Chapter Fifteen – “We’ll Always Have Paris”
Day Fifteen: On Track To Paris, Camille Appeal, Oh How I Love The French, Timing Is Everything, “284 Steps…Only”, Slip Up or Have A Nice Trip, The I Fell Tower, Bruised Ego (any other things), We Are The Champs, That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles, The Garden of Two Larrys, Supertramp Armed Guards, Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Soup, Jewel Heist and Our Most Comfortable Bed
In addition to my AVADD (Adult Vacation Attention Deficit Disorder), I am also afflicted with DMTTD (Don’t Miss The Train Disorder). We had a 9:26 departure from Montpellier to Paris, but thanks to my fear of missing trains, Tracy and I were the first people in Pézenas to awake on Monday morning.
We declined Babette’s kind offer to prepare an early breakfast, but she was still up before the crack of dawn to help us lug our luggage to the car. Remember Hotel de Vigniamont if you visit Pézenas!
Despite the fact that it was hours before departure we hit the road, and even with our GPS I managed to take the wrong road off the ringstrasse (that’s what we call roundabouts), which made me slightly perturbed. Tracy gave me “the look” and quickly went on her Ipad to Match.com.
Notwithstanding that slight miscue, we arrived at the slick looking Montpellier train station with plenty of time to eat about three breakfasts before our train departed.
Once in Paris, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel in the Marais, the Grand Hotel Malher (5 rue Malher). Our room was small, but the shower was terrific, and it had a very, very comfortable bed. In addition, the staff was quite helpful, so we both gave this place a thumbs up (not too expensive for Paris, either).
We didn’t stay in the room for very long because Mr. Antsy Pants had relaxed quite enough on this trip and was still wired from coffee overload. Of course, one needs sustenance to explore Paris, so we plunked ourselves down at a nearby restaurant where we had a couple of lunches in 2014. I hoped the staff had not contracted my bronchitis that some contend wiped out half the Parisian population on that journey.
Camille was slammed (the restaurant, not a person). There were a lot of business people (or incredibly well dressed tourists), and we were seated in quite close proximity to a local couple, who we conversed with, although they spoke very little English and our French is rather pathetic. (photo from 2014 trip)
Over some carpaccio and pasta salad, we learned their son lives in Paris and works for Apple, so the family has visited San Francisco when their son is working in Cupertino. It was just another chance encounter with another friendly couple. They (and our very attentive and friendly waiter) were helpful in explaining how to reach a park we wanted to visit the next day, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.
After lunch, we walked for a bit in the Marais…
…and made a quick stop at Square Georges Cain on Rue Payenne. I took a picture of Tracy with L’Aurore, a bronze statue of a nude woman in the middle of a bed of roses. Tracy declined to shed her clothes.
The weather could not have been better (60 degrees and sunny), but what to do? It had been a couple of decades since we visited the Arc de Triomphe, so we bought a carnet of metro tickets and popped over to Place Charles de Gaulle. This is the intersection where a dozen avenues converge into controlled chaos and the spot where I nearly wiped out a few cars and motorcycles on our 2012 wild ride through Paris.
I had (mistakenly) told Tracy there was an elevator to the top, but since we really hadn’t done out usual “1,000 stairs a day” on this trip, she wasn’t too upset when we found out we had to climb (€12) to the top. Surprisingly, there was no line for tickets, and just as we began our climb, Tracy asked a gentleman how many steps to the top. His answer, ”284.” He paused for a second, then added with a wry smile, “Only!”
A tight circular stairway took us to the top, and once we had climbed them all Tracy snapped a photo of a sign with a picture of a guy slipping. She pointed it out to me, and I laughed (yes folks, that’s a bit of foreshadowing there).
We took photos of some statues…
…this one, I believe, is a cast of the head of a figure from François Rude’s sculpture “La Marseillaise” (Head of the Genius of Liberty). Coincidentally, that is also the face I make often while driving the congested Los Angeles freeways.
…we took our first selfie ever…sans selfie-stick, of course. We had to attempt this a few times as the first photos made our heads look like the size of giant pumpkins.
We started walking to the other side where I was going to point out the other Paris arch, La Grande Arche. As I continued my fateful saunter while staring at La Grande Arche, I made the mistake of not looking at where I was going.
The people who constructed this arch (which stands in honor of those who fought for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars) decided that they would include a few small steps in some areas. These are places where stupid tourists who don’t pay attention as they walk might not see. Just as I was about to point out La Grande Arche to Tracy, I tripped on one of those little steps. As if in slow motion, I started falling…and nothing was going to stop me…except the ground.
There were two things that could not hit the ground when I fell; my camera and, more importantly, my head. I succeeded in both endeavors…barely.
I could hear a few gasps as I plummeted downward, and as I lay there, a couple of Good Samaritans rushed to my assistance and grasped my forearms (strongly) to pull me up. Unbeknownst to them, this could pose a problem for a guy on blood thinners.
Sure enough, after thanking them for their good deed, I looked at my forearms and each had bruises that eventually looked like the state of Texas. Once again Tracy worried that when people saw my arms that she would be accused of elder abuse. I also half expected her to say, “Hi Tom, is that your new Fall wardrobe?”
We walked back down the stairs (carefully) and after looking at the now incredibly long line (timing is everything), we walked by The Unknown Soldier located at the arch’s base.
We walked around for a few moments, and looking up, we saw “The Resistance of 1814,” a relief by Antoine Étex; and his 1815 “La Paix de 1815” (Peace of 1815).
Then we decided to do something else we haven’t done for years; stroll the crowded Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
We made a quick stop at Le Lido, one of the most famous cabarets in the world. I stopped here because my dad and his company used to help get costumes from the Lido and Folies Bergère through Customs for their shows in Las Vegas.
One of the perks for me at an early age was that, since I had connections (aka dad), I got to attend these vaudeville-type shows in Vegas at a very early age. Yes, at 13 years of age my parents actually took me to see the Lido and the Folies…complete with topless dancers. Life definitely was a cabaret. God bless them both! (photos from wikipedia…my favorite was the Stardust show).
Although the Champs-Élysées is not our favorite spot in Paris, we had a reason to walk it on this day. While in line at LAX before departing, we had plenty of time to speak to a Parisian couple who said if we were in this neighborhood to visit a famous upscale bakery, Ladurée, and try their macarons.
The line at Ladurée stretched to Rouen, so we passed on the macarons, but ducked inside to check out the cool bar. After looking at the cocktail prices, we decided it would be less expensive to purchase some wine back in our own ‘hood.
Our next stop was the Jardin du Tuileries, or as my ex-brother-in-law called it back in the 1980s when we visited, The Garden of Two Larrys.
…and we took advantage of it.
Across from our hotel was (and still is) a place called Breakfast In America. Although it does not sell Supertramp albums to my knowledge…
As Tracy took a little snooze, I walked to a nearby local wine shop and picked up a couple of bottles that were still probably cheaper than one drink at Ladurée’s bar. We stepped out on our small balcony for a sip, but knowing my propensity for falling, we quickly stepped back inside to avoid almost certain tragedy.
I had made 8 p.m. reservations at Bistrot de L’Oulette (38 rue des Tournelles, near Place des Vosges), which celebrates its 30th year in 2017.
We started with a delicious amuse bouche, creamy goat cheese and whipped mascarpone on garlic toast. Since we had not eaten much earlier in the day, we hoped for a fulfilling (with the key being “filling”) meal, which is exactly what we got. We ordered the €36 “eat every darned course” carte.
Tracy deftly wove her spoon through a terrific vegetable soup with curry cream and the enjoyed her home-made cassoulet with confit, duck gizzard confit and Toulouse sausage.
That combo, along with a chocolate tart with vanilla glacé dessert made for a great meal.
I started with a fantastic chestnut soup with jambon (I should have ordered a second it was so good). My steak in red wine sauce with mashed potatoes was also scrumptious as was the flaky pastry with caramelized apple and Iced Armagnac.
As we rolled back up the street after dinner, what should appear before us but our dinner spot two nights later, L’Ange 20 (now in their new location). It was a gorgeous evening in Paris so we strolled for a bit (one always “strolls” in Paris, I believe).
Back at the hotel, we turned on something called a television (we had hardly seen any TV since we left since almost every place we stayed did not have one). What was the first big news event we heard about when we switched it on? It was the Kim Kardashian Paris jewelry robbery. The set was quickly turned off. We were happy for that comfortable bed, because the next three days would be busy.
Tomorrow, we’d hit a famous historic local church, step inside a museum where we got shut out a couple of years before, a picturesque park I had wanted to visit the last couple of times in Paris, walk through the gardens behind Notre Dame, metro to a big tower (no falling, however) and wander the streets of Paris on one of the most beautiful days we have ever experienced in The City of Light.
Next: Day Sixteen – Behind The Red Door, No Not Cognac, You Can Call Me Jay, Ifs Ands & Buttes, Going To Temple, Hip To Be Square, Dante’s Infernal, Strollin’ On A Sunny Afternoon, Let Me “Think” About That, Tower Of Power, The Apple Of Our Eye and That’s Aligot