Paris in Winter

After leaving Briançon, a city in the French Alps, Dad and I took the train back to Valence, then a TGV from Valence to Paris. I spent the entire train ride completely engrossed in my knitting. Dad tried to chat with me, but I had to tell him that I couldn’t focus on the pattern and talk at the same time. I’m not at that level of super knitter yet! However, I did look up every so often to admire the beautiful scenery.

When we arrived in Paris, we had no sooner taken our first metro ride then we encountered the ticket-checking officers in one of the tunnels. Of course, we had valid tickets, so it wasn’t an issue. I just think it’s hilarious because my Parisian friends tell me that they never encounter these officers, and yet I come across them every single time I visit the city.

Dad and I booked a hotel near my friend Virginie’s place. I had selected a room with two single beds. Sure enough, in true Parisian closet-size-hotel-room style, there were two single beds…pushed together. So basically a double bed.

As a side note, it reminded me of one of my first trips to Paris as a high school foreign student in 2004, when I toured the city with my host family. The room had a similar layout, with two double beds stuck together. I slept in the mega-bed with my host mother, host sister and her boyfriend. It was interesting times!

Monmartre was a short walk away, so in the morning, Dad and I took advantage of the brief spurt of sunlight to explore the area. We wandered through the streets and walked down the steps in front of the Sacré Coeur.

In the afternoon, I met up with Virginie, her friend Charlène and Charlène’s adorable baby son. Virginie took us all for a ride on a bateau mouche. It was Dad’s first time on the boat, which cruises down the Seine past all the sites of Paris. Somehow I forgot to take any pictures on the actual boat, but I do have the requisite Eiffel Tower shot.

After our cruise, I accompanied Virginie back to Charlène’s place. We had to navigate through the Parisian transit system with a stroller, which I discovered was no easy task. Most metro stations don’t have elevators and some don’t even have escalators, so I have no idea how parents manage without an extra set of hands.

Once we finally made it to Charlène’s apartment, several of her and Virginie’s friends came over for an epic board game night. I had a great time learning new games, including one similar to Take 6.

The next morning, the Dad & Daughter dream team split up. Dad went off to Versailles, and I ventured over to the Musée Marmottan. I enjoyed taking in all the Monet paintings. I try to visit a new museum each time I’m in Paris, and I always uncover new delights.

Later on, I met up with Virginie again and she took me to her friend’s place near the Chateau de Vincennes. Virginie’s friend had three young kids, and we spent the afternoon playing with them. I learned their version of Crazy Eights, which had also sorts of new rules. I lost a round because I forgot to shout something when I had one card left. Oops. I also played (and lost) several games of Connect 4 with the oldest child.

It was the “Three Kings” season, so Virginie had baked a galettes des rois, a delicious pastry with beans hidden inside. We each took a slice, and mine had one of the beans. As such, I got to wear a crown the rest of the afternoon. I felt so regal 🙂 All in all, it was my favourite type of travel experience. I love meeting new people, spending time with families, and taking part in local traditions.

I spent one more night with Dad at the hotel, then he left for England. I stayed in Paris and joined up with my friend Natasha, who is also originally from Ottawa. She arrived on an overnight bus from the Netherlands, where she had been living for the past few months. We checked into our youth hostel in the Latin Quarter. We splurged on a private room (a closet with a bunk bed).

We took advantage of another sunny day (the last one on this trip) to walk around the city and visit the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Of course, I couldn’t have come to Paris without paying a visit to my favourite talk show, Touch pas à mon poste. I had a blast at the tapings in September 2016, and a grand old time again in September 2017. A few weeks earlier, I had emailed Natasha to ask whether she wanted to join me for some French TV awesomeness. Despite the fact that she had never even heard of the show and knew absolutely nothing about French television, she immediately said “Sure, sounds cool.” How amazing is that, ladies and gentlemen? I sincerely hope for your sake that everyone of you has a Natasha in your life.

We made our way out to Boulogne-Billancourt, where the show is taped. Before entering the set, we chatted in the “holding area” with a super sweet lady from St. Etienne, the city near the village where I lived in high school. It was neat to talk to someone who was familiar with the area.

Last year, I had prime seating in the front row. This year, the people in charge of the audience seated us in the back row. Instead of floating heads, we were floating torsos, at least for the first part of the taping.

A show called “C’est que de la télé” was taped right before Touche pas à mon poste. The show was hosted by Valérie Bénaim (pictured above), my favourite French TV personality and blogger. I was thrilled to see her host a show live. She radiated positive energy and made the experience so much fun. On her show, the panelists watched news clips of recent events or items of interest, then shared their points of view. Valérie’s job was to keep everyone on track and to make sure the show stayed good natured, regardless of any disagreements.

The Touche pas à mon poste taping was a blast as well. The special guest that evening was Omar Sy, one of the most well-known French actors. It was awesome to see him in person. Natasha said that she enjoyed seeing everything that goes on behind the scenes at a live show. For instance, she was amazed at how Valérie managed to make a scripted conversation on the teleprompter look natural during a sketch segment of her show.

Our crummy seats ended up being a blessing in disguise. Last year, I had a cough my entire vacation, though I managed to suppress it during the tapings. This year, I again spent the first part of my trip coughing sporadically. However, by the time I reached Paris, I hadn’t coughed in a few days, so I didn’t feel the need to take any medicine. Big mistake. All of a sudden, in the middle of the show, to my absolute horror, I felt an unbelievable urge to have a full-on coughing fit. Tears were streaming down my face as I desperately held the coughs back. By some miracle, the fit came on right before a commercial break. I was able to let my coughs out during the break without anyone noticing. Next time I attend a live taping, I’m taking cough medicine, even if I don’t have a cough. You just never know!

After the show, Natasha and I went back to the Latin Quarter, where she enjoyed her first-ever raclette. I had quite a “Helenka” moment at the restaurant. I got distracted while chatting with a nice (Canadian) couple one table over, and forgot about my melting cheese until it had burned the pan. The server was more incredulous than anything else. His expression said “how could you do this to food, you nutty tourist!” I felt very sheepish.

We carried on with our eating adventures throughout the next few days. A trip to Paris simply wouldn’t be complete without a visit to La Grande Epicerie. We tried to find a jar of mustard that our friend Katrina had regretted not buying a few years earlier, but it wasn’t in stock anymore. I splurged on a raspberry tart, which was stupendously scrumptious.

In terms of weather, we were treated to what Parisians call a “snowstorm,” or to what we Canadians call a “light dusting.” For one morning, the city turned into a magical slushy fairyland.

Natasha was on a sugar-free kick, and she steadfastly stuck to it. I must admit, I was impressed. But there was no way that I was going to follow her excellent example. Especially not in Paris! I paid a happy visit to Ladurée, one of the Parisian macaron heavens.

I selected a few different types of macarons, and one other pastry, a Saint-Honoré Framboise Gingembre. I indulged in the pastry back in our hostel room, and it turned out to be the most emotional and intimate moment of the entire trip. I kept crying out in ecstasy because of the complete and utter deliciousness. Natasha said that she was almost embarrassed to be in the same room as us. I couldn’t blame her.

I introduced Natasha to Virginie and her sister Hélène, and they took us to a delightful crêperie. I love the concept of having a dinner crepe and a desert crepe in one meal. You can never have too many crepes!

Natasha and I also met up with my German friend Lisa, who used to be part of my Ukrainian dance group when she lived in Ottawa as an exchange student. Lisa had been living in Paris for the past few years. She took us to lunch at her work canteen, where employees pay only a few Euros to choose from a magnificent array of meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, cheese platters and pastries.

Lisa told us about a wonderful (and free!) view of Paris from the top of the Galéries Lafayette. Natasha and I took a series of escalators to reach the top the building, and we were treated to said view.

Since I was hankering to see some more Monet, we visited the Orangerie museum to admire the giant murals and the other artwork. I loved staring at the murals and getting lost in the scene.

We finished our last night in Paris in style by watching the Eiffel tower light show. Every hour on the hour, the tower glimmers for five minutes. So magical!

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