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Springtime in Paris

by Tracy on

Guess where we are? I've always wanted to see Paris, It's practically a universal phrase, spoken by people of varying ages and nationalities throughout the world. Given this, its no surprise Paris is the number one tourist destination on the planet. Knowing this, gives one a better understanding of the Parisian's famous penchant towards snobby behavior- their city is constantly bombarded with masses of tourists. The population of Paris is two and a half million residents- more than- ten times that number (30 million) visit the city every year. Parisians get a brief reprieve in the dead of winter, but even then, they never have their city completely to themselves. The tourists arrive year-round, they crowd the streets, shops, restaurants, parks, and museums- they pack the large tour busses that endlessly snake their way through the city's center. For the most part, they treat the city as if it were a theme park instead of a place that is someone's home. They seem always in a hurry- never really stopping to experience the city the way Parisians would like them to. They speak every language imaginable except French.

It's May, and contrary to the famous song, the weather and spring flowers are much nicer now than in April. We're enjoying an evening in Paris the way few visitors do- from the balcony of a Parisian apartment. The apartment is the home of Chantal Arnaud, the aunt of Thierry Pouille, who owns Air Journey, the company managing our round the world adventure. Chantal is everything one would expect in a Parisian woman; lovely, stylish, self assured, and an excellent hostess. Her home is on the top floor, located in one of the most desirable neighborhoods, and has a dramatic view of the Eiffel Tower. The most popular tourist site in Paris, the tower underwent a face lift a few years ago and now sports an eye popping light show every evening just after sunset. It's twinkling strobe and laser light display initially had mixed reviews amongst the French, but is popular with visitors. Later, we'll be having dinner at Jules Vern, the famous restaurant located near the top of the tower, but for now, we're enjoying some champagne and cheese while taking in the tower's dramatic profile at sunset.

Even our champagne glasses are an effigy of the landmark

Chantal has owned and lived in this apartment for thirty years. When she first moved in, she didn't pay much attention to the tower, most Parisians don't. After about ten years, she explains, the tower started to grow on her, until she realized she really liked it. These days, the Eiffel Tower has become something of a passion for Chantal, a collection of tower statues and imagery decorates the apartment, friends and visitors regularly bring her unusual and artistic versions of the tower as well as clippings and news stories. On one shelf sits a specially mounted advertisement for a pair of ladies high heeled designer dress shoes shaped like the tower, a statue of the tower that doubles as a holder of tower shaped candies is nearby along with another, more sculptural version, done in polished barbed wire. Chatting with our hostess, I notice she's wearing a lovely gold necklace adorned with tiny Eiffel Towers. Even our champagne glasses are an effigy of the landmark.

Great food The Jules Vern restaurant has been a landmark of its own for many years, "Twenty years ago," according to Chantal, "it was very good, and we went regularly, but it declined over the years until it became quite bad." She stopped going for a time, during the restaurant's darker period when its two Michelin stars were taken away. Now with new management, and a new head chef, the Jules Vern is regaining past glory. Reservations must be made months in advance, the menu is table d'hôte (prixe fixe) and is set according to what the chef is making that evening. It's surprisingly small for such a famous place. We arrived by private elevator; no less than twenty staff members greeted us as we entered. The dinner began with an appetizer consisting of a terrine of pressed duck and duck liver, accompanied by a crostini topped with truffle, and continued for eight more courses including two desert courses. Decadent to be sure, but highly enjoyable. The food competed handily with the view throughout the evening- both fantastic. Chantal joined us at our table and said it was one of the better meals she'd had at Jules Vern, Parisians tend to be reserved in their opinions so I'm guessing we really did have a great meal.

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