Monday, August 8, 2011

We'll always have Paris

For our last full day in Paris we got off at Les Halles and had a look around some shops. I had quite a few Euros left so I bought a highly impractical, slightly frou frou black dress that could only be worn of an evening. I thought it was actually quite appropriate for my only Parisian clothing purchase.

I had been pining for a cruise along the Seine and Ed valiantly agreed despite not liking boats. On the way we seemed to walk along Rue de Pet Shops and Garden Supplies. It was kind of upsetting seeing rows and rows of small cages with five puppies each cage. The garden shops were nice though.

First, we decided we needed some fuel for the boat journey so stopped at a cute Salon de The (once again my inability to work out how to do accents on here is really annoying, 'the' should have an acute accent on the 'e'). Hardly any places in Paris, except bakeries, have cabinet food like we're used to at cafes in NZ. So we were unnaturally excited to be able to see what we were ordering. The girls behind the counter didn't speak English though and when I tried to order a panini-type thing, rich looking cake, and a drink they decided we wanted the full 'brunch'. This is what we got.

That's right. Iced tea, hot chocolate, panini, cake, a friand-type thing, and last but not least, note the soft boiled egg. It was so much food...but all of it was good. Even the egg. The hot chocolate was hot milk and a chunk of chocolate on a stick which you stirred in. It was one of the better hot chocolates I had while in Paris. I had foolishly thought every hot chocolate in Paris would be amazing, but being a hot chocolate connoisseur of the highest degree, I have high standards, and actually only a few Parisian hot chocolates met them. I guess in one way it's nice to know that Butlers and Scopa hot chocolates in Wellington are just as good as the best of Paris.

Cutely, one of the girls who served us recognised us. She couldn't speak English but I managed to understand her when she told me she'd sat at a table next to Ed and I in Montmarte on the first night we were in Paris. In my very broken French and her non-existent English we managed to cover that we weren't English, we were New Zealanders (which she seemed quite excited by and told the other person working there), we were staying at a hostel in Montmarte, we had been there for a week, we were leaving the next day, and we had had a great time. She was lovely.

Then it was off to the Batobus. It was nice seeing Paris from a different perspective and, after a week, knowing what a lot of the buildings were as we passed them. It was like a Paris greatest hits from the water. It was also good seeing some things we hadn't seen before.

We spent about an hour sailing along and singing the 'Cruising on the Interislander' song. Then we got off and walked to the Jardin du Luxembourg. To get there we walked along Boulevard St Michel, the start of which is right by the river and across from Notre Dame so was absolutely heaving with people.

The gardens were great. There are so many nice gardens and parks in Paris and, like the Tuileries, this one had heaps of green chairs scattered around that people were sitting on, just hanging out. You don't seem to be allowed to sit on the grass in any of these parks though which felt a bit weird.

Lonely Planet had told us that there was a marionette show at the garden every afternoon. I was determined to see some kind of theatre while we were in Paris, even if it was a children's puppet show. The theatre was founded in the 1930s and it was like walking back in time...

The show was almost an hour long, all in French (obviously), and, despite it being a children's show, we had no idea what was going on. The first half was set on a boat, the second amongst ice bergs. During both the first and second halves, some new random puppets came on, did a wee dance and then left and the story continued. The first time it was sailors, the second time penguins... The kids seemed to love it though - calling out answers to the main puppet's questions, laughing, calling out 'Behind you, behind you!' when the extremely scary polar bear kept sneaking up behind the puppets. It was an experience, but not one I'd rush to repeat.

We then went for a wander around St Germain. We came across the oldest church in Paris, apparently part of The Da Vinci Code is set there. I wouldn't know.

We think there must have been a wedding there earlier in the day as the floor around the entrance and exit doors was covered with little pink and white paper hearts.

By about 6pm we decided were were hungry and need some end-of-week celebratory drinks. We headed to Les Deux Magots, a former favoured haunt of Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Ernest Hemingway. On the way we completed our French experience with a protest.

We have no idea what they were protesting about, their flags were waving around too much to read them properly, we think we saw a word that looked like 'indigenous'. Their song was very catchy though and we sang it as we continued along down the street.

Les Deux Magots was very full but our waiter was very good. So many times over the week we would order and then I would remember I wanted some water, or butter with our basket of bread (why does it not automatically come with butter? I thought the French were all about butter), so I'd ask the waiter and he/she would say, 'Oui, oui' and then NEVER RETURN. It became a bit of a running joke actually.

We had one of the strongest cocktails I've ever drunk. About half way through his Ed said, 'I think I'm drunk already.' It was great. Being our last night and having a bit of money left over, we went slightly all out. I got a salad with duck and foie gras. The foie gras was amazing. So amazing I was prepared to ignore the fact that a duck may have had a tube forced down its throat to achieve such yumness.

 Alex has requested more food photos, so here's our dinner, even though it's not a great photo. Ed had chicken with 'exotic chutney'. I asked if the chutney tasted exotic and he said, no, it just tasted like chutney.

We stayed for quite a while at Les Deux Magots as the rain that had been threatening since the late afternoon did indeed pour down and our decision to again not attempt to go to the outdoor movie was validated. I had another extremely yum tarte aux fraise and then at about 10pm we moved on to have a drink somewhere else, but somehow we managed to end up at a place that started playing the soccer on a giant tv really loudly. Apparently we managed to find the only sports bar in Paris...Then we went home via a macaron shop.

The next morning there was a power cut - when Ed checked out the extremely attractive Sebastian behind the desk tried to tell him it was all through Paris, 'maybe even all through Europe.' Then winked at him. I was only a little bit jealous. I had already left by then to get to the Eurostar. So it was goodbye Paris.

On reflection, some things I learned about Paris while I was there that I haven't already mentioned:

*The crossings are fake. They look like the white striped NZ pedestrian crossings, but unless they're at traffic lights and there's a green man, cars will not stop for people trying to cross.

*Sometimes, it stinks. Especially some of the corridors of the Metro and outside the Sacre Coeur. And actually even just on some of the streets. It's like they wash them with urine.

*We are so used to cafes where you pay at the counter when you order, leaving cash with the bill on a table outside is really hard to do. Twice we put the money on the tiny tray with the bill and then looked around in vain for our waiter to come and take it away, got up, hesitated, then went and stood a few metres away, watching to check he came and got it. I guess if someone walked past and swiped it before the waiter came along, it would be their own fault for being too slow. Still, we couldn't just leave money sitting on the table without weirdly loitering to watch that it got picked up by the right person.

*I loved Paris, and I'd like to go back one day and do some of the things we missed out. But first I think I'd like to go somewhere else in France. And somehow, I don't think I could live in Paris. That might not be everywhere or all the time, but when it hits you, it is horrific. 

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