OUR PARIS TRIP JOURNAL : Day 6

It was a Saturday and I woke up a little less enthusiastic than the previous mornings. I guess you could say that the realization that this was our final day in Paris had set in. Jacki was already up getting ready. I opened the windows, laid back down, and just listened to the rhythm¬†of the street below. It had become almost a routine, a routine that I truly loved. The sounds of Rue Cler¬†made the street feel alive to me. The sounds were it’s¬†pulse. The people were its lifeblood. And they had become a cherished part of my morning. I was really going to miss it.

Artisan

We finally left the hotel a lot later than intended. First on the docket was a visit to Napoleon’s¬†tomb at Les Invalides. As we walked down Rue Cler¬†we decided to eat on the go. We had passed¬†a lovely little patisserie¬†called Artisan several times, always admiring the delicious looking treats but never stopping. What a fine time to try¬†my first truly French croissant!¬†As we walked, I¬†gobbled up my soft, flaky piece of heaven, constantly making time to grunt “mmmm” for everyone to hear. Silly, I know. Before long we saw the gold dome housing Napoleon’s tomb. It’s impossible to miss.

Les Invalides

We grabbed some great outdoor photos and made our way in just as it started to sprinkle rain once again. There’s no doubting which tomb belonged to Napoleon. At the center of the building directly under the gorgeous fresco-adorned dome lied a huge tomb made of red quartzite. Jacki made the humorous comparison between Napoleon’s¬†well-known short stature and the mammoth¬†tomb his ashes lie in. The entire building revolved around Napoleon’s¬†resting place. Several other significant tombs were present including Napoleon’s brothers and faithful generals. It was well worth checking out.

From Les Invalides¬†we moved east towards something I was really anxious to see, the Rodin Museum. At first I had a hard time getting my bearings.¬†An uninterested yet self-confident pigeon led me in the direction of a pleasant policeman who got us on the right track. A few minutes later we were admiring some of Rodin’s greatest works. We walked through the indoor¬†collection highlighted by the stunning “The Kiss”. Once in the outdoor gardens, we were immediately greeted by the sculptor’s greatest work, “The Thinker”. I¬†was so excited to see “The Thinker” and¬†not even¬†my steady barrage of camera flashes could distract this troubled man from his deep thoughts. This was a true masterpiece.

“The Thinker” – Rodin Museum

The gardens at the Rodin Museum were nothing short of fabulous.¬†Many of the sculptor’s wonderful works¬†were placed right in the middle of the perfectly manicured grass and rows of beautiful trees. Unfortunately the overcast skies hid the sunshine which I know would have lit the gardens up with some of the brightest shades of green. Also the rain showers had the benches wet making it impossible to just sit and enjoy the beauty. Still, the Rodin Museum was fantastic and was one of my favorite stops on our adventure.

After leaving we were both pretty hungry. Our afternoon plans focused on Saint-Germain-des-Pr√©s¬† and another visit to The Latin Quarter. We hit the nearby metro stop and soon found ourselves on one of the most popular streets in Paris, Boulevard Saint-Germain. After consulting our trusty map we headed west towards the famous dueling cafes. From the moment I started planning this surprise trip I knew I wanted to eat at either Les Deux Magots¬†or Cafe de Flore. The two cafes have been rivals for years and both stake claims¬†of being¬†the intellectual’s¬†cafe of choice. Both were frequented by Earnest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and now Keith and Jacki Garlington.

Les Deux Magots

We literally stumbled up on Les Deux Magots. The gorgeous cafe is¬†situated right in¬†the bustling Place Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Only a small newsstand separates¬†it from its chief¬†competitor next door, Cafe de Flore. It was equally attractive and equally busy. So which would we choose? We decided on Les Deux Magots¬†for no other reason than our children have fun saying it. Now we could tell them we have been there. We were lucky to get a good table. The intermittent sprinkles had caused the patrons to skip the front row of tables and grab the dryer ones under the awnings. We sat there, just taking in this perfect picture of the Paris cafe scene. Jacki had an interesting chicken salad that she loved. I had the best club sandwich I had EVER tasted, overpriced but delicious. We topped the experience off with Les Deux Magots’ famous hot chocolate. OH MY GOSH! Thick chocolate goodness!

Hot Chocolate from Les Deux Magots

We hated to leave our cozy little table and our wonderful view of the energetic Boulevard Saint-Germain but we had other things to see before our final day in Paris ended. We crossed the busy street and headed further into the Latin Quarter¬†via Rue Bonaparte. Up ahead was the Saint-Sulpice¬†church. What I was even more excited about was the square in front of the church and its tremendous fountain. This was one of Paris’ fountains I was so excited to see. As we rounded the corner and approached the square, we noticed an ocean of white tents completely surrounding where the fountain should be. As it turned out, they were having a local literary festival. People were selling their books and guest speakers were attracting crowds. We shouldered our way to where the fountain stood bone dry. Apparently they shut it off for the festival. I was pretty bummed out.

I was amazed at the architecture of the fountain even if I didn’t get to see it in action. But all was not lost. The Saint-Sulpice¬†church stood tall and mighty overlooking the square. The church is one of the largest in all of Paris, second only to Notre Dame.¬†It had a truly unique exterior accentuated by it’s¬†two mismatched towers that greeted us as we headed to the front door. In we went. As it turned out, Saint-Sulpice¬†was right up there with the mighty Notre Dame in my book. The interior was filled will stunning sculptures and amazing frescos. Eugene Delacroix’s brilliant murals, including the amazing “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel”, decorated a small side chapel. I could have admired them all afternoon. But we continued through what would be the last church visited on our trip, gazing up at the high gothic ceilings, taking in the array of incredible art, and looking in awe at what’s called one of the finest organs in the world. I was so glad we didn’t miss Saint-Sulpice.

Sainte-Sulpice

After leaving the church and sharing one last grumble over the waterless fountain, we headed south towards Luxembourg Gardens, the last actual thing on our itinerary. The short walk there was great, but the reality of our short time left in Paris was setting in for me. The thick gray clouds had their way all day and as if God were ending our trip with a smile, the sun begin to peak through just as we entered the gardens. We walked hand-in-hand along the west side of the park enjoying the carefully cut shrubs and strategically placed sculptures. The park was lively, filled with kids, the elderly, snugglers, and readers. Parisians love their parks and we could see why. We came up on some Boules players and I had to watch. The popular French game resembles horseshoes in a way but instead it uses metal balls. I loved just watching these Parisians engaging in a key part of their social culture, a culture that over the last several days I had grown to feel a part of.

Jacki finally got me away from the Boules game. She had a special fountain on her mind that she was dying to see. Time wasn’t on our side so we hurried through parts of the park we would have loved to admire and skipped an entire section. But when we came out at the center of the gardens we had to stop. Down some steps was a huge square of beautiful green grass, every blade the same perfect length. The grass was¬†outlined by gorgeous yellow and white flowers,¬†planted with precision. The amazing Luxembourg Palace stood in the near background. It looked like a postcard. Chairs surrounded the entire grass square and they were filled with people enjoying the day. We did find two seats with the perfect view that we couldn’t pass up so we sat down and melded in with the locals. Almost on cue, the sun beamed it’s brightest of the day leading to a lot of smiles and shed jackets. I didn’t want to leave.

Luxembourg Gardens

I had another one of my “I wish I lived here” moments. I¬†daydreamed of¬†having an apartment nearby.¬†¬†How great would it be to lounge at Luxembourg Gardens after a day’s work and before heading to a local cafe for an evening meal? The French culture had really effected me. I was certainly no expert but¬†my¬†exposure to the alluring Parisian way of living had left an indelible mark. After watching some girls hand feed some birds we decided we better get moving but not without finding Jacki’s Medici Fountain. It was a¬† fountain with a relaxing tree-lined pool in the front. It was yet another lovely ingredient to this delectable garden.

Medici Fountain

As much as we hated to, we¬†needed to head back to our hotel. We had to checkout early the next morning and would need to get a head start¬†on packing.¬†We admired some more of the garden’s flowers and¬†got¬†a great look of the Pantheon from the east gate. We walked north through another fabulous part of the Latin Quarter and soon were on the metro heading back to the 7th arrondissement. Following our routine, we arrived at our hotel, cleaned up, and rested before heading out for our final French dinner. I really wanted the final meal to be memorable. I chose to take Jacki to La Billebaude, the smallest little restaurant we visited but one that received great reviews from Trip Advisor. My only fear (since we had no reservations) was that we¬†wouldn’t get a seat.

La Billebaude¬†was located on the small street Rue Exposition. Once there we were met by the lone waiter who showed us to a table close to the front door. We had our seats, what a relief. I’ve used the word cozy a lot during these blogs but La Billebaude¬†was the picture of cozy. The one small room was nicely decorated and held about ten tables at the most. Soon the restaurant was full and the one waiter worked each table like a well-oiled machine. He was amazing to watch.¬†He was also¬†very nice and very French yet he spoke good English. We ended up choosing the herring as our starter. It was very good and it was a meal in itself. For the main course Jacki ordered steak, I decided to try the lamb. This was my favorite meal of the entire trip.¬†My lamb was tender and tasty and the creamed potatoes¬†were the best I think I have ever had. Jacki finished her meal with an ice cream souffle while I went with the cheesecake. Unbelievable good!

La Billebaude’s Lamb & Potatoes

We finished our two-hour dining experience gazing out at the street and talking about our amazing adventure. We talked about Paris, the people, and all that we had learned about both. It was sad to think that we would be leaving the next morning. We got up and had our final night-time¬†stroll through the streets of Paris. It was a beautiful night and I was trying to savor ever single step. We¬†walked onto Rue Cler, seeing it at night for the last time. When we reached our hotel we hesitated before going in. We looked down both ends of the street. We adored our temporary French home and missed it already. We went in Grand Hotel Leveque and up to room 32. We opened the windows and once again soaked up the late-night ambiance. I missed the city already yet¬†there were two really big reasons¬†that made leaving easier. We packed a bit then headed to bed. The next morning would be our last in “The City of Light”.

OUR PARIS TRIP JOURNAL : Day 5

After a gorgeous sunny Thursday, Friday greeted us with a thick, gray overcast sky. But that didn’t stop Rue Cler. I opened up the windows to hear it moving at top speed. The cobblestones glistened from a pre-dawn rain shower and the steady French chatter of market owners and school kids filled the air. This was my street and I felt right at home here. Like before, I could have spent the day just walking the street and watching the locals. But we had some big sites to see so we cleaned up and headed out.

Like old pros, we headed into the metro and made our way to the Odeon¬†station near the Latin Quarter. As I looked around I was again blown away by this new Paris neighborhood with its own¬†unique flavor but with the same enchanting beauty. We walked up Rue Danton and came to Place St. Andre des Arts. Wow! The small square is literally filled with¬†lush green trees¬†and trendy¬†cafes. This was the Latin Quarter and I loved it. We moved on up the street and right ahead was Place Saint Michel and its incredible fountain. This was Christmas morning for a fountain fan like me. The huge fountain dating back to the 1850’s features Michael the archangel slaying a demon and two water spitting dragons. It caps the corner of two avenues that serve as the Latin Quarter’s gateway and several other tourists joined us on this busy hub in getting our picture made in front of it.

Place Saint-Michel

I pulled out the trusted map and noticed we were really close to Saint-Severin so off we went down Rue Saint-Severin. The cramped streets were loaded with charm even with¬†the number of cheap¬†souvenir shops wedged between a variety of cafes. While some shops were most certainly aimed at tourists, the tight architecture hearkened back to the area’s medieval history. It was a wonderful place to explore. Right at the other end of the street is the gothic-styled Saint-Severin church. We walked alongside of it admiring its gargoyle water drains and classical design. Unfortunately the church didn’t open it’s doors until 11:00 AM. We had 30 minutes to kill so we explored the area. We came across another old church and right in front of it was a pretty little garden with a view of Notre Dame that made us stop in our tracks. Picture time. After several photos we sat on a bench and just admired what we were seeing.¬†Have I mentioned I love the city?

I¬†told Jacki that one of my ‘must see’ places, the Shakespeare & Company bookstore, should be reasonably close. It wasn’t marked on our map so I cranked up the Trip Advisor app. Lo and behold the bookstore was just around the corner from the garden,¬†¬†mere steps away from where we¬†were sitting! Thinking back to the store’s appearance in the movie “Midnight in Paris”, I had to get my picture made there. Jacki was a good sport and snapped photo after photo¬†as if I were a swimsuit model even though she was anxious to get inside. With me finally satisfied, we headed into the quirky store with a great history. We could have stayed there all day. We browsed all sorts of books before going upstairs¬†for an amazing little flashback to the days of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Stein. I settled on a copy of “The Great Gatsby”. I¬†paid the cashier¬†and got my official¬†Shakespeare and Company stamp on the inside. I left grinning from ear to ear.

Shakespeare & Company

By that time Saint-Severin’s doors were open so we backtracked a couple of blocks to check out one of the oldest churches on the Left Bank. The inside was even more impressive than the outside. The tall spiraling pillars and high gothic ceilings supported some of the prettiest and most vibrant stained glass I had seen. As was customary for our Paris church visits, we sat for a bit just admiring what was around us. I thought about the history of the¬†church and the number of people who had throughout the centuries sat where I was. But there was another little church on the day’s agenda so we left Saint-Severin to grab a bite to eat before heading to Notre Dame.

La Sainsev in The Latin Quarter

The walk through the¬†snug cobblestone streets of the surrounding area was a delight, a true trip back in time. We checked out the posted menus of several cafes and small bistros. We were still a little early for lunch by Parisian standards but we were ready to eat. We came upon Le Sainsev, a quaint little cafe with a good menu and a prime location for people-watching. Yet another friendly French waiter showed us to a nice outside table. For an entr√©e¬†I had boiled eggs and mayonnaise. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculously simply but it was quite tasty. Jacki chose the onion soup for the second time on the trip¬†and she loved it. We both chose the beef flank steak with pepper sauce, baked potato for Jacki and fries for me. I finished my meal with chocolate mousse that our waiter made sure to point out was homemade.¬†As we sat, the streets filled up as if someone had rung the dinner bell for the locals. Parisians flocked to a little deli across the street for a quick “to go” lunch. Some even found time to slip into the fancy chocolate shop next door to satisfy their sweet tooth.

With full stomachs and smiles on our faces we got up and headed towards the Seine River. I hated to leave this little taste of the Latin Quarter. I loved it there and had another one of my moments – “Wouldn’t it be amazing to live right here?” We took a lovely little side street (which made me want to stay even more) and came out facing the Seine River.¬†The Seine was¬†lined with green¬†metal contraptions¬†that when closed could be mistaken for dumpsters but when open they revealed small riverside stores where vendors showed their wares. As we walked we stopped at each one, thumbing through old books, trinkets, photos, and paintings. We crossed over¬†to Ile de la Cite, the island center of Paris. Some say Paris’ roots¬†can be traced to the island dating back¬†as far as 50 B.C. But we had no time to think about that because right in front of us stood the jaw dropping Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame

The square in front of Notre Dame was filled with strained-necked fellow tourists gazing up at the cathedral’s astounding architecture. I wanted to walk around and take it all in but the line to get inside was actually fairly short. We took advantage of it. As we walked in I was overcome by the sense of history. I thought about the construction of the cathedral which began in 1163. I thought about walking in the same church where Napoleon and Josephine’s coronation was held. It was a surreal experience. The French gothic design was a sight to behold. Bible stories and historic figures were depicted through etchings, sculptures, paintings, and stunning stained glass. The only distraction was the buzz from the¬†steady flow of sightseers which¬†made¬†it feel¬†a bit more¬†like an attraction than a church. We sat for a few moments and took it all in. Again we talked about the amazement of being where we were.

Notre Dame Stained Glass

We went outside and admired the equally impressive appearance of Notre Dame’s exterior. The amazing sculpting¬†of the last judgement, the 28 kings of Judah, Saint Denis, and the temptation in Eden only begin to cover what’s found on¬†the facade of this structural masterpiece. We headed around the left side to see about going to the top of the cathedral. But the line was long and it wasn’t moving. I really wanted to get an up close and personal look at Notre Dame’s famous gargoyles but we both agreed that the 1 1/2 hours of line time could be better spent elsewhere. We went to the little garden behind Notre Dame and enjoyed a little time on a bench. Right behind the garden was a small bridge that went over to Paris’ other island, the small but chic¬†Ile Saint-Louis. Off we went.

Notre Dame from the bridge

Crossing the bridge we ran into street musicians and aspiring painters. The first street we came to was Quai¬†de Bourbon and I immediately recognized it from “Midnight in Paris”, another “must take” photo for¬†me. Ile Saint-Louis is small but it packs a lot of charm. We didn’t have a lot of time but we knew we needed to hunt down Berthillon. Berthillon¬†is a world-renowned¬†ice cream parlor and there’s no way we were going to miss it. Jacki chose a dish of Mango and Chocolate. I stayed traditional and went with Vanilla and Chocolate. Oh my goodness!¬† I swear to you, if I lived close by I would weigh 500 lbs! It was so good and I’m not a big ice cream guy.¬†It was¬†getting late so¬†we hopped back over to Notre Dame and made our way to Sainte-Chapelle.

Sainte-Chapelle¬†had the longest line and most thorough security of any place we had visited. The wait was long but while in line we did meet a charming older couple from Australia. They had been traveling through Europe and stopped in Paris for a few days. We talked about Paris, our families, and our countries. The gentleman had¬†visited Sainte-Chapelle¬†before¬†and his excitement to see it again was infectious. After finally getting through security we made it inside. The bottom floor was pretty but the real treat was up a spiral staircase on the second floor. There we saw stained glass that put all others we had seen to shame. It was indescribable. Our Australian friend must have seen the amazement on our faces. He walked up to me and said “Didn’t I tell ya?”

The Breathtaking Sainte-Chapelle

We left and did a little more exploring of the island finishing up at Place Dauphine. After checking out another “Midnight in Paris” location we crossed over to the right bank. While walking towards the Louvre Batobus port we did a little shopping from the street vendors. The port turned out to be farther that anticipated and when we finally got there we were worn out. The river cruise to the 7th gave us a little time to recharge. Once there we headed to the hotel to clean up and then decided to go back to Pasco for dinner. As ridiculous as it sounds I ordered the exact same thing as the night before. It was quite good.

When we left the restaurant it was dark and a light rain shower started. We walked arm-in-arm under one umbrella and I¬†loved every minute of it. Can you get any more romantic that a nighttime walk in the rain in Paris, France? We had been¬†in the city for¬†five days and our trip was slowly winding down. One more full day in the city of lights. That realization started to set in. I wasn’t ready to leave. I had fallen for the city. But the time had almost come so we better make the next day count.