by Melinda Gallo

Visiting friends in Paris

After a long bus ride to Pisa and a short flight to Orly Sud, we're in Paris. I think it's been about two and a half years since I've been back. We're meeting with my sister, brother-in-law, and neice on Friday, but we arrived early so that I could see some old friends before we visit the city.

I emailed a few of my friends in Paris to meet up last week, and I made a few plans before leaving Florence.

We took the métro to Clichy (just outside of Paris) where I used to work. When I worked for this company, their office was initially in Paris near the Arc de Triomphe, but then moved a year before I left outside the city. I was probably the only person at the company who used to walk to work every day. I found an apartment near the office because I didn't want to commute.

The weather here in Paris was warmer and a little sunnier than the Florence we left behind, where I had to zip up my jacket and wrap a scarf around my neck a few times.

We walked to the office building where I saw a lot of people who are still working for the same company, even after I left it 12 years ago. My friends took us to a Lebanese restaurant for lunch, which was quite good.

I had heard that the French finally passed a law to no longer allow smoking in restaurants, but it doesn't go into effect for another 9 months. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping we'd be able to eat in smoke-free restaurants. I'm no longer used to having people smoke at the table next to me while I eat. We got very spoiled this last year or so in Italy, and it's wonderful.

After lunch, we went back to our friend's apartment that we're waiting while we wait for my sister and her family to arrive and had to take a nap. Speaking French, walking around, and being in the hustle and bustle of the métro tired me out.

We went to the grocery store, Monoprix, around the corner to buy a few things and I noticed that they sell quite a few American items that I'm unable to find in Florence. Not necessarily things I normally buy, but items that do not exist in Florence, like certain brands of cereal, hair products, and a few other food items.

At around 8PM, we had dinner plans with another girlfriend of mine, with whom I used to work with, and we went to a small brasserie nearby. Again, drowning in smoke, I was a little disappointed, but got used to it.

The one thing I absolutely love in France is their beef. I don't know what the difference is, and I don't know if it's what they feed their cows or how their meat is cut, but I just adore the beef here. I ate a beef steak with sautéed foie gras on top. I usually love the desserts here, but at the brasserie we went to, they were only so-so.

We got back to our apartment and I was exhausted. We didn't really do much, but the change of pace is quite noticeable. I did, however, enjoy walking down the streets and not bumping into the people.

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