Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our European Honeymoon, Part 2: Paris!

Yesterday, I started talking about the first leg of the European Honeymoon we took at the beginning of October. After those two-and-a-half short days in London, we checked out of our hotel and got ready for the next leg of our trip: Paris! Before that, though, we were able to squeeze in a quick trip to the beautiful Highgate Cemetery, locale for some '60s Hammer horror films. (Yes, we dig cemeteries and no we're not Goths.) This place was really something else, though, and if we had all day, we would have spent it there, pretending that Christopher Lee was chasing us through the tombs. And from what I'm aware of, we didn't even get to visit the more scenic portion of it!

After rushing back to our hotel to grab our extremely HEAVY luggage, we headed off to King's Cross Station and boarded the Eurostar train. WOW! What a ride! Within a short time, we were gazing upon the quiet, relaxing French countryside. I sat in the train, thinking about and practicing the French I had learned from a couple of Rosetta Stone lessons I had taken in preparation for the trip. Armed with these lessons and the French I learned back in college, I knew I'd be alright. That was, until the conducter announced our arrival. Her English was nice and slow for any non-native speakers on board. But her French was 5 times the speed I was used to with Rosetta Stone!

Shaken to the core by that reality, I hauled our bags off the train and walked out into the station. All the French I had learned had completely evaporated into thin air as I struggled to find the French words for 'toilet' and 'ATM'.  After almost an hour of walking around, lost and confused, we finally got our act together and hailed a taxi to our friends' flat in Paris. Now, I'm not used to apartment-living in Paris, so I thought our taxi driver was pulling one over on us as he dropped us off in front of what looked like a closed store-front. But then, we were pleasantly greeted by our friend Gabriela who came down to let us in! And the first thing that came to mind when she opened the large door which opened into the apartment complex: the living space in Truffaut's Bed and Board! Already, I was in love with Paris.
Apartment living in Paris, via Bed and Board.
But then I came face-to-face with the 3-story, winding, narrow stairway in front of us! After my experience hauling our luggage up to our hotel room in London, I wanted to cower away from that stairway. But I gathered up my courage, lest Irene and Gabriela think I was any less of a man, and gathered up my luggage. I huffed, puffed, and whimpered up those 3 flights of stairs and then stopped at the top to catch my breath and wipe the sweat away from my forehead. "I'll be down for Irene's suitcase in a bit," I yelled down. "Don't worry, I got it," I heard Gabriela call back. Sure enough, she grabbed Irene's GIANT suitcase and walked up those stairs with ease and a pleasant smile. People in Paris don't let stairs get in their way!

They also don't let sidewalks get in their way. I always felt pretty proud about the amount of walking we do here in the Bay Area. Heck, I'll admit it... I even get cocky about the amount of walking we do out here. Well, Paris humbled me. That first evening, we walked to Gabriela's friend's restaurant. And when I say we 'walked,' what that really means is we 'walked and walked and walked and walked.' But it was a good thing, because after I filled my belly with all that delicious food and wine, I appreciated the exercise and the scenery. Upon our arrival at the restaurant, we met up with Gabriela's boyfriend Serge, our American friend Scotty, and their friends Jean-Marc and Theirry. It was a fantastic welcome to Paris!
Gabriela and Serge, our hosts for the week, with the French Boutik demo!
The following week was filled with great weather (overcast, cold, rainy... just like San Francisco!), amazing sites, long but enjoyable walks, and perfect food and wine.
Visiting François Truffaut at Montmarte.
Oh, we saw the museums, the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Montmartre and Pere-Lachaise cemeteries, and much more!
Including this store front with crocheted Mondrian outfits for the whole family!
One of the highlights of the trips was a 4-hour Fat Tire bike tour through the streets of Paris in the rain. I hadn't ridden a bike in over 10 years and after 5 minutes on one, I was struggling and cursing, telling Irene, "never again." However, after about 15 minutes into the ride, I wanted to spend the whole day on the bike and we decided we'd take the same bike tour in Barcelona.

We also got to know the Metro very well during our trip. By the end of the week, I had that map almost memorized. There was only one problem we found with the Metro: the lightning-speed doors! We thought the Underground train doors closed too fast, but those Metro doors were even worse! Irene commented that you need to be quick otherwise you risk getting splinched. (Yes, because not only is she skilled with Jam references, she also has a talent for Harry Potter ones as well.) Paris, slow them doors down!

I'm speeding through our days in Paris because how many times do you need to hear how beautiful the Seine is or how breathtaking the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is? No, what made our trip one-of-a-kind was what our hosts Gabriela and Serge had in store for us! For our second evening, they reserved us a table for a nice honeymoon dinner at the Restaurant Astier. We took our time through appetizers, a cheese plate, the main courses, dessert, and, oh yes, bottles of wine! Next time you're in Paris, do yourself a favor and make a reservation for Astier!

And as luck would have it, one of our Oakland friends, Bart Davenport, was also in Paris playing a show with his band Honeycut, so we all decided to check it out. Honeycut are hard to describe... part soul, part funk, part electronica, part indie, and all kinds of awesome! For those of you who've purchased Mac computers in the last few years, you probably know Honeycut and didn't even realize it. It's their song, 'Exodus Honey,' which plays during the installation process when you start your computer for the first time. Take it from me, these guys just blew their audience away with a great sound and a energetic stage presence. (See, and you thought 'Mod' music was all I listened to. What can I say? I've got layers.)

The following evening, our hosts invited several of their friends over as a little welcome party for us. Y'know, in the U.S., I think the French get a bad rap. All we hear about is how they don't like Americans or how snobby they are or how Freedom Fries taste better than French Fries. Well, I'm here to set you straight. Everyone we met that evening was extremely kind and warm. I felt horrible since my French was so out of commission, but everyone there let us off the hook by doing their best to speak English. The evening was filled with great soul and ska, spun by Serge, drunken photos, taken by Scotty, and great conversations provided by everyone. We talked about music, politics, literature, the Revolution, Impressionism, and, for some reason, The Specials' "Friday Night, Saturday Morning," which was the song of the week between Serge and Scotty. We couldn't believe the welcome we were given that evening!

Mod style uniting French and American cultures!
Of course, this knocked us out for the next night which was supposed to be the start of the Maximum R&B Mod Weekender. We started the evening having dinner with Gabriela, Serge, and an old friend, Sunny Buick, and her husband Laurent (Ugly Things music reviewer). It was such a great start to the evening as we talked about old club days, common friends in the U.S., and their lives in Paris. Unfortunately, after dinner, our previous day's partying caught up with us hard. By the time we reached the bar where the club night was happening, I felt my head start to pound and my body losing energy. Eventually, all of us called it an early night and made our way back through the streets of Paris.

We were refreshed for Sunday evening, though, in time to catch Gabriela and Serge's band French Boutik as part of the weekender. We met more great people that evening and dug on the French Boutik sounds... a really great mix of '60s soul and pop with a French twist. (See, is it any wonder why I don't write about music or write review records? "With a French Twist?" Sorry guys... best I could come up with.) Despite my lack of music reviewing ability, we loved them! They reminded us a little of Makin' Time, one of our favorite 1980s Mod bands! Want a little taste of what they're about? Dig their site here and click the song links.
French Boutik in action!
More French Boutik! (Photo by Fred Eagle.)
Bart, me, and Irene in Paris! (Photo by Fred Eagle.)
After French Boutik's set, we spent the rest of the evening dancing to great mixes of '60s soul and R&B spun by DJ's Denis Wild and Lord Julian. So many of our favorite tunes were spun that night... if my legs were tired from walking, they were about to fall off after dancing.

Our time in Paris ended with wine, cheese, and meats with our new friends Jean-Marc and Sophie, followed by great drinks at Baron Samedi with Gabriela, Serge, and Scotty. These three people helped make our trip extraordinary. Scotty helped us weave through the Metro system, acted as intermediary when we had trouble communicating, and documented a great week with his fantastic photos. Gabriela and Serge were hosts who went beyond their duty, setting us up with restaurants, figuring out things to do in the evenings, introducing us to great people, and providing us with laughs, good talks, and a fantastic experience overall.

Also, it was great to see how Parisian Mods laid down the cool. There was an elegance to their casual wear that really hit me. Button-down shirts with flat bottoms, slim, colorful trousers, and smooth, narrow shoes. Before this trip, I wasn't much interested in doing Mod stuff in Europe with the thought that Mods in one country were probably the same in all countries. Serge and his friends proved me wrong.  Yes, I took some mental notes and will be paying a visit to my tailor very soon with some ideas.

Oh yeah... and I also have to thank them for introducing me to Adèle Blanc-Sec! Could it be? Am I turning Francophile? Well, I can't be blamed really as our time in Paris was just that great. But now, it was time to say goodbye to our hosts and prepare ourselves for our next stop: Barcelona!
Thank you Gabs and Serge for the fantastic time!
Tomorrow (or the next day), the conclusion of our European (Moddish) Vacation!


  1. I just commented on FB... I am OUT of it.

    But I know exactly what you mean about THOSE STAIRS. Aie yie yie! But thanks for such a great post -- I was totally living vicariously through you!

    And awesome writing as always.

  2. Great pics and text! I was lucky to run into Gabriela and Serge at a Dean Parrish gig in NYC last summer, lovely folks!

  3. All the pics are awesome.Paris is a good place to spend your honeymoon.Your female better half will love Paris because Paris is famous for its perfume and clothe.And Woman likes shopping very much.

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