For our second day in Paris, we only had one cultural activity on the agenda, the Louvre. Since we had both seen the great art trifecta on previous visits (the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo), our only objectives were to visit the newly renovated Greek rooms (Charles’ pick) and Napoleon’s apartment (my pick). We got very lost trying to find both, but we didn’t mind because exploring the museum was the main idea. All of the rooms were magnificent!
After several hours of wandering around, we were very ready for lunch. We settled upon the Louvre’s international food court for a fast and semi-reasonably priced meal. I ordered from the French station, since we were in France and French food is one of my favorite cuisines.
Following our late lunch, we visited the mall under the Louvre, stopping at the Mac store to check an address online, and of course visiting the museum gift store. We left the Louvre and walked along the parallel Rue de Rivoli, where I showed Charles Angelina’s tea salon and the Philippe Starck renovated Maurice Hotel. We then switched over to the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which has very fashionable shops and great people watching. Our first stop was Colette, the original concept store and the coolest shop I’ve ever seen (concept stores are trendy lifestyle stores that sell everything from clothing to music, books, perfume, candles, the latest high tech gadgets, etc…).
Our next stop was the Hermes flagship store. I looked at scarfs and sampled some perfumes, but I didn’t buy anything because the Euro was killing me and the NY stores have the same selection (this was an ongoing theme on our shopping excursions as I realized that almost all of my favorite French products are now available in NY for practically the same prices).
After Hermes we walked over to the Place Vendome, which is a big square known for the famous jewelry stores. It is also the location of the Ritz Hotel, where Princess Diana had her last meal. I wanted to visit the Hemingway Bar, but it didn’t open until cocktail hour. Although the bar was closed, I enjoyed walking through the ground floor sitting rooms, which were quiet/empty and a relaxing change from the Louvre and Rue de Rivoli. We tried to visit the nearby famous toyshop Au Nain Bleau, but it was closed for renovation (Time Out Guide DOUBLE FAIL).
By dusk we were tired of walking and decided it was a good time for a bateaux mouche cruise/tour of the Seine. Bateaux mouche is both a name for a type of boat tour and the oldest company that operates such tours. I was a bit confused about the launch point for Bateaux Mouche, so we walked in the opposite direction and eventually settled for a Vedettes de Pont-Neuf boat instead. At 13 Euros, the tour was slightly more than Bateaux Mouche, but the boat was festively decorated with flower garlands and old fashion streetlights (a little hokey, but pretty). This was my third time taking a Seine boat cruise, but it was the first time I’ve actually listened to the guide and I learned a lot about the history of the buildings and bridges of Paris. The tour also helped me get a bearing on the geography of the city.
When the boat tour ended, it was dinnertime and we decided upon Chez Omar, my favorite couscous restaurant in Paris. Chez Omar is a little inauthentic because the décor resembles a traditional French brasserie, but the food is delicious and very well priced. I ordered merguez (spicy lamb sausage), which came with couscous, vegetable stew, and spicy harissa sauce. The restaurant offers free refills of the couscous and vegetable stew, but I didn’t get it because the portions were more than generous.
After dinner we headed back to my friend’s apartment in the 10th arrondissemont (= neighborhood) and went for a nightcap at the local hangout Chez Prune. The star attraction of the 10th is the Canal St. Martin and Chez Prune was one of the first bars to open facing it. The neighborhood is now very trendy and the bar is considered the bobos (bourgeois bohemians) headquarters, so sitting and people watching made for a relaxing and entertaining way to end the day.