Sleepless in Paris

I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping in Paris. This is particularly unusual for me since I’m an avid sleeper at home. Even Paul is concerned and surprised by my inability to rest. It is not often that he sleeps better or more than I do. Yet here in Paris, the roles have been reversed. He sleeps, I don’t. Which is exactly the reason for no blog post yesterday. Paul was pleased to find me, for the first time since we got here, sprawled out in a deep sleep on the couch after dinner last night. I’m not sure how long I actually slept, but when I did wake from my much needed nap, Paul insisted I go straight to bed. So I did.

There are many factors contributing to my sleep problem. Of course, like any city, the streets here are noisy and my body seems unable to ignore all of the sounds that echo beneath our windows. In addition to the noise, I’ve been unable to adjust to the length of daylight. I am unable to comprehend going to bed when it is still bright outside at 10pm. Finally, I think the most critical factor in my lack of sleep comes from me not wanting to miss anything. After all, I’m in Paris! Surely there is something to see or do rather than sleep!

We went to see the Eiffel Tower yesterday. I had big plans of enjoying the view with my feet up in the park. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with my plans. The clouds rolled in just as soon as we emerged from the depths of the Trocadero Metro station. While the rain held off until hours later, we were sure to make our visit to the tower a short one. With no umbrella, we were certain we’d be soaked if we stayed any longer.

The pre-engagement dinner location.

We did get a chance to visit the cafe that Paul took me to for dinner prior to the big engagement. This is not the place Paul intended to take me that night, but since Chez Agnes, the restaurant he had planned for, was closed on that particular evening, he settled for this cafe nearby. This was my first real meal in Paris. I’ll never forget feasting on steak frites and nearly pinching myself in disbelief over being just steps away from the Eiffel Tower.

Unbeknownst to me there was a ring burning a hole in Paul’s pocket, forcing him to leave the table several times to retreat to the bathroom to either practice his speech or reassure himself that the ring was still there. I remember being worried about his health and I think I even insisted he see a doctor as soon as we returned home. I convinced myself there must be something wrong with someone who needs to go to the bathroom that much.

Of course, all of that was long forgotten soon after as I was twirling beneath the Eiffel Tower with a shiny diamond and a trembling fiancé. The poor guy was so nervous about the whole thing, yet it went off without a hitch. He even timed it so that his knee would hit the ground as soon as the lights to the tower began to sparkle. There was so much joy that even a homeless man tried to join in the celebration just seconds after the proposal. When we refused his hug and tried to escape, he roared at me like a lion. I screamed and we quickly made our exit. Then Paul worried that being chased down and roared at by a homeless man may have ruined the magic of the evening. I think it added a fun twist to an already good story.

Like I said in a previous post, the Eiffel Tower is quite a distance from our apartment. It was a good half hour ride on the crowded and hot Metro. We were packed into those subway cars like sardines yesterday and, since the Metro isn’t air conditioned, it was just as stinky too. By the time we returned to our apartment, we were both a sweaty mess. We decided that when our mothers get here, we will take them to and from the Eiffel Tower by boat. A more expensive option yes, but certainly more scenic and comfortable.

There was something beautiful about seeing Paris in the rain yesterday. We got soaked on the way to dinner since neither one of us thought to pack an umbrella. Yet there was something about sitting beneath the awning of a cafe watching the Parisians rush by, shielding themselves from the rain with their fancy and fashionable umbrellas. I never thought I’d find a rainy day to be so intriguing. It was like they’d planned their outfits with the impending rain. I particularly took notice of a lady in a bright magenta dress with a black and white polka dotted and ruffled umbrella. I was so impressed at how perfectly coordinated she was, even how put together she looked while walking through a downpour.

We ate at Comptoir de la Gastronomie again last night. Paul really wanted the cassoulet and I was eager to try the onion soup. We made an evening of it and found ourselves walking back to the apartment a good three hours later. This is probably why I slept so well last night. I was well fed with a full belly.

We started out with an appetizer of mixed meats, some of which I had never seen or heard of before. They were beautifully arranged on a wooden cutting board topped with gherkin pickles and a side of salad and bread. The meats were tender and delicious. Our waiter, who was lovely, spoke beautiful English and helped us throughout the entire meal. He even showed me the proper way to eat escargot when he saw me struggling to release the little snail from its shell. After the meat and escargot came our cassoulet and onion soup.

Since I was old enough to eat solid food, my mother has made the very best French onion soup. It was one of my favorite childhood meals, a tuna sandwich with toasted bread and a side of French onion soup. She didn’t make the actual soup from scratch, but she assembled the bread and the cheese in such a way that you’d be tempted to lick the bowl clean. She taught me from the beginning that a good bowl of French onion soup requires stale bread and plenty of Swiss cheese with lots of holes in it. No restaurant could ever outdo or even match my mother’s version of French onion soup. Until now.

The onion soup at Comptoir de la Gastronomie is divine and while it is assembled differently with the bread on top instead of the bottom (my mom is gasping in horror right now as she insists it must be on the bottom), it tastes just like my mom’s. And while my mother’s soup will always be number one in my heart, I think even she might agree that this version is pretty darn good. I’m certainly impressed that a gal whose never been to France has been rocking out a pretty decent and close to the real thing version of French onion soup for most of her life. Good job Ma!

I will blog again later today, but now its time to get out of here for the morning so that the cleaning lady can come and change our sheets and towels. Thank goodness I won’t be fighting the French washing machine in that respect. This apartment came with a weekly cleaning service included in the price and, after dealing with the French appliances in this place, I’m thankful for small miracles. Yes, I’ve even had a run in with the stove, but I won’t get into that story.

One more thing before we begin another beautiful day in Paris-we did check to see if Chez Agnes is indeed closed for good. It is. Our favorite Parisian place to dine has been replaced with a new and modern looking restaurant. We will miss you Agnes wherever you are. You’d be happy to hear that the overly excited couple who dined at your restaurant post engagement, have now been happily married for two years. Thanks for the memories…

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