I've spent a few days in Paris, visiting some old haunts from my study abroad days. I was given the best FREAKING (there it is again) host family for my semester in Paris. I lived with Noelle and her son Alexis in the 16th arrondissement (across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower), and they are the best French family anyone can ask for. Noelle cooks wonderful food, offers to do my laundry, and most importantly, lets me stay with her whenever I come to Paris. (She has also given me a key and has said that I can leave my stuff with her while I'm traveling around Europe and doing my pilgrimage. So I think I will end up traveling in and out of Paris five times during this trip.) And Alexis is a man with a developmental disability that is super welcoming ("Bill!! Ca va?") and always does the dishes. He was one of the main reasons why I decided to join L'Arche. Though I must admit that I was disappointed that the core members didn't do the dishes. (Just kidding. Sorta.)
With "my" apartment in the 16th as my base, I've walked all over the city with my stomach as the guide. I think I've met all the food requirements for a trip to Paris: lots of pastries, a nutella-banana crepe from the green crepe stand across from the Jardin du Luxembourg (the same guy is still there), a falafel from L'As du Falafel in the Marais, a croque-monsieur, and ice cream from Ile St-Louis. Is there anything I'm missing?
A recent development in Paris is the introduction of Velibs, city-owned bikes available all over Paris for only 1 euro a day. AMAZING! The seats are super uncomfortable and cause some severe butt pain the next day, but Velibs are perfect for seeing Paris at night. Yeah, it's a little dangerous riding a bike in the dark without a helmet, but how else can you see the Eiffel Tower, the Opera, Notre Dame, and Hotel de Ville illuminated?