It isn't the Eiffel Tower that is my iconic Parisian landmark -- it's the Gothic cathedral
Notre Dame that is my most favorite sight in this beautiful city.
I love to take walks along the area, looking at it from all angles -- from the front where I can see the two towers, to the sides where the gargoyles and chimeras leer down at me, to the back where I can see its flying buttresses.
The detailed carvings on the walls and doors are so intricate and complete -- it's like reading the story of Catholicism just by looking at the Cathedral's exteriors.
This morning, we decided to spend the day -- bitingly cold but sunny - once again walking around the area of Notre Dame.
Many people walk past this marker on the ground in front of Notre Dame's main doors without realizing that this is Point Zero -- all distances in France are measured from this point.
After more than an hour of walking around and enjoying the cold day, we decide it's time for lunch. Right across Notre Dame, at the corner of Quai Montebello is a typical French bistro called Cafe Panis -- it's been there for ages and is probably the most convenient place to sit, have a bite and continue to gaze at the view of the Cathedral.
Cafe Panis, with its enviable location, is really a good choice for a meal -- the food is dependable, servings are generous, prices are reasonable and very surprisingly -- the waiters are all cheerfully friendly.
The interiors are very warm and cozy. Tables are set up very close to each other since space is a premium and it's always full -- both of tourists and locals. If you sit at the bar, you can still order a sandwich -- but the nice thing is that you'll only have to pay 1 euro for your coffee. How cheap is that!
The minute you sit down, the waiter brings a menu AND a small dish of home made potato chips -- gratis! They're thinly sliced, salty and very tasty -- best of all, they're free!
To ward off the chill, we split an order of the classic soupe a la oignon gratinee. It comes piping hot with stringy melted cheese on top of slices of baguette.
Since I am continuing not to eat meat on this trip, I order a croque provencal which is really mozzarella cheese melted on top of tomato slices. It comes with a mountain of frittes and a cold green salad.
After lunch, we see that the little park across, the Square Viviane has a small marche de noel going on. A marche de noel is a Christmas market, set up for the holidays -- they pop up in public squares, street corners, church plazas. They sell food, arts and crafts -- all sorts of things!
Ranging from small ones like this one near the Notre Dame to large scale ones like the marche de Noel lining Champs Elysee where you have more than 150 vendors at one time!
Vin chaud is ordinary (some say, cheap) red wine with added sugar, spices and fruit flavors.
It's always served hot or at the very least, warm.
A small plastic cup is 3 euros and after I pay for my vin chaud, it is ladled it out from a soup pot.
I take a sip and it's very good!
Halfway through the cup, a warm glow sets in. It lasts with me throughout the rest of the chilly afternoon, walking by the banks of the Seine!