Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ahhh Paris....

We’re up early to get a jump on the day and the Musee d’Orsay. I’m ready for the rest of the Impressionist art of Paris. And the d’Orsay, the converted old train station that wasn’t even open last time I was a tourist here, doesn’t disappoint. I can’t drink in enough of it. The Renoir “Moulin de Gallette”-I'm in love. I swear I could hear the music they are dancing to. It is the most amazing collection, including introducing me to Impressionists unfamiliar to me. Hamdullah. I mean, merci.

By the time we’re done, it’s actually time for lunch (and we’ve discovered we need to plan for lunch before 3pm when the restaurants close to get ready for dinner service). Since we want to see the Rodin museum, decide to hit a promising-sounding street along the way to look for a lunch spot. We get no further than down the block from the d’Orsay and a guy walks buy and crunches into the most glorious looking sandwich. I say “I want that for lunch”. At the end of that same block, there’s a boulangerie selling sandwiches with lines out both doors. Unanimously we decide we’ll get something for lunch there. How could that many people be wrong, right? Just my luck, that’s where the guy bought his sandwich-duck, chevre cheese (yes, I even ordered it w/chevre cheese!) and greens on artisanal bread. Bought one of those humongous meringues for dessert. Delish!

Side note-every night we download our photos of the day to Lisa’s laptop. Afraid to share them all with others. You wouldn’t believe the glorious food that takes priority in our days’ photos. Yikes!

But since we are eating our way through Paris, we had to head to the “foodie street” and it lived up to expectations. Charcuterie, poisson shop, fromagerie, all things olive, patisseries, flower and gourmet food, vegetable shops. Beautiful products beautifully presented. The French know how to enjoy their food, and we’re just trying to do our part. We sit in the chocolate bar in one shop, me munching on a lemon basil macaroon with a food show on the flat screen. This isn’t overkill, is it? Will Moroccan food ever be ok again?

We decide we need a break from food (ya think?) and head on over toward the Rodin Museum and Garden. I’ve never seen it before and so glad we had time to go. It is amazing-great collection within an old Hotel and full sculptures in the extensive gardens, including of course “The Thinker” among other famous works. Wished we had brought our sandwiches here to eat-a beautiful garden space in the far end with lounge chairs! Could have enjoyed those a while.

We head next to the Eiffel Tower, and along the way we pass a shop called “The Real McCoy”-all American Food. I make a sarcastic remark, but follow Lisa who wants to check it out. Turns out it’s a shop that sells only American products. Like Kraft Mac n Cheese. Brownie mix. Brown sugar. You know, all those things that we cannot buy over in these parts. Do I confess that I bought brown sugar and Hershey’s chocolate chips to bring back with me to Morocco to make cookies? You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone…..

So off to the Eiffel Tower it was-in all its glory. Luckily the weather held out for us and it as sunny but very windy up top. Poor Kristen wanted to walk up to the 2nd level, but couldn’t convince Lisa and I to join her, so we buy our tickets and wait in the elevator line. (Going up and down, with elevator waits at the bottom, 2nd level going up and down, and the top, makes this a 3 hour adventure). The top was incredibly windy but worth it for the view. That and the 10EU glass of champagne you can purchase at the top (and we did). Since it’s almost 8pm by the time we get back to the bottom, we head for the apartment.

All day I’d been thinking of French food for dinner. Don’t need fancy or expensive, but want the atmosphere, good food, a glass of wine. I eat solo, as I’m reminded that Lisa and Kristen are in their post-grad school year budget mode and $30 for dinner seems expensive to them. So glad I’m not there anymore-but remember, I’ve worked 29 long years to be here. So it’s no problem-I tell them I’m perfectly fine eating alone and go to the little French café recommended to us by the woman who takes care of the apartment for the owners. Mmmmm, onion soup, fabulous fresh salad w/chopped fresh ham and cheese, a glass (or 2) of wine. Bon apetit!

That Blanche, she’s such a tart!
We got a later start today to wait for our patiserrie up the block to open and get their fabulous raisin and orange peel petit pan for breakfast-and worth the wait!

Today was all about Sacre Coeur and Arc de Triomphe. We’re getting pretty good at the metro, so make our way up to Montmarte and the Sacre Coeur. Tour this wonderful cathedral and listen to the harp music and violinist playing on the steps outside. Then we walk all over Montmarte’s windy, steep streets. Walk thru the “infamous” square up by the cathedral and view the artists at work-they fill the square. Many of them were surprisingly good, and Kristen and I each bought paintings from the same woman-she painted Kristen’s and her husband painted mine. Charming.

Discover that the tart shop we’d been hoping to find is close on Wednesdays. Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of joke? Nope, closed it is. Walk down by the Moulin Rouge for the obligatory photo stop, manage to find sandwiches to satiate our appetites before heading to the west of town. By the way, we get back on the Metro at the Blanche stop, near the Moulin Rouge. Tart jokes all week. Thus the heading for today’s blog….

Anyway, we make our way to the Arc de Triomphe. Walk up to the observation deck. Amazing. Never done this before either, so I’m seeing parts of Paris up close and personal like never before.

Now it’s time to stroll the Champs Elysees. We stop along the way in various shops. Make ourselves up at Sephora (for free, using their demo products, after being told that they charge 45EU to do our makeup-wait, don’t they do that for free at makeup counters in the US?). Lisa and I sit and rest our weary legs and feet while Kristen shops Gap Paris. We just watch the parade of people –most entertaining. Just as we’re thinking we’ve lost Kristen “in the Gap”-realize that maybe instead of Kristen eating Paris, maybe it’s the other way around and Paris has eaten Kristen. Just then she emerges, one shirt richer.

OK, so Kristen just got off the phone w/her dad (we're lovin' these free calls to the US). He asked if we’ve seen any of the historical sites. Does aged cheese count? We’re reminded thru him that the night show of the Eiffel Tower is supposed to be amazing, and we really do need to do this. It’s just that if we’re up and out between 8-9am and don’t get back until 8-9pm, with no real breaks along the way (even eating is sometime done standing up), we don’t have the legs or desire to go back out at 10:30pm when it finally gets dark. Even for a beer downstairs-which we swear we’re gonna do every night-and have yet to make good on the promise. But we will do the Eiffel Tower at night. Promise. Maybe tomorrow.

We walk all the way down to the Place de Concorde and vear north toward more interesting streets and end up walking by gallery after gallery, Christie’s, Sotheby's, expensive designer shops-eye candy. End up at Place de Madelaine, which of course was our destination as it is known for-you guessed it-gourmet food shops. Once again we are inundated with amazing offerings, including the unbelieveable Lavinia wine emporium (wine-check!) and Fauchon gourmet foods. Believe it or not, after we’re done purusing their offerings, we’re done. Full. Shbet. No more. Thank goodness the Maison du Truffle was closed.

We head home, buy some bread and cheese at the grocery by the apartment and are done for the night. Except of course, for dinner. We have an incredible spread of fresh artisanal bread, pates, cheese, fruit, grape tomatoes and wine. Wow.

I have to say that it feels so absolutely luxurious to be here for an entire week. Seeing so many things at our own pace. Our days are very full, but we’ve never been pushed for time. Fortunately we are also travelling well together, and that makes a huge difference. We’re willing to indulge one another’s passions and “happy places” when they are found.

I’m now thinking that the 2 weeks between COS (Close of Service in November when we finish) and the cruise home that leaves from Barcelona may be spent in a single place in Spain. Maybe get online to see what I can rent to stay put and enjoy without rushing around and hauling my stuff all over. Will have to check out this option.

Now it’s time to post and get some sleep. It’s off to the Pompidou tomorrow for some Modern Art, then lunch and a free show (Inshallah) at the Bastille Opera across the street from the apartment.

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