48 Hours Holding Our Breath in Paris

Like London and New York, Paris always feels like the first visit. This time, however, you could cut the tension in the air as a divided country decided on a close presidential race between opposite poles.

Eurostar will always amaze me: 2+ hours from Pancras International in the heart of Central London to Gare Du Nord in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, without commuting to the airport at least 2 hours in advance—and leaving your laptop and toiletries inside your bag!

Amtrak could never.

We arrived in The City of Light to make our 10:15 PM reservation at Le Villaret, an old favorite and one of the many French restaurants pummeled by private-flying wealthy foreigners trying to deplete their precious wine programs.

Ever the political junkies, my partner and I kept refreshing our phones to the locals’ chagrin for news about the all-important presidential run-off that would take place on Sunday.

President Emanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen would face off in a contest eerily reminiscent of the Trump vs. Hillary fight in America and the controversial British vote to leave the European Union.

No wonder the French were edgy.

The Russo-Ukrainian War added another layer of tension to the French presidential contest

After closing the restaurant, as one does, a quick Uber ride took us to the thick of Le Marais, where a massive queue made it impossible to enter Le Raidd. Maybe it was for the better as a packed journey of walking and sightseeing awaited the following day.

The real treat came in the morning as we popped into the nearby Café La Perle, where designer John Galliano went on his pathetic anti-Semitic rant on the early days of social media.

We wolfed down on tartine (the delicious yet straightforward baguette with butter and jam) and a couple of allonger coffees.

Paris is the most walkable of all walkable cities.

A good stroll across both banks of The Seine would parade you through The Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Louvre Museum and Tuileries Garden.

Other landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Cœur at Montmartre, Champs-Élysées and the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery require longer walks or a quick Uber or Metro ride.

Sitting around the font at Les Tuileries to rest one’s feet is a very Paris thing to do

The cultural differences between French and Americans are (in)famous. And it’s fair to say that, occasionally, both sides contribute to annoying their counterpart.

But we had never experienced a bad service bordering on rudeness as at Le Climats, which is a shame because their food and wine program are outstanding. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t that full.

Luckily, with Paris being Paris, there’s not a shortage of places with equally good food and libations and a genuinely lovely service that makes you want to go back. 

If you’re looking for it, I recommend Parcelles (young, hipster vibe) and La Cagouille (a little off the beaten path, passing Montparnasse).

The latter serves one of the most fantastic fish and seafood I’ve ever tried. 

“Let me take a photo pretending I’m holding the Eiffel Tower,” said no one ever

Sunday afternoon, we took Le Metro to Champ de Mars, the Eiffel Tower’s gardens.

A huge stage had been installed that presumably had to do with the presidential election, judging by the number of French flags flying in the background. It was about 5 PM, and the polls would close 3 hours later.

Unfortunately, it was time for us to head back to Hotel du Petit Moulin, our cozy and charming digs from where we had checked out that morning, to retrieve our bags and make our way to the train station.

We still had time for a pint, so we popped in Cox, our favorite gay beer blast in Paris, hoping to perhaps watch the election returns on a big screen March Madness-style, but we were too early for the crowd and they had no TVs. 

After about 20 minutes of watching our lone bartender trying to bum a cigarette from a passerby, we moved down the block to Open Café.

We were looking for a Club Sandwich, so we didn’t have to rely on Eurostar’s late and tiny dinner (however impressive it is that a train serves an airplane-style meal).

Gare du Nord: time to catch the last Eurostar back to London

Sadly, some Paris cooks go home on Sunday afternoon. And, since it was around 6:30 PM already, we had to go by with sparkling water and diet coke before popping into a nearby Thai joint.

Am I the only one who thinks that although Thai food probably won’t blow your mind, it is consistently hearty and satisfying wherever you are?

We kept refreshing our Twitter feeds. Still no election returns. Even though Macron had a solid 10-point lead in the polls, people were nervous. “We’ve seen this movie before,” I remember thinking.

Every time we said “Macron” or “Le Pen” over our dinner conversation, the tables nearby flinched.

As we rode Le Uber to Gare du Nord, the refreshing finally worked, and we saw Macron projected as the victor.

His voters erupted in joy on Champ de Mars, where we just had been a few hours ago.

Fifty-eight percent of French voters (and us) were relieved. France had dodged a bullet.

For now.

Au revoir, París. Until next time

Author: Alex Marin

Natural-born explorer and storyteller. I grew up in Caracas and moved to New York City 20 years ago to pursue a career in media, which led me to work with broadcasting and tech companies. Last year, one month into my dream job with a famous social network, I had a significant health event that forced me to learn how to walk again. And now I'm training for the New York Marathon. All the words and photos in this blog are mine. You can reach me at videotravelalex@gmail.com. Cheers!

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