tourist traps

France Day 2: Montmartre in the Rain


The first part of our second day was spent moving to another hotel. We had to change hotels because we booked the trip late and couldn't get a nice place with a room for three nights. We are now in the 5th, very close to the Sorbonne, at Hotel Albe. Our room has an incredible view and although it is not nearly as quiet as the last one, it is beautiful, clean, and bright. It's also extremely close to the metro/RER and general good sightseeing.

After checking in--which we were surprised we could do so early--we decided to go to Montmartre.

It was a close call between that and Chateau de Chantilly and Chateau Malmaison, both of which were outside Paris. Ultimately, we decided to go to Montmartre because it was easy to get to even though I was worried it would be a tourist trap.

We took the metro to the Abessess stop, where our adventure began.

I followed the exit signs in the subway to a narrow winding stairway with walls covered in bright murals that were covered in graffiti. It led up and up and up and up get it.

I was ahead of everyone, listening to the grumps and groans of the herd below. Knowing how much further they had to go, I enjoyed a perverse, slightly evil giggle.

Meanwhile, my dad was telling everyone that there was an elevator at the bottom they all should have taken.

Once everyone reached the top and recovered from their cardiac near-event, we hit the streets.

It started to rain a bit, so we stopped at the busiest cafe, Le Progres, at a fork in the road to wait it out. My parents both had vegetable tempura risotto that everyone drooled over. I had a salad. It was good, but not a picture-perfect risotto.

After a slow lunch and a nice chat with a couple from Minnesota, we went back out. The rain, unfortunately, picked up. So we slowly made our way over to Sacre Coeur.

I climbed the stairs and my parents took the funicular. Apparently they could have used our extra metro passes. . .but I had them. . .so they ended up paying again. Whoops!

Sacre Coeur was beautiful but I was expecting something more grand inside, I think. The exterior was far more stunning to me and the view over the grey, rain-soaked city was a treat.

There was also a service going on inside so I felt like we were all intruding as we walked silently around a roped-off track around the outside. At the same time, it was also interesting to see and the hymns sounded beautiful in French.

It was still raining when we left, so we just embraced the weather and went wandering.

We stumbled on a street full of fabric stores that lined both sides. One, Moline, had a few large storefronts and the most tempting color combinations, patterns, and textures.

My mom and I were both inspired. Even my dad thought it was amazing.

I took a couple of stealthy photos, made some mind-notes, and we rolled out.

Back at the hotel, we asked the woman at the front desk where she would send friends or family to eat nearby. She gave us a couple of options and we chose Chez Fernand on Rue Christine.

We got a reservation and when we arrived, the place was packed. Packed with English-speakers. Often a bad sign. Some English is totally expected and ok, but on a Friday evening? I hoped it would be more mixed.

The wines we wanted were all apparently out of stock so the manager came over and recommended something else. It was more expensive but he promised it would be full bodied and good-drinking. Honestly, it was disappointing.

I had bone marrow to start and boeuf bourginon for my main. The marrow was good and the bourginon was fine but not legendary like the promised. It's my favorite dish and my dad honestly makes it better.

Ultimately, it was a meal that didn't really deliver, especially considering the cost. And it felt a bit like an upscale tourist trap.

Don't get me wrong, everyone was nice but it just had that feeling. And just to be clear, I have no problem being a tourist or eating with other tourists--meeting other travelers is one of the best parts of travel for me. We even met great people that might. But it felt like this place had been created so hotels could shuttle us there for "authentic" cuisine.

I guess that's what you get in the Latin Quarter more often than not, though.

Now for some pictures!