So after I got myself to my Dimitri's house (I'll just call him by name now instead of awkwardly calling him "the host"), we shared a glass of wine and got acquainted before calling it a night and tucking into bed.
I met his lovely Boston terrier and second boyfriend (since he has a real boyfriend back in Greece, which I'll discuss in great detail in his couchsurfing bio), Shorty, who I loved from the instant I met him.
All in all it was an exhausting entrance into Paris but it was good.
The next day we both woke up really late. Either I've been fooling myself into thinking that I'm less tired than I actually am all the time (entirely possible) or his motorized (yes, you read that right: motorized) blackout curtains did the trick, because I didn't get up until close to 11am local time (which is really like 10am British time). Amazing. I don't usually make it past 8:30am, and that's pushing it.
Anyway he was awake by then as well and had come back from taking Shorty out for his morning routine (the normal go out and pee scenario) and so we planned out our day after eating fresh croissants and pan de chocolate. I will have to say, as someone who doesn't really care about bread in my daily life, croissants in France really are superior to any you can get in the rest of the world. Really, they are. I don't know how they do it...but they are just...magnificent. They're amazing. So lightly crispy and buttery and...amazing. I could eat them all day. Just plain. It was incredible. I'm pretty sure if I lived in Paris (and after spending a few days there, oddly I could see myself realistically doing so, despite my horrible French)...I would get actually fat. Unhealthily so.
Our plan for the day? Walk around and see some sights I didn't want to miss with my older, wizened eyes (and I mean this in a good way and a bad way - in that I wanted to see things as my older self but also that my eyesight is considerably worse than it used to be) and as an added bonus, take Shorty out for some long distance walking. Since Dimitri works all week like me he has to leave Shorty in the apartment all day. He feels terrible about this, so on the weekends he makes a special effort to spend as much time as possible with him, outdoors.
And so we were off. Our destinations? My requests were the Eiffel Tower and maybe one of the churches (not Notre Dame) that my bff Rhinda had recommended. Other than that and dropping by my manager's hotel in Pont Neuf to pick up my conference badge from reception (the real reason I was in Paris), we were pretty much free to roam.
We took the metro to get into the city center and start our walk off at an appropriate location. Walking all the way there from Dimitri's suburb would have taken a long time, and even though we were meant for walking that day, we didn't need that kind of walking.
Our first sight? The Arc de Triomphe.
To be honest it's been awhile since I've seen monuments of this variety (I know that sounds stupid coming from someone who travels as much as I do, but it's actually true). By this I mean - really famous ones. I travel a lot and I see a lot of things, but I tend to avoid the really famous monuments. For awhile I thought they'd ceased to be interesting. So seeing one after such a long absence was actually...really nice. It was gorgeous. I didn't go up to it, but it was beautiful. I could see the detail from where I was standing (safely on the other side of the huge road, not daring to cross the multiple unmarked lanes of traffic).
Dimitri was cute enough to pull up some history on the Arc on his phone and read it to me as I stared in wonderment. Very nice, this sort of historical tour. Easy too. And free.
After that we walked towards the Eiffel Tower, our real destination. You could see it peeking up over the buildings as we neared it. Sometimes I lost sight of it but invariably it always showed up again.
And suddenly we were at a beautiful viewpoint. I guess it had never occurred to me that you would be able to see the Eiffel from anywhere except right next to it or in a park in front of it, but of course there would be places like this. And it was gorgeous.
And even more amazingly, from this point, you can also walk straight down, past the fountains you can kind of see on the bottom right, down a gorgeous avenue, straight to the tower itself. It is a great walk. Lovely. And the sun was shining and all was good in the world. Before I knew it we were right under the tower.
It was a lot more beautiful than I had remembered it, from when I was younger. I am glad I decided to see it again, as an older person. I feel like I appreciated it more.
I am also extremely happy that I saw Paris as a younger person though, in all fairness. This meant that I'd already seen all of the touristy things you were supposed to see and I could focus on seeing and feeling the pulse of the city. I didn't need to see the Louvre, Versailles...I'd already seen them. And they were wonderful then and will remain to be in my memory. I was happy doing exactly what I was doing this time - walking around the city taking it all in with this newfound friend and his dog. It was great. It was literally like seeing it as a native (but not, since my French is terrible and I don't live there...but you get my point).
After seeing the Eiffel Tower in all its glory (and no, I didn't go up in it because I quickly decided that I was far too impatient to stand in the long line that waited beneath it), we walked around some more and eventually stopped at a small cafe to have an afternoon snack.
What did I order? Tarte tatin of course! My favorite of all favorite pies. OMG it is amazing. It's amazing everywhere though, this isn't a strictly in-France thing (in all honesty).
And this one was delicious, as it should be. The crust was very so-so actually, and the cream that came with it wasn't sweetened (as the Europeans seem not to do), so those were left behind, but the filling was divine. We had peach juice to go with it that was also amazing. They seem to like the nectars here. Big fan of the nectars.
The rest of the day was literally spent walking around random neighborhoods, stopping into stores (like Habitat, a gorgeous housewares store where everything is just a little too beautiful and expensive but you still want to buy everything anyway) and stopping by my manager's hotel in Pont Neuf to pick up the badge as I said. Wonderful day.
I took a nap as Dimitri went grocery shopping and then cooked me dinner (this really is a big thing with couchsurfing hosts, and I love it). He made us spaghetti with a fresh salad and garlic bread. It was heavenly after all of our walking. We also shared a bottle of French red wine and spent the night laughing and talking about all sorts of things.
Paris with a good friend is divine.
And that was the end of day 1.