In two months it is possible to do a lot of things, and particularly to cover sights and experiences that wouldn’t make practical on a shorter trip (for example, taking a ½ hour ride out to see La Defense, a modern Arc de Triomphe). What Maxine & I are going to do in this entry is to pick out 5-10 of the moments, things, people, or whatever that meant the most to us on this trip. We recognize that this list may very well not correspond to a ‘normal’ best of Paris list. Here goes:
1. Being told that Cassie was “adorable” by an elderly man the first afternoon we were in Paris. We’d be traveling for hours (and hours!). We’d gotten to the apartment, dropped off our bags, and decided to take a walk of the neighborhood to get some air. We’d just gotten to the end of the street, 100 feet down from our door, and a man stopped Maxine to make his comment. Welcome to Paris!!! !!!
2. The morning of flight home day, at our neighborhood bakery. One hundred feet the opposite direction was our neighborhood bakery. We’d probably been there 60 times (sometimes we’d go in the morning for breakfast pastries and later for bread). Cassie had been in there any number of times and two of the people who worked there had mentioned how nervous she seemed (in other words, she'd been noticed, and it was OK with them that she was in their store!). This last morning we told the woman behind the counter that, after 2 months, we were heading home to Los Angeles. She wished us a good journey. She then filled a small bag with pastries “on the house” for our trip!
3. Being able to be in touch electronically. Using Skype we were able to call immediate family (at 2 cents/minute) and talk without thinking about how much it was costing. Via this blog we stayed in touch with quite a number of you. The internet meant that we didn’t feel out of touch despite being gone so long.
4. Eric the Cheese Guy. In France, he would more likely be known as Eric Lefebvre, Meilleur Ouvrier de France 2004 Winner. The “MOF” award recognizes the best artisans in the country. For Eric, it is about cheese. He runs a tiny (3-400 square foot) shop, the 3rd generation in his family in this business. His good spirit and enthusiasm as he talked about cheese was infectious.
5. The Eiffel Tower. Aside from its obvious role as a landmark in Paris, it was also a personal landmark. In two months, we never went to the top. But, neither did we go a week without seeing it up close. First off, the American Library was 2 blocks away and we were there frequently. Second, when we’d leave the apartment on Saturdays so that it could be cleaned, we’d picnic with Cassie at the Seine river park underneath it. And finally, one night Maxine, D, and I went over to it after dinner to enjoy how it is lit it up like a glittering Christmas tree every night.
6. Church of St. Chapelle. On vacations to Europe, there’s always a 1000 year old church to visit! I was pretty much done with old churches and cathedrals when I got to this one. And, this one doesn't make it easy on you either. You have to wait on line 30+ minutes to get inside. You have to climb a flight of stairs to get to it. It’s small and isn’t even in use any more. BUT, the walls inside are almost entirely of stained glass. For argument’s sake, if you imagine that in a typical modern church the walls are 30% glass, and, in a cathedral they are 60% glass, St. Chapelle is probably 85% stained glass. When the sunlight came the place glowed.
7. My (Maxine) 50th birthday lunch at Pierre Gagnaire. The food was creative and wonderful, the service and atmosphere helped to make this a celebration and Pierre himself wished me Bon Anniversaire.
8. Our last lunch with Cassie. It wasn’t the food. It was the idea that we were in a restaurant with our dog. Given our crazy dog’s behavior before Lori, our trainer, this would have been impossible to imagine a year ago. Yet, here we were with Cassie acting as we imagined Parisians did. And, to cap it off, the waitress told us our dog was well-behaved and gentile (nice)!
9. Luxembourg Gardens. Our apartment was only a five minute walk away for this beautiful park. This was my walking place to see grass, flowers, and nature, albeit in an extremely well-groomed state. I liked it best in the morning before the schoolkids and the other crowds arrived.
10. Macarons from Pierre Herme. For those who don’t know, macarons are not the same as macaroons (which are coconut). Macarons are basically meringue sandwich cookies in various flavors. I (Maxine) absolutely love them and I made it my mission to taste macarons from many different bakeries. I can tell you without hesitation that Pierre Herme’s are the best. My favorite flavor is caramel with sea salt, but I also love the chocolate + passion fruit and the vanilla + olive oil. Once I discovered Pierre Herme, I went there almost every day for my macaron fix. This will be one of the things I miss most about Paris.
11. Robert Doisneau photo exhibit. Doisneau was a photographer working in France from the 1930’s to the early 1990’s. One of his black and white photos, of a couple kissing, shows up everywhere (on this blog entry we have a photo of the photo). There was a free exhibit of his photos of Paris scenes being exhibited at the Hotel de Ville at the end of our stay. Tom was intrigued and saw it first. He urged me to go and I did our last week-end in Paris (while Tom was gorging on chocolate at the Salon du Chocolat). The exhibit exceeded my expectations – the photos were so evocative of Paris. I may have appreciated them more because our stay was ending but I’m happy that we bought a book so that I can look again and remind myself of Paris and our experience there.