Saturday, January 17, 2009

Christmas in London (Part 4) - More Christmas in Paris

We had a lot to accomplish on our second day in Paris before we had to be on our 9pm train back to London, so we got up early to tackle the town. Really early. Like we-woke-up-in-the-19th-century early. See?

OK, not really, but I love that Paris affords the opportunity to take a picture of a city in 2008 that looks like it could have been taken generations ago. The boats on the Seine just scream for sepia tone. Don't you think?

Here's what it actually looked like as the clouds started to dissipate in the morning.

And after the clouds left, beautiful blue sky remained and the monuments were in view. Alex and I got a special kick out of the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde, given that we've seen its twin at the Luxor Temple as well as the "gift" King Louis Philippe gave to Muhammed Ali in exchange for it - an iron clock, now at the Muhammed Ali mosque in Cairo, that does not work now and never did.

Did I mention how blue the sky was?

Our first destination was Les Invalides - home of Napoleon's tomb and the Musée de l'Armée (the military museum), which we thought Alex would get a kick out of. I simply think the main chapel is a beautiful building.

Under the gorgeous main dome lies Napoleon as well as a lot of Napoleon's stuff, like handwritten notes, letters, books, silverware, etc.

Sharing the space with Napoleon were some other war heroes like Ferdinand Foch (the Allied Supreme Commander in World War I). While I took a picture of the tomb straight-on, I like the first picture I caught from behind a curtain alongside it. It's like I caught a glimpse of these soldiers, carrying their fallen hero.

After learning all about World War II from Alex, our expert tour guide for the morning (too bad there isn't a math museum - that's about the only place I could be useful), we had lunch at the cute, but maybe overly-decorated, bistro Le Pré aux Clercs.

More importantly, our lunch spot put us right across the street from a Ladurée, purveyor of some of the best macarons in Paris. They were like air and while I was full from lunch, I still found room for these little delights!

The pastries and the macarons

After some post-lunch shopping, still stuffed with bistro fare and macarons, we made our way to the Musée d'Orsay, where Graham resumed his role as museum guide.

The Musée d'Orsay is housed in a former railway station, and its unique (for a museum, not for a railway station) layout makes for a beautiful backdrop for the art inside.

At the top of the museum is a lovely impressionist gallery with windows that look out onto the city and views of the statues that sit along the roof line, which truly enchanted me.

Despite our full stomachs as we entered the museum, we were hungry when we left. Alex bought us crêpes, so I let him have a couple bites of mine. He was very happy about that, because my crêpe was awesome.

From there we made our way back toward Saint-Germain-des-Prés and made a quick stop inside the church before heading to my favorite restaurant in Paris for dinner.

Inside Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Oh, I was so excited about dinner. When I last went to Paris, in 2002, my friend Ellen had sent me to this restaurant, and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to go back. It's tasty. It's reasonable. It has a great story. It generally has a line of Parisians outside the door (always a good sign, see my thoughts on lined-up locals here). Oh, and you only have one option for dinner (steak frites), so the only decisions you have to make are how you want your meat cooked and which red wine you want to drink with your dinner.

I was so excited.

Since our train was at 9pm, there was some debate about whether we should eat at Le Relais de Venise on our first or second night in Paris. Fortunately, I found a review of the restaurant here that told me that the restaurant would open at 6pm, so we planned to head to the restaurant for an early dinner, pick up our bags at the hotel (where they had been left for the day), and make our way to the Gare du Nord to catch our train.

Only the restaurant doesn't open at 6pm. (The New York Times lied to me, people!) It opens at 7pm. And just when I was about to throw myself into the middle of the Champs-Élysées, Alex, Maggie and Graham offered to save the day. Alex and Graham ran to the Métro (it was rush-hour and the streets were totally jammed) to grab our bags at the hotel, while Maggie kept me calm and helped hold our place as first in line for the 7pm opening.

It was a little nerve-wracking. As 7pm approached, the line stretched around the corner and down the street. The restaurant would likely only seat full parties, and Alex and Graham had a lot of Paris to cover to make it to the hotel and back in time. Maggie and I devised plans to deal with the situation if the doors opened before they returned. Should we explain the situation? Hmm, our French probably isn't that great. We'll eat without Alex and Graham? Yeah, that wouldn't be cool. And then eureka! We knew what we had to do. We would cry. A lot.

All I can say is thank goodness there were about 5 locks on the door to the restaurant. As the hostess started to open the door, our guys were not in sight. But as she turned the last lock, Alex and Graham appeared in the distance, luggage in hand. And all was right with the world.

Now all that was left was to pray that dinner was worth all that trouble. I would have felt awful if people were unhappy! But it was good and aside from a few knife fights ;) , we had a lovely time.

AND we made our train back to London.

1 comment:

  1. Never was a person more downhearted than Kathleen at that moment when we discovered the snafu with the opening time- not that she showed it- she was very gracious in submerging her enormous disappointment. This was the ONE thing she really really wanted to do in Paris!! Thankfully,
    Alex and Graham did all but don super-hero capes to literally tear across Paris and return in 50 minutes, with time to text us : "got the bags- on our way back".
    This was our true Christmas moment as a family, filled with empathy and the concerted effort to pull together and turn around a really low moment. What a team! ( I am also really glad her one wish wasn't to climb the Eiffel tower)