Chapter Eighteen – Last Tango In Paris
Day Eighteen – The InTents Place de la Concorde, I’m Thinking Here, Sac It To Me, Canal Zone, Master Locks, Where’s The Beef, I’m Here For The Soup, Mai Tai Tracy’s Kitchen Suffers A Setback, Dinner Outside My Comfort Zone, The CDG Macaron Thief, No Oxygen Required and Final Thoughts
We woke up early realizing this would be our last day in France, and for the fourth consecutive day the weather in Paris was our best friend. After a much needed coffee and pastry, it was back on the metro and before you could say “I really need another Pain au Chocolat,” we were standing on the Pont de la Concorde, looking out over the river. I told Tracy it looked so gorgeous I should dive in, and she replied I’d be in Seine to do that.
Among the statues of eight French cities at each angle of the Place de la Concorde (well, it is an octagon) are ones representing Nantes and Bordeaux.
La Fontaine des Mers commemorates France’s Maritime Trade and Industry. The sculptures represent the Rhine and the Rhone Rivers, as well as Grapes and Wheat Crop and symbolize France’s Spirit of Navigation, Agriculture and Industry.
It’s just not a trip to Paris without a picture of the famous Obelisk. I asked Tracy if it had a name, and she answered Luxor. Although I looked and looked, I couldn’t find any slot machines, because this 3,000 year-old obelisk actually came from the Luxor Temple in Egypt, not the cheesy Vegas hotel.
After a nondescript breakfast, we entered the Sculpture Garden of Musée Rodin, with Napoléon’s final resting place in the background.
As I looked at him, I pondered who he was modeled after, but it was really too lovely a morning to do much pondering.
We also stopped by to see the Monument to Balzac, whose multi-volume collection, The Human Comedy, could be the title of many of our misadventures while traveling. Unfortunately on this day I didn’t see him in his best light.
..before entering the museum (gardens and museum €10). The Hôtel Biron (which houses the Musée Rodin) had undergone an extensive interior renovation since our last visit. We had never really enjoyed the interior of the old museum, but they did a great job in making this a place to wander through easily.
As it turned out, one of the lovers’ husband reportedly sang, “I can’t go for that; she’s a maneater, and I’ve lost that loving feeling.” From the museum website, “The Kiss originally represented Paolo and Francesca, two characters borrowed, once again, from Dante’s Divine Comedy: slain by Francesca’s husband who surprised them as they exchanged their first kiss, the two lovers were condemned to wander eternally through Hell.” After killing her, I wonder if Francesca’s husband shouted, “She’s gone!”
We ran into the “Mini-Thinker” (not his real name)…
A painting caught our eye, Van Gogh’s Vue du Viaduc A Arles Ou Le Train Bleu. Hey, sometimes it’s hard to come up with a title. We also viewed Van Gogh’s The Harvest. I couldn’t tell whether it had been cropped.
It was back to sculptures with the Burgher of Calais. Suddenly, I was in the mood to go to In-N-Out.
I very much enjoyed L’Âge mûr (The Mature Age), by Camille Claudel, the woman Rodin refused to marry. This works shows her pleading on her knees for Rodin to come back to her instead of going back to his wife. There is a plaster version of this at Musée d’Orsay.
Back outside were The Three Shades, whose name sounds like a 1950s doo-wop group in need of a lead singer named “The Lamp.” In actuality, “in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the shades, i.e. the souls of the damned, stand at the entrance to Hell, pointing to an unequivocal inscription, ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’.”
This beautiful day called for us visit Basilica du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre. Those stairs stared us right in the eye, beckoning us to dare the cardiac fates on our last day.
Tracy looked at those stairs. I looked at Tracy. A few minutes later we boarded the funicular (one metro ticket each way…and well worth it) to the top.
Before heading up, we took the last selfie we will ever take of ourselves. I had to stand back so as to not take up the entire frame of the picture. It was also at this point I realized by sunglasses have been crooked for our past few trips. I hate selfies!
Unfortunately, the “impressionist haze” our guide Michael Osman told us about years ago made photos of the city from the church useless.
We wandered throughout Sacre-Coeur with hundreds of our closest friends in tow.
As we exited there was a sign that no photography was allowed inside.
I guess all these people taking photos makes the “photo police” a little more lax in their enforcement. I shutter to think what would happen had we been caught.
Heading back to the funicular, I caught a glimpse of a cute church out of the corner of my eye. Saint Pierre de Montmartre church is one of the oldest churches in Paris. Constructed on the site of a Roman temple and a 7th-century Merovingian church, it was consecrated in 1147. The Merovingians dynasty lasted for about 300 years between the 5th and 8th century, but just like UConn’s women’s basketball team, the dynasty eventually ended.
In 2014, while I was in the middle of my plague-infested final week, we visited the Canal Saint-Martin and walked from Jaurès metro station along the Basin de la Villette to the Parc de Villette (photos from 2014).
This time, we’d head the other direction toward République. Just outside the Jaurès metro stop a mini-tent city was a stark reminder that a tourist’s view of Paris is quite different than those from other countries who seek asylum.
My first thought as we walked along Canal Saint-Martin toward République: “It’s much lovelier when you’re not hacking up a lung.”
When we reached one point, it was a lock that something big was about to happen because a group of people were standing on a bridge and none of them were looking to see if Billie Joe McAllister was going to throw something off of it.
As the throng grew larger, the locks did its job, and the boat, along with the rest of us, went about our merry way.
Just like Los Angeles that has seen areas previously devoid of visitors now becoming popular dining meccas, it seems this section of the Canal Saint-Martin has become a haven for hipsters and is also going through a period of gentrification. We were going to eat at a recommended place on one corner, but it was already packed. Those hipsters are everywhere.
It was time for a major decision. Thanks to our infamous Air France strike in 2014, we missed our traditional lunch at Chez Fernand in the 6th arrondissement on that trip. Metro here we come. I, of course, had to say hello to my main man St. Michael first (I hope he doesn’t know I’m a Presbyterian). I mean the guy helped save my life…I think.
At Chez Fernand on rue Christine, it was time to smell the bœuf bourguignon. Although we didn’t get our usual table (some damned tourists beat us to it…who do they think they are?…photo on right from 2012 at “our” table)…
…I thoroughly enjoyed my escargot, although I was slightly tong-impaired on this afternoon making diners near us a little nervous that a shell might be flying in their immediate vicinity. My beef was terrific, as usual.
Tracy’s roasted chicken and mashed potatoes were also delicious, but our shared dessert garnered the big “Wow.”
Lava cake might be a trite dessert on some menus (see the movie “Chef”), but this lava cake paired with an out-of-this-galaxy salted caramel ice cream melted into “heaven on our taste buds.” Before we could take a photo, it was safely ensconced in our stomachs.
Before leaving, Tracy got into a conversation with a couple of Brits (on this trip “Brexit” seemed to be all the English taking a holiday in France), who told her that they travel from London to Paris just to eat Chez Fernand’s French Onion Soup. Now that’s an expensive bowl of soup.
We happily and contentedly departed Chez Fernand, however little did we know that heartbreak loomed only a few minutes away for my wife.
First, the shop located near Chez Fernand selling earrings that Tracy purchases on each trip no longer was in business. I thought about taking her to a pub to drown her sorrows, but she was intent on visiting a store on the other side of the Seine.
We hopped on the metro and headed for the Madeleine metro stop. As an aside, on one of these trips I might just spend part of the day visiting the coolest metro stations in Paris…kinda weird, but it sounds fun to me.
One of the things Tracy relishes most from our Paris trips is our final day stop at Hédiard, a luxury food store across from L’église de la Madeleine (photos below from one of our previous trips). Hédiard is where she stocks up on Herbes de Provence for Mai Tai Tracy’s Kitchen.
The closer we got to Hédiard, the bleaker it appeared for her favorite herbs. Sure enough, we read the words that brought Tracy to tears (ok, the photo is staged).
As I tried to comfort my wife, we walked aimlessly, finally finding ourselves back near the Garden of Two Larrys. Tracy looked up and saw a restaurant sign. She said, “The way you’re eating on this trip, that might become your nickname.” I knew all was better in the world, and that the trip was nearing its end.
…to our favorite Parisian haunt, L’Ange 20.
As you can see in my review of L’Ange 20, Christopher (our amiable waiter) once again had me straying outside my food comfort zone, and I was (as Maxwell Smart would put it) “Loving it!”
The next morning it was off to CDG, where our cameras disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 2009 when we hurriedly changed planes en route from Rome to L.A. For those who didn’t read that trip report (Rome 2009), we had our cameras stolen by a fake security guy, only to remarkably have them found by our friend and amateur sleuth Joanne (aka Emma Peel) two days later (long story, read the report).
When we got home, Tracy put the box aside until Christmas. When she got it out to wrap, she said that the box felt “a little light.” Sure enough, when we opened Emma Peel’s present, the box was empty. He had given us the display case box. If you see this guy, tell him we want what’s “inside” the box!
After Squirrley and I bid au revoir to a miniature Eiffel Tower, we settled into our seats for the flight home.
…to Uzés and its surrounding area…
…to our stop in historic Nîmes…
…to the beauty of the Languedoc area near Pézenas…
…and the châteaux…
…it had been another eventful journey with great sights, terrific weather, impeccable lodging and marvelous meals. Our bases in Beaune, Bonnieux, Uzés and Pezénas were perfect for the areas we visited. I recommend all four of those properties highly, and they all rank among the best places we have ever stayed in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter).
Enjoy The Journey! Attitude Is Everything!