Having caused Gosia and Arno enough grief on Thursday night my one goal of the day was to get myself a texting plan for my cell phone or “portable” as they call them here. There are days where I just feel like I get paralyzed with fear about how to speak in French all the words escape me and conjugation is well… lets not even go there… so the idea of trying to explain to someone what I wanted and trying to explain that my phone was unlocked seemed like a decent challenge. Thankfully it actually wasn’t too bad and while I did do the smile, giggle and nod trick a few times I did in fact come out one step ahead and I think we came to a reasonable understanding.
It seemed that while I was in Paris my heels just dragged in the mornings. It’s been pretty cold since I arrived and I always wanted to make sure I knew where I was going before I set out in hopes I wouldn’t have to unpack my bag to get at my map book, a lovely street guide I picked up while at the Pompidou for a few Euro so I would never feel lost, especially since my phone now longer had an internet connection!
I had read somewhere before I left that to be truly Parisian you have to just relax and not rush anything, I did my best to follow this approach while I was visiting. I did see many sights but I went at my own pace, I never raced and I reminded myself I’d be back at some point and so if I didn’t see it now, I would eventually. One thing I did always try to plan out, however, was where I’d be between the hours of noon and 2 pm – the officially French lunch hour. After 2pm the cafes close and you’re hooped, unless you want an American meal – blech!
For my 3rd day in Paris my first destination was the Champs Elysees. I had heard that the famous Macaron (not to be confused with Macaroons) shop in Paris, Ladurre was conveniently located on the street and I presumed I’d find a bunch of places for lunch. Well the street was a lot different than I had anticipated and I took to walking, still sore from the night before. Along the way there it was on the left side of the street right where I was. It looked so dim I thought it might be closed and while I didn’t want to look like “the tourist who didn’t know what they were doing” I decided to try the door anyways and to my luck it was open, dimly lit like a hotel lobby with little spotlights on the treats almost like a jewelers. Once inside there were little lamps everywhere along the pastry counter with were covered with “petit gateaux” (little cakes) and galettes and, of course, the coveted macarons. I was STUNNED by how much people would pay for boxes of the treats but if there’s one thing I’ve learned around here it’s that you don’t mess with the French and their treats. They love their specialties and there’s nothing you can do about it, join in or get out of the way. I stood in line and picked up a croissant “a l’ancienne” (meaning that the top was buttered) and two small macarons, I feared I wouldn’t like them after trying some in Vancouver last year at a craft show and finding it was so horrible I couldn’t finish even one, clearly they left much to be desired but the salted butter caramel and chocolate ones I selected for my picnic later in the day – well lets just say I understand why people get these by the box-full. As I continued my walk toward the Arc de Triomph I flagged down two women and asked where the nearest grocery store, Carrefour, was so I could get a baguette, to which both women insisted I go down a small alleyway where there were a bunch of café’s that would surely get me fed. I followed their advice, past the line of scooters and stood outside reading a menu until the waiter ushered me inside. I think it’s possible it was the first time I’d ever been for lunch on my own, I’m not talking Subway, I mean sit down and order a meal alone, alone. Regardless I did it, I sat down ordered something I had eaten with Wilson last year, a croque madame and a glass of Bordeaux for good measure while I wrote a few postcards. As with every meal a basket of bread arrived to fill in any empty spots in my stomach or to wipe my plate up once I was finished. That’s one thing I’ve noticed here, when people hand off their plate it’s always wiped clean because they’ve used their baguettes to scoop up every last bit of flavor! I would have thought I was being rude to run my bread along the plate but fear not – the French do it so it must be okay!
Once finished I saw the arc, the French flag proudly waving and watching a few street performers before hopping into the metro and to the louvre.
I’d been warned the Louvre was a bit of a time drain so I decided for now I could do without but I wanted to see the glass pyramids with my own eyes and that I did before walking on and somehow past the orsay museum, sent off a bit of mail, found a grocery store to pick up a personal sized wine bottle, some yogurt and bread and back and forth across the river, making my way to Notre Dame, taking some lovely photographs while a service was going on, enjoyed the incense, one of my all time favorite scents, back outside and to the Eiffel Tower.
Before coming to France I told myself I wanted to go to the top of it. In some ways I still do but with the cold weather I retreated and told myself this was not the occasion for it. I sat on a bench, had my treats, along with a small bottle of wine and called it a day. I breathed in the essence of France and it’s grandeur. I made it.