Discovering our Parisian Neigbourhood – Paris Day 1

So, as I mentioned in my last post my mother decided to come with me to Paris. Secretly I was very relieved. I know that going on my own would have still been an amazing trip, and I am definitely a very independent person. I am the type of girl who can eat alone at a restaurant or even go to see a movie by myself (matinée only though) but even I had to admit that 7 days alone in a country where no one speaks the same language as me could have gotten lonely. I spoke to my mum around 11 on Monday morning, which is when she told me that she had decided to tag along. I was thrilled. I hadn’t seen her in a few months and I was excited to meet up with her at the airport.

Catching over dinner at the airport

After a happy reunion and some goodbye hugs from my step-father, we had an amazing dinner at a restaurant in the airport (who’d have thought!), changed into our Lulu’s and boarded our plane. We were lucky enough to get a whole row to ourselves so we could get comfy for our trans-Atlantic snooze. There was a brief stop in Iceland which I thought looked like a really interesting place, and since we flew Icelandair, there was a lot of Icelandic info on the inflight TV. I’m actually thinking about a trip there later, maybe with my favourite Björk’s loving friend (Sam – looking at you!).

We landed in Paris, grabbed our luggage, I glared at a few people and sighed heavily through most of Charles de Gaulle. It could have been a by-product of not getting enough sleep on the plane. We managed to navigate our way to the RER and hopped on a train to the Gare du Nord then grabbed a cab to our apartment where we met Marie. I think she might have been the girlfriend of my land lady’s son, but I was never quite sure. She showed us around our tiny apartment and was off. I honestly thought that we would be exhausted by the time we got to our flat, as it was about 2 pm in France but 10 am in Ontario, and we hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep, but we were surprisingly energetic, so we each showered the plane stink off of us and were out to discover our new neighbourhood.

This is where our first French blunder came to pass. There was a front door, then a gate to the courtyard, then through the courtyard was the hallway to our apartment. When we entered the building Marie used a key fob to gain access through the front door and gate. These fobs are seemingly pretty commonplace in France and becoming more popular here as well. No big deal, right? Well, as we were going to leave I tried to open the gate. No luck, it was locked. “Ah! The fob!” I thought. I reached into my purse, grabbed the key chain and attempted to fob my way out of the courtyard except that I couldn’t find anywhere to tap the fob on the inside of the gate to gain access. Confused, my mother and I attempted to ask the gardener in the courtyard for help. He pointed out a button, helpfully labelled ‘porte’ I might add, that would release the lock. After getting through the gate I quickly found a similar button to release the lock on the front door. Except even after pushing the button I couldn’t push the door open. Again we appealed to the gardener for help. He was trying to explain something to me in French, but perhaps because I was jet lagged and becoming flustered I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Instead, I just kept pushing the button and the door. I swear, it never once occurred to me to pull it. I mean, certainly it did after the exasperated gardener came through the gate, looked at me like I was an idiot and pulled the door open, but never before that. So, we now know how to get out of our building and at least one person in France thinks we are the stupidest people alive. Freedom, but at what cost?

From our courtyard, through that hall was the gate and door that tripped us up.

We stayed in Montmartre, which as the name suggests is a pretty large hill. The streets are steep and there are often stairs that lead from one street to the next. This is fine for me, but not so much for my mother. She has some health issues that cause a lot of joint pain making stairs difficult for her. Still, she was a trooper and we wandered up and down some streets before stopping for a bite to eat. This is where our second French blunder occurred. We looked at the menu, and obviously knew we each wanted a glass of champagne. Seriously – I think champagne by the glass at almost any time of day might be one of my favourite things about France. Delish! My mum wanted cheese, but I wasn’t really in the mood for it. I wanted a croissant, and was able to convince my mother she wanted the same thing. So we ordered. The waiter looked at me like I had two heads. “Croissant?” “Oui!” I assured, “deux croissant”. I considered that maybe my pronunciation was off, or he couldn’t understand because of my accent, but then he went on to tell me that croissants are only for breakfast. I am not quite sure if this is a cultural thing, like we had just tried to order a bowl of Cheerio’s with our afternoon cocktail, or if it was specific to this restaurant, but I did notice later in the week that I never saw anyone eating a croissant after the morning hours. Oh well, cheese plate it was.

My mother and some of the many stairs we scaled

The perfect place for cheese and champagne

We continued our walk, tried desperately to get into the Cimetiere Montmartre but never did find the entrance. Eventually we inadvertently stumbled upon a different famous Parian landmark, The Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge

This seemed to be a good place to rest again, we had walked for a few hours and were getting hungry so we stopped at what would become our favourite restaurant. My uncle told me before I left that the best Italian food he ever had was in Paris. I was quick to believe him after this meal. I had pasta in olive oil with chillies and garlic, a favourite of mine at home, while my mother had spaghetti bolognaise . It was exactly what each of us wanted. I swear, few things are better than sitting down for dinner and having a meal that perfectly satisfies your craving. We also had some wine (obvs) and shared what might be the best crème brûlée I have ever had.

Our favourite restaurant

After dinner we decided to walk back to our apartment. Since we came from the west we decided to head back heading east. So, we are walking down Boulevard de Clichy back towards our apartment and I start to notice things getting a little…seedier. As a matter of fact, I noticed that we were standing next to a sex shop, and as I looked around I noticed we were surrounded by them. Now, I’m no prude, but this isn’t exactly the neighbourhood I want to be in with my mother on our first day in Paris. I was worried she was going to wonder what type of neighbourhood we were staying in. Thankfully she didn’t mention anything, and we made it out of that neighbourhood and back to our apartment in one piece.


5 thoughts on “Discovering our Parisian Neigbourhood – Paris Day 1

  1. Martina says:

    The “deux croissants” experience reminded me of the “deux baguettes” one from Tremblant, if you remember:
    Ash – “Je veux deux baguettes”
    Woman at bakery – “C’est tout?”
    Ash – “Yes, TWO”
    Woman, glaring at us – “Is that ALL?”

    Can’t wait to read more!


    • Ashleigh says:

      Thanks, birthday girl! Yeah, I totally remember that, which is strange becuase we seemed to have spent a lot of time in Tremblant a little inebriated.

      Wait until you hear about my veal story… 🙂


  2. Corey Frye says:

    Great post! I had to chuckle a bit at your french blunders: even though the Parisian side of me was thinking “of course there’s a button to open the door”, the truth is it wasn’t too long ago that I was making similar mistakes.

    It’s true that croissants are mostly a morning food, and because they’re made fresh each day and delivered to cafés and restaurants they don’t stay on the menu at lunchtime. However most bakeries will have them all day long, and some folks combine them with chocolate for afternoon snack breaks.

    Happy to see you managed to shake off the blunders and still enjoy your first day though. And I’ve definitely noted this Italian restaurant, thanks for the tip! Looking forward to the next post


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