched the people go by until I felt strong enough to stroll down the Promenade Plantee.

Promenade Plantee

Much like the trail that runs by my apartment, this is a long, narrow, linear park is built on an old railway viaduct. I sat on a bench for awhile, recovering my energy, and musing about the graffiti problem in Paris.

If in Paris, invest in spray paint stock

Then I was off again, doing the Rick Steves’ guided walk through the Marais district, an older part of town built on a swamp (or in French, a “marais”). It’s a bourgeois neighborhood with lots of shops. There is a Jewish district that was falafel central. I also strolled through the gay district to the Pompidou modern art museum, though I didn’t have time to go inside. I popped into a hat shop, hoping to buy a souvenir, but all the hats were either too expensive or wouldn’t cram into my suitcase well. I bought a cute little kitty change purse instead to house all my 1 Euro and 2 Euro coins.

The money is in the kitty

I continued walking past Les Forum des Halles again and past the Louvre and half the Tuileries to Angelina’s, a salon where I’d been instructed to try the hot chocolate. I’d walked approximately 5 miles that day, so I took a rest break halfway down the Louvre to sit on the sidewalk. Hey, it works for the beggars! Sadly, no one threw me any Euros.

I met friend of a friend, Elizabeth, at Angelina’s who greeted me with two cheek kisses like the French do. She also got us a great table by the window by insisting politely, which is a technique I will have to steal from her. The hot chocolate was indeed scrumptious, like drinking a chocolate bar.

Hot chocolate

Before I left for Paris, I mentioned my hot chocolate plans to a coworker who insisted I try a hot chocolate at the South Bend Chocolate Company which he deemed to be the best hot chocolate in the world. I will no doubt cause a controversy with this statement, but after trying both, I have to deem the South Bend Chocolate Company the winner. Angelina’s hot chocolate was superb too, but there’s something about the drizzles of milk chocolate on top of the tasty whipped cream topping of the South Bend Chocolate Company’s drink that I adore. So, if you’re ever in Indianapolis, stop on by! They’ve got a store on the circle downtown.

After I cheek kissed Elizabeth good-bye, I dashed off to my final sight to see: The Eiffel Tower. You didn’t think I’d do Paris without stopping by this landmark, did you? I made my way under its four feet, trying to sort out where to buy tickets, when suddenly a mob of people started running towards me. It must be a hoard of rabid PastaQueen fans! I love you too, my darlings! No, wait, it seems they’ve just opened the east tower’s ticket booth. I’m standing right by the east tower! Quick, run! So I ran to the ticket line and waited all of two minutes to buy a ticket before I rode the elevator to the second floor. This totally made up for all that time I wasted looking for the tourism bureau on the first day. Then there was a short line for the elevator to the very top and then I was looking down on Paris from up high.

Looking down on Paris

I love how the city is sketched with white pastels on the canvas of the land. I gazed at the buildings and the people and the trees, without any of the torrid winds I had expected at the tippy top. Then I ate an overpriced sandwich from the cafe and made my way down to the second and first levels of the tower as well. The first floor was practically deserted. I watched a film collage there of movies that featured the Eiffel Tower. I thought about staying another two hours to see the light show that happens at the top of every hour at night, but the good weather drifted off to another country and rain started pouring down between the beams of the tower. I scurried down the staircase, which was faster than the elevator and headed for the Metro, happy to know I could now say, “I’ll always have Paris.”

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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22 Comments

Faye • May 21, 2009 at 10:26 am

PQ, I have really enjoyed your travel journals of Paris and London back from the “I See London, I See France” post. Love the way you set out on your own on this adventure. I too prefer to travel alone and have been to London and Paris most recently in September ’08. It was interesting to see what you chose to take in for each of these beautiful cities compared to my selections. Also was interested in your impressions of some of the same places that I love like Musee de Orsay. Shared your guilt for staying in the hotel room and watching BBC or CNN when should be sightseeing–blisters make you do that. You were much braver about public transportation though! And thanks for that first inside look at a hostel–who knew?

I hope you came back to the U.S. happy that you’d spent your money and time on this trip. Travel, especially to other countries, helps you store memories for a lifetime. Even writing this comment makes me want to get out the packing cubes! Where do you want to go next?

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Nina • May 21, 2009 at 10:50 am

Oh man I want some frigging hot chocolate, now.. my mom used to give it to me for breakfast. Note: Do not eat hot chocolate for breakfast unless you work a really really really physically demanding job. I was indeed a chubby kid.

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Sheila OConnor • May 21, 2009 at 10:56 am

Thanks for taking us along. Enjoyed our vacation; now back to work.

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Amanda • May 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Wow, I have that little cat purse, in a red colour! I love it, it’s so cute.

I’ve loved reading of your travels, in my own city, and in Paris– makes me even more excited for a trip to Paris in a few months. You’ve really managed to pack it all in in a few days :)

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Jenni • May 21, 2009 at 1:53 pm

You look like you are having so much fun! And love your change purse, I have the same one in red, but sadly mine is from boring UT, not awesome France. *sigh* (though I did buy it in a crazy little import store.)

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auntjone • May 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

How sad that I can’t comment on any of your European travels except to say I’m jealous and hope you had a good time. I can comment on the SBCC hot chocolate, however. It is wicked sweet! Whoa! I had a hard time finishing mine at the Chocolate Cafe in downtown South Bend but I soldiered on and drained my cup.

Welcome back and thanks for the ‘trip’!

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Cathleen • May 21, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Thanks for sharing your adventures — it was so much fun to read along.

And can I just say, as far as your pictures go, French food looks so much more appetizing than the English variety! Bring it on!

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Deb • May 21, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Fabulous trip. Thanks so much for sharing it! I really admire your going on your own!

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Jackie • May 21, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Please let me know when you are going back to Paris. I have been a couple of times but I don’t think I have seen half the places you got to see. I feel like I need to go back. I’m glad you’re having such a great time.

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Kymberli • May 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Lovely trip journal…thanks so much for sharing with us. I felt like I was right there with you.

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Monica • May 21, 2009 at 11:38 pm

You might want to look up what a funicular is.

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cc • May 22, 2009 at 4:03 am

gorgeous pic with the eiffel tower!

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Jeanne • May 22, 2009 at 9:46 am

Loved the picture of you and the Eiffel Tower too. Have really enjoyed your daily travelogue of your trip. Thanks for sharing.

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Jenny • May 22, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Yay for the Cafe in Amelie!!! These posts have been great. Thank you so much for sharing your trip.

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Lora • May 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm

PQ, I traveled to Europe 8 years ago. I’m happy you are having a wonderful experience such as I did.

Take care.

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Quix • May 22, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Thank you again for sharing Paris with us! I *have* to go someday…

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Jennifer • May 22, 2009 at 8:47 pm

The picture of you in front of the Eiffel Tower is gorgeous-also love the cat change purse. Now I want some serious chocolate!

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Allison • May 23, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I have that exact same change purse from Paris! Be ready for lots of compliments whenever you pull it out as everyone loves it!

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Barb Cooper • May 24, 2009 at 7:24 am

I’ve really enjoyed your travelogues. Thanks so much for taking the time to blog about an amazing trip.

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Lauren • May 25, 2009 at 11:51 pm

When i was in paris two years ago, one of those bracelet makers, after making my friend and I a bracelet (which I believe I lost in my last move) rolled us a joint. It pays to make friends. Ok, it was so weak I didn’t even feel anything, but still, it was an experience.

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katecooks • May 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm

everything about this post makes me so happy! i lived in paris for 6 months for study abroad while in college and i can’t wait to go back one day. i too lived off nutella and walked my butt off. i was the only person who managed to gain weight really but when i came back to the usa and stopped eating a baguette, wheel of camembert and jar of nutella for lunch every day, the weight fell right off. ah, it was so worth it, every single bite :)

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Miz Booshay • May 29, 2009 at 11:03 am

Oh! Angelinas. How I love thee. How I love Paris.

Thank you for sharing your trip with us!

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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