Monday, October 22, 2012

Paris Journal: Day Four

Ten days in Paris might last forever on this blog.   I'm stretching out the memory, because it's one of my favorite stories to tell.  I'll just keep savoring it one day at a time...recording every sweet detail.  

Are you sure you're ready for this?  It's a long day in Paris.

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Early in the morning on our fourth day in Paris, I wrote a list of my (ideal) hopes for the day.  And though I dreamed big, I also had a pretty realistic perspective about my dreams.   Having all my wildest expectations already far exceeded merely by BEING in this city, I tried to reserve few expectations about what each day must include.  I was happy to just wander around, hearing people speak french.  But I did come prepared with a LONG list of 'dreams.'  Knowing that I might not ever get to return, I wanted to make the most out of each waking moment, so I had lots and lots of ideas.  My travel journal list of (unrealistic) 'hopes' for our fourth day included:
  • wander Montmarte
  • see the famous city view from le Sacre Couer
  • taste macaroons from one of the great Parisian makers
  • find Les Deux Magots and have cafe (where Hemingway liked it)
  • buy bread and fromage at a market and get photos of fruits and vegetables and flowers in the market
  • get postcards and stamps and send them to a few people at home
  • see Notre Dame
  • wander le Jardin de Luxembourg
  • see Place de Vendome and Boucheron's jewelry
  • visite le Grand Magazin or Le Bon Marche shopping center
  • eat more Berthilon glace!!
Full of anticipation, we left our hotel to seek out our last adventures in the city.  After our first stop for croissants et cafe au laits, we ewre off on the metro to Notre Dame.  It was still early morning when we arrived at Notre Dame, and unbelieveably, there was no line!  (Every other time we had walked by the cathedral, there had been a ridiculously long line, just to get inside.)  We walked right in and wandered around the cathedral, taking photos and quietly taking in the details.  We were both awed.  And I couldn't help but pray, giving thanks for this experience, these blessings, this belle city and to pray a blessing for the people of this city...for their hearts to know the depth of the love of the Creator of this beauty.
We walked alongside the cathedral, through the gardens along the river admiring the flowering trees draped over the benches, branches heavy with pink blossoms.  Whenever I imagine that scene again, I can't help but hear "April in Paris..."






Across the bridge...

and into the Latin quarter's winding streets, 

we walked and walked, stopping to study our map every once in a while...  we eventually arrived just outside the Luxembourg Gardens (one of my priority destinations for the day).  Before entering the tall iron gates, we explored the area, purchased some post cards and asked for directions to a market.
We returned to the garden and entered through the gate.  The shady garden was as peaceful and quiet and beautiful as I imagined.  At first, we were surrounded by trees, all perfectly spaced apart.


Then, the shady area opened up, and the great fountain appeared in a large round pond surrounded by people and Paris-green chairs.  I imagined that this was the place where, in the summer, children put sailboats in the water (as in the book, This is Paris).  We sat for a while and talked about our plans for the day and walked around the palace before leaving the garden. On our way, we accidentally found the Medici fountain.  It was a startling discovery, incredibly old and grand.



A starbucks along the way provided the necessary (American sized) dose of caffeine for Ryan (and a little WIFI time).  Then we walked along Boulevard Saint-Germain  to a market.

There, we found a fromagerie,  a boulangerie, poissonerie all in a row.  We bought one long baguette, some soft cheese and a piece of roasted chicken wrapped in foil.  We walked back down the boulevard (toward St. Michel) with our treasures and ate our picnic in the shady garden next o St. Michel cathedral.  Some overly friendly birds seemed ready to steal our lunch, so we guarded our crumbs as we ate, watching the people walking and lunching in the garden.
After lunch, we walked some more, down the bouleveard, purchased some timbres for the post cards and found a beautiful patisserie full of beautiful easter eggs and chocolate creations and macaroons.

We bought a pretty little box of assorted macaroons (7 flavors) and walked until we found Les Deux Magots and Cafe Flore and LE Brasserie Lippe.  Too full to eat anything more, we consumed only the view, a few photos, and the thrilling feeling of being right where Hemingway once was, outside the cafes he made famous.

Feeling accomplished and full, we took the metro back to our hotel for a brief stop before heading up to Montmarte.









Montmarte:  As we walked up the crowded cobblestone streets, Ryan commented, "I thought we'd already seen the 'dirty part' of Paris today."  It was funny and true.  These noisy, crowded streets were filthy with rubbish and puddles and filled with vendors selling cheap souveneirs.  We moved with the crowd up and up the narrow cobblestone streets avoidng the shouting vendors.  The steps leading up to the Sacre Cour seemed to go on forever.  But my excitement made me briefly unaware of my sore feet and legs. 
The view from the top was worth it...as promised...it was priceless.

We could see so far that it was difficult to identify the familiar (but very distant) shapes..of Notre Dame, Musee D'Orsay.  But off the beaten path, a little way over to the right of the "grand" view, Ryan spotted the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower, hidden behind some trees.


A little further down the street, I found my long narrow Parisian staircases with the romantic lamp posts.  One more dream come true!
 If only it had been dark, and the lights were lit...

It started to rain, as we stopped into a perfume shop to buy Nana some Parisian 'eau de toilette'. Next, we hunted down the famous Moulin Rouge.

One quick photo of the Moulin Rouge exterior was enough for us...before we ducked down into the metro station.

As we climbed the steps, emerging from the next metro stop, the Arc de Triumph towered over us.  From this landmark, we began what may have been our longest Parisian walk.  We started strolling down Haussman, walking all the way to the Madeleine, where we finally took out our macaroons from Larnicol and ate them on the steps as it started to rain again.

We had an umbrella, though the rain was so light and sporadic we hardly needed it.  We discovered endless beautiful store fronts through winding streets....eventually finding la Place Vendome, the site of some of the most elegant, historically important, and expensive residences, hotels, and retailers in Paris, including Frederic Chopin, Coco Chanel, the Ritz, and Boucheron's jewelry.  Boucheron's was an important Paris stop in order to prepare us for our stay at le Manoir de Beaumarchais (the Boucheron family's country home).  Tired, happy, sore, and a little drenched, we window shopped until we eventually found our way back to more familiar territory, near the Louvre, the Tuilleries, and the Seine.

For our last night in Paris, we returned to our cafe from day one, the Pont Neuf Cafe for dinner, cafe, and free Wifi.  We chatted with the girls for a very long time, sometimes just looking at one another.  They ran out of things to say and ask, but they didn't want us to go just yet.  We were all so grateful for the ipad and 'facetime' to ease the pain of distance.
After dinner, we crossed the bridge again to Ile de la Cite and returned to our favorite corner vendor (for Berthilon glace).  This time, I tried carmel glace (not my best choice) and Ryan (who is ever lucky...or wise... in his ordering) got a banane et nutella crepe.  This crepe....  made all other crepes seem pointless.  When I tasted it, I suddenly wondered how I could possibly fly back over the ocean, SO far away from those crepes.  So he shared...but not enough.

In front of Notre Dame, a corwd was gathered around a large screen, streaming a live mid-week mass for Holy Week. We listened for a while, but it was too difficult to continue trying (mostly failing) to translate or understand.  We bought a few souveneirs on the way back to our hotel.

Looking at the map later, we could hardly believe how far we walked that day! And I was shocked that we had pretty well covered my entire list.  By some beautiful miracle, the day just seemed to go on and on, always allowing for one more adventure.   A little pensive and dreamy with intoxication with Paris and its endless beauty, I thought about leaving the city the next morning.  I couldn't really grieve though, because of my excitement for our next destination, Beaumarchais.

Since that moment, that last night in Paris, I've become more and more sure that we planned our trip about as perfectly as possible, to have spent five days soaking in the museums, and people, and restaurants, and gardens, and history, and excitement of the city...followed by five peaceful days in a quiet country estate, roaming the villages of France.  That night, I remember laughing with Ryan that I liked to imagine ourselves to be old Parisians, long familiar with the city, escaping in the morning to a lovely holiday in the country.  It's pretty easy to dream...when you are in PARIS!!  In fact, it's hard to differentiate dreams from reality at times.  When everything around me was so often beyond all of my most beautiful dreams, I could hardly believe that I was awake.

In the 'silliest' of all my Paris dreams, when I tried to imagine being really a part of it all, I stretched the dreams the most.  I realized that night, that deep down, as I walked the streets and rode the metro and ordered my meals, I longed to just blend in a bit more...to not look and sound so sorely out of place.  In my travel journal I wrote... (and toward the end, my writing got bigger and sloppier as I fell asleep)

"It's rather a lonely feeling, to be misplaced, to be enamoured with a beautiful culture, yet to know that I'll never actually be a part of it.  But to be here, to see it all, is enough, I think.  I have far more at home to love and to be....in fact, I don't even think I will be sad when it is time to leave.  I hope I will return someday.  I really hope so....But when Tuesday comes, even though the first few days back will be tiring and shocking and exhausting to go back to work and reality, I will be so glad to be home, to be a Mother again, to hold my girls and laugh with them, to tuck them in at night and kiss them.  I am so full of belssings and hope and gratitude.  Bon nuit."





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