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Earlier this month, two friends from Wisconsin made the trek across the pond for a European vacation.  Even though their trip was guided by two major bikes races, Paris Roubaix, and Ronde van Vlaanderen, our friends had time for some traditional tourist fun.  On Monday, after the Ronde van Vlaanderen race, they took a train from Belgium to Luxembourg and were able to spend a couple of days here.  Then we hopped onto the TGV to Paris for a whirlwind two-day one-night tour of the city of light.  This was their first trip to Europe, so I was happy to be able to show them around a bit.

Their first night in Luxembourg, we stayed home and cooked dinner.  Not the most exciting option, but I figured a break from dining out would be nice.  Plus, that was Jordan’s only night home, so we were all able to catch up together without having to worry about talking over crowded restaurant noise.  The next day we kept busy with a dog walk in the forest near our house, a walking tour of downtown Luxembourg, and a bike ride to the Mosel.  It was nice to be able to show some friends from home what our life is like here.

The next day, we were up early and headed to the train station to go to Paris.  We arrived in Paris with time to check into our hotel and drop off our bags before having an early lunch.  I put together a walking route of the city that would hit all the major Paris landmarks, and I sprinkled in gastronomy stops along the way at places where I’d never been but wanted to try.

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Clockwise from top left: Eiffel Tower, sweets at La Grade Epicerie de Paris, Mexican food in Paris, Croque Monsieur at Le Nemrod.

The first food stop was lunch at Le Nemrod for Croque Monsieurs, based on a recommendation from Expat Edna.  The service there was great – they even brought is a carafe of tap water! – and the cost was reasonable.  I never had a Croque Monsieur before, but it was basically a piece of bread with a slice of ham on top and a bunch of cheese melted on top of that.  I guess I was expecting something less simple than that, but nonetheless, it tasted good, and it filled us up.

Next we walked to the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero, then we hiked over to the Arc de Triomphe.  Then we walked down the Champs Elysees, past the Grand Palais, and to the Seine.  We walked along the river to Place de la Concorde, and then up through the Tuileries to the Louvre.  By then we were all good and tired and more than ready for our next gastronomy stop, Angelina.

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Chocolat Chaud and a dessert at Angelina.  Luckily for us, this was the line when we left the restaurant; it was considerably shorter when we arrived.

Angelina is right on the Rue de Rivoli, so I probably walked by it at least half a dozen times in previous visits to Paris.  I remember walking by and seeing the picture-perfect desserts in the window and figuring it was something too hoity-toity for me.  But since then, I’ve read in several different places that their chocolat chaud is an iconic Parisien experience that is not to be missed, so I decided we needed to try it.  When we got there, there was a short line to wait for seating, but it moved quickly, and when we got a table, we were tremendously relieved to be able to take a load off our feet for a while.  We all ordered Chocolat Chauds and a dessert, and they were indeed delicious.  I think I have to add this to my normal list of places I take people when we go to Paris.

After a good rest and healthy jolt of sugar, we were ready to finish off our walking tour which took us down Rue de Rivoli then along the Seine to Notre Dame.  There was a line to get into Notre Dame, but like always, it moved quickly.  By that time, we had walked over 10 km on the hard concrete/cobbled streets of Paris, so after walking through the church, we were more than ready to head back to our hotel and recombobulate before dinner.

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Some Paris landmarks: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame.  Notre Dame was celebrating its 150th anniversary, so there were bleachers set up in front of the cathedral.

For dinner, I was thrilled that our guests humored me and agreed to go out for Mexican food.  I found a restaurant close to our hotel that is owned by a couple; the wife is originally from the U.S., and the husband, who is the chef, is originally from Mexico.  The restaurant is called Fajitas.  The food was delicious, although I have to admin the burrito kicked my butt.  I could only eat about half of it before I was too full to even look at it.  It seems that my burrito-eating ability has atrophied since living here.  Very sad! :(

My idea with Day 1 was to give my friends a good idea of the city so that they could decide what they wanted to sink their teeth into on Day 2.  They decided to spend the morning at the Louvre and then in the afternoon, we headed to Sacre Coeur.  It’s interesting to hear different people’s opinions of the ‘best aerial view of the city,’ but in my opinion, for the price (free) and the time (no waiting in line), you can’t beat Sacre Coeur.  Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, so the view wasn’t as beautiful as normal, but it was still nice.

After a stroll through Montmartre, it was back to the hotel to pick up our suitcases and onto the train station.  Then back to Luxembourg to reset for the last leg of their trip.