Trip Day 1 (Thursday, April 30): Paris
Today, we are expecting all our traveling companions, arriving from Atlanta, LA and San Juan. Not sure exactly when everyone will arrive and in what shape, we made plans of our own. It is a rainy day, so it seems a perfect day to visit the Louvre, translated as “the wolf’s den” so called (we will actually learn this tomorrow on our tour) because when built it was in a forested area of the city. Turned out not to be a good idea since everyone else decided that is what they should do, too. The lines were way too long – too long at the front door and too long at the underground entrance (suggested as a better bet by the hotel clerk who checked us out of our first night’s room and into our Viking-booked room, fortunately one and the same!)
We had trouble finding the underground entrance because we emerged from the Metro topside, crossed the street and entered the immense courtyard of the palace and all its extensions. The good news was that we got to see the I.M. Pei pyramid and the Carrousel arch. The rain is a pain in the neck, but the colors are saturated and this is spring so everything that is growing is freshly green. Finally, directions in hand, we found the stairs to the shopping center beneath the courtyard.
The shopping in the Carrousel is great! The shops are all so beautiful that it is really inviting. Unable to resist totally, we did go into a few stores and bought souvenirs for others. We gave up on the Louvre, though, and went back to the Metro and continued on to Le Marais.
For some reason, I latched onto the idea of visiting Le Marais on this trip. Maybe because I knew we could do only a few things with so little time, this was something that really sparked my curiosity. Yes, we had seen the big “sights” of this quarter but there were some intriguing sounding little sights that were calling to me.
Neither Gerry nor I was disappointed. This is Paris, the Paris of memory and imagination! The Paris of narrow, winding little streets, beautiful old buildings, colorful street-level shops and cafes and – a surprise to us – pocket parks. It is spring so all were filled with flowers and flowering trees. The trees that line the streets are chestnuts, and those are all abloom with beautiful pyramidal towers of flowers that are sometimes pink and sometimes white. We also saw vines with heavy, pendulous bunches (think grapes) of purple blossoms – at least purple on the lower ones and white on the upper – a ombre effect – as if the purple had all drained to the lower flowers.
Amidst this floral bounty, cafés beckon from the sidewalks and we found a little place tucked into a corner for a cup of coffee and a pastry. (There are some things you just must do in Paris even if you wouldn’t dream of doing them anywhere else!) Our new destination is the Musee Picasso. For tourists, any museum in the rain, I guess, because though the line was not particularly long, the wait was about 20 minutes (in the rain). The time passed quickly once Gerry struck up a conversation with the others waiting in front and behind us, also Americans.
Once we were finally inside, the museum was crowded but we got to see a wonderful collection. The museum is in an old building, redone on the inside in quiet white with wood floors, spreading over 4 plus stories. We missed the very beginning of the chronology because we were directed to the rooms on the ground floor rather than the subterranean. But it was not such a loss as you might expect since the ground floor starts in about 1908. Though I was an art history major, I did not remember that Picasso’s cubist period was early in his life and did not last more than a decade, even if he did refer to back to it in later work. The arrangement of the works made it easy to see Picasso’s artistic development and production, sculpture as well as painting. Though before entering the museum I would have said the cubism was my favorite of his work, getting a good look at where he went with that shaped a new favorite for me in the very colorful, fanciful works of later years. All in all, it is a very enjoyable museum!
Afterwards we hit the streets again looking for the Marché des Enfants Rouges, hoping to eat lunch there. The market was not really bustling, some stalls were even empty, but there were many places with lunch potential (especially a Morrocan stall where the food looked hot and tasty!) But it was really too chilly to eat there. The market is covered but without walls so it was still basically outside.
Instead we went back outside to a café nearby (Café du Marché des Enfants Rouges) and had good lunch. As in all our other mealtime experiences we have been practicing our French, and to a person everyone has indulged us and even seemed pleased that we have made the effort. It increases our enjoyment and creates memories, too. Gerry had steak tartare which he judged very good; I am maintaining my vegetarian diet whenever possible. We both had large glasses of wine to sip as we watched our fellow diners and the ebb and flow of the restaurant. After lunch we intended to walk some more, but the rain intensified making that just a bit unpleasant, so we headed back to the metro and the hotel.
I went to rest and Gerry went downstairs to see what was up. He ran into Cindy and Greg having lunch/dinner and came back to get me. The four of us sat in the bar and drank wine, assimilating first Joanne, then Judy and Rod, and finally Luis into our group. Some five or 6 glasses (each) of wine later (but who was counting?), it was nearly 7:00 pm and everyone else went off to bed. We came up to our room; I worked a bit on the blog and Gerry took his nap.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant nearby referred to as “L’Entrecote” but whose official name is Le Relais de Venice. It was recommended to us by two taxi drivers, and was also highly rated on Google. An interesting place, it only serves one dish: entrecote (rib eye) in a sauce, with French fries and a salad to start. The waitress takes your order for drinks and how you want your steak done, which is written down on the paper tablecloth. Though we started at medium (au pointe – the only term we knew) we talked again with the waitress and with the two women at the table to our elbows and found out that “blu” is rare – so changed our order to rare. The food was delicious (if not one bit vegetarian!). Excellent food, friendly service and dinner “companions,” a bottle of wine and a late night all equal weird dreams!
Ready to keep going? Click here to read about Day 2.