Never give up the opportunity for a extra day in Paris.
My work/play tour schedule ended on a Saturday afternoon, with no need to be in Frankfurt, Germany, before Monday. So, I grabbed an October Sunday in Paris for myself. No plans, no schedule.
Rain would mean museums. Sun would dictate a long walk.
On the Internet, I found a single room at Hotel Cujas, on the Left Bank near the Sorbonne and close to a metro stop for the RER train to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Reviews from other travelers suggested the hotel was just ok – it was – and I wasn’t paying for charm, so I booked at 78 Euros a night ($215 for two nights) on booking.com.
I made the correct decision not to buy breakfast for an extra 7 Euros, as the breakfast room at Hotel Cujas was too warm, too crowded, and windowless; plenty of breakfast possibilities were nearby on St. Michel, even a Starbucks and a McDonald's, had I been so inclined.
On a sunny Sunday morning, fully croissanted and coffeed, I set out in my walking shoes with a grand plan to make a big circle tour of a city I last visited about 10 years ago. I ran out of day before I ran out of city.
I walked, rested, snacked, walked on
Through the Luxembourg Gardens, where Sunday brought out packs of Parisians, some with little boats for the pond; past the Rodin Museum (no museums today) and under the Eiffel Tower (If you’ve never been to the top, do it); across the Seine to the Arc de Triomphe from Napoleon’s time; along the Champs-Elysees, the backbone of Paris with its shops, outdoor restaurants and people-watching; through the Tuileries Garden and past the Louvre; across the Pont Neuf to Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame Cathedral; through the streets of Ile St. Louis; back across the Seine to the Pantheon, a favorite of mine because it houses the body of Victor Hugo and honors France’s best minds.
After a 15-minute nap back at my boring little hotel room, I headed for a nearby Left Bank restaurant recommended to me by a tour guide, Fish at 69 Rue de Seine. It opened at 7 p.m. I arrived at 7:10, and good that I did because on this Sunday night I captured the last little table not reserved for the evening.
No hurry, no worry on the Left Bank
Restaurants in France don't anticipate turning their tables over to new diners. Dinner is not a hurried affair. You may stay for three or four hours if you like -- and if you are an American you may want to tell your waiter you are not in a hurry, as our reputation in France is that we are.
For an evening, I sat in the middle of this delightfully active small restaurant, eating risotto with calamari, then sea brim with mushrooms on a bed of spinach, chewing French bread and sipping from a bottle of Vouvray, listening to snatches of conversation, mostly French I didn’t much understand, some English, feeling the good cheer and warmth of diners celebrating life in a thriving neighborhood in one of the great cities of the world.