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Jour 19 – Eiffel Tower, Pont de l’Archevêché

6 Sep

The time had finally come – our last day in Paris. We had to make it meaningful…and we did. We began by buying a small statue to commemorate our trip. It is a replica of a midieval statue in which a man is reclining with his head in his maiden’s lap. Very sweet. We will put it in the new place.

We then bought a padlock and Sharpie and headed toward the Pont de l’Archeveche. When we crossed this bridge earlier in the trip, we were floored by all the padlocks people had attached to the wire fencing. Each had a name or names and some had pithy or sentimental sayings. On ours we wrote, “June 25, 20011 – Jeff & Joan got engaged!” What a great memory. I bet we’ll find it next time we go. If you go, will you look for it?

On to the Eiffel Tower! We thought seeing the tower at night would be the perfect way to end our trip. It was a balmy, humid evening. We considered climbing the stairs but it was hot and as you remember from Jour 19, my feet were killing me! So we decided to take the elevator with 9 million of our closest friends. As you can imagine, we had quite a wait. At last we rode up to the first level – the views are so beautiful! Then up to the top. It was dark by then and cold (yes, it was a long wait) but so spectacular. My favorite part was the light show on the hour – stunning!

We meandered our way back to our apartment around midnight – for the last time.

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15 Jour – Notre Dame & French Cooking Class

7 Jul

Our goal before we visited Notre Dame was to read The Huntchback of Notre Dame. As you can imagine that didn’t happen.  C’est la vie! There was a long line but it went quickly. I’ve found that while standing in a line in Paris you have to be rather diligent that someone doesn’t just waltz right in and cut in front of you. This happened in a bakery and at Note Dame. Both times I was able to maneuver my body in front of them to regain my rightful place and of course they didn’t say anything ’cause they knew they cut the line. Okay, I know, petty on my part – just sayin’.

Notre Dame was beautiful. The center of Paris from which all streets flow. Fascinating history and great pictures!

In the evening, we took a cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. They have classes in both French and English (we chose English) and in a variety of formats.

We cooked a simple, traditional French meal:

  • Agneau a l’ail, romarin et moutarde
  • Ecrase de pomme de terre au piment d’Espelette
  • Crepe aux fruits rouges
Sounds fancy, but essentially it was lamb chops and mashed potatoes, with fruit-filled crepes for dessert.

Our classmates came from around the world. Texas, Michigan, California, Melbourne, Vancouver, and even Paris (one expat couple who had lived there for nine years). We had a great time with a fantastic bunch of people and enjoyed a wonderful meal that we cooked.

And for the record, Jeff was the first to successfully flip a crepe in the pan without a spatula.

The Class
Smashing potatoes
Getting ready to cook the crepes
Lamb Chops
Smashed Berries
Cooking Class

14 Jour – Giverny

6 Jul

We visited Giverny, Monet’s studio, home and gardens.  A 45 minute train ride will take you to this beautiful oasis, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

13 Jour – Rest & Restaurants

5 Jul

Rest day!! Sleep, laundry, email…

And…dinner at La Refuge du Passe. We parked our rental car on rue du Fer a Moulin, a few blocks from our apartment. As we walked by this lively restaurant we decided to try it. It features “cuisine du terroir” which I think means “of the countryside”. Whatever it means, it was delicious! Tomatoes with mozzarella, sauteed leaks, rum steak and veal all washed down with red wine. What’s not to love? The decor was a charming compilation of old theater posters and memorabilia. Good times!

Le Refuge du Passe

12 Jour – Mont Saint-Michel & D-Day Memorials

4 Jul

On the Fourth of July, we woke early to beat the crowds and experience Mont Saint-Michel during the daytime. We hiked up the grand staircase of the Abbey, beating the tour groups, and took the self-guided audio tour of this magnificent abbey. We learned about the architecture and history of the structure, as well as daily life at the Abbey.

After our tour, we walked the same cobbled streets we walked the night before, but shoulder-to-shoulder with crowds of tourists. As we said yesterday, be certain to visit late at night to appreciate the beauty in relative solitude.

We lunched in a small cafe on the upper level, with views of the channel and the mainland. Joan had mussels; Jeff had Perrier.

Jeff says: “I was hit with something that disagreed with my stomach. I’m guessing (just a hunch) that it might have been the raw ground beef I had for lunch the day before. I didn’t eat well until dinner.”

With bittersweet sorrow, we left Mont Saint-Michel and headed for the site of the D-Day landings in Normandy. We visited the American Memorial Cemetery. The displays at the visitor center were informative and very moving. It was a somber, but fitting way to spend our Fourth of July in France — remembering the sacrifices of our servicemen and women.

The drive back to Paris seemed much longer than the drive out. Avis closed at 10pm, but we didn’t make it back to the city until 10:10. On the positive side, we did get to drive around the Arc du Triomphe. Jeff did an amazing job navigating the crazy traffic — not an easy task.

Jeff adds: “The GPS unit was a lifesaver. Don’t leave Paris without it!”

11 Jour – Mont Saint-Michel at Night

3 Jul

Today is the day we visit Mont Saint-Michel. We picked up a rental car from Avis (more on that later) and headed out to Normandy. The French countryside is even more beautiful than I expected. We enjoyed sweeping views of cows grazing in pastures, rivers, forested hills and charming homes. There are even those round hay bales you’ve seen in photos and movies.

Jeff had fun while waiting for our dinner.

We stopped for lunch in Caen — about halfway between Paris and Mont Saint-Michel. Jeff ordered the steak tartare with the local favorite — cider. As is the norm in France, meals are an unhurried affair. Lunch took about two hours, but we enjoyed sitting and soaking up the atmosphere. To cap the meal, our host poured us a complimentary apertif — another local favorite: Calvados.

After two more hours of driving through the idyllic French countryside, we arrived at Le Relais du Roy — our hotel for the night. We ate in the hotel restaurant which proved to be a gourmet experience. My meal started with asparagus creme brulee. Sounds “different” but it was exquisite. My plat (what we call an entree) was salt-lamb — a regional specialty — with country vegetables. These included ratatouille, a triangle of polenta with tomato paste, and sauteed vegetables. Delicious! Jeff ordered another regional specialty — the omelet. Light and fluffy and washed down perfectly with cider.

After dinner, we walked down the causeway to view Mont Saint-Michel as the evening sun set over the English Channel. Jeff took an amazing photo:

Le Mont Saint Michel

What continues to amaze us is how late the sun stays up. The sun did not disappear until a little after 10 pm! The long days are great for seeing all the sights, but we also end up staying up quite late.

After the sun set, we entered the medieval village of Mont Saint-Michel. Walking through the winding, narrow cobblestone streets and passageways, we felt we were transported back to the 12th century, visiting the abbey after a long pilgrimage. If you ever go to Mont Saint-Michel, plan to spend some time visiting  in the evening.

Grand Rue

Grand Rue at Night

Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel at Night

10 Jour – The Paris Flea Market

2 Jul

Shopping!!! Clothes, jewelry, art, books, furniture…anything you’d like, you can shop till your heart’s content at Puces St. Ouen: The Flea Market at Porte de Clignancourt. Paris’ sprawling flea markets (march aux puces) are over-sized garage sales. They started in the Middle Ages when old, flea-infested clothes and discarded possessions of the wealthy were sold to eager peasants. The Puces St. Ouen has 2,000 vendors selling most anything you can think of but mostly antiques. It is a collection of individual markets in covered alleys, each with a different name and specializing in a particular angle on antiques, bric-a-brac and junk.

We walked down the “spine” of the market, Rue Des Rosiers, and explored each marche including Vernaison, Dauphine, Biron and Serpette. My favorite was Daiphine. This one had the best clothes and art. I was able to score 3 pairs of earrings for 15 euros – not bad!

We ate lunch at Chez Louisette and listened to latter-day Edith Piaf. French chansons were supported with an accordian and keyboard while the crowd sang along. Good times and good food!

9 Jour – Musee d’Orsay & Le Souffle

1 Jul

Ahhh…the Musee d’Orsay. So beautiful! I found it so exciting to appreciate in person all the paintings I love. Gare d’Orsay: the collection is housed in an old train station which narrowly escaped the wrecking ball in the 1970’s until the French realized it would be a great place to house the enormous collection of 19th-century art scattered throughout the city.

I was surprised at the eroticism of many of the paintings and sculptures. I guess in a pre-Freudian society, the sex drive was channeled into an acute sense of beauty, and sex had to be exalted into a more pure and divine form.

Musee d'Orsay

There an elephant in front of Musee d'Orsay

For dinner we ate at Le Souffle. Wow! Mushroom souffle and chocolate souffle for dessert. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Le Souffle

8 Jour – Montemarte & Sacre Coeur

30 Jun

Montmartre would be great with 75% fewer tourists. You need to have a few to fuel the painters, street artists, etc. But really, so many?

Having said that, we had a great day here. Lunch at L’ete an Pente Douce. Great quiche! Followed by a tour (a la Rick Steves) which gave us a good overview of the neighborhood. A photo there, a drink there…awesome! Oh yeah, we also saw Sacre Coeur…

However, our real goal was to sit on the steps of Sacre Coeur and watch the lights of the city come up. So around 6:00 we bought a baguette, goat cheese, chicken and beer and headed to the steps. And there we sat…and sat. 4 1/2 hours later the lights finally came up. It was worth the wait:

While waiting we saw some amazing and crazy things. The first was the street performer Iya Traore and his “soccer ball routine”. Now THIS is amazing. Check it out:

As we were watching Iya, a fight broke out about 10 steps below us. We were safe though, because our posse from Poland was sitting in front of us to offer protection. No kidding, about 7 guys speaking Polish sat down in front of us and drank beer. As you can imagine, we postulated on a few scenarios. I mean 7 football looking guys sitting together to watch the lights come up at Sacre Coeur? Turns out they are in France for the Air Show. Great guys. Offered us beer (what’s not to like?)

Oh, and did I mention…there was a skate ramp set up which spanned the steps of the Basilica? Apparently a guy on roller blades was going to perform a death defying stunt a couple of days later. We were starting to figure out how to structure our Saturday to get back to see this miracle when low and behold, the next thing we know, he’s walking up the ramp (in his skates, of course) on his way to do the stunt! Right before our eyes! You can’t get much luckier than that! See for yourself:

The night ended with the lights of the city coming up and us in a jazz cafe eating more (!) and listening to a great jazz quartet.

Wow, I love this city!

7 Jour – Latin Quarter & Jardin du Luxembourg

29 Jun

Today was a do laundry, go shopping, stay close to home kind of day. We had lunch at Cafe de Mouffetard. A scene from the movie Amelie was filmed here…and it’s about 30 steps from our door. Great salad and poulet. We then lazed our way over to Shakespeare & Company Booksellers where we picked up a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (tres cliche, I know) and poked around an amazing selection of dusty old books.

Meandering our way up Boulevard St. Michel we ended up at Jardin du Luxembourg. Of course we stopped along the way for a pastry and cafe :). Amazing gardens they have at Luxembourg! While we were there loud brass band music started up. Turns out some high school students (I’m guessing) got together to play their end of year repertoire – a bit sloppy but fun.

I love the pace of life here (and yes, I do realize I’m on vacation). They go into work about 9 or 10 (sometimes later), work until 6 or 8, eat dinner around 9 and are home 11 or 12. I could totally adjust to that lifestyle!

Dinner was at Perraudin and then jazz at the Cafe Universal. No pics or video of this band because I didn’t care for them. Hey, it’s my blog, right?