I had the pleasure of spending a week in Paris with my best friend, Sean, and some other friends. It was more of a business trip for Sean – he was casting a StarCraft II tournament called Iron Squid. The goal was to see the tournament, do some sight-seeing, and eat a lot of great food, and I’m pleased to say we succeeded admirably at all three.
As some of you may know, I’m tall – 6′ 5 – and planes these days seem built for people a standard deviation below average. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to an 11 hour plane ride, especially given that Air France wouldn’t pre-assign us seats.
Loading the plane was itself an experience. We were flying direct from LAX, and the assigned terminal was at the edge of the airport. There were no planes there – from the terminal they loaded us into busses, which took us to a building in the middle of nowhere whose sole purpose was to load the massive Airbus 380.
The best part? The plane wasn’t even half full. We had four people to two three seat rows in front of each other. There was plenty of room to stretch out, use my laptop, even nap. I read the first half of A Memory of Light, had some great conversation, got in 2000 words of writing, and frankly had about the best time I’ve ever had on an airplane.
Thanks to the miracle of time zones, we found ourselves in Paris on the afternoon of the 23rd and took a taxi to our hotel, the Concorde La Fayette. The hotel was this super tall building right in downtown, part of the Palais du Congres and gave easy access to the number one metro line. Hoping to begin combatting jet lag immediately, we resolved to stay up as late as possible and set out exploring.
Paris in January, as it turns out, gets rather cold. There was actually snow on the ground when we arrived, and I believe the temperature that day was in the high 30s. This made the walk a bit more of an adventure than the others in my group might have preferred. I, being a hearty Mainer, actually enjoyed the temperature.
After lunch at a local French café (with incredible bread!), we headed to Notre Dame. What an awesome (in the most literal sense of the word) building. The layers of architecture, the way the different styles are built on top of each other, the absolutely astonishing stained glass windows, the gargoyles, and the immense size – it’s crazy to think that this was built centuries ago, without access to the technology we have today.
From Notre Dame the plan was to take the tower tour, but the wait was long and it was cold, so we eventually gave up and wondered to hot chocolate at Angelina’s, known for the best hot chocolate in the city. I can’t say I’ve tried enough to compare, but it was likely the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.
Sean had business stuff going on all day, so a smaller group of us made our way to the Louvre. There we spent a couple hours wandering around, checking out the Mona Lisa (far less impressive in person), and the Egyptian exhibits.
The coolest exhibit we saw was Napoleon’s Apartments – an entire wing set up to mimic the style of the French emperor’s living quarters. Think rich red carpets, ornate furniture, lots of gold and silver, and elaborate chandeliers. Gorgeous, like stepping into an old-fashioned palace.
Not much happened Friday – we had a nice dinner with some of the people hosting Iron Squid at a fondue restaurant. I can’t eat much cheese, so I had to settle with dipping filet mignon in a pot of hot oil, a real travesty 🙂
The day of the tournament. I came early with Sean and got a backstage pass, so I could hang around in the lounge. I met some of the other commentators and staff.
The theatre itself was huge – around 4000 seats, and they’d all been sold. I’ve been to a number of StarCraft tournaments, and they’ve been fun and well-produced. But nothing at the level of this; with a live orchestra playing while the players were introduced.
This video gives a good sense of how it was all set-up. I felt like I was watching a show in Vegas. Incredible.
We went to see the Sacre Coeur, which sits on the tallest hill in Paris, and walked around a bunch. Lunch was at a really cute restaurant that served absolutely immense portion sizes. The Sacre Coeur was gorgeous, as was the view of the city looking down the hill. Would have loved to see it at night.
My favorite day from a culinary perspective. We went to a restaurant in the Jewish distract called L’As Du Fallafel, which is pretty much what it sounds like – Mediterranean fare, with their namesake, shawarma, and so on.
What’s so special about it?
It’s absolutely incredibly unbelievably good. I don’t even like falafel! This was like the best thing I’ve ever had! Huge amounts of food – the shawarma was great, the falafel was unreal, the hummus was great, the sides were great, even the lemonade was great. I don’t care if it’s not French – if you’re in Paris, go here. You will not regret it.
After, we walked around and the brilliant idea to do tea came up, so we found a tea shop – and much like the Falafel restaurant, it was incredible. They had this menu with about 300 different types of teas, plus desserts. I got a black tea called Fall in Love, advertised as having vanilla and floral notes, that was on par with the best tea I’ve ever had, and made me wonder again why my own tea sucks so much.
We went to Blizzard Europe in Versailles and signed an NDA. It was a really cool day – I’ll be sure to blog about it when I can 🙂
We flew home! Unlike the flight to Paris, this one sucked – we were in the middle of the middle, the flight was full, and Sean wasn’t there. Still, I managed to sleep for about a third of it, which made it bearable – and I finished A Memory of Light, so I can’t complain too much.
It was a great and unique trip – I’d like to go again and do more touristy things, but the mix of business dinners / engagements and sight-seeing was engaging, plus I made some new friends. I came back home energized (at least, after the jet lag faded) and motivated, and managed to knock off my second draft of The Wildfire Crown last week, with progress already being made on the third. Very excited to see how it’s coming together, and can’t wait to start to share it with people.
For this post’s video, another fine effort by the Avalanches, and a really lovely example of the music video as a story-telling medium.