Before the memories fade.....................where to start? I'll do a trip summary in a series of posts - there's just too much to talk about in one super lengthy one :)
To begin at the beginning, the entire flight to Paris, my intrepidation at speaking French was increasing exponentially. It was 25 years ago that I was last there. At that time I was hinging on being completely bilingual. Just from what I've helping my sons out with their homework, etc (they're in French Immersion), I knew I had lost a LOT, if not most, of my comprehension. Can you say "Babelfish"?!
Once we landed, we took a shuttle bus from CDG to the Opera area. From there, in the middle of the beyond-traffic-congested area, we were left to fend for ourselves and begin the journey. Somehow we had to get a taxi - did I mention it was rush hour, and this area in Paris is likely the most congested in the city? When I say congested, picture several angled streets, merging together into an open circle. There is no concept of lanes and barely any direction provided by traffic lights, or lack thereof. Envision hundreds of cars, all of which have converged into the circle, driving in every direction possible, all clustered together and literally,bumper to bumper. Like, literally. It was the most insane cluster**** I have witnessed - somehow, our taxi driver got us out of there and to our apartment, located in the 8th arrondissement about 2 blocks southeast of the Arc de Triomphe and a block and a half north of the Champs d'Elysees. Upon arriving there, we waited for the rep from the apartment rental company to let us in.
The apartment was situated on the 4eme level, which, if you know how things go in France, is actually the 5th floor. After hauling up our luggage up the 5 flights of stairs, up a teeny, narrow wooden spiral staircase (being coached by our rep who said "you only have to do this once") and pleading with my heart not to go into full arrest before our trip had even begun, we were in. There were no surprises, everything was just as it had been depicted in the website photos. High end kitchen (complete with a Nespresso machine) and crazy funky design with blood red walls. Once we settled in we immediately headed out to the nearest grocery store, Monoprix, to get some basic supplies.
After a lovely stroll down the Champs d'Elysees, we found the store. The package left for us by the apartment people contained all sorts of useful information about the area, including this store location. The store was busy - at this time is was about 9pm; like any big city I've seen, dinner is eaten later than around these parts. I beelined for the yoghurt aisle, knowing that I would find lots to choose from. The selection was awe-inspiring. Grocery stores there have relatively little selection of everything, compared to what we see here (for example, the sugar section consisted of about 8 tiny items), but the yoghurt, well, that's entirely another story. The French LOVE their yoghurt, and it shows. So many brands, so many flavours, and the section blended into the next section, puddings/desserts, and not like the Jello brand things you find here. I chose two yoghurts, coconut and black currant. My husband chose a pkg of 4 pots de creme, which came in actual glass jars rimmed with gold foil; you'd think they'd be $$, but the set was something like 1.4euros, so just under $2. This section blended intot eh cheese section, also an enormous selection - I had to buy thes fun little 'aperitif" cheese tray, comes complete with the serving tray and little party picks :) Spent about 1/2 hours just perusing the aisles, taking it all in. This is one of my favourite parts about visiting other countries........it's a job hazard :) Chose a lovely jar of cherry confiture to go with our breakfast croissants, which I was eagerly anticipating. There's also interesting 'takes' on things we see here, like these smoked ham chips - not so far off from smoky bacon, but they definitely taste like ham. We discovered, at the till, unfortunately, that produce is weighed out and labelled by the customer, not punched in with codes at the till. So, with the long line behind us, we abandoned the fresh figs (lovely, supple and plump..........) and apples we had bagged up for that day.
Sauntered back to the apartment, packed our purchases away, and started drafting a plan of action for the following day.