So as far as I can tell, Charles de Gaulle airport is the only airport of any size whatsoever that doesn't feature a fleet of hotel shuttles - you know, the independent vans that scoop up a half dozen frazzled visitors and deliver them one by one to their respective destinations. Nope, at CDG, the only people taking vans into Paris are the people who have made reservations ahead of time. We've been in France for a week and a half and it never occurred to me that we'd need to reserve a ride into the city. Oh well, live and learn. After a half hour of trying to score a shuttle ride, we ended up taking a cab that was not much more than the shuttle's cost for two people.
We arrived at our hotel, in the 5th arrondisement directly across the street from the Pantheon museum. We're surprised and delighted by our room: although it boasts a view of some fake bamboo and a blank concrete wall, it's surprisingly large by Paris standards, comfortable, and nicely decorated. The hotel is in an 18th century mansion and has some interesting architectural remnants of its age - including a tiny, winding hallway to our room, and some massive, hand-carved beams on the ceiling of our room. The lobby smells like tuberose, so we tend to linger on our way through.
We were sort of fatigued after a long day of travel, so we decided to find dinner in the neighborhood. We're on the edge of the Latin Quarter, so it wasn't difficult to find a bunch of choices. We settled on a small place that featured an interesting wine list posted on their window - Bistro Laplace. It was a tiny, fun place - basically a one-man show. The menu du jour featured gazpacho, a slow-braised hunk of beef with baby potatoes, and chocolate mousse. We both went for it, and tried to accompany our meal with a Lapierre Morgon, but it was out of stock. Our waiter directed us to a Cotes du Rhone as an alternative. The wine was unexceptional, but the food was wonderful.
After dinner we walked a few blocks down to the river and admired the view of Notre Dame.
We crossed over to the Ile de France and watched a group of amazing skaters who'd set up in front of the cathedral. There were musicians, dancers, and the skaters - all the street entertainment you could ask for. Finally, we wandered back to our hotel, well aware that for many Parisians, the night was just beginning.