My Life as a Traveler

Superlatives

The other benefit of visiting a city is that, in a place with lots of people, when someone creates something, there is always someone else around to make it bigger, better, and more than. Today we are going to the most famous cathedral, the grandest boulevard, and the most visited monument in the world, all in Paris.

We get up early to go to Notre Dame before the crowds hit and it’s a fitting final cathedral for our trip. It’s huge, beautiful, and the rose windows are stunning. Imagine the faith of the builders who knew it would be generations before their family would stand in awe before the finished result.

Next, we visit the Musee D’Orsay, home of the impressionists. Since we missed Monet’s water lilies yesterday, I am anxious to introduce Anna to the ones here, as well as Picasso’s portrait, Gaugin’s South Pacific ladies, Renoir’s parties, and Manet’s naked lady picnicking in the park with her suited male companions. We’re a little late, so there are tons of people and we have to shuffle through the crowds to get to each painting. Morgan runs to the bathroom, says he’s sick, throwing up, but feeling better after having done so. We finish here and head back to the apartment. On the way, we do a little shopping, we see the butt of Rodin’s The Thinker through the bushes as we pass by his house (yes, we’re stalkers), and get a quick glance at Napoleon’s tomb. I deposit Morgan at the apartment and take Anna to our favorite Panini shop where she gets lunch for her and Morgan to take back.

Me, I’m sandwiched out. I’m off to the local sidewalk brasserie for a final French three-course lunch. First, a nice dry white wine with escargots. Next, two kinds of fish on a bed of pasta. For dessert, Tarte Tatin (apple pie of a sort) with Bertholli’s ice cream and real whipped cream, coffee to finish. I love just sitting here, watching people in the street step between the tables to greet their friends here who are having lunch. Businessmen have dessert, and the older woman next to me starts talking to me in French about how the  waiter forgot to bring her a glass with her carafe of water.  Lost tourists ask directions. People bring their dogs to wait for them under the table while they eat. I have my computer and am writing. Love it, love it, love it.

I know Anna wanted to do a little more shopping, so I bring her to Rue Cler, a pedestrian-only shopping street in our neighborhood. It’s an entire village on one street. Several restaurants, a couple of 2-star hotels, a couple of produce stands, the fish store, the meat store, the Asian take-away, the baker’s. People live in apartments above the ground level. She finds good things in the souvenir shop and the chocolate store after we look at the jeweler’s, the dollar store, and the linen store. I could live off this street and be happy for a long time, I think.

When we return, we scoop George up for a tour down the Champs Elysees. We start at the Arc de Triumph, climbing to the top to see the whole of Paris. Walking down the wide avenue with my Rick Steve’s guide, I point out to Anna some of the real treats of the street. Yes, there’s Gap and McDonald’s, and a boatload of people, but in between there is Laudree, a shop with the most gorgeous macaroons, a throwback from the 1920’s. We visit the parfumer Guerlain, where upstairs you can create your own personalized perfume. I get a spritz from my favorite makeup store, Sephora, and see the old Arcades turned new again. We see the newest cars and fashions. George sees a Ford Mustang on the street and he is happy. We use the bathrooms in the poshest hotel in town.

But we still have not gone up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and time is running out. We persuade a rested Morgan to join us and get to the bottom of the tower at 10pm and join the long line. It takes 45 minutes to get to the 2nd level. Not bad, and the sunset is amazing. Another 30 minutes puts us at the top, with Paris glittering below us. We can pick out the major monuments, brightly lit.  Suddenly, we happen upon a group of Spanish speakers, encircling a young woman with a rose in one hand and her boyfriend’s hand in the other. He gets down on one knee and proposes among the cheers of their friends and the full moon above. It’s magical and romantic; just what you’d expect in this city of superlatives. We take the elevator down to the second level and walk the stairs down from there. It’s midnight and we are all tired, tired, tired, but I can’t think of a better way to end our last day in France.

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