Monday, February 20, 2012

DLDGLG Goes Griswold: Paris by Foot

The following post is part of a series called "DLDGLG Goes Griswold" highlighting my recent trip to Europe from December 19th to the 30th. Stay tuned for additional posts in the coming months...

In the morning, Nic and I woke up and jumped out of bed. We’d slept a little longer than planned and wanted to soak up as much of Paris as we could.

It had been raining intermittently since the night before. The clouds were hanging low but it was still a perfect day.

We got dressed and left our hotel heading towards Boulevard Saint-Germain still formulating a plan for breakfast.

Our eyes scanned past the store fronts and bistros with Noël decorations. On impulse, Nic and I entered a restaurant at the corner called Le Danton.

After being seated in this scarcely occupied restaurant, we ordered food. Nic requested a ham, cheese and egg crepe. I wanted the croque madame.

Nic’s crepe was the lord of them all. It was an over-sized and marbled buckwheat flour pancake. The delectable filling slowly oozed out as she cut into it.

Her face illuminated with a smile in between each chew. 

I carefully dug into my croque madame - slicing the golden crown of yolk in half. I pushed morsels together on my fork for a carefully constructed bite.

The lightly crisped sandwich, which was drizzled with rich egg, spun in my mouth as I gleefully chewed.

We both sipped on cokes, no ice.

After our breakfast we headed for the trains. But just before reaching the portal of the metro station, I froze when I noticed Fontaine Saint-Michel.

This strange fountain is something out of the Book of Revelations - with the centerpiece displaying the Archangel Michael casting down the devil.

Two monstrous, feline-headed dragons flanked the fountain itself.

Nic and I entered the metro and rode the train to the Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel stop.

We studied the map and compared it to our heading while ascending the stairs to the surface.

And there it appeared, right in front of us, Le Tour de Eiffel. The giant iron leg of “The Grand Dame” seemed to reach out our way as we approached.

We circled freely inside the base of the giant latticed structure. The weather had presumably discouraged other tourists from mobbing the site.

The few damp people who were present wandered around the Eiffel as well. Some huddled close to the concession stands that served gluhwein, hot tea, hot chocolate, and roasted chestnuts.

A band of skinny Santa Clauses (or Père Noëls) could be heard jamming underneath the tower’s skirt.

So we took advantage of the thin crowd and purchased tickets to see the top.

If you didn’t already know - Eiffel is enormous. Two different elevators pushed Nic and I up almost a thousand feet of what use to be the highest human-made summit in the world.

When we finally reached the top, the whole of Paris was there to greet us, sprawled almost as far as the eye could see.

The milky white mist of the clouds brushed by us.

We observed the landscape of Champ de Mars and watched little bodies inch along the verdant promenade.

On the other side, Nic and I spotted the Arc de Triomphe in the distance and traced the route down from Place Charles de Gaulle through the Avenue des Champs-Élysées with our fingers.

Eventually, we headed back down. As we did, I reflected on the perspective of Paris from that height. It’s how we might imagine a deity would be looking down at the city.

When we reached the base we fixed our sights towards our next destination.

We crossed the Pont de l’Alma bridge and drifted toward what appeared to be the flame of Lady Liberty’s torch. It was, in fact, a loose replica - one of two adaptations that can be found in Paris.

We also quickly realized it was the site where a limousine holding Diana Spencer and Dodi Fayed had crashed that late summer night in 1997.

(I could recall my own mother’s horror when hearing the news of Princess Di’s grizzly end. Missing school a few days later, she brought us out to the British Embassy in Washington D.C. to sign the book of condolences with her. It seemed fitting to visit the site during our trip.)

Penned on the marble overpass, sometimes in illegible scribbles, were words of condolence and endearment to the Princess of Wales and her Egyptian lover.

After a long walk up a looming hill, we came to Place Charles de Gualle which was circled by a speeding herd of Fiats, bicycles and scooters. There stood Arc de Triomphe.

I captured a few pictures of the Arc. Then, from there, we started down the causeway of high end shops and flagship storefronts on the decadent Champs-Élysées.

I could feel the gravity of places like Fendi and Prada pulling Nic into their orbit.

Even I was hypnotized by a few windows along that street. At one point, I could be found hovering like a dark moon over the Red Bull Renault Formula One race car.

It was my first close up view of the vehicle and it wasn’t hard to see why the sport entertains scores within the wealthy, international community.

Then, Nic spotted the Ladurée location expanded from the street under a sort of big top tent. It housed a pastry shop and tea room. A stream of women filed through the stand buying macarons.

The booth was full of these colorful confections.

Espresso, pistachio, lemon, raspberry and other flavors spilled over each other as female attendants reached for them.

Nic purchased a few of these little cookie sandwiche-like treats. We munched on them while walking down the avenue. The espresso macaron’s packed quite the coffee flavor under its sweet meringue composition.

As Nic and I came closer to Place de la Concorde the smell of roasted chestnuts warmed the air.

Smoke billowed behind a burly, mustached vendor who was cooking the nuts. He embodied an image of Pluto, reigning over his underworld, shoveling seeds into the deep earth.

You couldn’t find a more convincing diorama of ancient Greek mythology as that vendor turned those delicious brown droops under the fire’s heat.

Right before the Concord, walking along the numerous booths serving hot mulled wine and selling holiday goods, my feet began to ache.

Two days of intense walking had begun to take its toll and, eventually, sent the bottoms of my feet into fits of pain.

Nic and I hopped onto a metro train headed towards Odéon and made our way back to the hotel.

We wrapped ourselves in our bathrobes after a hot shower and relaxed for a few moments as we watched BBC World News on the television. Then, we closed our eyes for a quick nap.

But our day wasn’t concluded yet; we would be devouring a spectacular dinner in less than a few hours.


  1. I'm not a big fan of vacation slides on blogs, but since Paris is one of my favorite places and you have a decent amount of food here, I'll let it slide.

    Incidentally, with the beanie cap on, you totally look French!

    1. Just wait until the next post. There'll be more food than you can handle.