A June 2005 trip
to Paris by joellevand
Quote: This is the story of what happens when you take one clinically mad American writer and her English comic artist and writer boyfriend, hand them three-hundred euros, and throw them in Paris for a three day holiday while waiting for a new UK visa.
However, the Metro isn’t always the easiest way to get into the city – especially if you’re traveling for the first time, are saddled with massive amounts of luggage, and aren’t sure about navigating the streets yet. There are various taxi and shuttle services to and from the Gare du Nord (where the Eurostar disembarks) and Charles de Gaulle airport. The most important thing, of course, is knowing which to use.
Licensed Paris cab services have come highly recommended to me by various people, but going for the cheapest option, David and I went with Paris Shuttle, whose drivers are more maniacal behind the wheel than a coked-up chauffeur, especially when it comes to those infamous dangerous Parisian tunnels.
Hotel | "Amarys Simart"
Looking down the long, winding six flights of stairs leading from our room to the ground floor of the Hotel Amarys Simart is enough to give anyone vertigo. An ancient, Victorian-styled six-story hotel in the heart of the artist district Monmartre, only a few minute stroll from Sacre Coure basilica, the Hotel Amarys Simart is a beautiful accommodation with more style than comfort. It is located between two easily accessible Métro stops, near several convenience stores and a Champion supermarche, and within walking distance of Paris’ famed Red Light District and the Gare du Nord (North Station) train stop, which is your point of entry if you enter Paris from London via the EuroStar. An inexpensive little spot off the beaten path, the hotel staff speak in broken English and fluent African-French, which can lead to misunderstandings where amenities such as a supposed “free” breakfast is concerned. We’d spent the first day wandering the streets of Paris on foot, and the next morning wandered down the six flights of steps (there’s no elevator in the hotel) tired, sun-burnt, and half-dead, ready to settle into a nice pastry and cup of coffee. We were sipping the last of our orange juice, rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to face the day, when the concierge called us over to the front desk and asked us if we were aware that breakfast had an additional charge. “It’s included with our tour package,” I tried to explain in both English and my textbook-perfect French, but to little avail. He continued to insist we would have to pay 6€ for each breakfast, and considering it had taken the clerk the previous day 10 minutes to find our reservation, we decided not to argue and simply declined the offer of breakfast the next morning. The rooms are also a bit less than expected. Our “double-bed suite” consisted of two twin beds pushed together, a small wardrobe, and a miniscule bathroom. And I mean miniscule. At the height of 5’3”, I could sit on the toilet and simultaneously wash my feet off in the shower across from it, my legs spanning the width of the space in front of a sink you cannot wash your face in due to a large glass shelf that sticks out over the sink at about chest level. Our room’s “draped balcony opening onto a scenic Paris view” consisted of floor-to-ceiling windows that did swing open like a door, only to show us the same windows of a house across the street, the “balcony” being a 6-inch space between the window ledge and small ironwork railing. Still, all in all, it was a nice little hotel that, while lacking the amenities of larger hotels such as air-conditioning, telephone service, and an elevator, was quaint and cozy and provided us with a room for a ridiculously good rate (about $70/night).
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 18, 2005
Hotel Amarys Simart
7 Rue Simart
Paris, France 75018
+33 (0)1 46 06 83 87
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 18, 2005
American Dream Diner
21 rue Daunou
Paris, France 75009
+33 42 60 99 89
There are blisters on blisters and my legs are ready to cave backwards, broken like a veal calf, when we stumble down the rue Daunou and into Harry’s New York Bar. Like Rick’s American Cafe in Casablanca, this place is the sort of watering hole in the who’s who of American ex-pats. Hemmingway, the Fitzgerald’s, and that whole jazz-era crew used to congregate here, and it retains a strange, comforting old-new Ameri-Euro charm that the American Dream Diner two shops down seriously lacks.
The entire place screams classic old world, from the dark mahogany tables to the dark wood-panelled walls and red-leather booths. The bar itself is styled more on old ‘40s soda shops, and even the bartenders wear white apothecary coats.
Asthmatics and those with sensitive disposition beware: everyone smokes, and their brands of choice are always heavy French cigarettes that leave a coat of second-hand smoke in your lungs for weeks afterward. The drink menu is rather limited, but what it lacks in trendy cosmos and apple martinis, it makes up for in ambience, though the bartenders do mix a mean screwdriver and a fresh bowl of salted mixed nuts is complimentary with every round.
Harry’s is a tourist trap that isn’t, the typical uber-American tourists usually dissuaded when they walk in with their maps and travel guides, dressed in ruddy jeans and Hard Rock Café shirts. They cough at the thin, grey haze in the air, and if they make it past the smoke, they’re usually lost when it comes to order, staring at the mirrored wall behind the bar. Sorry, folks, no drink list here, just patches, pennants, and bottles of unfamiliar spirits as far as you can see.
I’m nursing my third rather pricey screwdriver of the evening, feeling the vodka work on my brain as I scribble hasty notes into my travel journal: writing is simpler intoxicated, as word-flow is easier, less inhibited. I take it all in: the nearly black-wood floor worn thin in heavily-trafficked areas, the green-and-white-stained glass door, and the framed old, worn, and faded pennants of American colleges and crests of English universities. On one wall is the American standard of signage alerting the reader that Harry’s is exactly 4,278 miles from Wall Drug, that strange slice of 1950s Americana in the middle of South Dakota.
I could live here in this booth, in this bar, never moving, always drinking. Omnipresent. No wonder Ernest and Scott drank and wrote here, with its Parisian bustle and film noir ambience.
Next to me, David is writing furiously, scribbling a prose I will simply never be allowed to read. In the booth ahead of us, a white-haired old man in a suit unwraps a matted sketch from its brown paper jacket, un cadeau, one of the few French words I know, along with merci, sil vous plait, and excusez-moi. They’re the only words you need at Harry’s, thankfully, so I order another round.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 19, 2005
Harry's New York Bar
5 rue Daunou
Paris, France 75002
+33 1 42 61 71 14
Edgewater Park, New Jersey